In place of the usual bustling fairs in Geneva and Basel, watch brands have launched their latest releases online this year. Now, with the largest “event”, the Geneva-based Watches and Wonders, having wrapped up in Geneva, we’re getting a picture of what’s on offer for the wrist. 

Watches and Wonders made history by being the first watch “fair” to bring together the major brands – the likes of Cartier and Rolex, IWC and Patek Philippe, Chanel and Jaeger LeCoultre – 38 in all, and despite the usual drawbacks of online get-togethers, it was deemed a timely success thanks to watches that were, for the most part, genuinely fresh. 

That’s good news, given that industry sales have been hit hard by the covid pandemic – down 30% last year. 

As for themes, it seems green means “go”, with a raft of green-dialled watches coming your way from all and sundry – Patek Philippe, Jaeger LeCoultre, Tudor, Tag Heuer, Audemars Piguet, Rolex, Breitling, Cartier, Moser & Cie; you get the picture. 

Another theme, thankfully in keeping with the moment, is a new accent on sustainability. Panerai is leading the way with a watch largely made inside and out from recycled materials and offering to assist others with similar endeavours. That said, no one buys a watch simply because it reeks social responsibility. The Panerai in question was as handsome as, even if rather expensive, and luckily there were countless other good-looking pieces also making their debut. 

Which brings us to the standouts of the Geneva show, and for this observer there were two. The first was a completely over-the-top Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso with not one or two faces but four, carrying displays for everything from the time, to four different moon-phase displays with an accuracy of 1100 years. The second was a Patek Philippe Linear Perpetual Calendar that, rather than dazzle with complications, presented – for the first time – the day, date and month display in one window.

I’d love either of those two standouts on my wrist, but the same goes for offerings from brands – including Omega, Breitling, Grand Seiko and Audemars Piguet – who showed “off-broadway”, announcing their individual releases away from Watches and Wonders. Here Grand Seiko led the charge when it comes to spectacular dial treatments, while Audemars Piguet shocked by hooking up with Marvel comics for a limited-edition timepiece. 

Herewith, then, are a baker’s dozen of unforgettable faces you’ll be seeing in 2021.

Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque
A watchmaking first, four faces show time, calendar, astronomic and distance calculations – including synodic, draconic and anomalistic cycles and the age of the moon, along with hour and minute chimes and a tourbillon. Priced in the $2 million range. 

Patek Philippe 5236P Linear Perpetual Calendar
Another first thanks to its complete in-line display of the day, date and month on the dial. Simple but complicated and achieved so far only by Patek, it’s cased in platinum, spans 41.3mm, and is priced around $180,000.

Panerai Submersible eLab-ID
Ninety-eight per cent of the weight of this watch is made from recycled materials, including the case, the sandwich dial and the movement bridges (eco-titanium), the dial itself and hands (super-luminova), and the escapement (silicon). $90,000 range.

Cartier Tank Must SolarBeat
Combining tradition and tech, here’s the first Tank powered by a photovoltaic charging system that absorbs light through the dial and needs servicing just once in 16 years. $4000 range.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer 1 Rolesor
Rolex has brought back the Explorer 1 in a 36mm case with two versions on offer: one in Oystersteel, the other for the first time in two-tone, with Rolesor gold for the bezel, hour markers and centre links. $9000 range.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon
At heart a titanium-cased concept model, in practice an unlikely mash-up with Marvel’s comic-book hero looming over the dial in 3D, this wrist ornament lit up Instagram with negative nattering when it was released. $200,000 range.

Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925
Forget carbon-fibre or ceramic cases – this version of the popular Black Bay dive watch is cased in solid (92.5%) 925 silver, making it a modern rarity. The 39mm case is complemented by a taupe-tinged dial. $6000 range.

Grand Seiko White Birch
This watch raises the bar not only for mechanical accuracy but also for luxurious presence on the wrist. Flawless machining, fastidious finishing and a sculpted bark-patterned dial that throws off light with rare intensity. $13,000 range.

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tadao Ando
Featuring a crescent-shaped moon against a lacquered spiral-patterned sky, the dial of this Finissimo model from Japanese architect/designer Tadao Ando is unique thanks to the absence of the usual hour markings. $25,000 range.

Chanel J12 Electro Dream
In a colourful pivot from its purely black-and-white beginnings, Chanel’s J12 embraces the neon palette of baguette-cut rainbow sapphires for the bezel and hour markers of the ceramic and steel-cased piece. $130,000–$150,000 range.

Omega Seamaster 300 Bronze Gold
The classic Seamaster gets an unexpected case in a new alloy, bronze gold, which develops a patina without forming verdigris and going “green”. The dial is distinguished by stencil-like numerals. $16,000 range. 

Gucci G-Timeless Dancing Bee
Gucci has embraced fine watchmaking this year with exotic pieces like this model, which not only features a tourbillon and diamonds but also showcases animated bees on the dial. $200,000-plus range.

Breitling Premier Heritage B09 Chronograph 40
One of a flotilla of 1940s-inspired pieces redefining the brand, this 40mm steel-cased chronograph avoids the usual silvery or dark dial and shines with one in a unique shade of pistachio green. $10,000 range.

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