Watches and Wonders this year was a striking return to form and a glorious spectacle for the senses. It was like the pandemic never happened, and here I was stuck at home in the never-ending winter of the Nordics. To be honest, I’m glad in a way because most of my favorites were way above my pay grade, even if I sold all of my collection to fund them. But that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? As usual, my favorites were the quirky-cool ones, the ones that got away.

We exhaustively covered all the major releases here, but plenty of watches always go under the radar or don’t get the attention they deserve. I’ve always got a soft spot for the creative underdogs and the non-commercial pieces of big brands, so for me, just like for Lex, it was a bonanza of goodness. And outside of our exhaustive coverage, there are always the ones that got away, like these five stars.

The Ones That Got Away

Carl Suchy & Söhne Belvedere

This one was perhaps the most unexpected gem to tickle my taste buds, and it did so to quite a large degree. Carl Suchy & Söhne consistently flies under the radar with some delightful pieces. and last year, the Viennese brand celebrated its 200th anniversary. The watchmaker has imperial connections that have inspired the Belvedere, a softly rounded sports watch. It stands out from the usual throng, and in the vein of a Nautilus or Aquanaut, is elegant rather than tough. The Belvedere has a particular design language that makes it recognizably top-tier in execution while exuding a very personal vibe, and that always gets me hooked. In an unusual twist, the flat tops of the broad bezel and lugs have a soft, blasted surface rather than the usual brushwork. The case itself is a broad-shouldered, short-lugged nugget that looks like the epitome of comfort.

The Ones That Got Away

The open case back has a flourish of traditional finishing, juxtaposed with a smooth and compact modern design. The modernity is underlined through fun patterns on the back of the rubber strap, while the star of the Belvedere is its elegant blue dial. On this dial, the date window is never where you expect it to be — yes, it moves. Furthermore, every day makes for a slightly different design as the geometric guilloché on the inner dial moves along with it. Add this neat trick of the eye to a rather cool, dished, radial-guilloché rehaut with indices that curve upwards, and I was sold on the first press shot. Carl Suchy & Söhne stands for indie-different horology in many ways, and all of them are rather good.

The Ones That Got Away

Hermès H08 Chronograph

Last week, Daan covered the three-hand composite version of the H08, a watch that changed the image of Hermès for many. Alongside that 39mm sports watch came this sharp chronograph. It boasts a single-piece mid-case in a layered composite of carbon fiber and graphene powder. Intriguingly, it gives the sides the organic look of dark wood, while a brushed titanium bezel sits on top. The sartorial expertise of Hermès has put people off, but that is why this mono-pusher chrono looks so unique. Flash-pop orange highlights enliven a dial with a layered look of smooth and grained surfaces. My faves here are the function-pure crown with its orange-ringed center pusher and the overly long orange seconds hand. The braided look of the rubber strap with its form-fitting shape is still plain gorgeous and endows the light 41mm cushion-cased watch with damn-near-perfect comfort. This model will be on sale soon.

The Ones That Got Away

Sylvain Pinaud Origine

Bold, hand-finished, and with multi-layered dial depth — brands like Greubel Forsey are known for this aesthetic. This year, however, Sylvain Pinaud stole the limelight. As an AHCI (Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants) candidate, Monsieur Pinaud made a powerful impression. The Origine already has a 2022 GPHG award and a dramatic yet understated vibe. An asymmetrical dial at 2 o’clock displays the time with two hand-finished and blued Breguet hands exuding a traditionalist panache. Together with the overlapping seconds register, the dials float ethereally above a grenage-finished gray background within a curvetastic 40mm case with a slim 11mm profile. Hats off to Pinaud for creating this architectural theatre. At its heart is his bespoke caliber manufactured without modern aids, starring a balance at 6 o’clock. With a choice of steel or rose gold for the dramatic bridge, the 13.2mm balance with its Phillips spiral is entrancing.

Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Tourbillon

From Vacheron Constantin at close to €200K, no one was expecting less for this tourbillon splendor. If your budget has six figures, then the horological art of Vacheron is worth it in this new olive shade of green. The in-house 2160/1 tourbillon caliber has an impressive 5.65mm thickness and a solid gold peripheral rotor. Even with curvy-short lugs, the 41mm case is big, but it doesn’t take many seconds of dial-lingering to make me forget. A railroad minute track encircles the sunburst green dial with its stepped baton indices and classic dauphine hands above. The same chemin de fer pattern focuses the eye on the intricate, twirling depths of the tourbillon at 6 o’clock on a dial where each single measured distance is annoyingly proportionate. But it does so in a wonderful and zen-calming way. Deep sunburst green set in platinum has the power to do that.

Chanel J12 Cybernetic and Tourbillon Meteorite

Chanel has never convinced me of the joys of glossy black ceramic until now. The brand’s J12 luxury take on bracelet-equipped sports watches had me enjoying the design but not the material — until this mad remake. The too-perfect slick black has been infested by a pixelated, crisp white cloud-like shape that had me hooked after two seconds. The appearance of subversive digital art changes the impression of the watch, adding excitement and unexpected vibrancy. You almost expect the watch to become a moving CGI image where the pixels take over. And as expected, the execution is slick with tight tolerances. The geometric pattern has attached itself to the right side of the case, lending it a not-so-ergonomic shape while seeping into both the dial and bezel.

Another big shout-out goes to the brand’s dedicated men’s collection Monsieur de Chanel, where a dark Tourbillon Meteorite took me by surprise. This menacing timepiece houses the manual-wind Calibre 5.1, a textured meteorite “dial,” and an architectural, fragmented layout with a focused central figure-eight symmetry. I do enjoy the matte finish of the ceramic case, and the Chanel house emblem of a lion looks amazing in the center of the tourbillon cage. Is this my favorite Chanel release of all time? I’d say yes, easily.

Asaoka-san and his single-watch exhibit

I’ll conclude my very personal view of the under-the-radar cool that tugged at my heartstrings with a final mention. At a small booth within the AHCI show at L’iceBergues was Hajime Asaoka’s 37mm Tourbillon Noir. This might just be my Art Deco favorite of the show, but stay tuned. There’s a story on the way, including a chat with Asaoka-san on this gloss-black wonder and his penchant for photography. Yes, he actually shoots the press and social media images himself, both of his eponymous creations and the ones for the sub-brand Kurono Tokyo. That’ll close my book on a mighty impressive showing at Watches and Wonders and the adjacent events this spring. Next year, I ain’t staying at home, that’s for sure.

My dear Fratelli, did you spot something in Geneva that we didn’t? Feel free to comment on my very subjective choices, and share your favorite ones that got away in the comments.

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