Skip to main content

An In-Depth Review of Watches and Wonders 2022 with Bill Prince

Bill Prince 5 minute read
bill prince goldsmiths

The watch industry’s first large scale, in-person get-together since 2019 unveiled a new single-show format - Watches & Wonders, in essence the former SIHH enlarged to include the biggest dial names from the now-defunct Baselworld, as well as a plethora of exciting new timepieces.

Even in the highly verticalised world of high-end watchmaking, the development and production of the models exhibited last week in Geneva will have pre-dated the onset of the pandemic, in some instances by several years. And yet, surveying the quality of their execution and the striving for innovation characterized by the most impressive examples, suggests a fresh ambition amongst our favorite brands, once again determined to ‘knock it out of the park’.

In no particular order of batting: Bulgari unveiled the world’s thinnest mechanical watch in the shape of the Octo Finissimo Ultra. As the name suggests, it is the most exacting example yet of the company’s ten-year old drive to become the reference for ultrathin watchmaking - an achievement marked by eight world-record models in a decade. Measuring just 1.8m thick, the Ultra bagged another first by becoming Bulgari’s debut NFT-enabled model, signaled by a QR code engraved onto the barrel.

Similarly drawn to breaking boundaries is TAG Heuer, which has unveiled its first ever solar-powered watch. Besides being devilishly handsome, the Aquaracer Professional 200 Solargraph is capable of running for six months after exposure to just 20 hours of sunlight and as the name suggests is waterproof to 200m - making it a shoe-in for adventure junkies when it launches in October. Meanwhile, the latest in a long line of developmental Carreras is the Plasma, which features a dial and crown entirely made using lab-grown diamonds (a first in the luxury watch sector). And if that wasn’t enough, TAG Heuer CEO Frederic Arnault underlined the brand’s commitment to matching contemporary industry standards by announcing a collaboration with Swiss movement maker Kenissi, which will ensure models including the all-new Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver, offer an extended five-year warranty.

cartier tank goldsmiths

Across the floor at Cartier, the brand that has done more than any to introduce new shapes to watchmaking unveiled the latest in a line of reanimated historical pieces with the release of the Collection Privé Tank Chinoise 100 years on from its launch in 1922.

Then, the Tank’s already disruptive design was further emboldened by horizontal bands chosen to depict the portico of a Chinese temple. For its centenary, there are three new closed case models powered by the brand’s in-house 430 MC calibre, and three more with open lacquered dials featuring the skeletonised 9627 MC calibre. And the fabulous executions don’t stop there: the Masse Mysterieuse, for instance, builds on Cartier’s classical ‘invisible’ complications with a movement that also serves as its power source - the ‘masse’ or rotor. And then there’s the piece de resistance of the collection: a Coussin, or cushion, de Cartier model which uses 3D printing to create a highly articulated white gold mesh set with over 1,000 diamonds that ‘flexes’ to the touch. ‘Squidgy’ hasn’t previously served as a term in haute horlogerie, but it does now.

Alongside certified crowd-pleasers were the celebrations - and equally successful commemorative timepieces created to accompany them. At Chopard, the family-owned company marked 25 years since the launch of its high watchmaking LUC line with a trilogy of new variations on its award-winning Full Strike minute repeater, including a sapphire crystal cased model featuring sapphire crystal gongs – another first for the brand. IWC chose the 15th anniversary of its emblematic Pilot’s watch to announce a brace of limited edition models arriving in Lake Tahoe (white) and Woodland (green) 44.5mm ceramic cases. And no doubt wise to the current fascination with 1970s luxury sports watches, Vacheron Constantin took the opportunity to mark 45 years since the launch of the ‘222’ – named for the number of years the company had by then remained in continuous production – to create the latest edition of its acclaimed Historiques collection. Clearly, it’s not only disruptive designs that are on the rebound from the era of ‘Fame’ and flares: the appeal of the Historiques 222’s yellow gold case and bracelet was similarly foregrounded in the new extensions to Zenith’s successful Chronomaster Sport line, while Tudor’s equally illustrious Black Bay Chrono now comes with a yellow-gold capped bracelet and case. Ask for the ‘S&G’ - but don’t be surprised if you also hear it referred to as ‘the root beer’ in accordance with the various nicknames attached to sister brand Rolex’s multihued watches.

vacheron historiques 222 goldsmiths

Colour. came to the fore, too, at Hublot where, alongside the all-new Square Bang Unico (another fresh shape for the design-led brand), it unveiled the latest artistic collaboration with Takashi Murakami - the truly head-spinning Classic Fusion Sapphire Rainbow featuring 384 coloured gemstones attached to a rotating disc centrally mounted on the dial.

Whilst entertaining, any attempt to glean an overall approach to watchmaking in 2022 from the hundreds of timepieces on display at Watches & Wonders is ultimately a self-defeating game. But there is clearly a restlessness at play in an industry hungry to please clients who relish time spent researching the technical and aesthetic aspects that go into producing our most personal luxury purchase. So Patek Philipppe signally chose not to focus on its steel sports models - the subject of so much discussion recently - in favour of an effortlessly elegant new Calatrava case put to exemplary use in Ref 5326G - an annual calendar travel time watch with a stunning charcoal grey grained dial.

With Rolex unveiling not only a left-hander’s GMT-Master (dubbed the Destro) but also an Air King ‘Professionalised’ with a new, slab-sided case and crown guards, it’s clear that, right now, the idea of standing still is about as welcome as a return to online-only watch events. Roll on Watches & Wonders 2023.

To read and watch more on this year’s fair, including buyer’s reactions, brand interviews and daily round-ups, visit our Watches and Wonders hub.

Respect for your Data: Capturing personal information from you helps us provide the best possible service, we respect and do all we can to protect your privacy. For full details of your rights in relation to the information collected, how we use it, who we share it with, how long we keep it and how to end any use of that information by us, please read our Privacy Policy.

Back To Top