Welcome to Dialed In, Esquire’s weekly column bringing you horological happenings and the most essential news from the watch world since March 2020.
Esquire creative director Nick Sullivan has touched back down after burning through some shoe leather at Watches & Wonders in Geneva. And now that the dust has settled, it’s time to take a closer look at the very best releases from brands big and small that debuted at the first big in-person watch event in three years. Keep reading to see the standout releases from Panerai, Rolex, Patek Philippe, Tudor, Cartier, Hèrmes, Vacheron Constantin, and Montblanc.
Deeper and Down With Panerai’s Submersible QuarantaQuattro
Panerai’s exploration of the deep is never going away. For a brand founded on the outsized diver watches it made from the 1930s for Italian navy frogmen, it is the gift that keeps on giving. Design aside, the main thrust for much of Panerai’s offering these days is its experimentation via its Laboratorio di Idee (literally “Idea Lab”) into new materials. This week, the brand unveiled an expansion of its 95 percent recycled eSteel first launched in the Luminor Marina line to encompass the Submersible range, too.
Also in the Submersible family, Panerai launched a new midsize line, the Submersible QuarantaQuattro, at 44mm a half-way house (almost) between its 42mm and jumbo 47mm staples. The QuarantaQuattro comes in Panerai’s proprietary CarboTech material as well as in brushed steel. The lightest case material in the Panerai arsenal, CarboTech is a composite based on carbon fiber. Leading the Submersible charge is the black CarboTech with a deep “blue note” or midnight blue dial with a matching rubber strap. In steel, the Submersible QuarantaQuattro also comes with a white dial (on a green rubber strap) or black dial (on a black rubber).
Vacheron Constantin’s Super-Chic Reinvention of an Iconic 1970s Watch
The ’70s was the decade when some of the most storied Swiss brands—as the quartz crisis loomed—shook off the cobwebs and embraced dress watches with elevated sporty looks. In 1977, the oldest watchmaker in continuous production was already 222 years old. To celebrate that unusual numerical milestone, Vacheron Constantin produced a stunning bracelet watch in 18k gold that was the height of modern sophistication. The 222, as it was known, represented a bold new look for Vacheron Constantin when it was created by design legend Jorg Hysek. The original case was just 7mm thick and made in a monobloc construction that required the movement to be inserted from above and screwed down with a fluted bezel to ensure 120m of water resistance. This was pretty revolutionary stuff for the time and it made the 222 an icon of a new kind of modern taste in watches that were both luxurious and robust. Not surprisingly, they were pricy then and they are pricy now. But what’s the price of a piece of horological history?
For 2022, the house has reimagined the iconic 37mm watch in the same 18K 3N yellow gold, with some key modernizing touches including an updated movement beating at a higher frequency (4hz) for greater accuracy. Re-engineering the integrated bracelet with its smoothly interlocking hexagonal links just underlined how much work had gone into the original. In vintage form, super high-end dress watches like this one look particularly alluring to our eyes right now. In fact, they were tipped as the next big thing in collectibles by Analog Shift’s founder, James Lamdin, in Esquire’s own pages last year, pointing to fatigue or saturation in the beefy vintage diver world.
Tudor’s Sweet-Spot GMT
Tudor’s position in the watch market as supplier of serious tool watches at relatively accessible prices is something watch fans have come to rely on. With the Black Bay front and center, fans have got used to a design language that is nothing if not consistent. But that doesn’t mean Tudor can’t offer up the occasional surprise. This year is no disappointment, with a number of new watches, riffs on old faves, coming to market. But the surprise of Tudor’s offering—and already its most talked about—is the somewhat Explorer-like Black Bay Pro GMT, albeit with some uniquely Tudor touches. The 39mm case, already seen in the Black Bay 58 line, put the watch slap bang at watchmaking’s current sweet spot and suitable for most if not all wrists.
The fixed bezel with 24-hour markings is the most Explorer-like element, but the rest, like the yellow snowflake GMT hand, is out and out Tudor. The GMT hand completes a full rotation of the dial in 24 hours while flying hour hand—which can be adjusted with minutes and seconds still running to account for local time—is coupled to the date window at 3 o’clock and handily jumps the date backward when rotated backwards. Elsewhere on a pleasingly designed dial, molded ceramic markers give a real sense of depth against the grained dial surface and glow green at night. The Black Bay Pro comes with a steel bracelet, a woven NATO strap, or in rubber with stitched accents. Maybe it’s something about us all—hopefully—embracing travel once more in 2022, but GMTs (as well as their snazzier cousins, world timer watches) were seemingly everywhere in Geneva. If you’ve the immediate urge to get busy putting a GMT thought its paces, Tudor has you covered, with the Pro already available in store or at tudor.com.
Montblanc’s New Ice Blue Diver
In barely a year, Montblanc’s new managing director, Laurent Lecamp has presided over some seriously cool new developments for the veteran brand, many of which debuted this week. The slew of new watches included an extension of the Geosphere line with the addition last week of the Geosphere Zero Oxygen, a watch that is assembled in a vacuum to protect the inner workings from the corrosive depredations of air and condensation. It is also a nod to the achievements of Montblanc’s favorite alpinist and ambassador, Reinhold Messner, who, in 1978, was the first to scale Everest without the use of oxygen tanks. The new Geosphere is set to accompany Nepali-born climber Nims Purja on his next Everest ascent—fittingly without supplemental oxygen—in May of this year.
The stuff of mountains is part of Montblanc’s lore (its logo is a stylized version of the summit of Europe’s tallest mountain viewed from above), so when Lecamp looked to introduce a new dive watch he got his inspiration not from the ocean but from the Mer de Glace, the fabled main glacier that emanates from below Montblanc’s peak above Chamonix. This new diver cuts in at a seriously compelling $3k, which belies the sheer amount of work that went into it. The technical details—like its 41mm size, automatic movement with date, ISO6425-conforming 300m professional diver rating, and its quick-release steel bracelet (an option)—are up there in terms of what one might expect from a rugged diver at this price. But what really draws you in is the blue dial, inspired by the cracks and fissures—and the colors—of the Mer de Glace itself. It was created in a complicated layering process that merged ancient dial-making techniques with high-tech new science to give an impression of visual depth in a dial just 0.5mm thick. Be prepared to stare at it for a long time.
Rolex Throws a Left Hook
Frankly it doesn’t take much to set the watch world atwitter, especially when emotions are heightened at the opening of the first major in-person watch show for over two years. So when, on day one of Watches & Wonders Geneva, Rolex unveiled its latest range of new watches for 2022, horological tongues wagged themselves into a frenzy in seconds. See, the new Rolex GMT-Master II in Oystersteel has a very noticeable green-and-black Cerachrome bezel for the first time. But that wasn’t it. Its crown, see, has shifted for the first time ever to the left side of the dial (and along with it the date window). It’s what the industry calls a lefty. Lefty watches, which are far rarer than actual left-handed people, are, confusingly, also referred to as a “destro,” which derives from the Latin word “dexter” for “right.” That’s because it’s designed for left-handed people to wear on their right wrist, so that their dominant hand can operate the crown without removing the watch. Still with me? Debate raged all week about the unprecedentedness of the move. Except it wasn’t that unprecedented; Rolex lefties do surface from time to time at auction, usually special commissions from the year dot. Even Charlie Chaplin had a destro Rolex Oyster.
If final proof were needed that GMT watches are a definite thing this year, then the GMT-Master II is it. But what to call it? Rolex doesn’t do nicknames. The fan base went into overdrive to come up with one, as usual based on the colors of the bezel. Front runners, so far, are The Green Lantern and The Riddler. Whatever name they do settle on, all that remains to know is what the 90 percent of us who aren’t lefties are supposed to do with it.
Wear it, seemed to be the consensus by the end of Watches & Wonders. There are plenty of righties who will happily wear the watch on their left wrist to keep the crown from digging into the back of their hands, or merely to protect it from unwanted jolts. There are many, many more who will covet it just because of its rarity.
Cartier’s Ongoing Passion for the Pasha
It was possibly the least predicted reissue of 2020, but the iconic Cartier Pasha certainly struck gold when its idiosyncratic, sporty design, from the fabled pen of Gerald Genta, resurfaced during Covid’s first spring. In 1985 when it was released, the design was a rare circular yet sporty shape in an era where the square and the rectangle still dominated for the French luxury house. Derived from a one-off watch created for a North African Pasha and first introduced by Cartier in 1943, there was an otherworldly vibe about the case, the dial, and especially the crown guard, a cabochon on a golden chain. Two years on from 2020, the Pasha emerged last week in a number of new complications including a moonphase, an open-worked skeleton, a chronograph, and even a flying tourbillon.
The Pasha, with its uniquely extrovert look, is the ideal vehicle for these new complications, though we can’t help admiring another simpler version, the Pasha closest to its Genta designed 1985 predecessor. Like it, the new 41mm Pasha comes with time only in a yellow gold case with a matching yellow gold “grille” across the face. The cage was conceived to protect the dial much like the shrapnel cages on World War I pocket watches, except the shrapnel in question in 1985 was more likely to be flying polo balls than the real stuff. One useful advance in the design on the 1985 original is the ability to remove the cage with a simple push-and-twist movement.
Hermès’s Otherworldly View of the World
Hermès does not rush out new designs in watchmaking just for the sake of it or without thinking long and hard about the nature of time. In fact, some of the house’s most enduringly charming watches go out of their way to tell the time in elegant rather than predictable ways. Witness the Arceau Le Temps Voyageur, new last week, which comes in two versions, one 41mm in platinum and DLC-blackened titanium, the other 39mm in steel. Both feature a very original approach to the world timer concept. The familiar names of the 24 global time zones (with the address of Hermès’s flagship store substituted for Paris) are scattered around the dial. This is a classic world timer in one sense only; it is anything but classic in another. Home time is shown via a turning dial in a window at 12 o’clock while travel time—your second time zone—is shown on a satellite sub dial that can be moved around the dial to any of the 24 time zones, i.e. the one you’re in. All of this is done whilst the satellite dial remains upright—no mean trick and something that required some technical differential wizardry by Chronode, a movement maker specialized in just this sort of mind-bending mechanics. Beneath all the mechanical shenanigans you’d be forgiven for thinking you were looking at a conventional world map. In fact, the fictional continents come with the names, in French, of different facets of the equestrian arts in a design that once inspired an Hermès silk scarf designed by Jérôme Colliard. At Hermès, it is important to expect the unexpected.
Patek Philippe’s Super-Simple Multi-Complicated Travel Watch
Patek Philippe’s reputation resides not only in its love of complications, the kind of watches that do way more than tell you what time it is, but also in its talent for raising elegance to the nth degree. Last week, at the top of the pile in a number of stunning timepiece releases, was its automatic Reference 5326G Annual Calendar Travel Time watch. As the name suggests, it will keep you accurately informed of the day, the date, and the month—and the current moonphase—all while taking into account the different number of days in each month automatically, which means it needs only one manual correction per year. The travel time complication monitors two time zones at once, your home time and local time. Which makes it technically a GMT. But that’s like calling a Rolls Royce a car.
What strikes most about this watch is not so much its marvelous complications (in a watch that is responsible for eight new patents) but its beautiful simplicity. With all that’s going on under the hood, you might expect the annual calendar to take over the dial, as it often does in other watches. In fact, all is discreetly delivered in an easy-to-read, serene dial, with added and rather nifty day/night indicators for both time zones. And with the date display connected to the local time zone, it automatically adjusts the date when that time zone is corrected. The specially designed Calatrava case has Patek Philippe’s famous “Clous de Paris” nail head decoration all round it; to get access to the flanks, the brand engineered the lugs so they’re attached to the case back rather than the case. Another cool trick is that the rose gold local time hand—the one you use when traveling—can be hidden entirely under the white gold home time hand once you get done with your travels.
And then there’s that dial, which is possibly the most beautiful thing about this watch. A charcoal finish that gradates darker at the rim to give depth and a granular surface reminiscent of posh old cameras, has easy-on-the-eye applied beige numerals suggesting a vintage inspiration. But there’s none of your common or garden fauxtina here. Amazingly for a brand that has done pretty much everything in 180 years of existence, this is the first watch that unites annual calendar and travel time complications in the same watch, which means it’s going to be a much sought-after piece amongst collectors.
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