Watches & Wonders 2020 Round-Up

Watches & Wonders, formally SIHH, is (was?) one of the two big watch shows of the year. A decidedly more luxury affair in Geneva attended by journalists in suits where, as the rumors go, champagne is always at the ready, it’s where the Richemont group and select others would unveil their novelties. This year, of course, the show could not go on as originally planned, but rather than leaving every brand to their own devices, a coordinated virtual weekend of press releases was scheduled. The result was a dizzying onslaught of luxury goods.

As with previous years, while we here at Worn & Wound don’t cover the bulk of these releases, we do still consume them as watch enthusiasts, and inevitably pick favorites. Below is a round-up with each W&W contributor picking just one watch, regardless of price point or brand, to talk about. Enjoy

Mark McArthur Christie – Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Date

If you’re the sort of person who fancies a wrist-puck with a triple-moonphase-in-three-galaxies complication, a grand sonnerie and an OBD reader for a Mk1 Miata, avert your eyes. This is not the watch you are looking for. The JLC Master Control Date is what happens when a proper watchmaker strips away all the fripperies and leaves only the essentials. Always has been. Despite being minimal, it’s a design that gets you pulling up your shirt cuff rather more often than is polite; “Honestly – I’m not checking the time, I’m looking at my watch.”

You’d need a pretty keen eye to spot any external design differences from the original watch, though. The case is slightly larger at 40mm against the earlier 39mm, but the Master Control’s new cal. 899AA movement is really what the show is about. The power reserve is nearly doubled at 70 hours, thanks to a new barrel and mainspring. The escapement now uses a very un-traditional silicon escape wheel and pallets and new, less volatile lubricants. And everything is tucked away behind a display back in the 40mm x 8.9mm stainless steel case. JLC have also taken the warranty up to 8 years. Jaeger-LeCoultre

Zach Kazan – A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus White Gold

When the Odysseus was announced this past fall by A. Lange & Söhne, it seemed to take over Instagram and watch media for a few days. For years, watch lovers had speculated about what the German brand known for opulent and immaculately finished precious-metal dress watches could do with a steel sports watch. Personally, to me that seems a bit like asking Ferrari to build a sensible mid-size SUV. But then again, if one thing has proven true over and over again in the last decade, it’s that the appetite for luxury sports watches (i.e., sports watches less inclined for participating in sports than for watching them, perhaps from a boat of some kind) knows no bounds. So, at the height of integrated bracelet, steel sports watch mania, ALS let loose with the Odysseus. A nod to their best clients and the current state of the market, the steel Odysseus is undeniably well-executed, but it’s hard to draw a straight line to it from any other watch in the Lange catalog.

And now, just about 6 months later, they’ve gone and recreated it, losing the bracelet, and adding a whole lot of white gold to the mix. Upon learning of the new Odysseus, my first thought was “Why?” So soon after the release of what had to have been among the most hotly anticipated ALS releases in recent memory, it seemed a strange move to rejigger it so quickly, regardless of my feelings on the steel version. But after giving it some thought, this precious metal iteration of the Odysseus, to me, feels like the real Lange “sports” watch, revealing the steel version as the on-trend, allocation piece that it is. Particularly on the rubber strap, the white gold Odysseus seems to embody the high end, sporting elegance that Lange was shooting for in the steel version. The gray dial, in my opinion, is also an improvement over the blue in last year’s steel version. It feels more durable and classic, and is just a bit more under the radar.

At $40,600 the Odysseus in white gold is strictly in the realm of fantasy for most, but for me it solves some of the idiosyncrasies of the steel version, at least in the context of Lange as a brand. A. Lange & Söhne

Ed Jelley – Montblanc 1858 Automatic 24H

There’s something about Montblanc’s 1858 line of watches that always manages to get my attention. Last year, it was the Geosphere, while this year it’s the Automatic 24h. Instead of multiple sub-dials with miniature spinning globes, the new 24H goes a simpler route. It only has one hand — a compass needle-like hour hand that rotates around the dial just once a day. You’ll find the northern hemisphere printed on the dial, acting as a functional backdrop to the 24-hour, compass inspired dial. Should you find yourself out in the field orienteering without a compass, you can simply point the hour hand at the sun and read off the compass markings to get a relatively accurate idea of where you’re headed. The only stipulation for this trick to work is that you must be located somewhere in the hemisphere printed on the dial.

While many of you might not find yourselves in the aforementioned situation, it doesn’t change the fact that the 24H is something unique amongst the wide world of 3-handers out there. The whole 1858 line looks like it was pulled straight from some turn-of-the-20th-century exploration crew’s gear manifest, and the 24H is no exception. The brushed 42mm stainless steel case features some nice finishing with a highly polished bevel separating the sides from the top. The slender bezel and ample crown are both rendered in bronze, adding a warm two-tone look to the watch that’s not nearly as blingy as steel and gold. Inside, you’ll find an automatic Montblanc Calibre MB 24.20, which is based on ETA’s 2893-1 with a 42 hour power reserve and beat rate of 28,800bph. At $3,000, it’s one of the more affordable options presented at Watches and Wonders, and I think the relatively reasonable price point helps make this watch a compelling release from Montblanc. Montblanc

Zach Weiss – Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Chronograph Calendar

It’s actually quite rare that an expensive luxury watch stops me in my tracks. I typically find them fussy, or tainted by their associated price tag. But this year’s virtual Richemontapalooza, aka Watches & Wonders, brought a watch that I’ve kept going back to the few glossy renders of to ogle. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Chronograph Calendar. What it lacks in naming finesse it more than makes up for in seemingly every other possible way. A 40mm triple calendar chronograph in steel with a new 65-hour automatic movement featuring a silicon escapement, column-wheel and vertical clutch that comes in just a hair over 12mm thick, it’s got the technical chops you want and should expect in a JLC. But, to be honest, I’m not here for those.

This is a damn fine looking watch. The silver dial has a handsome, mid-century charm that balances a lot of elements, as one expects in a triple calendar chronograph, with three sub-dials, dual date apertures, a moonphase and a pulsometer. The play between the grained pulsometer (which, of the superfluous chronograph indexes one could choose in a nice change of pace) and the smooth and perhaps gently domed (going off of renders here) central area is particularly appealing, as are the triangular applied markers that force the eye towards the complications. While 40mm might not be as on trend as 38mm, given the proportions I bet it’s wonderful on the wrist. At $14,500 it’s a pretty penny, but given the brand, specs and style, likely worthwhile for those who can afford it. Jaeger-LeCoultre


Brad Homes – Panerai Luminor Marina Fibratech 44mm

I have to say I’m not a Panerai fan. Even the few minutes I spent falling in love with the Radiomir Black Seal Ceramic were partially forgotten soon after it left my wrist. That said, I can’t help but be drawn to Panerai’s new Luminor Marina Fibratech.

Firstly, I love how the beautiful gradient blue dial fades away as it approaches the case. It somehow manages to look both muted and bold at the same time. Then there’s the Fibratech case itself. Fribratech shares similarities with carbon fibre in both construction and appearance. With the case material being 60% lighter than steel (and even lighter than titanium), although this 44m hunk of watch will look big—as it should—there’s no need for it to weigh your wrist down. Panerai

Caleb Anderson – Cartier Privé Collection Tank Asymétrique

My pick is easily the Cartier Privé Collection Tank Asymétrique— a simple choice when your Worn & Wound colleagues have already selected all the Jaeger-LeCoultres. Distinguished by its parallelogram-shaped case, unique tri-lugs, corresponding leather band, 30-degree rotated dial, and Arabic numerals— the 47.15 x 26.2 mm Tank Asymétrique is quite the unique sight, and one that caught my eye for just that reason.

The new line includes six models each limited to 100 editions: three with solid dials and three with skeletonized, each composed of various precious metals and gemstones. The platinum and yellow gold solid dial models I find particularly appealing, both seeming to strike a balance between the odd and the classic, being familiar enough to draw you in, but strange enough to raise an eyebrow. The design reminds me quite a bit of the famous asymmetric Crash watch which held a similar aesthetic albeit one pushing the boundary a bit more on the strange side (the Crash, coincidentally, was the first release in the Privé Collection at its launch in 2015). I imagine wearing a Tank Asymétrique feels very similar to living as a side character of a Wes Anderson movie, and if I were a richer man I likely would be one of the first in line to buy one while I hunted for a real-life Grand Budapest Hotel. Cartier


Christoph McNeill – A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Blue Dial

I’m generally not one for all the fancy new-fangled watches that come out every year, as I’m partial to actual vintage and vintage-inspired ‘heritage’ pieces. However, there are some new watches that stand apart to me, and the Lange Zeitwerk not only stands apart, it stands above. What makes it special (other than the simple fact that it’s a Lange…)? The Zeitwerk is a sublime work of horological art. The digital readout and elegant, symmetrical layout of the dial are a wonder to behold, and really just super cool to boot. As if the original Zeitwerk wasn’t wicked enough, Lange later introduced a series of striking variations: A Minute Repeater, the Striking Time, and the Decimal Strike. Each with its own unique chiming patterns.

This year, A. Lange & Söhne have gone back to the beginning with their newest addition to the Zeitwerk family, the limited edition Minute Repeater with blue dial. The blue dial is a long time coming, and was worth the wait. The deep blue dial really makes a striking combination with the white gold bridge that houses the digital hour and minute displays (if you’ll pardon the pun). Like the original Minute Repeater, this one chimes on the hour, ten-minute increments, and minutes. The chime system itself is a beauty, with the chime bar circling the dial and a hammer on either side of the sub-second dial.

Flipping the watch over, the display back shows the stunningly beautiful hand-wound caliber L043.5 movement that is finished to an otherworldly level of perfection, as is the norm for Lange. As I mentioned before, this is a limited edition, with only 30 pieces being produced, and is not for the faint of heart, nor the light of wallet, with a price tag of €449,000. Yes, this watch costs about the same as a decent house in most places, but I’m sure A. Lange & Söhne won’t have any trouble selling out the edition. While I first fell in love with the black dialed Zeitwerk, I have always had an affinity for blue dials, and this new limited Zeitwerk Minute Repeater hits all the right…’notes’, and is one that stands out in the Zeitwerk family. A. Lange & Söhne

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