Brands that have outdone themselves

In our third and final report on Watches and Wonders Geneva 2022, we highlight four manufactures that have pushed the boundaries of design, gemstone cutting and technical expertise.

Chanel

The Chanel J12 Diamond Tourbillon in matt black ceramic, adorned with a specially cut 0.18-carat solitaire diamond in the center of the tourbillon cage. It is enhanced with 49 brilliant-cut diamonds encircling it and diamond-set hands.

With an impressive array of J12 releases at the show, including a new 33mm automatic, whimsical models paying homage to Mademoiselle Gabrielle and a six-piece capsule collection, it’s clear that the iconic watch continues to take center stage in the repertoire. watchmaker of the French house.

Beyond the new iterations, this year marks a new chapter for the J12 with the Caliber 5, housed in the J12 Diamond Tourbillon with a 0.18-carat solitaire placed in the center of the tourbillon cage. This is Chanel’s first flying tourbillon and fifth high-complication movement, designed by Arnaud Chastaingt, director of the house’s watchmaking design studio, and developed and assembled at the Chanel Manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

“I wanted to endow the J12 watch with a diamond. Set in the center of the tourbillon, the solitaire diamond follows the mechanism of the movement, giving time a precious and meditative, almost hypnotic rhythm,” explains Chastaingt.

The rear view of Chanel’s first flying tourbillon and latest movement, the Caliber 5

Of course, in true Chanel fashion, no ordinary round solitaire would do, as Chastaingt continues: “We created a bespoke cut with 65 facets: a unique cut for a unique watch, and one that I continue to find fascinating and inspiring. Placing a diamond of this size on a tourbillon was an obsession for me. It is a technical challenge that the teams of the Manufacture Chanel have risen to a magnificent level, giving life to the new J12 Diamond Tourbillon.

Visually stunning front and back, the exposed mechanism is faithful to the graphic identity of Chanel Haute Horlogerie. The architecture of the movement is constructed in a series of circular bridges in black, nothing less. The brilliance of the diamonds is complemented by the finesse of the beveling and the exceptional finishing of the movement. The hands, the tourbillon cage and the crown are also set with diamonds. The J12 Tourbillon Diamant is available in two 38 mm versions, each limited to 55 pieces: in shiny black ceramic with the bezel adorned with 34 baguette-cut diamonds or in matte black ceramic entirely.

Hermes

Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur 41 mm in platinum with matte black DLC-treated titanium bezel

Designed by Henri d’Origny in 1978, the Arceau watch lends itself to a new expression of style and evokes the spirit of travel according to Hermès. Presented in platinum and titanium or steel, its round case with asymmetrical lugs reveals the brand’s singular reinterpretation of world time, a classic complication of fine watchmaking.

The flange of the dial displays 24 time zones indicated by the respective reference cities. By pressing the pusher on the left side of the case, the sub-dial with the hour, minute and Arabic numeral hands moves to the representative city, telling you the local time. This moving disc also has a small red arrow that indicates the city. Local 24-hour time is displayed in an aperture at 12 o’clock.

The sub-dial or satellite, as Hermès calls it, sweeps across an electroplated dial featuring a mysterious fantasy map with laser-engraved and lacquered oceans. The image was created by French graphic designer Jérôme Colliard for the Planisphere silk scarf of an Equestrian World for the 2016 Saut Hermès show jumping competition in Paris.

The Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur 38 mm in steel with a blue galvanized dial adorned with the Planisphere motif of an Equestrian World designed by Jérôme Colliard

The moving disc and the local time indicator are driven by an exclusive “Travelling Time” module with 122 components, integrated into the Hermès H1837 self-winding mechanical movement. Specially developed for Hermès by the complication specialist Chronode, the slender 4.4 mm mechanism drives the hours, minutes and the dual time zone display with indication of the cities.

Two Arceau Le Temps Voyageur models are available, including a 41mm platinum version with a matt black DLC-treated titanium bezel and a 38mm blue steel edition. Both are mounted on straps in alligator or Swift calfskin made in the workshops of Hermès Horloger thanks to the historical know-how of saddlery and leather goods.

Porthole

Clockwise from bottom left: Hublot Square Bang Unico in titanium; Hublot Square Bang Unico in King Gold; Hublot Square Bang Unico in King Gold with Black Ceramic; Hublot Square Bang Unico in titanium with black ceramic; Hublot Square Bang Unico All Black

One piece that stands out among the many new releases from the manufacture at the show is its very first reinterpretation of a square watch – the Square Bang Unico. With this new timepiece, Hublot adds a new mainstay, the aptly named The Shaped Collection, to rub shoulders with the Spirit of Big Bang.

Of course, a timepiece with an entirely new case shape posed numerous challenges that the Manufacture’s workshop met with dexterity. First, there is the question of movement. Since each caliber has the wheel as its basic component, a round movement is required. A very specific provision
is necessary to place a round movement that works harmoniously in a square case. While many watchmakers prefer to hide the movement, Hublot decided to reveal the inner workings of the watch for this bold new creation.

The next challenge was the modular construction of the case, which had to include Hublot’s DNA with a central case with a top and bottom plate to allow for an array of combinations and transformations. The watch also guarantees a water resistance of 100 m, a delicate feat since its square shape made the task even more difficult for the watchmakers of the house.

The size of the case is also an important factor for this model to be ergonomic and offer the same comfort on the wrist as that of the Big Bang 42mm. The dial of the Square Bang Unico still retains a sandwich construction, which gives it different levels of depth and an architectural look. And like the Big Bang, the dial of the Square Bang Unico features heavy use of sapphire crystal that gives a clear view of the Unico movement.

Further emphasizing the identity of the Square Bang Unico, a new strap decorated with “chocolate squares”. Created specifically for this new model, the textured design features four rows of raised squares that resemble a black candy bar. Thanks to the One Click interchangeable system, the wearer can effortlessly refresh the look of their watch with a strap from an impressive range of rubber, alligator, as well as soon to be introduced soft-touch leather versions.

As you’d expect from Hublot, the finish has a very modern look – an over-molded rubber crown; polished and sandblasted screws;
pushers decorated with rubber “chocolate squares”; Polished satin caseback and rhodium-plated or gold-plated hands depending on the model.

The Square Bang Unico is available in five 42 mm references. Two models are in titanium or King Gold, while the other two combine titanium or King Gold with a black ceramic bezel. For Hublot fans, there is the Square Bang Unico All Black 250-piece limited edition. Each watch comes with a black rubber strap and a folding clasp in the same material as the case. The timepieces are powered by the HUB1280 Unico Manufacture movement, an automatic chronograph with 354 components.

Grand Seiko

The integration of the constant-force mechanism and the tourbillon in the Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon allows optimal use of space

A departure from Grand Seiko’s watchmaking is the remarkable Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon SLGT003, another scene stealer at the fair. It is the first time that the 62-year-old Japanese manufacture has produced a skeletonized tourbillon and a watch with a mechanical complication, a project that took a total of 10 years to come to fruition.

The star of the 43.8mm model is the magnificent caliber 9ST1, which sees the constant-force mechanism housed in the tourbillon cage – a first in the history of watchmaking in which the two components are combined into a single unit. on a single axis. More than a question of aesthetics, this integration offers practical advantages. Since there are no wheels or components between the two mechanisms, this leads to an increased power reserve of 50 hours for the constant-force mechanism (the watch’s power reserve is 72 hours). However, the practicality that Grand Seiko is famous for is still achieved in the small details. Closer examination of the constant-force cage reveals a ruby ​​on one of its arms, which acts as a small seconds hand.

The display case back of the Grand Seiko Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon reveals the beauty of the movement’s finish and intricate construction

The movement of the hypnotic mechanism and its unique ticking sound give Kodo – Japanese for heartbeat – its characteristic sound. The inner tourbillon cage spins smoothly while the balance wheel vibrates regularly at eight beats per second, while the constant-force outer cage tracks its rotation at exact one-second intervals. The captivating sounds of the constant-force mechanism’s escapement and once-per-second pulse blend seamlessly into a steady rhythm to create a deeply satisfying and reassuring heartbeat for the eyes and ears alike.

The watch’s openwork design and sapphire caseback reveal its intricate workings. Some parts of its case, made of platinum and shiny hard titanium from Grand Seiko, are polished Zaratsu, while others have a capillary finish. The elegance of the watch is further enhanced by a specially treated calf strap using the same traditional method used to create the high durability material of samurai armor and hand painted with Urushi lacquer. Also available with a crocodile strap, the watch will be available in a limited edition of 20 in October.

This story first appeared in the July 2022 issue of Prestige Singapore.

About Robert L. Thomas

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