Geneva Invention: Showcasing the new crop of imaginative timepieces to watch and wonder

Watches and Wonders is the year’s standout event in the world of horology, a time when many watchmakers release new offerings to an eager public fascinated by the elegance, beauty and mechanical sophistication on display. The Geneva gathering also serves to reinforce the signature statements of the top manufactures.

Take Cartier, which pulled out all the stops to supplement existing collections with intriguing tweaks and exciting alternatives. A highlight was the exotic appeal of a different creature joining its menagerie of Animal Jewellery watches. The new timepiece is a breathtaking convergence of the aesthetic beauty of a zebra and a crocodile. This mythical multi-striped creature – a figment of the imagination – wraps itself around a lozenge-shaped dial of diamond pavé or black lacquer. The coiled design of the case, crafted from white, yellow or rose gold, is variously studded with green tsavorite garnets, rubies or black spinel, and each stripe is meticulously lacquered by hand.

The eighth iteration of the prestigious Cartier Privé line is a reworking of the Tortue watch, first introduced in 1912. Three hour-and-minute versions have a slimmer profile and are noticeably lighter than the original model while retaining significant design details including apple-shaped hands and a rail track following the curves of the iconic tortoise-shaped case. Collectors will surely crave the Privé Tortue Monopoussoir Chronograph, available in platinum with a silvered opaline dial or yellow gold with a grained gold-finish dial. The monopusher chronograph graced the Tortue in 1928 and again in 1998, with the new version retaining many of the features of the reinterpreted model, such as the hollowed-out central seconds hand and triangle motifs at the corners of the dial, though subtle changes enhance the harmony of a cabochon-ruby crown set in precious metal. The movement is just 4.3 mm thick, and rhodium-plated Roman numerals, and the azure effect of the two chronograph counters distinguishes the dial.

New and innovative Santos timepieces were also introduced, in particular a Dual-Time model and the Santos-Dumont Rewind that can tell the time backwards via an inverted set of Roman numeral indices appearing counter-clockwise around the dial.

Rolex presented two new 18-carat-gold versions of its Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller watch for sophisticated jetsetters, both fitted with the supple five-piece-link Jubilee bracelet in precious metal for the first time. One model has an Everose-gold band distinguished by a slate dial with a sunray finish, while the yellow-gold bracelet of the other contrasts with an intense white satin-finish dial. Both have hands featuring highly legible Chromalight, which emits long-lasting luminescence and a blue glow. The brand has also made subtle updates to its GMT-Master II model.

Following three years of development, Van Cleef & Arpels debuted new Lady Arpels Jour Nuit (38 mm) and Lady Jour Nuit (33 mm) models at Watches and Wonders. In a simply beguiling effect worthy of the Poetic Complications collection to which these timepieces belong, their dials display a diamond-paved moon in continuous pursuit of the sun across a sky studded with stars. They are cased in white gold and diamonds, offer a self-interchangeable alligator-leather strap, and are powered by a self-winding mechanical movement that rotates a disk once every 24 hours. Aventurine glass, mother-of-pearl, white gold, yellow gold and diamonds dress the dial, with the larger watch encrusting its sun with yellow sapphires.

In another enchanting creation, two plique-à-jour enamel butterflies flutter among swaying flowers caught by a summer breeze on the face of the Lady Arpels Brise d’Été watch. The extraordinary dial of the Lady Arpels Nuit Enchantée watch depicts flowers used as a bed by a fairy after they are picked in the day (Jour Enchanté) version.

Patek Philippe unveiled a total of 11 new iterations, most notably a full production model of the innovative watch that was released as a limited edition last year with a world-first feature – a date display synchronised with local time. Utilising the patented differential system of its self-winding calibre 240 HU C movement, the World Time Ref 5330G-001 has a dial of blue-grey opaline with the date shown on its periphery.

When Ulysse Nardin first released the Freak, it was considered revolutionary for eschewing the traditional watch dial, hands and crown in favour of an orbital flying one-hour carousel and a balance wheel, hairspring and escapement made of silicon. For the Freak S Nomad, the hour disc that sits behind the ‘spaceship’ movement features a sand-dune-like diamond guilloché pattern with CVD (chemical vapour disposition) coating.

Of particular note among a slew of watches introduced by Grand Seiko during Watches and Wonders is the Sport Collection Calibre 9R 20th Anniversary Limited Edition SBGC275. Released in homage to the 9R Spring Drive movement and limited to 700 pieces, its startling feature is a radiant colour-changing dial. Taking inspiration from the glowing colours emanating from the peaks of Japan’s Hotaka mountain range half an hour before and after sunrise, the watch face seems to strike a different hue depending on the viewing angle – a feat achieved by the brand’s patented ‘Optical Multilayer Coating’ system.

Another watch whose dial nods to nature’s beauty is Chopard’s Alpine Eagle XL Chrono, fully crafted from ethical 18-carat rose gold. The Bernina Grey colour of the brass dial, achieved by galvanic treatment, is inspired by the gorgeous hues and natural splendours of the Alpine rocks, while its sunburst stamping reminds of the iris of the noble bird of prey. The chronometer-certified movement with flyback function boasts three separate patents.

Roger Dubuis premiered four watches at Watches and Wonders including the Excalibur Sunrise Double Tourbillon, which comes in a blaze of powerful colours befitting its name. The brand’s signature flying tourbillons are contained within a 45 mm pink-gold case with a sapphire crystal caseback, while the pink gold bezel is set with 72 stones comprising red garnets, orange spessartites and yellow sapphires. A further nine glistening stones in hues inspired by the sunrise embellish the dial of this watch, which is limited to just eight pieces.

Panerai also unloaded numerous new timepieces during the goings-on at Geneva. The 44 mm Submersible Quaranta Quattro Luna Rossa Ti-Ceramitech, blessed with a blue sun-brushed or white matte-grained dial, is forged from the innovative Ti-Ceramitech material created at the watchmaker’s Neuchâtel lab. This titanium ceramisation process delivers a supremely tough and hardy timepiece that is nonetheless 44% lighter than steel.