From retro inspiration to diamond-studded flights of fancy, last month saw the world’s most prestigious watchmakers unveil updated much-loved classics and dazzling new models at Watches&Wonders. We reveal a selection of the best timepieces from the online showcase in Geneva, as well as the latest eye-catching wrist-wear from leading luxury brands.
Words: Alice Cairns
1. Cartier Libre Baignoire Tortue
This bedazzled offering from Cartier made its debut at Watches & Wonders 2021. Inspired by the humble tortoise, the dial uses a crazy-paving patchwork of 171 diamonds and 18 sapphires to create the effect of a shell, broken by lines of blue enamel. The midnight blue alligator leather strap provides a rich contrast to the sparkling stones, while the blued-steel hands ensure legibility against the glitter of the diamonds. This is a numbered limited-edition design, with only 30 pieces available.
POA, Cartier, 175 New Bond Street
2. Breitling Premier B21 Chronograph Tourbillion 42 Bentley Limited Edition
This exclusive collector’s piece (just 25 have been made) celebrates Breitling’s 20-year strong partnership with Bentley Motors. The vintage-inspired design exudes classic luxury, from the warm red-gold of the 18-carat case to the distinctive dial in a sporty shade of British racing green. In a nod to Breitling and Bentley’s shared commitment to top-quality engineering, the transparent case-back and dial cut-out give the wearer a glimpse into the intricate inner mechanisms of their watch.
£39,900, Breitling Boutique, 130 New Bond Street
3. Breguet Classique 5345 Double Tourbillon Quai de l’Horloge
This striking design pays homage to Abraham-Louis Breguet, the founding father of the Breguet brand and the inventor of the tourbillon (a mechanism which increases the accuracy of a timepiece). A transparent sapphire glass box exposes the watch’s inner workings, with its two tourbillons moving in tandem. The stone-finished rubber strap is coated with a flexible layer of natural slate, creating a unique, organic texture. Turn the watch over, and you’ll discover a hand-engraved depiction of the “House on the Quai” where Abraham-Louis Breguet lived and worked.
£556,000, Breguet Boutique, 10 New Bond Street
4. Glashütte Original SeaQ in Reed Green
The sleek and sporty SeaQ watch has been reimagined with a forest green dial, perfect for spring. After rigorous testing, the SeaQ was certified as a professional diving watch, which means that it’s equally at home on land or at sea. Scratch-resistant and compact, this robust and outdoorsy timepiece is a practical choice for athletes everywhere. But you don’t have to be a sportsman to appreciate the watch’s vintage-inspired design, which borrows retro elements from Glashütte’s 1969 Spezimatic and updates them for the modern day.
From £7,800, WEMPE, 43-44 New Bond Street
5. Louis Vuitton Tambour Carpe Diem
Lacking both hands and numbers, this watch tells the time with the help of a 16-second burst of mechanical movement. When you press a button on the right of the case, the snake’s tail points to the minute, while its head moves aside to reveal the hour. At the same time, the skull’s jaws open wide to reveal the motto ‘Carpe diem’. Sinister though these automata might be, they’re enamelled with remarkable precision, from the monogrammed flowers on the snake’s scales to the single gold tooth in the skull’s grinning mouth.
POA, Louis Vuitton, 17-20 New Bond Street
6. Patek Philippe 4947/1A Complications
In the esoteric language of watchmaking, a ‘complication’ is an added feature which does something other than tell the time. The latest ‘Complications’ watch from Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe certainly lives up to that name. Requiring just one adjustment a year, it records the date and the phase of the moon in addition to the hours and minutes. Utility aside, it’s also a thing of beauty: the polished stainless steel bracelet contrasts against the midnight blue dial, which has a sleek satin-finish and a monochromatic stripe.
£36,890, Patek Philippe Salons, 16 New Bond Street
7. Graff Yellow and White Diamond Jewellery Watch
This glittering statement piece, which was created in collaboration with Graff’s watchmaking division in Geneva, is a love-letter to the rare yellow diamond. The bracelet is set with pure white diamonds, while the dial is framed by a vivid cluster of 14 cushion cut yellow diamonds specially selected for the sparkling clarity of their colour. Each stone was 3D scanned to map its precise contours, allowing Graff to create a totally bespoke setting for the timepiece.
POA, Graff Boutique, 6-7 New Bond Street
8. IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert”
Launched at Watches & Wonders, this military-inspired timepiece is designed to withstand the duties of an elite Navy Pilot. The sandy-toned ceramic is extremely scratch-resistant, meaning that it’s suitable for use in the tight confines of a cockpit (should you find yourself in one). The buff, sandy colours of the case, dials and rubber strap were inspired by the barren landscape of the Mojave desert, where the US has a military base. The watch also features a Perpetual Calendar, which records the date and moon phase and requires adjustments just once every 577.5 years.
£28,600, IWC Schaffhausen Flagship Store, 138 New Bond Street
9. Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925
Tudor debuted a new model of its popular Black Bay Fifty-Eight at this year’s Watches & Wonders. This reimagined timepiece features a satin-finish case of 925 silver, which was chosen for its soft incandescent sheen. Buyers can choose from two straps: a taupe fabric, woven in France on 19th century Jacquard looms, or a sleek, brown-grained leather. Practical and durable, the watch is waterproof to depths of 200m – but it’s also stylish, with neo-vintage design touches inspired by one of Tudor’s first diving watches, the 1958 “Big Crown”.
£3,230, Mappin & Webb, 1 Old Bond Street
10. Audemars Piguet “Jumbo” Extra-Thin 39mm
This update on the popular Royal Oak watch comes with more than a touch of glittering luxury: it’s studded with 1,102 brilliant-cut diamonds. The precious stones stand out against the 18-carat pink-gold bracelet, catching and refracting the light. The pale blue dial features the “Petite Tapisserie” motif, one of four textured patterns that are carefully engraved onto Audemars Piguet watches. This model also comes in silver.
POA, AP House London, 130-134 New Bond Street