Thoughts From Afar: My Take On Watches And Wonders 2022 From Back Home In The UK
While it’s nice to see a gradual release of watches throughout the year, I love the horological assault that shows like Watches And Wonders bring. All these new watches released in one go are like a massive sugar overload. As a bit of a sugar addict, I’m all good with that. Some brands played it relatively “safe” with their launches, bringing small, incremental updates and conservative tweaks — you know the stuff. But some brands went big and threw some real curveballs. I like being caught off guard. When brands think outside the box and have the gumption to “have a go”, I think calculated risk is a good thing. It should be encouraged. This kind of approach helps keep the watch industry fresh and moving forwards. So, what was my take on Watches And Wonders 2022?
Sadly, I was not with the team at Watches And Wonders in Geneva last week. I was back home in wet and rainy Manchester, UK. That said, I enjoyed regular sleep and a little peace and quiet. Those are two of life’s finest luxuries that you must forego at luxury watch events. Rest and relaxation quickly make way for long days of meetings, photography, and writing articles sat on the floor in a cramped corner to keep you, the Fratelli, up to date. Thankfully, the team did a great job covering all the new watches and delights so that I could stay on top of things. I picked four watches that I would never have predicted but that ticked all the right boxes for me. I’d gladly add each of them to my collection.
Hublot Square Bang
Let’s start with a surprise right out of the gate. Hublot is a funny old brand. It’s often the butt of many jokes and somewhat unfairly treated as a whipping boy of sorts. Not known for subtlety or classicism, for the most part, Hublot is a progressive brand trying new things with interesting materials and bold designs. In a world dominated by homages and vintage-inspired designs, this is something I believe should be celebrated and cultivated. Not every shot Hublot takes is a goal, but as the great Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. I’ve seen the Hublot Square Bang taking a lot of flak on social media, but I dig it. This shot definitely tickled the twine.
In the light of the recent Omega × Swatch MoonSwatch release, the watch meme trend is to make similar comparisons wherever possible. Like when Patek dropped the Tiffany 5711 last year, anything in a powder-blue hue was instantly “Tiffany”. Well, the internet has dubbed the Hublot Square Bang an homage to the Cartier Santos. Why? Because they’re both square-shaped with square bezels. It’s low-hanging fruit, I guess, and meme culture needs a constant food source. But let’s be honest, they’re totally different watches. Then again, I remember one individual on Instagram recently telling me that the MoonSwatch “basically looks like a Swatch Irony”. Go figure…
Anyway, why do I like the Hublot Square Bang? I’ve always liked the concept of the Big Bang Unico line with the open-worked dials. The Hublot HUB1280 Unico movement is a tasty automatic chronograph caliber with a flyback function. You can also see the double-clutch mechanism and column wheel from the dial side. It’s well finished, and I adore the skeletonized date wheel. Where I’ve never quite loved the traditional round-cased Big Bang models, the Square Bang speaks to me and feels like a natural addition to the Big Bang family. Ignore the haters, Hublot. The Square Bang is an absolute peach! My favorite version? The titanium model with the ceramic bezel. Gimme!
Louis Moinet Memoris Spirit Chronograph
OK, so I may not have been slogging away in Geneva, forcing down yet another canapé while longingly daydreaming about a good night’s sleep. But while sleep is definitely my friend, I am a bit gutted that I’ve not been able to see most of these new watches up close and personal. I say “most” as I was fortunate to recently meet one of my favorites. While in Geneva two weeks ago, I had the chance to see the incredible new Memoris Sprit Chronograph from Louis Moinet in the metal.
I’ve long enjoyed the horological marvels that make their way out of the doors of the Louis Moinet atelier. In particular, the Tempographs and the Memoris Chronographs have always caught my eye. That said, as a man with a modest wrist size, the large 46mm cases have dwarfed my twig wrists, rendering the brand firmly out of my reach from a “fit” point of view. Now, the brand has shrunk its beautiful 46mm Memoris Sprit into a new 40mm case. The case is not merely the same as the 46mm one but smaller. No, this is a complete redesign with a new and modern vibe.
Gorgeous open-worked lugs keep the Grade 5 titanium case looking as light as it feels. The beautiful extra-large domed sapphire crystal offers panoramic views of the stunning movement within. I feel like the version with the black background better serves to highlight and show off the dial-side chronograph mechanism. I never saw the new Memoris Spirit Chronograph coming, but damn, it is so good! A close contender for my overall favorite of the week, perhaps?
Since La Joux-Perret revived the Angelus name back in 2015, it has used the brand to show off some of its most technologically advanced watchmaking, with little reference to the brand’s illustrious history. Last week, that changed… slightly. One of Angelus’s most famous watches was a triple-date chronograph, the Chronodato, which debuted in 1942. The new Angelus Chronodate pays homage to this famous design while keeping its feet planted firmly in the 21st century.
To some, the new take on the vintage classic could be viewed as an abomination. It barely, if at all, resembles the vintage Chronodato, but Angelus was never revived to produce heritage models from the brand’s history. Instead, the new Chronodate is an acknowledgment from Angelus of its history; it is a contemporary reimagination of the cult classic using modern watchmaking materials and technology.
The Chronodate is, without doubt, a modern sports watch and not a dress watch like its ancestor. Thanks to its angular shape and cutouts in the lugs and sides, the case is thoroughly modern. Two sub-dials with raised chapters rings add some depth to the dial, as do the applied Arabic numerals. I also have to add that I love the very fine blasted dial texture. It’s just the right amounting of “frosting” rather than the coarser effect on the new Patek Calatravas. Angelus wins the texture battle here, in my opinion.
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Skeleton
After a trio of relatively modern watch styles, I’m pleased to add something more classic to the list. The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF line is all about style and class in a sports-watch guise. Just look at any of the watches in the collection, and you’ll see what I mean. All are quintessentially sports watches on paper, but they’re as cool and refined as Burt Reynolds in a silk smoking jacket, eating caviar and puffing on a fat cigar.
Parmigiani Fleurier added three new models to the Tonda PF collection at Watches And Wonders, but the Skeleton model caught my eye the most. Despite the clever rattrapante GMT complication, and the beautiful flying-tourbillon model, the skeleton was the star of the show for me. I love a skeleton watch when executed well. It was a skeleton watch that first got me into watches and watch collecting, so they will always hold a special place in my heart. Although, even for those usually somewhat nonchalant toward skeletonized watches, the Tonda PF Skeleton makes a case to change that stance.
Skeleton watches all too often suffer from crass execution and laziness. It’s too easy for skeletonization to look out of place within a brand’s wider collection. Thankfully the Tonda PF Skeleton is as pure and refined as the rest of its siblings. But from a brand with as deft a touch as Parmigiani Fleurier, would you expect anything less?
I’m keen to hear what you made of Watches And Wonders 2022. Which were your favorites? Did any catch you off guard, only to now haunt your waking thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!
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