A Watches and Wonders impression is best served cold. A little distance from the fair is necessary to transform impressions into organized thoughts. Six days should do the trick. So, what impression did the biggest watch show on Earth make on me? Well, going through my notes led to this story that includes some hot and cold watches I saw during an ultimately lukewarm Watches and Wonders 2024.

So, this is what happened when Watches and Wonders 2024 opened its doors on Tuesday, April 9th at 8:30: everyone who had something to post — the fair welcomed 49,000 visitors, including 1,500 media folks — ran to Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Tudor, the brands that don’t do embargoed press releases ahead of the fair. Within minutes, these three brands’ highly anticipated novelties are online, and the dust settles.

Lukewarm watches

Looking back at a lukewarm Watches and Wonders 2024: did the “Big Three” deliver?

The fact that Tudor is in the top three brands to see is impressive. The release of the Black Bay in 2012 marked the start of a remarkable rise for the brand. Before 2012, nobody bothered to look at the display cases of the Tudor booth, which was attached to the booth of its big sister Rolex. Come 2024, Tudor has been the proud owner of a standalone booth for four years, and after Rolex, it’s the next brand people want to take a look at once Palexpo opens its doors.

During the times of Baselworld, Rolex and Patek Philippe were the “Big Two” of the fair. When these two powerhouses moved to Geneva and joined the fair once set up by Richemont and some partners, they immediately became the main attraction. But it’s no longer this dynamic duo that rules the roost. Tudor has risen to the top, and now it’s safe to say that the brand with the shield is part of a power trio. And it seems that newcomer Tudor is actually now the second brand in line; right after checking out Rolex, Tudor is up, and Patek comes after that. Did the “Power Trio” deliver?


First things first — Rolex

Rolex never delivers. Let me explain. In the run-up to Watches and Wonders, Rolex predictions and wishes are shared in large numbers. Many people wanted a “Coke” GMT-Master II. Others, like me, hoped for a titanium Milgauss, and the possible return of the Turn-O-Graph was also discussed. Rolex didn’t deliver any of these. Instead, we got nothing all that new; the novelties were simply iterations of existing models. Was it to calm down the market? Well, Rolex CEO Jean-Frédéric Dufour, who’s also president of the Watches and Wonders Foundation, pointed out at the beginning of the fair that due to the strong Swiss franc, the rising price of gold, and the uncertain geopolitical situation, the watch market has lost momentum and cooled down significantly.

Lukewarm watches

Dufour also had something to say about the way people perceive watches, mainly, those from Rolex. “I don’t like it when people compare watches to stocks,” he said. “It sends the wrong message and is dangerous. We make products, not investments.” And in that light, the release of nothing brand new makes sense. There was a Perpetual 1908 in platinum, for instance, and a yellow gold Deepsea, both of which are very niche. We also got the steel GMT-Master II (126710GRNR) with a gray and black bezel (which debuted last year on full-gold and steel/gold versions) and the model name and GMT hand in green. No, there was no crowd-pleasing “Coke” or even a weird iteration like the green and black lefty from 2021.

In my humble opinion, the Rolex releases were like the depressing main character from the 2003 movie The Cooler, a guy with a dark vibe who’s hired by a Las Vegas casino to jinx gamblers on a winning streak.


Off to Tudor, we go

After Rolex, it was just a small step to the brand next door, Tudor — I would’ve rather gone to see Patek next, but the crowd pushed me a door down. Unlike Rolex, Tudor did serve “Coke” this year. It’s the completely new Black Bay 58 GMT that also uses a completely new movement, the METAS-certified, Kenissi-manufactured MT5450-U automatic GMT caliber that’s slimmer than the one in the Black Bay Pro. The 39 × 12.8mm Black Bay 58 GMT has all the assets that make a commercially successful watch. The “Coke” colorway paired with the gilt-tone theme looks familiar, and the size and the price are right — the version on rubber costs €4,450, and the one on the bracelet will set you back €4,670. The watch is not revolutionary, but after the 2012 Black Bay revolution, Tudor entered the evolution phase. I think this phase could continue for many, many years.


Speaking of evolution, there’s also the new METAS-certified Black Bay. Last year, this 41mm chronometer diver debuted with a burgundy bezel and gold-tone details, and this year, it surfaces as the best alternative to a Rolex “Sub.” The Tudor on an Oyster-style bracelet with faux rivets has a price of €4,510. The watch you want but can’t have for all kinds of reasons, the 41mm Submariner (124060), will set you back €9,500. Will half the price bring you half the joy of a real Sub, or can the new Black Bay Master Chronometer punch way above its weight and deliver a knockout that will make you completely forget about the Rolex? I think the answer to that is very personal. I don’t think the new “BB” can hit me hard enough to forget about the Sub, but I’m guessing I’m a minority.

Lukewarm watches

Denim: is it cool or lazy? — Patek Philippe dresses up/down for Watches and Wonders

You’re right; in my introduction article on the Patek Philippe World Time Date 5330G and Nautilus Chronograph 5980G, I was positive about the double-denim duo the brand brought to the show. I still think the World Time Date 5330G looks great, and the jeans-look leather strap works. The Nautilus, however, with its more intricate connection between case and strap and the way more prominent case shape and size, doesn’t work as well. But what’s more interesting to point out is that both aforementioned watches already existed with different dials or in different materials. The World Time Date 5330G debuted with a purple dial as a special Tokyo edition, and Aquanaut Travel Time 5164 already existed in rose gold. Plus, the in-line perpetual calendar 5236P already came out in 2021 with a blue dial. Sure, it got a new (and awesome) vintage-inspired opaline rose-gilt dial, but that was it.


What was truly new was the bracelet for the Golden Ellipse ref. 5738/1R-001. It’s a fully polished rose gold chain-style bracelet comprising 363 elements and more than 300 links individually mounted by hand. Well, 2024 clearly marks the year of the strap and the bracelet at Patek.

What else was new? Complications!

IWC updated the Portugieser 7 Days. The brand made small changes in terms of slimness and design details, but the result is a more sophisticated watch. The update is evolution in its finest form. The biggest shock was the name change. The 7 Days is now called the Automatic 42. Why? According to an IWC employee after the product presentation in the brand’s booth, it’s because there’s also a 40mm Portugieser with an automatic movement, and that’s called the Portugieser Automatic 40. If you ask me, this is a typical case of the strong suffering from the weak. IWC didn’t dare/want to call the less costly 40mm version the Portugieser 2.5 Days and went for Automatic 40 instead. In 2024, IWC wants to straighten out its model names, and the brand axed the most iconic one in the Portugieser collection for the sake of uniformity. Well, that’s a shame.

On the other hand, the Portugieser Eternal Calendar was one of the highlights of Watches and Wonders — please read RJ’s Hot Take and explanation of how the watch works. This calendar watch will be accurate for an impressive number of years, and it honors the spirit of traditional high watchmaking. The reintroduced Duometre collection from Jaeger-LeCoultre also puts fine watchmaking in the spotlight — there wasn’t a differently colored Reverso in sight; can you believe it? The brand’s first triple-axis tourbillon was impressive, but that €484,000 Heliotourbillon Perpetual, however mesmerizing, just wasn’t as handsome as the “entry-level” €48,400 Duometre Quantieme Lunaire with its steel case and radiant blue dial. The €97,000 platinum Duometre Chronograph Moon looked the part as well.


Dominating the conversation

Last year, the conversation at Watches and Wonders was about the Rolex models with the balloons and the jigsaw puzzle, the titanium Yacht-Master 42, and also the petite Tudor Black Bay 54. In other words, there was nothing too complicated. This year, the mainstream, lukewarm watch novelties were less talked about. But no one could look past the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon Honeygold “Lumen,” which celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Datograph. First, the brand from Glashütte had a huge mock-up of the watch at its booth, and the €620,000 price was also buzzing news around the fair.

Piaget brought the thinnest tourbillon in the world, and Vacheron Constantin put the most complicated (pocket) watch ever made on display. The brand beat its very own world record with a grapefruit-sized creation packing 63 complications, including a Chinese perpetual calendar, which VC claims is a world first. That’s what 2,877 hand-finished and hand-assembled parts can do. Hermès also surprised friend and foe with the Arceau Duc Attelé, a triple-axis central tourbillon and minute repeater with an equestrian touch.


Final words on a lukewarm Watches and Wonders 2024 from Jean-Frédéric Dufour

Looking back on this year’s lukewarm Watches and Wonders also allows us to look forward and hope for stuff to heat up come 2025. But what will 2024 bring to the world of watches? Maybe it’s best to hand the mic back to Rolex CEO Dufour. “2024 will be a challenging year. It marks the end of a phase in which all manufacturers have been doing well. In good times, production tends to be too high. When markets weaken, as is the case now, retailers come under pressure to cut prices. This is extremely problematic because discounts damage emotional products like ours,” he said in an interview with Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

What do you think? Do you agree that discounts damage the image of watches? Or are you happy that (old-fashioned) discounts are finally making a comeback after a period of unavailability and soaring prices on the gray market? As always, have your say in the comments.