Some Fratello editors have been asked to share their favorites from the Watches and Wonders exhibition last week, so I am happy to share mine. But before doing so, let me share some thoughts on this year’s Geneva watch show.

Watches and Wonders 2024

A quick Watches and Wonders 2024 recap

This year’s Watches and Wonders wasn’t very exciting regarding the appetite for watches in 2024. As you probably have heard and noticed, many brands and retailers struggle to sell their watches. This is very different from 3–4 years ago when the demand for watches was at new heights. Therefore, a few things we saw in Geneva the other week can be explained.

Watches and Wonders 2024 RJ's favorites Grand Seiko Kodo 2

Grand Seiko Kodo 2

Catering to the ultra-rich

In general, watches shown at Watches and Wonders are now at a price level only for the ultra-rich. A €620K A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon “Lumen” in Honeygold, a €600K Piaget Altiplano Concept Tourbillon, a €385K Grand Seiko Kodo 2, and a €135K TAG Heuer Monaco Split-Seconds Chronograph are just a few examples. But what do you think of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Duometre watches priced well above €50K and up to nearly half a million euros? The IWC Portugieser Eternal Calendar? That’s CHF 150K. At Rolex, we saw a complete lineup in gold and platinum except for the new GMT-Master II.

Watches and wonders 2024 RJ's favorites A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon Honeygold Lumen

I have been pondering this phenomenon (which isn’t new, by the way) of brands targeting the ultra-rich with some of their new watches or simply all watches (Jaeger-LeCoultre comes to mind again). My preliminary conclusion is that this target audience still buys watches; the watches in the more “affordable” price ranges are probably hurt the most. This means that watch brands, if they can, aim to sell very expensive pieces to very fortunate watch buyers. I can’t blame them, but it did leave its mark on the watches presented at Watches and Wonders 2024. Luckily, brands like Oris, Tudor, Nomos, Norqain, and so on still had something to offer in the more affordable price range(s).

When times are slow or getting slow, as several brands and retailers have confirmed recently, you would expect more creativity from the brands. Sadly, that was missing from many of the brands this year, resulting in a lukewarm response to new watches in general.

Watches and Wonders 2024 RJ's favorites Zenith Defy Extreme Diver

Always make sure to try a watch in the flesh

Luckily, there was also still a lot of good stuff to discover. Sometimes, it required a bit of hands-on experience to appreciate a particular watch. The Zenith Defy Extreme Diver is a good example. This watch didn’t convince me in the press images, but in the flesh, I found it to be a very welcome addition to the Zenith collection.

I agree with many of you that this was the least exciting Watches and Wonders to date regarding the new watches. However, I did handle some watches that I found interesting. Without further ado, let’s look at my Watches and Wonders 2024 favorites.

Watches and Wonders 2024 RJ's favorites Parmigiani Toric Petite Seconde

Parmigiani Toric Petite Seconde

Though everyone has been talking about the Tonda PF in the past few years, Parmigiani brought back the Toric. This is a beautiful dress watch that’s also available as a rattrapante chronograph. To me, though, the highlight was the Toric Petite Seconde. It has a beautiful rose gold case, a nice hand-grained dial with 18K gold indexes, and a gold movement. The hand-wound Parmigiani caliber PF780 is made of 18K rose gold and is a joy to look at through the sapphire window on the case back. The starting price is CHF 45,000, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a watch to admire.

Watches and Wonders 2024 RJ's favorites Chopard L.U.C XPS Forest Green

Chopard L.U.C XPS Forest Green and Quattro Spirit 25

Chopard came out strong this year with a few new Alpine Eagle variations, but the new L.U.C models were even stronger. Of these, the XPS Forest Green was my favorite. Another one, the L.U.C Qualité Fleurier, is also beautiful and has a lot of pie-pan Constellation vibes with its dog-leg lugs. However, my pick would be the green model. It has a 40mm case that measures 7.2mm thick, and inside is Chopard’s in-house L.U.C 92.12-L caliber with a micro-rotor. This watch is priced at CHF 11,200.

Watches and Wonders 2024 RJ's favorites Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25

Last but certainly not least, Chopard surprised us with a third L.U.C watch with a jump-hour complication, the Quattro Spirit 25. It is a variant of the white-dial model in rose gold from 2021. This time, it comes in a limited series of 100 pieces in white gold with a black Grand Feu enamel dial. The movement inside is Chopard’s L.U.C 98-06-L caliber. This watch is priced at CHF 47,000.

Watches and Wonders 2024 RJ's favorites Zenith Defy Extreme Diver

Zenith Defy Extreme Diver

Zenith surprised me with this Defy Extreme Diver model. Although the brand’s other offerings were certainly attractive as well, it was the “Offshore” edition of the Defy that made me smile. This new Defy Extreme Diver is available with a black or blue dial, both with orange elements. My vote went to the black one, though, for its great, timeless color combination.

Watches and Wonders 2024 RJ's favorites Zenith Defy Extreme Diver pocket shot

Zenith’s non-chronograph El Primero caliber 3620 powers this watch. The case size measures 42.5mm wide and 15.5mm thick, so it might not be for everyone, nor should it be. The price is CHF 10,900 / €11,800.

Rolex Day-Date, Deepsea, and 1908

Ah, Rolex — the brand that people love to hate. According to many, including here at the Fratello office, there were complaints about the lack of nice new Rolex watches. Well, let everyone speak for themselves; I liked what I saw. And I am not even talking about the GMT-Master II as I prefer last year’s gold and two-tone models over the new all-steel version.

No, I liked the new 36mm Day-Date with a crisp white dial with deconstructed Roman numerals a lot. The Day-Date is a watch I truly admire, and “just a new dial” is spectacular enough for me. Another Rolex I liked was the new Deepsea.

Now, purists will spit on the floor when seeing a diver’s watch in full gold, but only daredevils are going to dive with this Deepsea. I even bet that very few modern Submariners will see the slightest moisture other than a sweaty wrist. It’s about a certain style or lifestyle that these watches belong to. The Deepsea in gold wore quite nicely on my 18.5cm wrist. Sure, it was large and thick, but that’s how Rolex intended it to be.

My last Rolex pick is the new 1908 version with a beautiful guilloché dial in a platinum case. Though my Rolex picks are all over €30K and unavailable anyway, they were still fun to see and try. My thought about Rolex releases this year is that the brand might have decided to give the stage for available and affordable watches to Tudor and its new Black Bay models. If Rolex were to introduce new steel models or the titanium Milgauss that Lex has been craving, the brand would get even more complaints for not having the watches from last year (or the year before that) available. By introducing mostly gold and platinum watches in a completely different price segment for the very rich, the complaints will be minimal.

Watches and Wonders 2024 RJ's favorites Grand Seiko Chonograph GMT

Grand Seiko Kodo 2 and Chronograph GMT

Grand Seiko surprised us with a new hand-wound variation of the 9SA5 movement, the caliber 9SA4. It’s available in both gold and titanium cases with a “Birch Bark” dial. However, the €385K Kodo 2 SLGT005 was great to see and try in the flesh, especially since it was probably my first and last chance to do that. A slightly more affordable and available watch is the Spring Drive Chronograph GMT SBGC275 “Tokyo Lion” in titanium. This 44.5mm watch is water resistant to 200 meters and houses a mesmerizing dial. It changes color from deep red to almost gold-brown with any slight movement of the wrist. The price is set to US$13,400 / €14,000. However, I am pretty sure the new hand-wound Grand Seiko SLGW003 in titanium will be a best-seller in 2024.

Cartier Santos-Dumont Rewind and Pasha Chronograph

My very last appointment in Geneva last week was with Cartier. That wasn’t on purpose; it just happened that way. The meetings at Cartier are always too short, mainly because of the amount of new watches the brand has to show and the time you need to study them. However, two watches stood out for me this year — the platinum Santos-Dumont with a red dial and the green-dial Pasha Chronograph. Yes, the Tortue Monopoussoir is beautiful as well, especially in yellow gold (which the reps didn’t show as only the platinum version was available during the product presentation). But I decided to go with the Santos-Dumont and the green Pasha. The Santos-Dumont Rewind looks amazing, and I like the quirky reverse dial and movement inside. As the model name suggests, the movement runs counterclockwise, and the dial is mirrored horizontally as well. The price is CHF 37,000.

The green Cartier Pasha chronograph is my other pick. I always wanted to love the Pasha, and I do like some models (especially the 1990s model with the power reserve indicator on the dial). Unfortunately, the Pasha models released in recent years have been a bit dull to me. This green chronograph looks ace, and it also sat pretty well on my wrist. Funnily, the Cartier website doesn’t mention this watch at all, and it’s not even in Cartier’s overview of Watches and Wonders 2024 releases.

Singer Divetrack

In Geneva, over 200 other brands were showing their watches. These brands — or, as Rolex CEO Dufour calls them, “pirates” — were located in hotels, boutiques, event places, etc. I didn’t visit them as our trip was fully paid for by the Watches and Wonders organization, but while on my way to the Patek Philippe cocktail event in Geneva one evening, I quickly stopped by Singer to see the new Divetrack watch.

It’s one of the week’s highlights for me because this 49mm titanium Divetrack is such a cool crossover between Haute Horlogerie and functionality. My colleague Nacho will soon go in-depth on Fratello about this watch, but it’s simply a mind-blowing piece. Singer did an amazing job of designing a proper diver’s watch using Haute Horlogerie standards for the beautiful movement. This results in a retail price of CHF 85,000, but one can simply admire it for what it is, right?

Other honorable and less honorable mentions

The above watches are simply a selection of what I liked at Watches and Wonders 2024. My wallet doesn’t permit me much from my picks, I have to admit. If that were the criterion, I should certainly have mentioned the new Tudor Black Bay Master Chronometer, which comes very close to what a five-digit Rolex was but in a modern “jacket.” Perhaps it’s an even better watch, especially with a price of around €4,500. Another watch that impressed me was the updated Oris Aquis. In pictures, the changes to this model look negligible, but in the flesh, the Aquis has transformed into a very comfortable watch on the wrist with a better-integrated design.

01 400 7790 4135-07 8 23 02PEB - Aquis Date Calibre 400

It is available with a Sellita movement or Oris’s proprietary Calibre 400. The latter comes with a quick-release system for the bracelet and an extendable folding clasp. The Sellita-powered models on steel bracelets retail for €2,400, while the more advanced model with Calibre 400 is priced at €3,700.

IWC Portugieser

IWC did an amazing job with the new Portugieser lineup, and the Automatic 42 (formerly known as the 7 Days) with the “Dune” dial is my favorite pick.

A less honorable mention goes to Bremont. I believe a lot has already been said, but in my opinion, the brand has gone too far and changed too many parameters simultaneously. It’s always difficult to judge this from a distance because you don’t know all the details about its ownership, management, and assignments from shareholders. Still, in the end, the result counts for the consumer. And the results were just not very good.

Let’s wait and see

Overall, Watches and Wonders 2024 gave us a lot to think about. It’s up to consumers to decide if they will go along with some of the insane prices we see from the big brands or the rather uninspiring designs. I firmly believe that many friendlier-priced watches from independents and microbrands might have a real advantage because of this. Watch enthusiasts who are smacked in the face with insane price increases might take their wallets to the pre-owned market even more often than they already did. Let’s see what the rest of 2024 will bring!