Make no bones about it: Watches and Wonders 2024 is better than expected. In a year with some pretty understated predictions and low sales graphs, the brands didn’t disappoint to the point of causing a dreaded visual overload in the Palexpo halls. That’s where I come in, and it’s not the first time I’ve written this column.

Unfortunately, this year, my coverage has been from the home office, which brings its pros and cons. Let’s not pretend I’d rather be here with a view over Oslo’s suburbia than fondling a gold Deepsea. But it helps me keep a (mostly) objective overview of the releases. And boy, there were some good ones this year. But even with our massive coverage, some gems slipped our grasp, and these are some of the best from W&W without a dedicated article.

Watches and Wonders 2024 De Bethune DB28xs Purple Rain

De Bethune DB28xs Purple Rain

The name says it all right, and what an attention-grabbing way to kick off this story. No, I didn’t photoshop it; we’re used to the deep blues of De Bethune, but this is different. It is an eyewateringly gloss-polished, deep, plummy purple release from the alien-chic brand. I don’t know whether Prince’s classic was playing in the De Bethune W&W booth, but if not, it should’ve been. Just like the brand’s DB Kind of Grande Complication (great name), the radiant version of this pivot-lugged case is made from titanium. However, purple is not easy to achieve, and the rich De Bethune hue comes from a meticulous thermal oxidation process.

De Bethune DB28xs Purple Rain Watches and Wonders 2024

Not content with just the dial (which I’ll get back to), the deep purple extends from the case and pin buckle. De Bethune has also chosen the smallest version, coming in at 38.7mm with some of the most comfortable lugs around. This might be courting a unisex demographic, but the DB28xs Purple Rain is something I’d certainly rock if funds allowed. The dial has a random guilloché decoration that brings to mind waves (on an alien planet?). And with the sprinkling of applied dots like shimmering stars, it will surely catch the light in a most distracting fashion. The price is expected to be around CHF 90,000 from De Bethune, so start selling off your rare ’80s Prince vinyl collection.

Hublot Big Bang Integrated 38mm

Fratello might not be known for the big coverage of Hublot’s releases. But despite some of our editors viewing the brand as a guilty pleasure, I am a fan. Sure, I don’t always love the scintillating colored ceramic and sapphire-cased bling, but I do love the Big Bang Integrated. Hiding within a press release packed with colored flourish hides a very good 38mm watch with a hot integrated bracelet. And it is available in the material du jour, titanium. An understated Hublot, for real?

Watches and Wonders 2024 Hublot Big Bang Integrated 38mm

But it is a Hublot, which means you can get it in bright blue ceramic or luscious gold too. Me? I’d go for the King Gold version. The proprietary gold alloy caters to this year’s trend of a return to massive gold sports watches on bracelets, but this ain’t no Deepsea wrist monster. Instead, it sports a quietly confidential 9.4mm thickness and a polished black dial. With big, lumed numerals marking the even hours, it’s an honest, legible sports watch with the 48-hour HUB1115 movement and a great size. And if you’re more sensible than me, the light titanium version is a great choice. But I’d go for the King(Gold) of understated Hublots for €49,100.

Watches and Wonders 2024 Hautlence Retrovision '47

Hautlence Retrovision ’47

Retro-futuristic or the most dedicated piece of vintage-loving wristwear this year? That’s for you to decide. Does it look like a watch? No, it bears a striking resemblance to an early ’50s TV set or transistor radio. It even has a hand-painted case made to resemble Bakelite (an early form of plastic-like material — ask your granddad). So far, so amazing, and with its big size (for a watch), I’m getting mid-century sci-fi vibes of some wrist-worn communication device. It comes on a bright red leather strap, and the dial is brass and 2N gold, but what about the kicker? Have a closer look at what resembles a speaker grille.

Peer through the cracks, and you’ll see something most brands put front and center on a dial. Yes, folks, it is a flying Tourbillon powered by the three-day ED20-SP00 movement. This insane(ly lovely) piece was created as if Hautlence had been established in the 1940s, a charming idea that has borne one of the most colorful pieces of wristwear this year. Hautlence keeps up its bold vision of horology with the ’47, and I’m sure many will view it as either W&W artwork or an actual watch. But no matter your viewpoint, it is packed to the gills with retro charm and offers a pretty cool contrast to the brand’s tech-heavy futurism. This was created as a Pièce Unique for Watches and Wonders 2024, but I’m sure the brand will make more with enough emails from collectors. Get typing!

Nixie complexities from Urwerk with the SpaceTime Blade

This takes some beating as the only release in this story that doesn’t fit on a wrist. I deeply love Urwerk, and the brand’s main piece this week is not a watch. It is a hand-crafted 20kg glass tube sculpture with a lightsaber-handle-like base in patinated bronze. And at 170cm, it is taller than my wife, so this is no desk lamp. Let’s call it a dramatic salute to the intense imagination within the Urwerk offices, and I love it. But what does it do, and what are Nixie tubes? According to Wikipedia, they are handmade glass-tube modules “containing a wire-mesh anode and multiple cathodes.”

These are “shaped like numerals or other symbols,” and “applying power to one cathode surrounds it with an orange glow discharge.” Check out more here as it is deeply fascinating. And what do the eight Nixie modules display within this captivating sculpture? Bafflingly, they can change up to 500 times per second and have a remote control unit. They will show you anything from banal hours and minutes to a calendar, Earth’s rotation in kilometers, and its revolution around the Sun. Yes, I want a SpaceTime Blade, even at CHF 55,000 plus taxes.

Hajime Asaoka’s Tsunami “As Time Goes By”

At Watches and Wonders 2024, much life is outside the Palexpo halls, including the Masters Of Horology event. There, you can see important independents like Asaoka-san, known for his love of Art Deco. His watches are defined by early 20th-century architectural flourishes that filter down to his accessible Kurono Tokyo designs. On display at the sub-event Masters Of Horology in Geneva is a new version of his well-known Tsunami watch. The trademark smooth-sided 38mm case shows Hajime Asaoka’s balanced ergonomics while framing a deeper dive into the 1920s style.

A pinstriped inner dial and a large sub-seconds register have the formal monochrome we are used to in Asaoka’s high-end creations. But within the white lacquered outer circle are refined blue touches. Asaoka-san has chosen the archetypal outré font of a ’20s hotel, bar, or bustling restaurant as the markers. And it works, enlivening the dial and adding another dimension to a quietly elegant timepiece. This new Tsunami by Hajime Asaoka is so far clouded in secrecy regarding availability and pricing. It is beguiling and likely named after one of history’s most evocative film scores.

If any of you, Fratelli, went to Watches and Wonders 2024, feel free to add your fave hidden gems in the comments below.