Rolex and Patek Philippe may be delaying their releases this year, but a slew of other brands have released stellar new timepieces for 2020. LVMH dropped new watches early in the year at their luxury watch summit in Dubai, including an out-of-this-world new gem-set Bulgari Serpenti Seduttori with the world’s smallest tourbillon movement. Chanel carved out serious new ground in sapphire crystal with the first watch made almost entirely of the material—right down to the bracelet—in the new J12 X-Ray. With hefty doses of gold and high-end complications, Vacheron Constantin came out the gate swinging, with a host of serious new timepieces for top-tier collectors including a new gold bracelet Overseas and some extraordinary Les Cabinotiers pieces, including one of its most complicated wristwatches to date, the Tempo. And independent watchmaker F.P. Journe updated his crowning achievement, the Chronomètre à Resonance, with an entirely new mechanism to celebrate the 20th anniversary of one of his most collectible models. Few brands played it safe, with many of the new releases playing to the highest end of the market and, of course, only the most loyal collectors will get their hands on them.
Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Tempo
With 24 horological functions and 1,163 components in its reference 2756 caliber, Vacheron Constantin’s one-of-a-kind Les Cabinotiers Tempo (price upon request) is the most complicated wristwatch in the world. The watchmaker’s Les Cabinotiers studio is well-known for turning out some of the most complicated and exceptional timepieces in existence, all of which are one-of-a-kind. It also lays claim to bragging rights for the most complicated pocket watch in the world, the reference 57260.
In the case of the Tempo, it’s essentially two watches in one thanks to a strap system that allows its wearer to flip between two different dials. The “front” dial includes a minute repeater (set into the case middle), a perpetual calendar (indicated in the two lower subdials), hours on the top left subdial with a second time zone, minutes on the upper right subdial along with a 30-minute chronograph counter on the inner disc, and a split-seconds chronograph equipped with a column wheel. The latter function is used via two central hands that can read two intermediate times, calculated by stopping one of the hands which, once restarted, catches up with the first.
The flip side reveals a minutes hands along with a sun-tipped hand for the running equation of time (a more complex-to-make, but easier-to-read way of reading the difference between solar time and clock time). There are also indications for sunrise and sunset at 3 o’clock, daylight and nighttime hours at 9 o’clock, a 65-hour power reserve marker over the tourbillon cage at 12 o’clock, and a retrograde display of the age and phase of the moon at 6 o’clock which only requires a resetting every 1,000 years.
And, like all of the minute repeaters in the Les Cabinotiers “Le Temps de Musique” collection, this watch has a sound print recording that will reside permanently at Abbey Roads Studio in London within the same walls where the greatest hits from The Beatles were once recorded.
Vacheron Constantin has something to prove with its 2020 releases. The message? There are, seemingly, no heights to which its Les Cabinotiers studio is unwilling to climb. Even the sky is not the limit.
Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Astronomical “Ode to Music”
Another Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers stunner from this year was the Astronomical minute repeater “Ode to Music” watch (one-of-a-kind, price upon request). It packs 19 complications into its 36 mm by 7.84 mm caliber 1731 M820 movement, housed in an 18-karat 5N red gold case measuring 45 mm by 12.54 mm. Its 600 components operate on 60 hours of power reserve.
Needless to say, it’s one spectacular and very complicated timepiece. On the dial side alone you have the hours and minutes, minute repeater, perpetual calendar, running equation of time (the difference between solar time or sundial time and mean time or clock time, indicated by the sun-tipped hand positioned here at the 12-minute marker), age and phase of the Moon, sunrise and sunset, the length of day and night, and indications for the equinoxes, solstices and Zodiac signs.
Flip it over for a view of a star chart that rotates once per sidereal day (measured in time based on the movement of the stars). The blue ellipse highlights the stars as they are seen in the sky according to the wearer’s location. A white ellipse indicates the position of the celestial equator (an abstract projection of the terrestrial equator into outer space), while the red ellipse shows the position of the ecliptic equator (the apparent yearly path in the Earth’s sky tjat the sun follows on the celestial sphere). The outer blue disc indicates the months. Because there is a difference between the sidereal day and the average day, the movable lower disc accelerates daily by some four minutes in relation to the fixed outer blue disc, so the current month is indicated at exactly midnight by the yellow arrow.
And if that’s not enough to make your head spin, the sound of its minute repeater has been recorded at London’s Abbey Roads studio where it will forever reside alongside hits by The Beatles, Adele, Amy Winehouse and more.
F.P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance
One of the year’s most exciting releases so far is F.P. Journe’s latest Chronomètre à Résonance, which updates the 20-year-old model with a two remontoir d’égalités (French for constant force mechanisms), which greatly improves the accuracy of the movement from a variation of 5 to 6 seconds in the span of 24 hours to zero in 24 hours.
When Journe created his first resonance timepiece—the first wristwatch to ever achieve the phenomenon of natural chronometric resonance through dual movements that synchronize themselves for greater precision—he says the market wasn’t ready for the constant force mechanism because it requires a larger case diameter at 42 mm, as opposed to 38 mm, which was the popular case size two decades ago when it was first released.
Journe says clients can expect more improvements in the Resonance to come. He is currently working on an escapement that will eliminate the use of oil—when the material gets used up by the escapement in a watch, it affects the accuracy. The new innovation, when it comes, would not only improve the longevity of its precision but also eliminate a problem that requires servicing.
The Chronomètre à Résonance is available in gold ($106,800) or platinum ($110,600) with a leather strap or on a gold or platinum bracelet.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin
The hottest watches in Vacheron Constantin’s current lineup belong to the brand’s Overseas collection and retailers are already expecting a hit with the new Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin ($88,000). The blue-dial version is now available on an 18-karat pink gold bracelet, which can easily be interchanged with a blue alliagtor or rubber strap.
In a recent Instagram Live chat with Vacheron Constantin’s style and heritage director Christian Selmoni, Watches of Switzerland’s CEO Brian Duffy said it was the new Overseas watches he was most looking forward to getting in stock. Skeletonized versions are also available, but thanks to its classic, less busy dial, this version will likely be the one that collectors gravitate to first.
The watch houses the caliber 1120 QPSQ, consisting of 276 components and an automatic winding system, yet the movement measures just 4.05 mm thick with a case as slim as 8.1 mm.
A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk in White Gold
The original Zeitwerk was introduced in 2009 and has been lauded for its contemporary yet classic design distinguished by a mechanical jumping numerals display. In 2015, the German watch company launched its first minute repeater version. Until now, that model has only been available in platinum.
At the time of its release, the platinum Zeitwerk retailed for €440,000 (approximately $443,630 at exchange rates at the time). The new white gold version comes in at a hefty €449,000 (about $483,700). The platinum version, however, was not a limited edition, although it was limited in production. The new white gold model will go to just 30 elite collectors.
Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept
Putting watches on a diet is not just a pervasive quest for thinness, it’s an exercise in extreme watchmaking and engineering that brands use as a platform to flex their technical prowess. It is an extremely precarious and difficult process to get a timepiece’s already minute dimensions reduced to their ultimate slimness. Piaget has been at the forefront of the race for the thinnest “waistline.” It’s latest achievement, the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept, is a watch measuring a mere 2 mm-thick—setting a record as the thinnest self-winding watch in the world.
The watch first debuted in 2018, but was still in its concept phase. Two years later, Piaget has finally brought it into production. That same year, Piaget also came to the table with a 4.30-mm-thick Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Automatic to achieve the thinnest automatic watch in the world, out-miniaturizing Bulgari’s 5.15-mm Octo Finissimo Automatic.
Taking the new Altiplano down to 2 mm required using components thinner than a human hair and netted the brand five new patents. Can they go any smaller? It’s hard to imagine reducing this watch to even smaller proportions, but just when you think Piaget can’t go any thinner, it sheds another millimeter or two. Never say never.
Price is, of course, upon request.
Since its 2015 relaunch, the Cartier Privé collection has been home to the most coveted and collectible watches—the Tank, Crash, Cintrée and Tonneau models— in the French maison’s lineup. Their vintage counterparts, of course, have been climbing in value and are increasingly hard to get, especially the Crash.
The 47.15 mm by 6.38 mm watch comes with 38 hours of power reserve and retails for $26,400 in yellow gold and pink gold and $30,100 in platinum.
The new Cartier Tank Asymètrique is a return to another elusive model. In a world in which the steel bracelet sports watch seems increasingly dominant, an asymmetrical dress watch might seem like a hard sell, but in serious collecting circles, Cartier’s unusually-shaped dials are a hot commodity. (Check out collector Roni Madhavni’s collection on Instagram for a glimpse at a stunning vintage collection of unusual cases from Cartier, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet.)
The Tank Asymétrique comes with center lugs that dip into the alligator strap, which may be off-putting to some (some versions from the past have come without), but at a limited run of just 100 for each platinum, yellow gold and red gold version, this watch’s rarity combined with fervor on the secondary market solidifies it as a true collectible.
Cartier Maillon de Cartier Watches
If there is anything that Cartier does best, it’s understanding exactly what sophisticated women want—a commitment to subtle and timeless design codes with just enough tweaks and a dose of edge to keep them coming back over and over again. Its latest, the new Maillon de Cartier collection, offers all of the above.
Yes, these are quartz watches with a substantial price tag, but these are every bit as much jewelry as they are timekeepers. The heavy haphazardly woven links are a generous dose of precious metal—and in some versions, diamonds. While some women are increasingly wanting high-complication watches, there’s no reason seriously amazing design pieces shouldn’t also have a place in their collection.
The Maillon de Cartier pieces will be limited in production and start from $25,100 for the yellow gold model.
Hermès Arceau de la Lune
When Hermès debuted its Arceau de la Lune last year (featured in Robb Report‘s Best of the Best issue), it was a stunning reinterpretation of the classic moonphase complication with a dial in meteorite or adventurine. Unlike a traditional example where the moon moves in an aperture on a stationary dial, Hermès’s Arceau L’Heure de la lune features two lacquered hour and minute dials that rotate to eclipse two fixed mother-of-pearl moons. In another twist, the north side of the moon is featured at 6 o’clock while the south side is at 12 o’clock, accented by an ethereal Pegasus by artist Dimitri Rybaltchenko.
The model was such a hit, this year the brand came out with five new dial variations. The most exclusive version goes beyond the moon with a meteorite dial straight from Mars. Its olive hue with a matching strap is a unique new version of the timepiece that is limited to just two pieces (price upon request).
Other dial options include Black Sahara meteorite with silver-lacquered subdials ($54,100, limited to 36), Lunar meteorite with crystal-effect gradient brown-lacquered subdials ($43,000, limited to 36), Blue Pearl with gradient-grey lacquered subdials ($33,200) and Lapis Lazuli with white-lacquered sundials ($33,200).
Panerai PAM 768
Experimenting with innovations in case construction has been an ongoing race among watchmakers trying to outdo each other with the next latest and greatest material. Developed in Panerai’s high-tech Laboratorio di Idee (laboratory of ideas), the first version of the Lo Scienziato Luminor 1950 Tourbillon GMT Titanio 47mm, the PAM 578, was groundbreaking for its 3-D printed case. Another version of the model, PAM 767, came out in 2018, with a deep blue flange and strap stitching to match. The newest edition, the PAM 768 (limited to 150, $149,900), which is exclusive to select Panerai boutiques and hit stores earlier this year, comes in a sandblasted finish (the 767 came in high polish) and sports a green flange made of Panerai’s proprietary carbotech material, a carbon-based material that is lighter than titanium and stronger than steel.
Most of the components of its hand-wound P.2005/T caliber, Panerai’s in-house patented tourbillon, are made of titanium rather than brass in an open-worked format, making it one of the lightest three-barrel, 47 mm tourbillons out there.
Panerai Luminor PAM 1117
Long before Panerai watches became available to the general consumer in 1993 with the launch of three limited-edition models—the Luminor, Luminor Marina and Mare Nostrum—the company was making Luminor models as instruments for the Italian Royal Navy. To celebrate its 70th anniversary, Panerai debuted three new Luminor models, Luminor Marina in a 44 mm micro-sandblasted titanium case (PAM01117) and the Luminor Marina Fibratech 44 mm (PAM01119, limited to 270) both for $19,000; as well as the Luminor Marina Carbotech 44 mm (PAM01118, limited to 250) for $16,000.
They are remarkable not only for the extra-vibrant luminescent X1 material, but also the fact that they come with an unprecedented 70-year-long warranty.
Audemars Piguet [Re]Master01
Audemars Piguet went back to the archives for a stunning new release based on a 1940s chronograph. Aesthetically, the [Re]Master01 (limited to 500, $53,100) is almost exactly like the original. It has the same retro champagne dial, olive-shaped pushers, blue tachymeter scale and two-tone pink-gold-and-steel case. There’s even a “45” just above the 30-minute register, which was a request in the ‘40s from Jacques-Louis Audemars, a serious soccer fan in need of a device to time the length of halves at games.
But, as its name suggests, it has been improved upon with modern watch technology. It comes in a larger case size of 40 mm instead of 36 mm, is equipped with water resistance and an integrated automatic flyback chronograph (instead of a manual wind like the original). And unlike the 1943 version, it won’t be made by hand.
The piece was originally intended to celebrate the opening of the company’s new Bjarke Ingels-designed museum, which is now scheduled to open later this year. Once it opens, visitors will be able to drop by and see the original version of the [Re]Master01 and maybe even a glimpse at some archival pieces that could be the future [Re]Master02.
H. Moser & Cie Streamliner Flyback Automatic Chronograph
H. Moser & Cie is a company primarily known for its ultra-minimalist dials with zero markings in order to highlight the company’s rich, and often colorful, fumé dials. Its design DNA doesn’t exactly lend itself to the construction of a traditional chronograph, so its first-ever iteration of the enduring watch complication is an extraordinary exercise in restraint and innovation, resulting in one of the coolest flexes on a chronograph to hit the market in recent memory.
The outer edge of the Streamliner’s ($39,900) clean dial is printed with a jagged two-tiered index, with seconds on the outside and minutes on the inside. It serves four hands: two chronograph hands, one for the minutes and a red one for the seconds, as well as the two central time display hands for hours and minutes. At 12 o’clock, the numeral 60 dominates the dial, a nod to stopwatches of the 1960s and ’70s, when legibility and functionality were everything.
Moser reserved complexity for the back of the watch. Through the sapphire crystal is a view of the exceptional new HMC 902, the first automatic chronograph with a central display and flyback function, developed in partnership with the elite movement developer Agenhor.
The 42.3 mm steel watch features H. Moser’s signature fumé dial in anthracite gray, with a “scratched” decoration that mirrors the finish on the case and bracelet.
Greubel Forsey QP à Équation
The latest Greubel Forsey QP à Équation is really just an update in case and dial material, now in 5N red gold with a chocolate dial (previous versions include two white gold models, one with a rhodium-colored gold dial and one with an anthracite dial), but it has been a notable timepiece since its debut in 2015. The watch boasts 624 components and 15 functions with a patented system for setting all of its mechanical features with just one bi-directional crown, including the perpetual calendar which has long been notorious as so difficult to set that some collectors have been known to wear them set to the wrong time.
The 43.5 mm by 16 mm timepiece, a true intellectual exercise in watchmaking, comes with $680,000 price tag for all of its feats of engineering and finishing.
MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT
When MB&F founder Max Büsser launched his first ladies’ watch, the Legacy Machine FlyingT, he had doubts he could create a watch that women wanted to buy. This is a man known for creating extra-large, wildly inventive watches inspired by everything from a bulldog to the aerodynamics of a jet engine, after all. But he managed to turn out an elegant timepiece that looked unlike any other women’s watch ever and it ended up being his bestseller (it was also the women’s watch of the year in Robb Report‘s Best of the Best issue).
The first versions were presented in three diamond-set white gold editions, but this year MB&F came to the table with the Legacy Machine FlyingT now available minus the ice in either red gold ($105,000) or platinum ($116,000).
Watchmaking is not a category of accessories that is easy for most fashion houses to break into. But Chanel doesn’t do anything halfway, and when the French house debuted its J12 watch over two decades ago, it proved it had a hit on its hands. Since then, its been known for its ceramic façade, but this year Chanel upped the ante with a sapphire crystal version called the X-Ray.
Watchmakers like Richard Mille, Hublot, Bovet, Girard-Perregaux and Bell & Ross have created watches with sapphire crystal cases, but until now, no company had ventured so far as to make a bracelet in the material. Its the second hardest material in the world next to diamond and therefore has to be machined with diamond-tipped tools, so not only is it extremely difficult but it’s also rather pricey.
As a result, only 12 pieces of the 39 mm watch will be available worldwide at a price of $626,000.
Bulgari Serpenti Seduttori Tourbillon
When you have a watch as iconic in design as the Serpenti, updates can prove challenging. Last year, Bulgari introduced a new kind of Serpenti in its Seduttori model that took the serpent-shaped dial head, but switched out the coiled bracelet for a more traditional version with links shaped like scales. It did not outdo the Serpenti, but instead served as a more wearable everyday version of its original crown jewel. This year, however, the Italian jeweler introduced a new Seduttori Tourbillon that takes a bite out of the competition.
It comes equipped with the record-setting caliber BVL150—the smallest hand-wound tourbillon, in current production, in the world.
It shows that Bulgari is committed to bringing serious watchmaking prowess to its female clients, but on top of its technical specs, it’s a downright beautiful timepiece. At 34 mm by 8.99 mm, in white gold on a navy alligator strap ($82,000) or rose gold on a maroon strap ($78,000), it is just the right size—plenty of space to show off its pavé diamonds. But if more bling is needed to rival the original Serpenti, you can opt for the fully pavé version in white gold on bracelet ($151,000).
Girard-Perregaux Quasar Light
Girard-Perreagux‘s Three Gold Bridges design, in which the watch’s barrel, center wheel and tourbillon are aligned and held together with three gold bridges, has been a mainstay of the brand since its inception 136 years ago. The Swiss watchmaker began updating it six years ago when it introduced titanium bridges and this year the brand went even further by upping the number of bridges to five and crafting them from sapphire crystal in the Quasar Light ($294,000, limited to 18).
The case is also made from sapphire and requires over 200 hours of work in itself. The tiny, curved bridges from the ultra-hard material adds to the challenge, but the result is a visual feast for the eyes offering a 360-degree view of the 46 mm watch.
Visible from every angle are the tourbillon (anchored by a a sand-blasted rhodium mainplate) and the ruthenium-deocrated barrel at 12 o’clock. Part of the platinum family, ruthenium is a rare alloy that gives this sparkling effect to the watch, highlighting the sapphire bridges.” In fact, it could be mistaken for diamonds, but in keeping with the design, Girard-Perregaux chose the less traditional option.
IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Moon and Tide Chronograph
O captain! My captain! Even if you’re not the seafaring type, IWC’s Portugieser Yacht Club Moon and Tide Chronograph ($34,000) is the kind of watch that signals you’re at the helm of your own proverbial boat. Encased in 44.6 by 14.4 mm of 18-karat 5N pink gold, the debonair watch features a double moon phase display—to show spring and neap tides—as well as a tide tracker that indicates the shifting times for high tide. An adjustable timer at 6 o’clock can be set to the client’s individual location to run local tide cycles.
Time is read via gold-plated hands and 18-karat gold applique numerals. The watch comes on an integrated rubber strap, in the event that you do ever decide to take it to sea.
Zenith Chronometer Revival Shadow
A forgotten 1970 chronograph lurking the shadows of Zenith‘s attic in its Le Locle manufacture in Switzerland has emerged reoutfitted with the watchmaker’s revered El Primero 400 caliber from its A384 model and dressed in a very modern-looking 37 mm micro-blasted titanium case. It is a very hot update to a watch that remained in the dark for half a century.
The retro case shape and case size of the Zenith Chronometer Revival Shadow ($8,100) combined with the contemporary update in case material and stealth all-black scheme are just the right mix of horological reverence to the past with a mindset for the future.
Breitling Superocean Heritage 57 Rainbow
Rainbow watches have become a big trend over the last few years—the most collectible one is the Rolex Rainbow Cosmograph Daytona, which now goes for up to three times its original price of $90,000. They are distinctive for their multi-colored gem settings, usually on the bezel, and usually come with a price tag aimed at deep pockets. So when Breitling came out with a sportier, and much more affordable take on the rainbow craze ($4,520 with a leather strap and $5,025 on a bracelet), collectors went crazy. The watch, which was limited to just 250 pieces, is said to have sold out within hours of its release.
The watch uses rainbow colors on its hour markers and hands, no gems included, for a cooler, more casual take on the style. Breitling CEO Georges Kern, who had originally considered the watch an outlier in the brand’s new 2020 watches, was so surprised by his new pot of gold that he is considering coming out with a new Breitling Superocean Heritage 57 Rainbow in a blue colorway that will support healthcare workers on the frontlines in the U.K.
Montblanc Limited Edition 1858 Split-Second Chronograph
Montblanc’s new limited-edition 1858 Split-Second Chronograph 1858 Split Second Chronograph ($36,000, limited to 100) is the crowning achievement of the brand’s latest 2020 watch releases. Last year, the company came out with a similar model outfitted in a bronze case with a black lacquer dial, but now the company is dressing it up in a grade 5 titanium case with a striking blue-hued grand feu enamel dial.
The dial features a rare combination of a snail-shaped tachymeter scale in the center and a telemeter scale on the internal flange, mimicking a historical Minerva military monopusher chronograph from the 1930s, which served as inspiration for the piece.
The watch’s rattrapante, or split-seconds, is a complex function that allows the user to time two time intervals simultaneously. Here it is represented by a central chronograph second hand and a split orange second hand, along with a chronograph minute counter at 3 o’clock.
It can be seen in the center of the sapphire crystal caseback, which gives a view of its complex MB M16.31 caliber, made entirely in-house, finished to haute horlogerie standards and equipped with 50 hours of power reserve.
The purchase of the historical Swiss watch manufacture, Minerva, in 2006 by Montblanc’s parent company Richemont, has allowed the brand to become a player on the horological map and pieces like this Split-Seconds Chronograph really show off what the manufacture, and now Montblanc, is capable of.
Parmigiani Tonda Tondagraphe Tourbillon
A beautiful example of Parmigiani at its best, the new Tonda Tondagraphe Tourbillon ($199,000), the third Tondagraphe to be introduced since the model debuted in 2009, comes with new refinements to the slate-colored dial, which now features Grain de riz (French for grain of rice) guilloché work accented with rose gold plated appliques.
Within the new Tondagraphe’s 43 mm 18-karat rose gold case ticks the PF354 in-house, hand-wound movement. Comprised of 295 components and equipped with a power reserve of 72 hours, it is finished to the same exacting standards that apply to the model’s superficial elements—a sapphire crystal on the caseback offers glimpses of the bevelling of the tourbillon bridge and the circular graining on the barrel.
On the dial side, the tourbillon is visible through an opening at 6 o’clock. At 3 o’clock, a counter displays the minutes of the chronograph, the small seconds display appears at 9 o’clock and the power reserve is displayed at 12 o’clock.
The timepiece comes on an Hermès Havana alligator strap with a rose gold pin buckle and is water-resistant to 32 feet (10 meters).