Time will never stand still with one of these top-caliber chronographs on your wrist.
It’s safe to assume that few of the 13,000 visitors to the recent 2006 International Luxury Watch Exhibition in Geneva were late to the event. After all, most make their living by creating the stunning timepieces displayed at the exhibition.
Geneva’s own Patek Phillipe rolled out several new designs in three brand lines – World Time, Perpetual Calendar and Annual Calendar. Globetrotters at the conference were perhaps most intrigued by the first category: A pair of rotating discs on the outer face displays all 24 of the planet’s time zones simultaneously. Aesthetically, these have an understated, quiet beauty with bodies of white, yellow or rose gold, which makes searching for the time in Bora Bora, Barstow or Barcelona a fun exercise rather than a chore. The two Calendar lines come more traditionally styled, with Roman numerals in place of digits, and day, date and even moon-phase dials on the face. The Annual Calendar collection is particularly handsome, with cases of yellow gold, two-tone faces and sturdy brown leather straps.
No luxury watch exhibition would be complete without models from the classic standby, Rolex, which showed off a few novelties in its popular Oyster series. The Oyster is notable for its clean, simple design and sturdy steel construction, both Rolex hallmarks. The novelties collection was striking, particularly a dark green model studded with tiny diamonds on the clock face and bezel (the top ring on the watch case). Another novelty was an Oyster Perpetual, with its face tinted a soft rose, providing a graceful compliment to the traditional Rolex steel body and wristband.
Known chiefly as a maker of luxury writing instruments, Mont Blanc celebrates its centenary this year, a fitting time to exhibit the beautifully crafted items that have kept it in business for a century. Among the standouts: the Star Chronograph, an utterly elegant gold-bodied timepiece, with smaller dials in the watch’s face providing the day, month, date and 24-hour time. Though these risk crowding the watch, the details put into the face’s design make it eye-catching and attractive rather than busy.
A wilder selection came from traditional Swiss manufacturer, Chopard. The company displayed numerous men’s and women’s models, with several designs edging on the unusual. But if prizes were awarded for the most straightforward model name, it would undoubtedly go to the company’s Happy Diamonds With Sun Dial. This unique creation bursts with stylized sunrays crafted out of diamonds flowing down the face from a small golden sun in place of the 12 digits. Larger diamonds surround the face, beautifully tinted in a watercolor-like pink burst. Not to be outdone by the ladies, the men have their selection of sleek black chronographs in the company’s L.U.C. line, including the Pro One GMT, which features a bezel of thin, bright yellow numbers marking each of the 24 hours.
Panerai, meanwhile, showed its darkly pretty offerings as well. The company’s Luminor line is a collection of timepieces crafted mostly in stylish, modern black. Contrasting with this elemental hue is the luminescent green of the hands, numbers and five-second intervals, all the better to read in the dark. One of the Luminors, the Radiomir 1950 8 Days GMT, is so named because of its “8 days” slider on the face, a clever way to display the day of the week. The slider harkens back to mid-20th century models and contrasts nicely with Panerai’s otherwise modern stylings. Meanwhile, breaking the color scheme a little is the Radiomir Chrono, nicely accented by the seconds- hand and a tiny hand on the face’s small eighth- -second dial, both colored a vibrant blue. And breaking from tradition is the Radiomir GMT/Alarm, one of the few alarm-equipped models featured at the exhibition.
One other manufacturer not in exhibition deserves special mention. Glashutte’s PanoRetroGraph and Pano- MaticChrono represent two Watch of the Year award- -winners (2001 and 2005, respectively), incorporating both elegance and innovation. The PanoRetroGraph, for example, represents the first mechanical timepiece that can actually count both forward and backward. Using a highly complex switching mechanism, the watch can count back a preset time in a counter-clockwise direction, and can even be restarted without being reset to zero, thanks to an additional flyback mechanism. The model itself comes in several different color schemes, our favorite featuring silver rings with gold hands and a lush black background.
The PanoMaticChrono, meanwhile, which has actually won several recent awards, features a new three-dimensional dial design, with the seconds scale raised above the hour and minute display on a separate level above the dial. A rose-and-gold model with a clous de Paris decoration creates an especially striking motif, and a Louisiana crocodile leather strap adds a touch of sturdy sophistication.