After a two-year hiatus, Watches and Wonders Geneva 2022 made a triumphant return with a week-long exhibition this March. Brands impressed with a wide array of novelties ranging from additions to core collections to new movements to high-watchmaking objects. Here, we take a look at the most exciting releases in the first of a three-part report.
Few timepieces can boast the enduring appeal of the Cartier Tank. One of the most iconic watches of the maison and throughout watchmaking history, it was created in 1917 by Louis Cartier and debuted two years later. Modelled after the first modern WWI tanks and the caterpillar tracks they made, the Tank’s clean and effortlessly elegant design has ensured that the timepiece transcends time. Over a century old now, the remarkable watch has successfully maintained its relevance and much of its aesthetics.
A stylish reinterpretation of the original model, the Tank Chinoise was born in 1922, a time when Far Eastern exotica or chinoiserie was very much in trend. Louis Cartier recognised the rich arts of other cultures and their importance in jewellery and watchmaking, which led to the maison’s creation of precious objects, jewellery and also vanities, such as powder compacts and clocks adorned with elements of Chinese iconography.
Unlike the original Tank, the 1922 Tank Chinoise was differentiated by a square case and its brancards (French for stretcher), which is a design detail on the case flanks resembling stretcher handles. The horizontal bars on the top and bottom of the case overlapped the vertical bars that extended as lugs – an aesthetic that evoked the architecture of Chinese temples and the geometry of their porticos or entry gates.
While the unique timepiece has inspired numerous models, it has not been redesigned since 2004 in the Cartier Libre versions. These timepieces were part of the Collection Privée Cartier Paris (CPCP), which released limited editions of classic historical Cartier designs between 1998 and 2008.
Relaunched in 2015 and renamed Cartier Privé, the collection marks its sixth chapter by commemorating the Tank Chinoise’s centenary with the reissue of two new models. Each comprising three references, the first features a skeleton movement within its updated rectangular case. The openworked dial reveals the workings of the movement, much like traditional Chinese windows replete with rectilinear motifs.
While all three 39.5mm by 29.2mm variants in platinum, diamond-set platinum and yellow gold are decorated with striking black and red lacquer on the dial, the yellow gold version boasts horizontal brancards in black lacquer. The 9627 MC skeleton movement was developed by Cartier exclusively for this Tank Chinoise.
The yellow gold and platinum versions are numbered limited editions of 100 pieces each, while only 20 numbered limited-edition pieces are produced for the diamond-set model.
If you’re after an understated Tank Chinoise, there are three 39.49mm by 29.2mm references in yellow gold, rose gold and platinum cases featuring brushed and polished surfaces. Each a numbered limited edition of 150 pieces with a different dial colour that complements the case material, the models are equipped with the manufacture manual-winding movement 430 MC.
Header image (Clockwise): Cartier Tank Chinoise in platinum with diamond-set brancards and lacquered open dial; Cartier Privé Tank Chinoise in platinum with a hand- wound movement; Tank Chinoise in yellow gold with black-lacquered brancards, and lacquered open dial with skeletonised movement; Tank Chinoise in rose gold
Among the manufacture’s 12 new references – nine for men and three for ladies – is the extremely wearable urban-chic Ref. 5326G-001 Annual Calendar Travel Time. It’s the first watch that combines two of the maison’s signature complications – the Annual Calendar, first patented in 1996 that requires only one manual correction per year, and the Travel Time dual time-zone display, introduced in 1997.
This new combination of two user-friendly functions required a new self-winding movement. However, developing the Annual Calendar and the Travel Time function involved several technical challenges. Beyond just accommodating both mechanisms in one case, they had to interact in a way that the displayed date corresponded with the local time, which might need adjustment should the wearer be in a different time zone.
The all-new self-winding 31-260 PS QA LU FUS 24H calibre sees the Travel Time mechanism controlling the Annual Calendar, allowing for the automatic correction of the date backward or forward when the time zone is changed. To optimise the precision, efficiency, performance, durability, reliability and user-friendliness of the movement, Patek Philippe’s engineers developed several innovations that led to eight patent applications. Some of these technical refinements include reducing the energy consumption and wear of certain components, and the prevention of shifts and double jumps in the displays.
Housing the mechanical movement is a brand-new 41mm white gold case that features a flank adorned with the manufacture’s Calatrava signature of the Clous de Paris or hobnail motif along its entire circumference. The sleek case design also showcases a slightly chamfered bezel and polished strap lugs attached to the caseback that underscore the timeless refinement of the Calatrava.
Another eye-catching detail on the Ref. 5326G-001 is its unique vintage-style dial that is emphasised with a slightly raised box-design sapphire-crystal glass. Crafted by Patek Phillippe-owned dial specialist, Cadrans Flückiger in Saint-Imier, the chic charcoal grey dial features a fine gradation with a slightly granular texture that is reminiscent of old photo camera cases, meant to evoke wanderlust and exploration.
The time of day is indicated by applied white gold Arabic numerals with beige luminous coating. The hours of local time and the minutes are displayed with luminous white gold Seringue or syringe hands with long tips. The three apertures of the Annual Calendar – day of the week and month at 12 o’clock, and date at 6 o’clock – show legible black inscriptions on white backgrounds. Marked “Local” at 8 o’clock and “Home” at 4 o’clock are day/night indicators for local and home time respectively. The display is complemented by the subsidiary seconds that sweeps over the moonphase aperture at 6 o’clock. A transparent caseback reveals the architecture of the movement with elegantly cut and gently curved bridges.
The timepiece is delivered with two interchangeable, vintage-inspired straps – one in beige calfskin with a nubuck texture, and the other in black calfskin with an embossed textile finish and beige decorative stitching.
Additionally, collectors who love the vintage-inspired design of the new Ref. 5326G-001 but don’t want additional functions can opt for a smaller model in the Calatrava line with similar aesthetics. Driven by the self-winding calibre 26-330 S C with hour, minute and second hands, as well as an aperture date at 3 o’clock, the 40mm Calatrava Ref. 5226G-001 in white gold also flaunts a guilloched hobnail motif on the caseband and is accompanied by two interchangeable straps similar to those of the Ref. 5326G-001.
Van Cleef & Arpels
The most enchanting wristwatches at the exhibition were undoubtedly these two new models that enrich the maison’s Poetic Complications collection, known for its delightful and imaginative timekeepers that artfully combine the marvels of watchmaking with precious materials and traditional savoir faire.
Skilfully treading the fine line of art and science is the first timepiece, which we’re told took five years to develop. A fine specimen in which horology meets horticulture, it’s inspired by the floral clock concept, Horologium Florae, by Swedish botanist Carl von Linné. In his 1751 book, Philosophia Botanica, he detailed a hypothetical garden plan comprising a wide variety of plants, whose flowers would open and close at specific moments of the day to tell the time. The maison transposed the poetic idea of a garden clock and realised it in two watches: the Lady Arpels Heures Florales and Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier.
Featured on the three-dimensional dials are flowers that reveal the secret of time with the movement of their petals. Here, telling time becomes a game and visual spectacle as the eye seeks out buds and open blooms. Each new hour results in a different display, with the number of open flowers indicating the hour of the day.
Up to 166 elements are set in motion when the dial comes to life, thanks to a module developed by the craftsmen of the maison’s watchmaking workshops in Geneva. Every petal in this precious garden is articulated and connected to the watch’s mechanism, which requires meticulous and intricate assembly. The level of technical difficulty increases as there are three different sequences for every blooming flower.
With each passing hour, open flowers close to make way for a new combination. This sequence of bouquets that follow the next from hour to hour will be different the next day. Telling the time is completed by a minute display that is visible via a window on the side of the case that’s set with diamonds of varying sizes.
The Lady Arpels Heures Florales and Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier watches also boast a bejewelled garden inside a 38mm case of white and rose gold respectively. The first evokes summer with soothing blue and green leaves and petals that contrast delicately against a white mother-of-pearl background. The second version revisits the same design with a tableau redolent of springtime. Accentuating the dial’s relief effects are ethereal blue butterflies – a cherished house emblem – nestled within pink and red corollas.
No fewer than 226 elements are brought together by the maison’s artisans in a range of techniques. Petals and butterflies in miniature painting, branches in sculpted gold and clouds in sculpted mother-of-pearl are enhanced by white and yellow diamonds set with great finesse.
A gold caseback features an engraving that recalls the dial’s scenery, while the movement’s oscillating weight, in guilloche gold and miniature painting, is visible beneath a sapphire glass. On it is another detail we love – an engraved and enamelled dragonfly or butterfly.
Van Cleef & Arpels’ signature creation since its launch in 2013, the Lady Arpels Ballerine Enchantée watch highlights one of the maison’s most beloved sources of inspiration: dance. For 2022, the house presents two new 40mm pieces in white gold, as well as in rose gold, accompanied by a gold bracelet swathed with diamonds or a leather strap. Adorning the dial is the graceful silhouette of a ballerina with flounces of her tutu unfurling in new materials and colours.
The dancer’s body is sculpted in relief in gold, while her headdress, face and body are embellished with diamonds. Her arms are stretched out gracefully above her tutu, which is superimposed with an effect of transparency. Her outfit comprises a fixed layer set with champlevé and plique-à-jour enamel, sapphires and diamonds. A second, movable tutu layer, also adorned with plique-à-jour enamel, forms two translucent wings, which rise ever so gracefully to indicate the time.
The scene plays out against a background showcasing a radiating guilloche motif, which gives an illusion of dynamic movement. Several layers of translucent violet (on the white gold model) or pink enamel (for the pink gold version) are then applied to add depth and brilliance to the ensemble.
The maison expresses its poetic vision of time with a double retrograde time-on-demand movement – a signature of creations in the Poetic Complications collection. When the push-piece at 8 o’clock is activated on the Lady Arpels Ballerine Enchantée, the ballerina’s tutu comes to life. In one fluid motion, the petticoat indicating the hours on the left rises first. This graceful motion is followed by the other on the right, which takes its position on the minute scale. Both sides remain in place for a few seconds to allow the wearer to tell time before simultaneously returning to their starting points.
This story first appeared in the May 2022 issue of Prestige Singapore.