If you remember back to your school days, when the seemingly endless summer was brought to a crashing halt with the return of the academic regimen, there was always the euphoria of the last days to see friends, hear what they had been doing, and tell tales of hopes and dreams for the coming months. Geneva Watch Days, in a sense, is very much like that.

    Held at the end of August and just into September, the venues are dotted around the grand hotels that lie on the lake front, with the Pavilion at the Rotonde Quai du Mont-Blanc as the symbolic central meeting place for the event. It is a far more comforting atmosphere than the sterile generic surroundings of Palexpo. While the event caters to the smaller brands in the industry (the bright rebel kids who sat at the back of the class), there are some major players in the form of Breitling and Bvlgari, who are also founding partners along with DeBethune, MB&F, H. Moser & Cie, Ulysse Nardin, and Urwerk.

    Urwerk UR100V Ultraviolet in violet DLC (diamond-like carbon) on sandblasted titanium with a white rubber strap.

    It is hard to see one particular theme across the 40 or so brands that comprise the companies that take part. If anything, it demonstrates the depth of talent and thinking about horology that resides in the watch industry, and that the demand for luxury watches exceeds far beyond the shop window on your local high street. Fuelled by social media and the reach of the internet, high end and bespoke watches can be ordered, and then delivered to, any corner of the globe.

    If there is any common strand to the watches being shown it is the creativity involved, from MB&F’s new Legacy Machine Split Escapement EVO to Moser’s Streamliner in rose gold with a Vantablack® dial, or Bvlgari’s Octo Finissimo collaboration with Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima. A number of brands produced watches that are under embargo for official release at some point in the coming months, so for now, the review only highlights the pieces that subjectively caught my eye and that we can show here.

    MB&F commemorates the opening of their LAB in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, with a limited edition of their Legacy Machine Split Escapement EVO.

    For MB&F the Split Escapement (SE) EVO completed the set of sports watches for the Legacy Machine series; the other two being the new released chronograph (LM Sequential EVO) and the perpetual calendar (LM Perpetual EVO). The EVO SE is the simplest of the set, but even then, contains a split escapement where the balance wheel is allowed to mesmerically operate free of the pallet fork and wheel that are placed on the underside of the dial. There were two versions released, the first as part of regular production with a smoky metallic blue dial, the second as a limited-edition piece to commemorate the opening of the MB&F LAB in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. The latter watch, with the dials in blue tones, a black baseplate, and a white rubber strap, being the perfect watch for the southern California vibe. Another one along similar lines was the Urwerk UR100V Ultraviolet in violet DLC (diamond like carbon) on sand blasted titanium with a white rubber strap.

    Moser & Cie’s Streamliner Tourbillon with a Vantablack® dial combines a modern design, retro styling, traditional horology and cutting-edge technology.

    One of the stars of the show was the Moser & Cie Streamliner Tourbillon in rose gold with a dial. It is that rare combination of design, traditional horology, and new technology that results in a stunning watch. The integrated bracelet sports watch segment of the market is arguably an overcrowded one, so to produce a version that stands out so much is testament to how good it is. The Streamliner’s retro modern aesthetic is accentuated by the Vantablack® coating on the dial. The new technology material, usually found in the aerospace industry or on NASA satellites, absorbs approximately 97 percent of all light, rendering the dial as a pure black surface that accentuates the design of the watch and the dance of the tourbillon that can be seen in an aperture at 6 o’clock.

    The almost ethereal aspect of the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Sejima limited edition is created by highly polished surfaces that reflect the light at nearly every angle.

    Design was also uppermost when Bulgari partnered with Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima to unveil an exceptional limited edition of their now iconic watch. The Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Automatic Sejima stands out with polished mirror-like surfaces over the case and bracelet that reflects the light to dazzling effect. The mirror dial is distinguished with a tiny dot pattern.

    The HYT Moon Runner White Neon features a unique three-dimensional moon display which glows in the dark in an almost-alien way.

    HYT watches, the fluid mechanics timepiece, arrived with two new versions: the Hastroid Supernova Blue and the Moon Runner White Neon, the latter of which is a limited edition and features a unique three-dimensional moon display which glows in the dark in an almost-alien way. Laurent Ferrier continues to produce elegant classically designed watches that are befitting the founder’s years with Patek Philippe. None of the vagaries of fashion, just pure traditional lines and finishings that are testament to the fact that beautifully made and proportioned watches never go out of style.

    With their blue-dialled Sport Auto in steel, Laurent Ferrier proved that beautifully made and proportioned watches never go out of style

    Of the smaller and newer brands, Krayon and Trilobe stood out. Both have a unique and proprietary way of looking at horology. Krayon, founded by mathematically inclined Rémi Maillat, introduced their Anywhere watch, which contains a patent protected perpetual calendar complication. With a single winding crown, for a given location on earth in terms of longitude and latitude, the wearer can set the hours and minutes, the day and month, along with the time of sunrise and sunset. If the location changes, the watch can be reset to the new longitude and latitude by Krayon.

    The Krayon Anywhere watch, showing the unique and proprietary movement with the location adjustment screws on the left and the complexity of the dial on the right.

    Trilobe was set up in 2018 by Gautier Massonneau, who still serves as its CEO and Creative Director. The brand is a result of Massonneau looking for his first watch in his early 20s, finding nothing he liked and could afford, and as a result reasoning that he should be able to make it himself. Four years later and producing the watches in contract with third party supplier Chronode, the collections are all built around the same eccentric three-ringed time display. Arguably the most romantic of which is the Nuit Fantastique Secret, with a unique dial option featuring a star-lit night sky, as seen from a specific location and date, as chosen by the owner.

    The Trilobe Nuit Fantastique Secret  showcases a luminescent night sky custom-made for the owner.

    Phillips auction house was also displaying lots from the forthcoming autumn sales. As ever, their selection on offer was superlative and included a triptych of George Daniels’s wrist watches that represented a cross-section of his career, and the contribution of the co-axial escapement. From a unique piece made to demonstrate the escapement would work, to the Millienium series that were made once the deal had been signed with Omega, and the Anniversary limited edition, which was the last joint work with Roger Smith.

    A very rare triptych of George Daniels co-axial wristwatches to be auctioned by Phillips in November.

    Geneva Watch Days is very much a collaborative affair for the watch industry and its success can be seen in ever increasing numbers of participants. The opening drinks and the second night dinner are held in the Pavilion at the Rotonde Quai du Mont-Blanc, where you can meet one and all from brands, fellow journalists and other interested parties. In keeping with the global reach of the event, a video-based Wikipedia for horology was also launched: Horopedia, helmed by Marc Andre Deschoux – of WatchesTV fame – and venerated watchmaker Philippe Dufour. Next year, I am sure the event will be even larger.

    Words: Dr Andrew Hildreth

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