Most watch lovers know that Watches & Wonders 2023 only covered a part of the watch week at the end of March. Even though it featured big names and figures, there were other events going on in Geneva at the same time. Many of the independent brands organized gatherings with journalists, collectors, and resellers, either in their own boutiques or in the central hotels. The number of the brands outside W&W was not negligible. I managed to visit just a few of them, and I would like to share my experience and wrist shots with you.
A lunch with the Bivers
I was one of the lucky journalists who were invited and took part in the official launch of Biver Watches. An event that I personally had been waiting for for years – from the moment I heard Jean-Claude had stepped back from the spotlight, I knew it was just a matter of time until he would come up with his own creation. I was thrilled to find J-C was setting up his own luxury watch manufacture based in Givrins, Switzerland, which he launched together with his youngest son, Pierre Biver.
The launch event gathered the crème de la crème of the watch industry and the most prominent journalists. The watches were received with mixed feelings – many of the participants were expecting something more spectacular and technical, something different from Biver Watches. I was expecting the highest quality – which these watches deliver in full. The question is whether the name Biver and their high-quality pieces will be enough to ensure a steady and successful future. The time will tell…
Gerald Charles: a Maestro for the maestro of watch design
Next on my list was Gerald Charles, an independent, family-owned watch company based in Switzerland. It was founded in 2000 by the great Gérald Charles Genta, the 20th century’s foremost watch designer. I was curious to see the latest pieces in the Maestro Collection, particularly the new Maestro 9.0 Tourbillon and the skeleton – Maestro 8.0 Squelette.
Bearing the recognizable features of the Maestro Collection, both pieces bring new visual elements with a high-quality execution. I was amazed by the beautiful construction of the thin skeleton movement featuring anthracite NAC treatment and a lovely 22k gold micro-rotor.
Innovation in design and materials – URWERK
As a long-time fan of URWERK, a visit to their shop in the center of Geneva is always fun and a good occasion to spend time with the team. Felix told me a bit about the UR-102 “Reloaded”, how the case has been enlarged from 38 to 41mm, and the display has been expanded for a more cohesive look. For those unfamiliar with the model, the UR-102 was launched at Baselworld in 1997 and it represents the first collaboration that Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei did together. Martin jokingly said: “After 26 years and 23,500,000,000 km around the Sun, we give it a fresher, more dynamic look”.
As it always happens when I meet Martin, our discussion fell into a philosophical approach to our role as a speck of sand in the vastity of the universe, into ancient civilizations, and unusual materials. It was the perfect introduction for the new URWERK UR-100V Magic T – a revisited piece enjoying the full naturalness of titanium. An interesting characteristic is the ability of titanium to change appearance and shade (even color) depending on the finishing process. In this case, the light gray matt finish is obtained by sand-blasting.
Legacy Machines and secrets
Another usual destination for my trips in Geneva is the M.A.D. Gallery. Besides insanely good-looking devices, the MB&F watches represent a highlight. I was eager to meet, in the metal, the latest MB&F Legacy Machine No.2 Palladium. With MB&F watches, one needs to personally experience the piece in order to see and appreciate the self-presentation of the dial, besides the fantastic mechanical concept. Depending on the surroundings, the watch reflects the light in unusual and unexpected colors and shades.
Another benefit that friends of the brand enjoy is to see and experience prototypes and embargoed pieces, talk about new developments and exchange ideas. Something interesting is brewing at MB&F, and I am looking forward to being able to share the news with you, at the right time.
Newcomers on the independent scene
One of the benefits of coming to a big show like Watches & Wonders is the opportunity to see brands that are generally inaccessible. A good example is Artime and their inaugural ART01. Built with an open and very revealing white gold movement featuring a tourbillon with a double balance spring and an ergonomic function selector. An interesting concept that has a good chance of success.
Watches with a heart
Bausele is brand-new to me, but they have been on the market since 2011. In my own defense, Bausele is an Australian brand. A big success and huge recognition for the brand was to become the official watch of the Royal Australian Airforce 100th Anniversary in 2021. But the heart-warming story of this brand is the collaboration they have with the US Army – the watches in the Classic Field series were designed by military veterans, they are assembled in the US by military veterans who are also experienced watchmakers, and a percentage of all sales go towards helping veterans in need.
Merging retro-style with meca-quartz
Nivada Grenchen is a brand launched in 1926 and recently relaunched by Guillaume Laidet. His determination to bring everybody talking is quite successful – the new Chronoking Aviator Sea Diver is based on a historical model. The watch combines a retro look with an attractive price and achieves this by going hybrid with a meca-quartz movement. A pretty big name for the buck and under EUR 500…
A name tightly close to presidents, a look tightly close to the past
Guillaume Laidet is also in charge of Vulcain Watches. Those unfamiliar with this legendary brand should know that Vulcain Cricket was once the watch for the presidents. The Vulcain Monopusher Heritage Black brings back the bi-compax look from the 1950s with a black background and khaki printing, combined with a monopusher chronograph movement. It was superb in the ’40s, it is superb now.
Aventurine and a big moon – a look destined for success
Le Rhöne celebrates its 10th anniversary, introducing Moön Aventurine Titanium in 37mm – an entire sky full of stars for your wrist. The brand promises – and delivers! – the Moon in the sky in a gorgeous combo of a shimmering aventurine dial and a huge mother-of-pearl moon phase. The complication uses a central heart-shaped midnight blue aventurine disc to “hide” the moon so as to accurately portray the goddess’ journey across the sky. Besides the spectacular appearance of the dial, the Moön Aventurine Titanium movement was developed in close concert with the Cercle des Horlogers based in the Jura Mountains between Neuchâtel and La Chaux-de-Fonds.
HYT Conical Tourbillon: 10 years of watchmaking revolutions
Created by master watchmaker Eric Coudray, who took inspiration from the unique inclined balance tourbillon developed by Walter Prendel in 1928, the HYT Conical Tourbillon has a mesmerizing and bold appearance. Using materials and concepts rarely used in mainstream watchmaking, the brand manages to surprise and impress once again.
On the wrist, the seductive lines and finish of the HYT Conical Tourbillon are beautifully showcased. The watch features a suspended tourbillon movement with a balance spring inclined at 30 degrees to the horizontal, an escape wheel at 15 degrees, and a pallet at 23 degrees. The piece symbolizes a contemporary approach to watch design, perfectly combined with the finest work of master craftsmen in the Swiss watchmaking industry.
Playing with time – Jacob & Co. Casino Tourbillon
Jacob & Co are known for their highly iced timepieces and less known for their mechanical masterpieces. The brand is continuously evolving, playing with ideas and designs. One of their latest pieces, the Casino Tourbillon, brings the roulette to the wrist in a haute horlogerie approach. The game is fully functional and uses the 8 o’clock lever to engage the roulette wheel. The back side offers a spectacular mechanical caliber with excellently executed finishes and an engaging tourbillon. Definitely a conversation starter.
The 20-million wrist shot
On the eve of the first W&W day, Jacob & Co launched the most expensive watch of the Genevan watch week, the Billionaire Timeless Treasure. Almost 4 years were necessary to find an unprecedented number of perfect gemstones. The numbers reveal an impressive feat: a case with 46 Asscher-cut yellow diamonds (~ 55.15ct.), a strap and clasp with 378 Asscher-cut Yellow Diamonds (~ 159.62ct.) – a second piece like this is virtually impossible to make. So, this watch will remain unique for centuries to come.
Swiss beats for Swizz Beatz
Designed in collaboration with American record producer, rapper, disc jockey (DJ) and songwriter Swizz Beatz, the De Bethune DBD Digitale “Season 2” is here to impress. The light anthracite-colored polished zirconium case conveys the modern and even futuristic nature of this timepiece with its 12 o’clock crown and ogival lugs. The burgundy dial adorned with a Côtes de Genève motif reveals subtle light effects in complete harmony with the wearer’s wrist movements. This boldly contemporary DBD “Season 2” thus reflects the authenticity of a multidimensional artist.
What do the Eiffel Tower and football have in common?
Combining substance, performance, and style for a new generation of collectors, Purnell and Paris Saint-Germain have partnered for a new Spherion – where the Eiffel Tower and PSG logo take center stage. This blackened machine features the world’s fastest Triple-Axis Tourbillon: 8 seconds for the inner cage, 16 seconds for the secondary cage, and a 30-second rotation for the outer cage. One needs a strong coffee to be able to keep up with the genius of Eric Coudray.