The 2021 edition of the Geneva Watch Days was a welcome opportunity for the watchmaking community to meet again with great pleasure. Beyond the joy of the reunion, it gave to the brands the opportunity to present their latest novelties as well as the watches that were unveiled since the beginning of the year. The event was a sort of crossroads between, on the one hand, this review of the last few months and, on the other, the projection towards the end of the year with, for certain brands, the prospect of participating in the Only Watch auction.
In this article I would like to present to you the watches that have made the greatest impression on me during this week in Geneva. This selection only concerns the brands officially participating in the Geneva Watch Days, another article will be dedicated to the brands that organised presentations around the event (those of the Baselworld pop-up for example). Of course, I will not be able to mention the pieces that are still under embargo (some of them have been released since I wrote the article... sorry!).
Generally speaking, these new products constitute a solid line-up. There is undoubtedly a recognition of certain market realities with a desire to offer more at constant prices or to be more reasonable in terms of pricing... It is not a question of cutting ourselves off from key markets such as Western Europe and even if Asia is driving sales, too great a geographical imbalance could be harmful in the medium term. This does not prevent labels from soaring when a brand is convinced that it is offering a highly desirable watch. Price moderation is primarily concerned with volume watches or those representing a significant share of turnover. From a mechanical point of view, with two or three exceptions, I have not seen anything spectacular, as most of the developments are based on existing solutions. On the other hand, creativity is expressed through the materials, the play of colours or the integration of complications. Overall, I saw attractive, well-made pieces. Perhaps a touch of madness was missing, but above all it was a question of responding to market expectations, especially after several difficult months. I have the feeling that the collections and novelties that were unveiled contain the ingredients to be successful, if not transcendent. Logically, independent watchmaking makes up the bulk of this selection as it was strongly represented during the event. But this reflects the fact that it concentrates most of the industry's creativity. Finally, the ecological themes did not seem to me to be very present if not in the margin... the recycled plastic dial at Oris, the banished animal leather at Greubel Forsey... After all, a mechanical, durable, long-lasting watch that works without batteries is by essence "ecological" and I think it is better to remind these intrinsic characteristics than to do greenwashing.
Here are my favourite watches of the 2021 edition of Geneva Watch Days, in no particular order.
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Annual Calendar
The Tonda PF collection is a continuation of the Tondagraph with a more elegant and refined touch. I find the complicated models the most attractive, the dial of the Tonda PF Automatic appeared too empty for my taste. The Tonda PF Annual Calendar is a real success and the highlight is the Tonda PF Chronograph with Rattrapante, available in 25 pieces.
Breitling Top Time Classic Cars
Breitling introduces 3 chronographs inspired by the classic car world, distinguished by their bright dial colours and the absence of a date window (good news!). They are nicely made and even if they are not powered by the in-house chronograph calibre, I really liked their neo-retro charm. My favourite is the Top Time Chevrolet Corvette which offers a red colour that changes from the usual blue and green.
Ulysse Nardin Torpilleur Moonphase 42mm
Ulysse Nardin plays here a perfectly mastered score. The watch is without surprise but well made and I have to admit that I have a soft spot for the pieces with moon phases display without date window. However, be careful that the manufacture does not multiply too many references, after a while, one does not know anymore which are the novelties and the watches already present in the collection.
Girard-Perregaux Laureato Absolute Ti 230 and Laureato Absolute Light Bucherer Blue
Girard-Perregaux is pulling out all the stops with the Laureato collection, and rightly so, given the market trend towards all-around watches. The grey version of the Laureato Absolute Ti 230 is a very pleasant watch to wear and proposed with an attractive price (less than 10.000 euros). The Laureato Absolute Light Bucherer Blue is at the other end of the spectrum and I consider it a very nice aesthetic achievement that takes advantage of the context of the limited series of the famous Swiss retailer.
Greubel Forsey GMT Earth
Greubel Forsey's new direction is working well. The manufacture now offers watches that are easier to live with on a daily basis, more versatile, without losing any of their high-level watchmaking content. The GMT Earth Final Edition is bowing out, in line with this strategy which aims at reinforcing the exclusivity of the different pieces. Of course, Greubel Forsey is in line with its decision to eliminate any strap made of animal leather. To note also the very beautiful GMT Quadruple Tourbillon in titanium which was presented a few months earlier.
Bulgari Octo Roma Worldtimer
Bulgari builds its catalogue with intelligence, avoiding imbalances. Any collection must contribute to development as the Octo Roma Worldtimer proves it. I am very happy to see an interpretation of one of my favourite complications. The result is appealing and surprising in some ways, including a choice of monochrome dial that is a change from what is usually done (if only to distinguish between day and night time). The Octo case works very well in this context and invites to travel.
Gerald Genta Arena Retro Mickey Mouse
The movement was initiated last year with the Gerald Genta 50th Anniversary - Arena Bi-Retro. This year, Bulgari confirms the desire to make Gerald Genta a brand of its own through the Arena Retro Mickey Mouse. It was the talking piece by excellence of the Geneva Watch Days and personally I am delighted with the come-back of this type of watch. The rendering is more cosseted, maybe less delicate than the original watches but the fact that it is a Retro and not a Bi-Retro is a very good choice. Simplicity is the best ally here.
Urwerk UR-100 Electrum
The UR-100 Electrum is one of Urwerk's most charming watches. The use of gold and palladium alloy is enhanced by the circular groove pattern. This piece offers a real tactile and visual experience. I was in any case seduced by its luminous rendering. It demonstrates that a watch can be original and elegant at the same time.
Moser Streamliner Perpetual Calendar
Moser uses its clever and innovative display of the perpetual calendar information in the Streamliner context. The result is stunning as the complication is harmoniously integrated into the fluid and original lines of the Streamliner case. Indeed, the purity of the dial better suits the aesthetic singularity of the whole.
De Bethune DB25 Starry Varius GMT
I could have evoked the piece realized with Kari Voutilainen for Only Watch. But I prefer to stay in the context of traditionally marketed watches. The DB25 Starry Varius GMT is in line with the DB25 World Traveller, adding an artistic touch thanks to the superb central starry sky inspired by the one of the DB25 Starry Varius. The combination works perfectly, making this one of the most beautiful travel watches.
Ferdinand Berthoud Chronometer FB 1RS.6
Available in two cases (octagonal or round), this latest variation of the Ferdinand Berthoud Chronometer will only be produced in 20 pieces. By opening up the dial, the brand is exploring new aesthetic perspectives thanks to a more technical and contemporary rendering. Supported by a very high level of finishing, the Chronomètre FB 1RS.6 with an octagonal case seduces with its volume effects and its aesthetics that are both classic and intriguing. The round-case version is less daring but just as seductive.
Czapek Antarctic Rattrapante
Czapek needed such a watch. It is perhaps the most interesting of the Geneva Watch Days event from a technical point of view. The split-seconds chronograph movement is one of the most complex to develop. Thanks to the architecture of the calibre and its successful integration into the Antarctic case, Czapek has a true flagship watch with this piece that can pull the collection behind it. It put the brand in the spotlight during the Geneva week and gave a new dynamic to the Antarctique collection. Moreover its selling price is attractive for such a complication.
Charles Girardier 1809 41mm
It is always interesting to observe the first steps of a brand, especially when its name is that of a watchmaker of the past. Rather than a renaissance, I see this as the launch of a new house that offers classic watches, beautifully executed and highlighted by a flying tourbillon and a mysterious signature that can be personalised. The ensemble is refined and exudes an old-fashioned charm that will appeal to a clientele in search of traditional timepieces that are far removed from certain current aesthetic canons.
Konstantin Chaykin Minotaur
Konstantin Chaykin always has the ability to surprise with his talent and fertile imagination. One thing is certain: the "Joker" base offers an incredible capacity for evolution, even transformation, and he knows how to take advantage of it. The Russian watchmaker, like a magician, creates extremely varied atmospheres and even allows himself to add complications such as the display of the days of the week with his Minotaur watch. It cannot be mentioned enough but Konstantin Chaykin also has a certain aesthetic talent as proven by the work on the lugs and the multiple details that adorn the dial and the bezel. The Minotaur watch is truly fascinating, plunging us into Crete in a few seconds.
Louis Erard Excellent Regulator Aventurine, Lapis Lazuli and Malachite
Louis Erard has made its regulator the centrepiece of its catalogue and does not hesitate to develop it through collaborations or artistic approaches. The use of semi-precious stones gives life and colour to the dials. The result is very convincing whatever the stone. The 42mm diameter is adapted here, allowing the subtlety of the dial to be better appreciated.
Arnold&Son Luna Magna
Rarely has a watch worn its name so well. Arnold&Son offers with the Luna Magna an exciting watch, full of contrasts. Contrast between the three-dimensional moon and the time display. Contrast between the quietness of the dial and the complexity of the movement. The moon phases are thus precise both from the point of view of the mechanism and of their display. The set version is also very attractive.
Maurice Lacroix Aikon Urban Tribe
Maurice Lacroix's objective is to rejuvenate its clientele. The partnership with Free Run star Simon Nogueira led to the launch of the Aikon Urban Tribe, a limited edition of 500 pieces featuring a fully laser-engraved case. The result is stunning with well-chosen motifs and gives a new dynamic to the Aikon.
Bianchet Carbon Tourbillon
One obviously thinks of a very famous brand when discovering the tourbillon watches of Bianchet. However, a closer look reveals its own characteristics. In any case, the watches are well made and driven by Olivier Mory's Tourbillon movement. But in the end, the hardest part is still to be done: creating an appropriate story-telling that will allow Bianchet to find its own way. Otherwise, it will be difficult to express its personality.
This selection is obviously not exhaustive and several brands are not represented. For some because the watches are/were still under embargo, for others because they did not create any particular emotion for me. I will have the opportunity to come back in detail on some of the pieces described above but first I will present the selection of watches unveiled around the Geneva Watch Days.