Hundreds of New Luxury Watches Just Debuted. These Are the Best
At the Salon International de Haute Horlogerie, such brands as Audemars Piguet, Cartier, IWC, and Montblanc showed their newest, most exciting wares. Here are the most interesting.
This year, the watches at the Salon International de Haute Horlogerie were inspired by fantastical themes, everything from dreams to candy to the moon. But as the global luxury sector heads into uncertainty in the coming year—in the face of rocked stock markets, a slowdown from China, and even the effects of steel tariffs—the hopes pinned to these pricey little timepieces are serious, indeed.
Over the past four days, I played with, tried on, and peered at more than 200 watches from brands at the fair, such as Cartier, Roger Dubuis, Bovet, Panerai, and Piaget, as well as some at satellite events hosted by Tag Heuer, Bulgari, and Hublot.
The color trends we have been seeing over the past couple of years have continued (there were still a lot of green and gray dials), but some new innovations were utterly new. Vacheron Constantin is patenting a totally mechanical way to change a movement’s frequency, so it burns less energy while sitting still. And Ulysse Nardin and Girard Perregaux developed new carbon-metal compounds to make their cases even stronger.
These are my favorite watches from the show.
IWC Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar Spitfire — $28,200
IWC had a lot of fun launching its new Spitfire collection, in which an actual vintage Spitfire showed up, as well as Bradley Cooper, James Marsden, and Rosamund Pike. (IWC will be sponsoring a record-breaking flight in the plane in the coming year.) All the pieces are handsome and clean, but the best bargain may be the perpetual calendar. It comes only in a green face with a brass case, a great look and a combo we saw a few times over the course of the week. All of its many complications are eminently legible, which isn’t always true for this type of watch. IWC expects to make this collection for years to come, so getting a first-generation at this price is a spitfire of an idea.
Richard Mille RM 07-03 Automatic Marshmallow and Cupcake — $153,000
I wouldn’t wear this watch on the left, which was inspired by marshmallows and cupcakes. But I would love to party with the person who would. And I’m glad Richard Mille had fun with its new collection of 10 bonbons this year. (The one on the right is called the "Sucette," or lollipop.) Each will have a run of 30 pieces, beginning in late spring. The RM 07-03has a 50-hour power reserve and a baseplate and bridges made of grade 5 titanium.
Photographer: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Small Seconds, a boutique exclusive — $7,900
The watch that I expect to see on most such lists is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpetuel. (Say that three times, fast.) It’s a marvel of engineering, with one of those giant tourbillons and an openworked perpetual calendar movement. But it’s also about $912,000. The Jaeger that I heard most editors raving about privately is actually the one I liked the most: a simple Reverso in a new color—a rich, deep Burgundy that extends to the streamlined, contemporary strap. It’s available only in American boutiques, and I expect those to be snapped up soon.
Hermès Arceau L’Heure De La Lune — $25,500
This was one of the most-discussed pieces at the show. In a simple bit of lovely ingeniousness, the watch’s two lacquer dials rotate around a central axis. They pass over a pair of mother of pearl moons (one of which has an Hermès pegasus subtly etched on its face, by artist Dimitri Rybaltchenko) and thus indicate the moonphase in the northern and southern hemispheres. The dials rotate once every 59 days, one showing the hours and minutes, and the other displaying the date. At 43mm, it’s on the large side, but that's not unusual for such an innovative showpiece. And since it’s never been done before, Hermès could have made up any price it wanted. At $25,500, it’s a relative steal. I expect the 100 pieces to go fast.
Montblanc Star Legacy Exo Tourbillon — $94,000
This year saw a lot of huge tourbillons, from Jaeger-LeCoultre to H. Moser et Cie to Vacheron Constantin. I particularly liked this one from Montblanc, which comes in rose or white gold, the latter with an anthracite dial guilloched to within an inch of its life. The gilded tourbillon, with its single bridge, is allowed to shine here, showing the expert watchmaking for which Monblanc is increasingly known. This one’s limited to 28 pieces.