Watches & Wonders 2024 recap: Key takeaways, observations and trends

Has the world’s biggest watch fair reached a plateau?

The event welcomed over 49,000 unique visitors, a 14% increase from last year (Photo: Watches & Wonders)

Watches and Wonders 2024 (W&W) has finally come to a close. This year’s affair turned out to be the biggest yet, with a record-breaking 49,000 visitors weaving in and out of the booths of 54 exhibiting brands at the Palexpo convention centre in Geneva, Switzerland. Unfortunately, despite an increase in attendance and engagement from both industry stalwarts and the general public, the fair was hardly the best.

Now we would not go so far as to call it a complete snooze fest as many journos may have opined, but it is true that W&W fell short of some very high expectations. No doubt the exciting surprises that peppered the events in previous years caused anticipation to swell tremendously, so when the trajectory plateaued with novelties that were borderline conservative, one could not help but feel a tad deflated. There were many watches, certainly, but where were the wonders?

In general, brands chose to focus on refining their existing models and expanding popular collections. So there were new colours and materials as well as some tweaks in size and design. While the move may not cause jaws to drop, it is not necessarily a bad thing. Doubling down on core collections and models may prove to be more beneficial in the long run. Besides, some of these iterations and revisitations have immense potential.

For example, Tag Heuer unveiled a series of new Carreras, including a “panda-style” chronograph encased in the fan-favourite Glassbox sapphire crystal and a rose gold Skipper perfect for summer. Bell & Ross elevated its urban BR 05 collection with new ceramic references while Zenith finally brought its El Primero movement into the Defy Skyline range.

Panerai revisited the Submersible with new offerings imbued with the spirit of the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli sailing team, of which the watchmaker is the official sponsor. The Submersible GMT Luna Rossa Titanio marks the debut of the brand’s pioneering Super-LumiNova Grade X2 technology, which is touted to be 10% more luminous than its forebears. A Lange & Söhne also added a glowing member to its Saxonia family in celebration of the Datograph’s 25th anniversary. The Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon Honeygold “Lumen” reveals its radiant personality in the dark, thanks to a semi-transparent dial and an intense luminous coating that makes the displays and functions glow a mesmerising green.


Grand Seiko SLGH021 (Photo: Grand Seiko)

In fact, there were plenty of viridescent hues at the fair. Grand Seiko managed to capture the lavish beauty of the Genbi Valley, situated along the Iwai River in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture, on the dial of the SLGH021. But for those who are keen on something bolder, the new SBGC275 Spring Drive Chronograph GMT, which also celebrates the 20th anniversary of the first Grand Seiko Spring Drive 9R movement, takes inspiration from the fiery red hues of a sunrise against the Hotaka landscape in the Shinshu region of central Japan. And remember the revolutionary Kodo Constant-force Tourbillon released in 2022? It now steps into the light in a gentle shade inspired by daybreak.

There is also a solid gold Black Bay 58 with a vintage-looking green dial over at Tudor, though we think the new GMT with a bidirectional burgundy and black bezel stole the most hearts. Vacheron Constantin too updated its Overseas collection with some gorgeous green sunray dials framed in 18-carat pink gold. We were pleased to hear Parmigiani Fleurier revived the Toric — the iconic collection founder Michel Parmigiani used to debut the brand back in 1996 — and were more than delighted seeing the outcome. Clean lines, muted hues, gold delta-shaped hands, a gold “chevé” dial and knurled bezel distinguish one of the best dress watches of the season. While the Toric Petite Seconde also comes in an understated Sand Gold dial in a rose gold case, it is the Grey Celadon — which takes on a soft almond-green shade — and platinum combo that makes it a winner.

Light, baby blues were also all the rage. We saw it at Hublot with the Big Bang MP-11 Water Blue Sapphire, IWC Schaffhausen with the new Portugiesers in Horizon Blue and Patek Philippe’s love-it-or-hate-it denim straps. But no one does it quite like Rolex.

When the Perpetual 1908 collection was launched last year, it garnered mixed reviews. Some adored the way it effortlessly carried the elegance of traditional dress watches, while others hated it for the same reason. This year’s iteration, however, has a bit more character, thanks to the ice-blue guilloché rice-grain dial and platinum case. Traditionally applied with a rose engine, the spiralling guilloché pattern lends an artisanal appeal to the watch. And if you notice clearly, the minute track is encircled by a second guilloché design — a filet sauté with a crimped pattern. Another timepiece that highlights this handcraft is Ulysse Nardin’s Freak S Nomad. A diamond guilloché pattern finished in sand-coloured CVD (chemical vapour deposition) mimics waving sand dunes on the hour disc of the iconic no dial, no hands and no crown number.


The dreamy Van Cleef & Arpels booth at W&W and Bouton d’Or automaton (Photo: Van Cleef & Arpels)

Ask anyone who attended W&W and they would agree that catching Van Cleef & Arpels’ automatons in action required a fair bit of luck because it was at the top of everyone’s list. This year’s theme journeys from the heavens to the gardens; the latter is where the Apparition des Baies and Bouton d’Or pay tribute to the wonders of flora and fauna. Created in partnership with François Junod, an automaton maker in Sainte-Croix, Switzerland, the extraordinary objects set the stage for a white-gold, diamond and sapphire bird emerging from within a bud of lacquered rose gold leaves and a fairy crowned with diamonds spreading her plique-à-jour enamel wings over a flowerbed. These métiers d’art creations exemplify the intersection between watchmaking engineering and decorative art.

There was also a musical automaton over at Chanel that was snapped up on the first day. Inspired by the lively atmosphere of the Rue Cambon atelier, the Musical Clock Couture Workshop orchestrates a choreography of couture busts to the rhythm of My Woman by Al Bowlly, a favourite tune of Gabrielle Chanel’s. A key mounted in a necklace is used to wind the unique piece, which enables time to be read on a tape measure at its base.

Chanel’s Couture O’Clock capsule collection was refreshing to manoeuvre. The maison paid tribute to everyday objects that one could find in a workshop or sewing box. There were pin cushions, safety pins and thimbles on draping sautoir necklaces, a button disguised as a watch and a tape measure wrapped around the wrist. One piece that was truly remarkable was the Couture Coil Couture, a diamond-set cuff inspired by a spool.


Chanel Musical Clock Couture Workshop and Couture Coil Couture (Photo: Chanel)

This convergence between haute couture, haute horlogerie and even haute joaillerie seems to be a prominent theme this year. The new Reflection De Cartier cuff is the perfect hybrid between the three with an almost magical time-telling twist. A quartz watch is set and concealed inside the opening of the cuff. A smooth surface on the other end mirrors the watch face, creating an optical illusion of time flowing backwards. The concept is playful and the bangle itself is a statement. While these are available in plain yellow or rose gold, the gem-set versions are definitely the ones to beat.

A number of maisons achieved seminal milestones this year, whether it is a new achievement for the brand — Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Duometre Heliotourbillon Perpetual features an entirely new tourbillon construction that rotates on three axes — or a world first. Vacheron Constantin takes the crown for the most complicated watch ever. No, really, the Berkley Grand Complication comprises a whopping 63 horological complications and 2,877 components, surpassing the previous world record, which was also held by the watchmaker. Its main innovation is the addition of a traditional Chinese perpetual calendar. It also houses a Gregorian calendar, sky chart, display that tracks the age of the moon, tourbillon and chronograph, among others.

IWC comes a close second, though, with its Portugieser Eternal Calendar. Taking into account the Gregorian calendar’s complex leap-year exception rules, the brand’s first secular perpetual calendar is able to mechanically skip three leap years over the next four centuries. Not only that, its Double Moon phase display is also extremely precise, only deviating by a day after 45 million years. These new tricks are courtesy of the addition of a few new gears, but how certain can we be of its accuracy? We will have to trust the mathematicians on this.


Patek Philippe World Time Date Ref. 5330G-001 (Photo: Patek Philippe)

To mark 150 years since the maison was founded, Piaget casually broke the world record for thinnest tourbillon with its Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon. Measuring a mere 2mm — flatter than a 50 sen coin! — it required radical reengineering to not only fit the complication into the skin of its 2018 predecessor, but to also cope with the 25% additional power required by the complication. A feat to celebrate indeed … until another comes along?

It would be remiss to leave out the Patek Philippe World Time Date Ref. 5330G-001. This patented world first may not sound as impressive as the ones mentioned before, but it is definitely the most practical. The new non-limited piece sports a date display that automatically synchronises with local time. This is performed via a differential system that moves the date forward or backward without risking damage to the movement — handy for times when you cross from the West to East (where you go back a day).

While there were not too many sparks at W&W this year, the novelties of the season are still good. We heard the new Hermès Cut sold like hotcakes the moment they went live, and who knows how long the waiting list has grown for the new Black Bays. In any case, 2024 has some way to go, so best believe there are more to come.


This article first appeared on Apr 29, 2024 in The Edge Malaysia.

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