A look back at Watches & Wonders 2021, held in early April, with our watchmaker Romain, who has always been passionate about beautiful timepieces.
For this review, I have selected one model per brand among those we represent. I have chosen to say a few words about the watches which, in my eyes as a watchmaker and passionate enthusiast, are especially worth a closer look. This naturally does not mean the other models are not likewise deserving, but I have just chosen to single them out.
The Rolex Explorer 36mm makes a comeback! The Explorer range (Explorer and Explorer II) has been updated, firstly with a last-generation movement – Calibre 3230 for the Explorer and Calibre 3285 for the Explorer II – but also and especially by a return to the very roots of the Explorer.
Before being offered in a 39mm version at Baselworld 2010, the Explorer measured 36mm. This year, it is back in a 36mm diameter, with a black-lacquered dial featuring the Explorer inscription that regains its place under the crown. This model also includes enhanced features such as its optimized Chromalight ensuring improved intensity of the luminescence, a glareproofed sapphire crystal and a 70-hour power reserve.
Tudor delighted us this year by offering its Black Bay fifty-eight model in two precious materials: a version in 18K gold and another in 925 silver. Among the new releases, the Black Bay fifty-eight 925 version (in silver) completely won me over! This watch has a relatively modest diameter yet radiates a unique presence on the wrist! There is something about silver – a matter of weight or simply an aura – that is very real and inexplicably potent. The choice of colours is also exactly right, with a taupe grey shade featuring green, khaki or chocolate brown shimmering effects! The movement is endowed with the key properties of Tudor’s in-house calibre: great precision and sturdiness, enduring reliability, as well as convenience with its 70-hour power reserve.
Chanel is presenting a new tangy-coloured Electro collection this year! The watch that stands out the most for me in this collection is the Code Coco Electro, a 255-piece limited edition featuring an eye-catching colour choice.
Code Coco is a model introduced in 2017. It reflects numerous aesthetic characteristics specific to the Maison Chanel and its history, including the quilted design of the strap and the opening device typical of the Chanel 2.55 handbag closure system. Yes, even a watchmaker can know the essentials of a woman’s wardrobe!
Anyway, the Code Coco Electro with the bright pink quilted strap literally jumped off the page at me and I think it's the most daring in this collection! Love it!
This year, Chopard presented four little gems in its L.U.C range dedicated to Haute Horlogerie models. Nevertheless, true to the adage that “less is more”, the model that caught my eye this year is this magnificent L.U.C Quattro Spirit with jumping hours. The latter function is apparently a first for Chopard, and it is a real success. An aperture at 6 o'clock indicates the hours, while the central hand points to the minutes.
Above and beyond being beautiful and a novelty for Chopard, this timepiece above all a magnificent demonstration of horological skill, notably in terms of finishing certified by the Poinçon de Genève. One also naturally admires the solid gold and Grand Feu enamel dial that exudes a sense of watchmaking tradition just as we like it!
This 2021 edition of Watches and Wonders saw some nice surprises from Hublot, which is gradually becoming increasingly involved in ceramics and presented a watch this year that definitely grabbed my attention: the Hublot Big Bang Unico Yellow Magic. The Big Bang collection is so instantly recognisable that it requires (almost) no introduction. Nevertheless, Hublot is clearly pursuing its R&D work in terms of materials, notably including ceramics.
Why did the Big Bang Unico Yellow Magic catch my eye? First of all for its bright, sunny and cheerful yellow colour, as well as the unique aura it radiates. I don't know whether it's the difficulty involved in creating a ceramic of this colour, or the fact that I find it very attractive on my wrist, but this watch definitely has a striking effect – so congrats to Hublot!
H. Moser & Cie.
We have become accustomed to H. Moser & Cie. releasing ever more daring products. My ‘crush’ this year is the Pioneer "MEGA Cool"! Firstly because of the name with its youthful connotations; and secondly the design reflecting aesthetic codes that are recent but already so strongly embedded in the brand DNA – a sure token of success! A Pioneer case in all its splendour (the finishing of the case, sides and lugs is fantastic), the fumé dial that has become a signature for the brand – whose name appears very discreetly, like a nod to the Concept collection with its inscription-free dials, as too are the Streamliner hands. And, of course, the Blue Lagoon dial colour with shimmering turquoise or green reflections: one can indeed confirm that this watch is MEGA Cool!
As for the movement, it meets the high Moser standards: accurate, superbly finished, and extremely practical with its three-day power reserve.
Ressence offers something quite unique through the different models of its collection. The new Type 2N presented this year represents a new line featuring subtle modifications to the existing Type 2. For me, the main appeal of this watch lies in its absolutely unique e-crown system combining mechanical innovation (with the ROCS system patented by Ressence) with technological innovation. The latter is exemplified in the e-Crown serving to record the manually configured time through a mobile app (in Bluetooth mode) and to stop the watch running to save energy when it is no longer on the wearer’s wrist. A tap on the glass is enough to start and reset this perfectly balanced cocktail of mechanics and technology.
At the 2021 edition of Watches and Wonders, Zenith presented a new Defy: the Defy Extreme. Basically, this model looks as if the Defy El Primero 21 Chrono had been working out in the gym! A beefed-up version of the previous Chrono, implying changes to its size and design, this new Defy Extreme is extremely appealing and has a technical, angular side that I like. The all-black version particularly caught my eye. This watch exudes a sense of robustness and precision. Its movement is the El Primero 21 that remains the world’s most accurate chronograph calibre powering a 1/100 second indication thanks to its 50Hz frequency!
This year’s new Breitling products are almost impossible to miss, especially as they have proven to be so popular – notably thanks to their surprising colours (pistachio green, salmon pink), or technical variations such as new split-second models and a complete calendar. The 2021 new release that made the greatest impression on me is undoubtedly the stainless steel Breitling Premier Datora with a dial in salmon pink (or copper, to use the official term). What I like about this watch is its return to roots with a design reminiscent of the chronographs of yesteryear. The dial and its coppery tint lend a little vintage touch, while the calendar displaying the day of the week and the month at noon, opposite the date and the moon phase at 6 o'clock, forms a very pleasing ensemble. The rectangular pushers typical of vintage chronographs add to the charm of this model of which I am a big fan and that I basically find flawless – aesthetically as well as technically with its complete calendar. Good for you, Breitling!
I have always liked the Aquaracer, the iconic diving model from the Avant-Garde brand. I was naturally impressed by seeing this model updated based on a determination to improve the technical characteristics, as well as by the attention devoted to its technical aspects. The "very classic" blue version of the Aquaracer gets my vote this year! Focusing on the details that make all the difference, TAG Heuer decided to optimize the reading, the grip and the ergonomics of this diving watch. The hands have been redesigned to accentuate the contrast between the hours and minutes hands, in terms of both shape (wider for the hours, thinner for the minutes) and luminescence (contrast between blue and green luminescence in the dark). The hour-markers have also been modified with eight octagonal-shaped hour-markers also serving to optimise read-off. A magnified date window at 6 o'clock (beneath the glass) further the legibility of this indication. When it comes to handling, the new bezel (fitted with a ceramic inlay) is now notched to ensure a better grip. Its ratchet system has also been redesigned to ensure more supple rotation of the bezel. The case has also been reworked to make the watch slimmer and that is always a plus. All in all, I love this beautiful diving watch that I find equally beautiful by day and by night!
This edition of Watches and Wonders 2021 was excellent. Between watchmaking tradition and technological innovation, we can truly say there was something for everyone! This review represents only the tip of the iceberg, but it will be a pleasure to discuss or try out the many other new models together on your next boutique visit.