LVMH is back with a bang… well, sort of.
The company had originally planned to hold the kick-off for its Q1 watches in 2022 with a big in-person unveiling in Geneva this month, which got derailed due to the ongoing challenges of the pandemic. The company had hosted its first annual Watch Week in January of 2020 with a splashy event in Dubai, just before Covid-19 went global, which gave the company a bit of an unexpected leg up over its competitors who were forced to unveil watches later in the year over a series of Zoom press conferences. But, to accommodate the change of plans this year, the company showed watches in respective markets in lieu of a global gathering. The big trends are yellow-gold cases, slim-down profiles and movements and serious dial work. Here is a look at some of the highlights.
Octo Roma Blue Carillon Tourbillon
Bulgari focused primarily on its women’s collections for its Q1 introductions (see below), but its Octo Roma Carillon got a snazzy update with the introduction of a blue high-tech carbon-based coating on the movement and the circumference of the platinum case when viewed from the side. The company also added hour indexes and an Arabic numeral at 12 o’clock. While the new hue is certainly electrifying, the numerals distract from the modern architecture of the BVL428 caliber with cut-out bridges in an ALD treatment, as well as a perforated surface made of alternating polished steel. Nevertheless, it’s a serious complication piece featuring three gongs, visible on the dial side and attached directly to the body of the case, along with three openings on the side of the case for better sound amplification. The gongs are bent and formed by hand in several stages before being hardened at temperatures up to 1,652 degrees Fahrenheit before being cleaned and reheated in a 932-degree kiln, which gives the metal its superior sound. They are draw out with a file in order to hone the chords of the chime. It plays note C for the hours; E, D and C for the quarters; and E for the minutes.
It features 75 hours of power reserve and houses 432 components in a movement measuring 25 mm by 8.25 mm. It’s a big watch, as is to be expected from this kind of timepiece, at 44 mm by 12.83 mm thick and comes with a matching blue alligator strap to highlight its new hue.
Price: Upon request, limited to 30.
Talk about striking! Bulgari’s latest high-jewelry Serpenti Misteriosi timepieces, not surprisingly, are the most seductive women’s watches in the LVMH lineup. The Serpenti is so iconic it hardly needs an update, but this year the Italian house decided to equip the model with its other area of expertise—ultra-slim watchmaking. The new Piccolissimo (Italian for “very small”) BVL100 caliber is one of the smallest calibers in the world. The only other caliber other caliber to rival that claim is Jaeger-LeCoultre’s caliber 101, which is rectangular unlike Bulgari’s spherical creation. Bulgari’s however takes the cake for the thinnest at 2.5 mm versus JLC’s at 3.4 mm.
It’s the company’s latest twist on extreme thinness, following a series of multiple world record’s in its Octo Finissimo line for men. And while the company already laid claim to the world’s thinnest tourbillon movement in the Serpenti Seduttori, Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, Bulgari’s creative director and head of watch design, says it actually takes its cues from the ultra-thin movements of the Finissimo line and zero components were used from the Seduttori tourbillon. “The idea behind this movement was to elevate the Serpenti as the best of our know-how,” he said in a small group of U.S. journalists during a press conference Monday morning. He added that the company felt obliged to create the in-house movement for its high-jewelry Serpentis because, “These kind of pieces that cost a fortune, the idea to have a quartz movement starts to become something that is not interesting for this kind of market. Even the ladies would love to have a mechanical movement for these kinds of watches.”
While the movement is certainly the biggest news for the Serpenti, there have been other refinements including more details on the interior of the mouths from gem-setting to fine-finishing, as well as a slimmer body, neck and a flatter head. In fact, Buonamassa Stigliani says that it took 6 to 8 months just to perfect the shape of the case and head between the size, weight and movement. The entire design, including the movement, was three years in the works. Meanwhile, for the first time, the tongue of the snake operates as a lever to open the head and the interior watch can fully detach from the head for easier after-sales servicing, preventing damage to the jewelry structure. The patented crown, which can be found underneath the serpent’s lower jaw, features a bidirectional system (which does not require the crown to be pulled out) that sets the time in one direction and winds the watch in the other direction.
The new series is based on heritage examples of early Serpentis, including one that belonged to Elizabeth Taylor in the early ’60s (pictured below, left). That piece was mimicked in a white gold case and head set with 626 round brilliant-cut diamonds, 2 pear-cut emeralds, a diamond-paved dial, a yellow-gold double-tour bracelet with round brilliant-cut diamonds and a white-gold tail set with round brilliant-cut diamonds, which is the most expensive of the lot at $274,000. Unlike the original, it features an immaculate invisible snow-setting of diamonds that carry through to the interior of the snake’s mouth and along the bezel of the timepiece inside.
And while you really can’t go wrong with any Serpenti, least of all one that takes after a provenance piece owned by one of the most famous jewelry collectors in Hollywood history, the rose gold case set with brilliant-cut diamonds, turquoise inserts, a 2 pear-cut rubellites for the eyes is another clear standout—so beautiful, it’s downright sinful ($251,000). Both this version and the one mentioned above also come with a faceted sapphire crystal dial cover for extra sparkle. The black ($166,000) and emerald enamel ($228,000) Serpentis are hand-engraved and feature flat, instead of faceted sapphire crystal covering the dials.
Bulgari Serpenti Misteriosi
Needless to say, these are historic pieces, thanks to the introduction of a mechanical movement and a thoughtful redesign, and will be the must-have Serpentis to own for serious collectors (with six-figure price tags to match). While they will be small in production numbers they are, however, not technically limited.
The Serpenti Tubogas line went for gold this year in two single wrap Serpenti models in 18-karat yellow-gold model and two-tone steel and 18-karat yellow gold. The line had predominately focused on yellow-gold previously, although a double curved yellow-gold Tubogas did exist in the lineup and it is sold out. “Today, the yellow-gold trend is very, very strong,” said Buonamassa Stiglioni. “It’s massive. A few years ago it was just in some regions, but today we receive requests for yellow-gold from many countries.” Indeed, women have been flocking more towards yellow gold in recent years and the version above left likely won’t be available for long if the $42,000 double strap version is already out of stock.
Price: Yellow gold, $33,600; Two-tone, $13,800
Big Bang Integral Time Only
The Big Bang trims its waistline. For the first time, the Big Bang Integral is being offered in a new 40 mm size. Hublot watches have, traditionally, catered to pumped-up wrists in sizes up to 45 mm. “In the ‘80s, our first watch, I believe, was 35 mm and at that time that was a men’s watch,” Hublot CEO, Ricardo Guadalupe told Robb Report. “We went to 48 mm five or six years ago and I think we are going down heavily [in size].” Previous editions of the Big Bang Integral, however, came in 42 mm but demand for more unisex-friendly watches has seen many brands begin offering models in reduced diameters. “We believe that we can sell this watch either to men or women,” Guadalupe, confirmed. “We believe that the ergonomics, the lightness and the size are quite important.” The new slim-fit look doesn’t just apply to its circumference; it is also the thinnest iteration at just 9.25-mm thick. The dial has also been scaled-back to a time-only layout versus its predecessor’s flyback chronograph movement. However, it features the same integrated bracelet as the original.
“Integral was really a big challenge, because as you know we are known for rubber straps and not bracelets,” said Guadalupe. “A year ago we launched the Big Bang Integral in 42 mm in titanium, ceramic and rose gold. Since then, we have also developed new colors of ceramic. But we wanted the Integral to be a big pillar in our collection in the future.”
Three versions of the new 40 mm Big Bang Integral are offered in an all-black ceramic, yellow-gold and titanium timepieces.
Price: All-black ceramic, $19,900, limited to 250; yellow gold, $49,400; titanium, $17,800.
Yellow Gold Collection
Reminder: Gold is back, baby! Hublot is introducing the precious metal across all of its pillar collections including the above Big Bang Integral, the Big Bang Unico, the Classic Fusion Chronograph and the Spirit of Big Bang. “I was thinking about yellow gold for a few years, because it was really in fashion in the ‘80s and ‘90s,” Guadalupe told Robb Report. “In 1980, when we came with our first Fusion [the Classic Original] watch it was in 18-karat gold with a rubber strap. So, I said to myself, ‘We should go back to those roots and come with a few models in yellow gold.’” It demonstrates a serious push for the alloy following several years of a steel rush and it’s refreshing. Guadalupe also nodded to the cyclical nature of fashion as an influence, rightly predicting the comeback of ’80s style which has already been reinvigorated on the runways.
“We will see what the market reaction will be, but sometimes it’s just a feeling and we want to be leaders of the trend that is going to happen,” he said. “Fashion always recycles and in fashion, the cycles are shorter, but in the watch industry it can be a 10- or 20-year cycle to come back to a material or another thing that has become fashionable again.” Guadalupe, however, opted for the titanium Big Bang Integral to wear on his wrist during our meeting. Nevertheless, we suspect his big bet on gold will be just in time for the next sartorial wave.
Price: Classic Fusion Chronograph ($26,800), Big Bang Integral ($52,500), Big Bang Unico ($36,700), Spirit of Big Bang ($40,500)
Following the limited-edition release of its Revival Defy A3642 heritage piece last week, Zenith homed in on dial design for its more accessible Defy Skyline range. Drawing inspiration from the night sky above the manufacture, just like its founder, Georges-Favre Jacot, did 157 years ago, the dial features an engraved star-studded texture in a sunburst finish set within an octagonal case, inspired by the earliest Defy from 1969 on which the Revival A3642 is based, and topped off with a 12-sided bezel.
Powered by the automatic El Primero 3620 movement, which takes cues from the El Primero 3600 1/10th of a second chronograph, the Defy Skyline collection features a 1/10th of a second hand, which beats at 5 HZ and comes with a stop-second mechanism for a precise setting of the time. The bi-directional rotor, visible through the caseback, has also been fashioned in a star motif and delivers 60 hours of power reserve.
The steel 41 mm watches will, no doubt, draw comparisons to Audemars Piguet’s icon—the Royal Oak, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year after its debut in 1972. But at $8,400 a pop, they are far more affordable, offering a similar look at a, relatively speaking, palatable price. And as an added bonus, you can also switch out the bracelet for a rubber strap, also adorned with star pattern, which are offered in blue and black to their corresponding dial colors or olive-green for the silver-dial version. All can be easily swapped without the use of tools thanks to a quick strap-change mechanism.
Defy Extreme Carbon
At 45 by 15.4 mm this is the heftiest watch of Zenith’s 2022 debuts thus far. But it’s also incredibly light thanks to its layered carbon fiber case and marks the first time a Defy Extreme model has been made in the material. And, inside, it houses the fastest chronograph movement on the market with time measurements at 1/100th of a second and two escapements operating at 36,000 VpH (5Hz) for the hours and minutes and minutes at the chronograph function operating at 360,000 VpH (50 Hz). It’s a full package sports watch and the perfect mascot for the next season of Extreme E racing, of which Zenith is the official timekeeper, which will kick off this February with the Desert X Prix in Saudi Arabia. The partnership means you can expect more limited-edition Defy Extreme watches tied to the Extreme E races in the future.
The watch comes on a black leather strap with a titanium triple folding clasp but can be swapped out for a black velcro version or a red rubber strap. The latter will highlight the colorful dial markers including the 1/100th of a second chronograph scale in bright yellow, the chronograph counters in bright blue, green and white and hits of red in the power reserve indicator—all of which, naturally, mimic the color schemes of the Extreme E’s “X Prix.”
Fortunately, you won’t have to race to your local AD to claim your stake on one as the Defy Extreme Carbon will not be a limited edition, giving you more time to deliberate on its five-figure price tag.
The Autavia collecting rings in its 60th anniversary with three new models and they are fly. The main attraction of the three, if you ask us, is the all-black 42 mm Flyback Chronograph with sharply contrasting sea green Superluminova Arabic numerals and hands, however its counterpart panda dial configuration offers a more classic look where-with-everything look. The big news behind the design, though, is the new caliber, the Hueuer 02 COSC Flyback manufacture movement, which allows the wearer to reset the chronograph hand and start a new timing without needing to stop it first—ideal for lap times on a race track, a Tag Heuer specialty. Its also an important nod to late ’60s Heuer history, when the reference 1550 SG, a now collectible flyback chronograph, was created as a reliable tool watch for the German Bundeswehr Air Force.
The Autavia is a big pillar for Tag Heuer. It was the first product launched under Jack Heuer, the legendary great-grandson of the founder. Its name comes from combining “automobile” and “aviation.” To that end, it was a given that a GMT should be part of the collection to represent the company’s association with the skies. But believe it or not, it is the first GMT model in the collection and houses the caliber 7 COSC GMT movement. It features a blue radiant sunray-brushed dial, a dual-color black and blue bezel and is contrasted by an orange time zone hand and Autavia logo.
All three models are delivered on either a stainless steel bracelet or an alligator-leather strap with a deployant strap, althoough a third strap can be purchased should a client want to interchange the look.
While the genesis of the Autavia collection had its roots in dashboard timers for cars and planes dating back to 1933, the name is now recognized as one of the brand’s most recognizable wristwatches (along with, of course, the Monaco). The all-black model is the clear standout, although owning one of the first GMTs in the Autavia collection is worthy of the vault.
Tag Heuer is said to have even bigger news coming down the pipeline, so stay tuned!
Price: black dial Autavia Flyback Chronograph, $6,950; silver dial Autavia Flyback Chronograph, $6,300; Autavia GMT, $4,200