2014 is the second edition of Watches & Wonders, Asia's Haute Horlogerie exhibition in Hong Kong. With strong faith in this region's watch collectors, many participating brands will be debuting unprecedented products. In this issue's special report, we have chosen the most unique collections to share with you.
Founded in Vallée de Joux, 1833, Jaeger-LeCoultre has long been known for its consistent production of innovative movements, and has a strong influence on the watchmaking industry. Besides working with other brands to create exceptional calibres, Jaeger-LeCoultre has created some of the world's firsts.
In 1907, Jaeger-LeCoultre debuted the world's thinnest movement – 1.38 millimetres – in its pocket watch. Developed far before the advent of computers, the avant-garde calibre caused a sensation. Just over two decades later, it manufactured the world's smallest movement – Calibre 101 – in 1929. So influential was the launch that Queen Elizabeth II chose to wear the modern classic for her coronation in 1959.
At Watches & Wonders 2014, Jaeger-LeCoultre once again dazzles with its prestigious haute horlogerie collections.The Hybris Artistica collection combines the most advanced technology and stunning craftsmanship where every component is manufactured exclusively in-house. Jaeger-LeCoultre North Asia Managing Director Guillain Maspétiol emphasizes, "From inventing calibers that fit exactly its watch case to 1,000-hour quality control, the brand philosophy and attention to details transform the watches into objects of desire. After 180 years, Jaeger-LeCoultre possesses 180 skills, 40 crafts, 1,242 calibers and over 400 patents."
Master Gyrotourbillon 1 unites a patented spherical tourbillon with a perpetual calendar. One of the rarest complicated tourbillon mechanisms today, the gyrotourbillon functions weightlessly while cancelling out gravitational pull on the movement. The perpetual calendar has a semi-circular date display with two retrograde hands, showing the month and power reserve on the bottom half of the dial in a harmonious layout. The retrograde leap year is indicated on the case back.
Jaeger-LeCoultre showcases the highest degree of craftsmanship by skeletonizing the entire aventurine dial at an astounding slimness of 0.33 millimetres. The manually-wound calibre offers eight days of power reserve. A bona fide collector's piece.
Mr. Maspétiol also opines, "Watch connoisseurs in Hong Kong are very mature and already have sophisticated knowledge of haute horology [...] Customers treasure intrinsic values instead of simply following a 'brand name' nowadays. They also look for watches which best suit their personality, not just trends and designs."
Jaeger-LeCoultre is also presenting the Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication, with an annual calendar, zodiac sign display, rotating orbital flying tourbillon and minute repeater. To produce a movement that announces the hour, minute and quarter hour with beautiful melodies is one of watchmaking's greatest feats. Jaeger-LeCoultre has accomplished this and much more.
What's special about this minute repeater system is that it is capable of producing clear musical notes in a very dainty calibre. Jaeger-LeCoultre's painstaking research and development invented cathedral gongs in a unique alloy, replacing the traditional round shape with a square one. Hence, the patented trébuchet hammers can strike with a greater force and produce superior sound qualities. The mechanical manually-wound Calibre 945 is also COSC-certified. The 18-carat white gold case has a diameter of 46.7 millimetres and is beautifully set with 294 diamonds. Limited worldwide to 8 pieces.
One of the most prestigious maisons at the forefront of Geneva's watchmaking history, Vacheron Constantin has been in continuous production since 1775. From the 17th century, Geneva has distinguished itself with a style and tradition much appreciated by watch enthusiasts. Today, Vacheron Constantin's headquarters and factory are still located in Plan-les-Ouates, where the innovative architecture, contemporary atmosphere and colourful design are reflected in the watchmakers' pieces. Vacheron Constantin's approach, combining Swiss watchmaking with modern technology, perpetuates Geneva's heritage. Every Vacheron Constantin movement carries the Côtes de Genève Seal – one of whose strict criteria is that production must take place within Geneva.
At this year's Watches & Wonders, Vacheron Constantin introduces a beautiful collection of platinum complicated watches. While it never fades in colour, platinum is also extremely hard and has a very high melting point. Thus, its production cost far exceeds yellow gold. Vacheron Constantin has been using platinum to manufacture watches since 1820, and their purity of up to 95% as well as rarity attract many collectors' interest.
This year's new Traditionnelle World Time Collection Excellence Platine is reminiscent of the maison's 1932 design. First launched in the early 20th century, the world time watch provided frequent travellers with easy legibility of local time. Vacheron Constantin's new version is now equipped with an in-house self-winding movement, Calibre 2460 WT, which shows 37 time zones. The complicated function is made user-friendly with a single crown controlling the patented world time display. What's worth a mention is that even the crocodile strap has been sewn with platinum thread. The stunning watch, with a diameter of 42.5 millimetres, is limited to 100 pieces worldwide.
Traditionnelle Day-Date and Power Reserve Collection Excellence Platine, with day-date display and 40 hours of power reserve, houses the maison's 2475 SC self-winding movement and Geneva Seal. The 950 platinum dial has a beautiful sand-blasted finish, and the 39.5 mm watch case suits many wrist sizes. Limited to just 100 pieces, this is a truly collectable item that combines preciousness and functionality.
A. Lange & Söhne
With 169 years of history, A. Lange & Söhne was resurrected by Walter Lange in 1990, following a period of suspension during World War II, to carry on the prestigious heritage of German watchmaking. In just two decades, the maison invented 49 movements and consolidated its position in the haute horlogerie industry. A. Lange & Söhne is well-known for many traditional hand-finishings in its production today.
In an important step to preserve German watchmaking, A. Lange & Söhne established its own school in 1997, nurturing a new generation of watchmakers to become masters under the brand's tutelage. The 3-year course consists of acquiring basic knowledge such as creating watchmaking tools during the first year; repairing timepieces and learning in different departments during the second year, and finally, assembling wristwatch movements – reserved for the school's use – during the third year. Students who pass the theoretical and practical exams will be given a completion certificate. Throughout the course, they will also gain insights into the brand's philosophy and watchmaking quality. Having its own school is one of A. Lange & Söhne's greatest contributions to German watchmaking.
Richard Lange Tourbillon 'Pour le Mérite'
Richard Lange Tourbillon 'Pour le Mérite' is a complicated watch equipped with a fusée-and-chain transmission that consists of well over 600 parts. As its manufacturing process is complex and cannot be mass produced, collectors particularly appreciate this component. More often used in pocket watches, fusée-and-chain transmission increases a calibre's stability and accuracy. The manually-wound L0720.1 movement is entirely developed and manufactured in-house. The German silver bridge has been engraved by hand for a typically Lange touch.
Today, A. Lange & Söhne's watchmaking benchmark is evident in all its own movements. This watch houses a patented balance spring, and a patented stop-seconds mechanism connected to the tourbillon that can halt the movement for adjustments. Inspired by 18th century pocket watch designs, the dial displays a large minutes circle on top; hours and seconds are in two circles on the bottom in an isosceles triangular layout. Richard Lange Tourbillon Pour Le Mérite, with an 18-carat white gold case and iconic blued steel hands, is available exclusively in A. Lange & Söhne boutiques.
Langematik Perpetual Calendar exudes A. Lange & Söhne's spirit and flair for complications. Calibre 922.1, a self-winding movement, has a perpetual calendar and a patented zero-reset function that greatly increases accuracy during adjustments. Powered by an exclusive rotor crafted in 18-carat white gold and 950 platinum, the watch worn for a short time quickly reaches its maximum power reserve of 46 hours. The 18-carat white gold case, just 38.5 millimetres in diameter, is especially suitable for Asian customers.
Emperador Coussin Exceptional Piece, with an ultra-thin self-winding diamond-set skeleton tourbillon movement, will without doubt be a highlight at Watches & Wonders. On the 18-carat white gold case alone, 44 emerald-cut, 649 brilliant-cut and 92 baguette-cut diamonds have been painstakingly set. The crown, bracelet and buckle are equally dazzling. But the real show-stopper is the 1270D movement which Piaget spent three years developing.
With 214 components in just six millimetres of thickness which already includes the oscillating weight, 1270D's characteristics are best told in numbers: three Hz of frequency, 40 hours of power reserve and 35.4 millimetres diameter. To reduce the movement's weight, the bridges have been crafted in titanium so that the tourbillon carriage is just 0.2 g. The plate, bridges, carriage and wheels have been hand-finished, set with diamonds, and beautifully showcased in a skeleton design.
Piaget is well-versed in ultra-thin craftsmanship. When faced with the challenge of how to break its own record, the maison started from square one, revolutionizing the movement's structure itself. The calibre's base plate becomes the watch case back, the hour-and-minute dial is moved off-centre, leaving room for the gears to spread out around the dial, resulting the world's thinnest mechanical watch – Altiplano 38 mm 900P!
At the booth, look out for the breathtaking Metier d'Art collection featuring embroidery, scrimshaw and bulino, as well as the Exceptional Pieces ranging from high jewellery timepieces like Altiplano and Dancer, to Emperador Coussin, Gouverneur and Piaget Polo. Every watch and movement beckon a closer look!
Van Cleef & Arpels
Van Cleef & Arpels has championed its mains d'or, pierres de caractère and enduring values of Love, Luck and Nature ever since it was founded in Place Vendôme, 1906, upon Estelle Arpels and Alfred Van Cleef's union. When Van Cleef & Arpels weaves its jewellery savoir-faire, universal symbols and enchanting stories into time measurement, the result is Poetic Complications.
Admire the universe right on your wrist with this year's Midnight Planétarium Poetic Complication. The movement developed in partnership with Maison Christian van der Klaauw depicts six planets orbiting in real time around the pink gold sun. Each celestial body is of course a precious gemstone: turquoise for the Earth, serpentine for Mercury, chloromelanite for Venice, red jasper for Mars, blue agate for Jupiter and sugilite for Saturn. All this is set against the stunning backdrop of a mysteriously dark blue aventurine disc.
Technical brilliance is paired with poetry. A shooting star indicates time on a 24-hour scale on the dial's outer ring, and you can mark an important date with a red triangle on the graduated calendar. When the Earth comes right beneath the engraved star, it's your Lucky Day!
Louis Cartier played an important role in wristwatch history. When Cartier debuted the Santos collection under his direction in 1911, its square design caused a sensation and attracted high society's attention. Cartier set another milestone in 1933 when it was commissioned by Moroccan royalty Pasha Marrakesh to create a waterproof watch for swimming. Today, Pasha is still one of the maison's great classics and this year's Watches & Wonders sees the debut of a new design.
The Pasha de Cartier 42 mm Skeleton Dragon Motif unites the maison's jewellery design spirit and watchmaking craftsmanship. Two hundred and thirty-three diamonds have been painstakingly set in the skeletonized bridges shaped like a dragon, one of Cartier's most recognizable motifs. On the case back, you can admire Calibre 9617 MC which has been entirely researched and developed in-house, showcasing Swiss horlogerie's Made-in-Cartier quality and the maison's commitment to the highest watchmaking standards. The manual-winding movement provides three days of power reserve, housed in a robust yet elegant 42-millimetre, 18-carat white gold case.
Audemars Piguet has been well-known for its complicated timepieces and tradition as a Swiss family-run business since its foundation in the 18th century, setting itself apart from large corporation productions. It is thus widely regarded by collectors as Swiss haute horlogerie royalty.
At this year's Watches & Wonders, Audemars Piguet introduces Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph, a 50-piece limited edition powered by the new Calibre 2897, debuting with several breakthroughs after a long research and development.
The calibre's thickness has been reduced to a mere 8.32 millimetres by placing the rotor on the outer edge of the movement. To increase efficiency, the rotor is crafted in platinum, a precious metal with high density and weight, to improve winding speed. Calibre 2897 also presents the brilliant combination of a column-wheel chronograph and tourbillon regulator. The 44-millimetre watch case, crafted in forged carbon, feels lightweight on the wrist, reflecting Audemars Piguet's astute design concept.
Montblanc responds to modern women's interest in complicated watches with the new Bohème collection and fine watchmaking details. The Bohème Perpetual Calendar Jewellery watch displays month and leap year cycle at the 12 o'clock position, date at three, moon phase at six, and day of the week at nine, requiring an adjustment only by the year 2100. The 36-millimetre red gold case, with 60 diamonds on the bezel and a patented Montblanc Diamond on the crown, lets you clearly see the self-winding movement MB29.15.
With an elliptical window displaying the date, the Bohème Date Automatic is powered by MB24.14, a self-winding mechanical movement. A guilloché dial with elegant floral Arabic numerals and filet sauté minute scale, leaf-shaped hour and minute hands and a bezel adorned with 62 diamonds give this watch a beautiful touch. Several strap choices cater to different tastes. Step it up with the red gold Bohème Date Automatic Jewellery version, with 178 Top Wesselton diamonds set on the mother of pearl dial and an additional 62 on the bezel.
Baume & Mercier
Baume & Mercier's history in designing women's watches can be traced back to 1918 when William Baume and Paul Mercier founded the maison. Throughout the Art Deco period and on to the 1950s and '60s, Baume & Mercier broke away from traditional feminine designs and created jewellery-watches, Marquise bangle timepieces, and later, Mimosa and Galaxy models whose award-winning ideas would pave the way for today's Linea and Hampton.
Following its success in women's watches, Baume & Mercier debuts Promesse at this year's Watches & Wonders. Fourteen references (eight with a 30 millimetre case diameter and six at 34 millimetres) are inspired by the maison's archives from the 1970s. The harmonious design features an oval bezel housed in a round case, and stainless steel is the chosen material for this new line of women's contemporary timepieces. Opt for Promesse 10162 with a mother of pearl dial, 10163 with two tones in steel and red gold-capped steel, and 10165 with a mother of pearl bezel and 61 diamonds.
IWC Schaffhausen's major innovations throughout the past century include the Pellaton pawl winding mechanism by Albert Pellaton, and Kurt Klaus' Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar, among many others. Today, you can once again witness IWC's technical brilliance through its new Portuguese novelties. The Portuguese Perpetual Calendar with unprecedented accuracy requires adjustment only by the year 2100. The dial indicates the perpetual moon phase and 'mirrored' hemisphere lunar display. The large Calibre 51614 houses the Pellaton winding system and a Breguet spring. It powers a 4-digital year display, small hacking seconds and boasts seven days of running time.
In 1994, IWC Schaffhausen crafted the most complicated watch with 656 individual parts. This year's new Portuguese Grande Complication, combining an autonomous perpetual calendar, minute repeater and chronograph with automatic movement, has one more – 657. On top of a water resistance of up to three bar, its clear beautiful sound will prove to be music to your ears.
The Portuguese Tourbillon Mystère Rétrograde, limited to 500 in red gold and 250 in platinum, is in a league of its own. The 'mystery' comes from the fact that the tourbillon's escapement is reflected on the inside of the mirror-finished ring. Powered by the Pellaton winding system, this is a visual delight for those who appreciate a beautiful movement.
Uniting Italian design and Swiss movements, Panerai's prestigious history as the supplier of the Italian navy gives its watches a distinctive look. It is the year of the Radiomir 1940 Chronograph, spotlighting the limited editions PAM00518 and PAM00520.
The robust 45-millimetre case is updated with an elegant cushion shape inspired by a 1940s model. Besides a brand new dial design and Plexiglas crystal, two superimposed plates with luminous materials sandwiched in between increases legibility. With two buttons, you can easily stop the time, go back and restart. Calculating average speed is also made easy with the tachymeter scale.
Above and beyond user-friendliness, the OP XXV movement developed by Minerva showcases beautiful details. On the case back you can see the column wheel, swan-neck regulator, polished and chamfered components, and bridges with Geneva Seal. The 50-piece platinum reference, PAM00518, has a refined ivory dial with baton and dot hour markers, while the 100-piece white gold reference, PAM00520, has a black dial.
Limited to only 10 exemplars worldwide, Richard Mille's new RM56-02 Sapphire Tourbillon strikes the perfect balance between design, movement and material. Every watch case is milled and ground from solid blocks of sapphire, and requires 40 days of continuous machining. In addition, the movement bridges require 400 hours of machining. Visible from the watch front and back, the calibre is suspended within the ergonomic case by a system of pulleys and cables, whose delicate tension is regulated by a ratchet at the nine o'clock position. The strap, exclusively developed by Biwi SA Aerospace Nano® for Richard Mille, has a translucent look and silky feel.
As a nod to haute horlogerie, Roger Dubuis will be launching new Hommage references such as automatic and chronograph at the second edition of Watches & Wonders. In particular, the Hommage Double Flying Tourbillon showcases its bold blend of traditional and modern craftsmanship, which you can see in the hand-made guilloché and Calibre RD102 bearing the Geneva Seal.
Roger Dubuis' Director of Movement Development Grégory Bruttin said, "For me, the Geneva Seal has the most impact on Roger Dubuis' movement strategy [...] In the Hommage collection's new movement, our challenge was to interpret craftsmanship, so design was the first step of the project." When asked about where he finds his ideas, Mr. Bruttin opined, "I find a lot of inspirations and solutions outside the watchmaking industry. While other brands often look into their archives, we look into the future."