The Geneva edition of Watches & Wonders 2021 - forcibly made online by the pandemic - is wrapping up as I write this. While waiting to return to Shanghai for the second act of the event, the inevitable popularization of a common digital platform generated, par opposition, greater attention to the products of the event; the only aggregation nucleus of world watchmaking left after the unexpected seppuku of Baselworld.

The new format of the Salone was set in Geneva, as in the past SIHH, but the visiting journalist could be anywhere in the world, even on the sofa at home. The remote presentations alternated really valuable creative efforts - above all Vacheron Constantin - with tasks of a communication nerd and, beyond some malfunctions of the interactivity of watchesandwonders.com - filled with the lightning-fast promptness of the Italian press offices - the multimedia experience was pleasant. The embarrassment of having to entertain without the help of kinesics and above all of haptic perception was more palpable than watches, but for the new generations, educated to the detachment of purchases via the web, perhaps this discomfort has not disturbed the reception. For us, a tangible test on the wrist of the acrobatic swoops of a drone from the sky of Geneva to the cage of a tourbillon is worth more, but big brands, such as Rolex, IWC, Piaget, Baume & Mercier have gratified us with anticipated or parallel sessions in the presence. . 

We come then to the most significant watches presented by the 38 Maison on display (A. Lange & Söhne, Arnold & Son, Baume & Mercier, Bulgari, Carl F. Bucherer, Cartier, Chanel, Chopard, Chronoswiss, Corum, Ferdinand Berthoud, Greubel Forsey, H. Moser & Cie., Hermès, Hublot, IWC Schaffhausen , Jaeger-LeCoultre, Louis Moinet, Louis Vuitton, Maurice Lacroix, Montblanc, Nomos Glashütte, Oris, Panerai, Patek Philippe, Piaget, Purnell, Rebellion Timepieces, Ressence, Roger Dubuis, Rolex, Speake-Marin, TAG Heuer, Trilobe, Tudor , Ulysse Nardin, Vacheron Constantin, Zenith).

The disclosure clumsiness and the expressive conformism of the formula also contaminated the ideas, the leveling of which was evident. Suffice it to note theindolent obsession with green dials, perhaps in deference to the “green” sensitivity of the most advanced salons in global society. Or point out that there is almost no trace of new creations starting from a blank sheet of paper, of new authentic models. Many re-editions - some warned, others less so - extensive collections, bright colors, new complications, but no real epiphany. The quality of the top executions is very valuable, it should be clarified, since the very high-end is a market sector that still functions and the savoir-faire of the great manufactures unassailable: the iconoclastic flicker was missing. But as we said, this makes it easier to intercept the very few that rotate on an elliptical orbit compared to fashions or the inaction of custom.

Surely Bulgari, who with his new Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar has redefined the more traditional and austere complication of watchmaking, not only by miniaturization, but also by application. Dropped in raw titanium of the octagonal case and with billboards that stand out for their functionalist rationality and readability - even in the wake of Daniel Roth - is a piece of absolute refinement. Enough to guarantee the seventh consecutive record for the Octo Finissimo collection. Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani he put his hand to it, and it shows, but much of the credit, as he himself confessed, belongs to the extraordinary expertise of the masters who work at the Le Sentier Manufacture.

Also Patek Philippe has rethought the complication with a perpetual with three windows of even more immediate readability. The 5236 in platinum is superb and the new is extraordinary caliber 31-260 PS QL with an additional module for online viewing, but proportions, expressive figures and posters are a tribute to the classicism of the Maison's pockets produced for the US market. The Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar, on the other hand, will be a classic of tomorrow. 

Among sportsmen, I choose the Panerai Submersible 42 in bronze. Simply because it is today the most charismatic diver in the world and one of the coolest watches tout court. We now live in the Bronze Age, in watchmaking, such is the number of brands that offer their references in this material, but the Panerai brand was a forerunner rather than a gregarious one, with the first Submersible Bronze in 2007. The 47 case, however, it made it suitable only for the most massive panerists. Personally, looking more at the coherence between case and caliber and at the wearability than at the military practice, I was confidently expecting a bronze Sub with a 42 case. The combination with the abyss blue dial, then, has an exquisite nautical flavor. A watch that seems to have emerged from the future in a Conrad novel and that I would like to photograph among correspondence, sextants, barometers, navigation lights and a three-blade propeller.

My executive reference was the Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatico in steel (PAM 682) with the P9010 caliber. Here on the PAM 1074 we find the cal. P900. The most recent in-house automatic movement, already mounted on the other 42 Subs, is significantly thinner: 4,2mm thick against the 6mm of the 9010, thus making the whole watch more comfortable on the wrist; however, it is also aesthetically less congenial to the case. Therefore, the only criticism I move to this new Panerai champion is the sapphire crystal on the caseback, which is, moreover, superfluous on all professional divers.

Regarding Panerai, a small philosophical gloss on the remarkable though Elab-Id, built with 98,6% recycled materials. The mechanical watch is one of the few intrinsically sustainable objects that surround us in everyday life; by manufacture, operation and usage horizon. I do not think that the Manufactures of the time have all this need to participate in the crusade to save the planet. Already many, many, flaunt this modest ambition. Having said that, if we really want to talk about sustainability - whatever this lemma means precisely - I find the requested 60 thousand euros ... not very sustainable. If you really wanted to promote a circular economy, it would be more interesting for customers to have the possibility of exchanging their used Luminor in boutiques to get an echo in exchange, with a reasonable outlay of a few thousand euros. 

Moving on to formal watches, none like it Cartier House he knew how to shape the shape of watchmaking. From the Santos of 1904, passing through the Tonneau of 1906, the Tortue of 1913 to the Tank of 1919, up to the Cloche of 1922 which we will focus on today. From the dawn of wrist production, the circular flow of time was not simply accompanied by round cases, but rather projected, seduced, armored, stormed. In Bell it appears flared, placing the circle of hours in line with the circle of the cabochon crown. Of the many variations presented at W&W for the Cartier Privé collection, all in 100 pieces and all beautiful, as a dress watch I choose the reference in platinum with a cream dial, whose colors discreetly enhance the purity of the bell design. Made with a 31,75 x 28,75 mm case, it is an example of very rigorous formal destination; flawless for a ceremony.

The genius Cartier has always resided in the art of proportion, in the balance between functional concreteness and dreamlike enchantment. Also for the woman. The warm softness of the feminine touch was sublimated at the end of the 50s in the Baignoire, which renewed stylistic inspirations introduced as early as 1912; object of superb delicacy, we remember him dabbling the wrists of queens like Romy Schneider and Catherine Deneuve. But the expressive apex of the model was reached with the Baignoire Allongée, a unisex variation chiseled in the ateliers of Cartier London, which will then find its most daring exaltation in the Crash, where the Apollonian will leave room for the Dionysian, order for chaos, for become an icon of singularity.

On the occasion of SIHH 2019, the Manufacture presented a jewel declination of the Allongée, whose beauty seemed difficult to overcome. Well, looking at the new Libre Bagnoire Turtle Watch I have a lot of hesitation. Waiting to see it live, the multimedia impact was enchanting. However, as you know, it is now Perpetual Passion tradition for ladies to choose what to wear on their wrist. And among the 2021 news from W&W, my partner went straight to the Reverso One Precious Flowers. An anthology of art déco charms enhanced by the lively modularity of JLC's masterpiece. Caliber 846 with manual winding, which is modeled at the case, also smells of Grande Maison.

And we stay from Jaeger-LeCoultre for the honorable mention. L'Hybris Mechanica caliber 185 it is the best that has been seen remotely in Geneva. If the Reverso was born in the early 30s of the last century as a brilliant and pragmatic timepiece for polo players, after almost a century in its most complicated version ever it has become a magnet of astronomical measurements. Eleven complications distributed on all four sides of a 51 x 31 x 15 case for golden portability. A divine whim of one million and 400 thousand euros; a Hybris sin that even Dante would have forgiven.