16 outstanding novelties in haute horlogerie for 2021

The year heralds a new season of watchmaking innovation and ingenuity.

Zenith's Defy Extreme, Hublot's Big Bang Unico Yellow Magic and Ulysse Nardin's Diver X Skeleton (Photo: Zenith, Hublot and Ulysse Nardin)

Even in such unusual times, there are pockets of progress worthy of celebration. Among them is a new season of watchmaking innovation and ingenuity, continuing a proud tradition of advancement within a centuries-old craft. The following is a selection of outstanding novelties for 2021 by some of the best names in haute horlogerie.


1. Patek Philippe is revolutionising perpetual calendars with a single-line display for seamless reading. The self-winding Ref.5236P-001 In-line Perpetual Calendar presents the day, date and month in a linear aperture, filing three patents in the process. This innovative triptych is complemented by leap year and day/night apertures at 4 and 8 o’clock respectively, all set within a 41.3mm hand-finished platinum case.


2. The Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph makes a technical leap forward as Audemars Piguet equips its iconic model with the Calibre 4401. Originally developed for the Code 11.59 series, this in-house movement comprises a flyback chronograph and patented zero resetting mechanism, now housed in a 41mm 18-carat pink gold case with a tapisserie dial in vivid blue or rich brown.


3. As a nod to its proud history in ocean exploration, bronze is uplifted in the new Seamaster 300. Omega crafts the 41mm model from bronze gold, a unique alloy of 37.5% gold, palladium and silver that boasts a soft pink hue and incomparable corrosion-resistance. Its slow patina over time will complement the bronze alloy (CuSn8) dial and brown ceramic bezel ring with diving scale outlined in vintage Super-LumiNova.


4. Keeping precise time till the year 2100 is the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar. The 41.9mm white gold model with solid pink gold dial, limited to 150 pieces, integrates a moonphase and day/night indicator into crisply legible calendar functions such as the signature A. Lange & Söhne outsize date, retrograde day-of-week, month display circling the periphery of the dial, and leap-year indicator.


5. Hublot celebrates the sunny side of life with the Big Bang Unico Yellow Magic, the first timepiece to wear the manufacture’s patented ceramic in bright yellow. That same vibrant shade continues across the indications and rubber strap, framing the in-house Unico HUB1280 movement at the heart of this 250-piece limited-edition collectible with its radiance.


6. In a remarkable world premiere, Roger Dubuis introduces the first timepiece with luminescent diamonds. By day, the Excalibur Glow Me Up showcases the new Single Flying Tourbillon calibre within a loop of 60 baguette-cut diamonds. By night, patented processes involving a special luminescent material turn the gem-studded ring, movement and star-shaped bridge into a show-stopping spectacle of light and colour.


7. Zenith pushes the boundaries of hyper-horology with the ultra-rugged Defy Extreme. This new illustration of superlative precision comprises a 45mm case, pronounced lines and 200m of water resistance — a remarkable feat for a chronograph with an exhibition caseback. A transparent sapphire dial is encased by three expressions of titanium: matte, polished or two-toned with gold, secured by matching bracelets or straps in rubber or Velcro.


8. A small gold curve on a time spiral set against a lacquered blue sky represents the crescent moon, or mikazuki. Japanese architect Tadao Ando designed the meditative nocturnal motif to evoke the transitory nature of time within the new 160-piece Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Tadao Ando, even as black dauphine hands track the passing of hours, minutes and seconds in a small-seconds counter.


9. Turbocharging time is the vintage re-edition of the Silver Arrow, a Longines 1950s horological reference named after the era’s famous German sports car. Today’s 38.5mm steel version evokes the heritage of the original timepiece, from the silver opaline dial with striated indices and sword-shaped hands to the boxy sapphire glass and matte brown leather strap. Flip it over to check out the Silver Arrow emblem on the screw-down caseback.


10. Hermès makes no bones about its expertise in paillonné enamelling and engraving, using these fine crafts to transpose its C’est la fête men’s silk scarf onto a dial. The Slim d’Hermès C’est la fête sees the grinning skeleton in a tailcoat and top hat astride his horse, anticipating the after-hours adventures night brings. This singular rock-’n’-roll aesthetic will adorn the wrists of just eight people around the world.


11. If you are feeling the need for speed, strap on a slice of fighter jet action with the IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert”. The desert’s dry and barren palette colours the 46mm sand-hued ceramic watch, which achieved a Vickers rating (for hardness) second only to diamond. The three-hander boasts seven days of autonomy, guaranteeing enough juice and resilience for the toughest aviation missions.


12. Stunning horological experts with its ultra-complicated mechanics and four functioning faces, a first for the watchmaking world, is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque. A host of astronomical trackers, including three lunar cycles and moonphases in both hemispheres, supplies a deep reading of the cosmos and predicts events such as supermoons and eclipses. Unadulterated savoir faire informs this magnum opus.


13. Charting the sky from sunrise to sunset is a Piaget storytelling trilogy, comprising the Limelight Gala Precious Sunrise, Precious Zenith and Precious Sunset. That last captures the fiery farewell of the setting sun through a blaze of precious stones around a shimmery mother-of-pearl dial. The 32mm 18-carat rose gold case is affixed with 32 brilliant-cut pink sapphires that fade into a trail of 10 brilliant-cut diamonds.


14. For a whole greater than the sum of its parts, Ulysse Nardin meshes its Diver and Skeleton X lines to create the Diver X Skeleton. Striking blue PVD coats 44mm of steel with a concave unidirectional bezel fitted with a Carbonium inlay. The X-shaped skeleton construction of the automatic Calibre UN-317 braces the interior, with straps available in blue or orange and restricted to 175 pieces each.


15. Fans love the Black Bay Chrono for combining a diver’s watch with the ultimate racetrack companion, the chronograph. To go with diving suits or a leather jacket-and-boots combo is the 41mm steel novelty featuring a tachymetric scale, opaline dial and pushers inspired by the first generation of Tudor chronographs. Ramp up the sporty aesthetic with a black leather strap and removable bund that snugly grips the wrist.


16. The watchmaker that sometimes eschews its name on dials is now erasing time on the wrist. In a collaboration with Parisian artist Romaric Andre, alias seconde/seconde/, H. Moser & Cie. swaps the hour hand with a pixelated eraser on the Funky Blue fumé dial in the Endeavour Centre Seconds Concept x seconde/seconde/. This 20-piece steel online-only edition comes with a framed artistic rendering of the watch and the missing hour hand.


This article first appeared on Apr 26, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.


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