1) IWC: New Da Vinci models
Each year, IWC spotlights on one of its watch families, and launches a formidable catalogue of new models in each series. For 2017, the brand focuses on its Da Vinci collection, bypassing the tonneau-shaped case of the mid-2000s to take inspiration instead from the classic round shape of the 1980s. Launched in 1985, the first Da Vinci was a perpetual calendar chronograph watch that was essentially the forerunner of the modern perpetual-calendar wristwatch. While this year’s line-up will include two haute-horlogerie pieces – a perpetual calendar chronograph and a tourbillon retrograde chronograph – the brand is for now only revealing its two new women’s Da Vinci models, a 36mm automatic and a 36mm automatic with moon-phase display.
2) Montblanc: First time for bronze
It’s official: Bronze is here to stay. Over the past few years, bronze has gained popularity among watch fans – the Panerai’s bronze watches drive its followers into a frenzy – but remains uncommon enough to remain interesting. The latest brand to debut its own take on the material associated with shipfaring from days of yore is Montblanc, which combines the alloy with reinterpretations of Minerva (its high-end watchmaking facility) military chronographs from the 1930s. The pre-SIHH highlight for us is the 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition, a monopusher chronograph housed in a 44mm satinated bronze case with a bronze-coloured titanium caseback (to minimise the odds of potential allergic reactions – how very considerate).
3) Roger Dubuis: A vibrant Excalibur
Roger Dubuis deemed 2016 its year of the woman, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, we missed the brand’s typically sizeable, no-holds-barred statement pieces for men. Roger Dubuis’ pre-SIHH 2017 highlight certainly makes its presence felt again, not just with its four whirring rate-stabilising sprung balances but with its vibrant new dial featuring blue PVD-coated accents. A less obvious but very intriguing new touch is the brand’s new material, cobalt chrome, a high-performance alloy used for the case, bezel, caseback and crown. This material is produced via exclusive MicroMelt technology, which according to the brand involves a high-tech process of melting and atomising the alloy into a fine powder before being reworked into solid hot-rolled bars.
4) Audemars Piguet: Shining with Frosted Gold
According to Audemars Piguet CEO Francois-Henry Bennahmias, Jasmine Audemars (a member of the brand’s founding family and the head of its board of directors) went “whoa” when she was first shown the new Royal Oak Frosted Gold watch for the first time. We’re not surprised – they’re gorgeous. The timepieces feature subtly sparkling, textured cases and bracelets created using a process rooted in an ancient gold-hammering technique. This traditional process is known as the Florentine technique, and has been adapted by jewellery designer Carolina Bucci to create subtly dazzling accessories for years, although this marks the first time the technique has been used on watches.
5) Panerai – Aces from the archives
Creating a link to its past as a supplier to the Italian navy, Panerai’s historically inspired watches typically arouse interest – if not always fondness – in its followers. We find ourselves rather charmed by the company’s latest pair of Radiomir 3 Days Acciaio watches, which take their cues from 1930s models that were used in trials by the Italian navy (rather than in military operations). The watches’ main distinguishing features are a 12-sided bezel engraved with the words “Officine Panerai – Brevettato” (brevettato means patented in Italian), and removable wire loops that make changing the leather strap less of an arduous operation. The steel comes in two dial variants: Black (like the original), or a graduated brown that evokes the look of faded vintage dials.