Watches & Wonders 2020 will be remembered as the first multimedia, connected, digital, watchmaking fair. An epochal turning point accelerated and made mandatory by the pandemic. The closing of the sector fairs as we knew them is the end of an idea of ​​popularization that was propelled by the generation of our grandparents. It is the end of a purchase idea that was propelled by the generation of our grandparents. 

Years ago I wrote on the pages of Business People how the online configurator would become the natural and cultural horizon of the customer. I received dubious emails; some even teasing. "But imagine!", I was told. "Imagine if Rolex will ever allow you to configure a Submariner online!" And again: "Imagine if an enthusiast would ever agree to buy a 20 thousand euro watch without touching it, without even trying it!". Well ... you judge the path taken. But we will have the opportunity to talk about it at length on Perpetual Radio in the coming weeks.

The first trade fair with a “remote” platform in history traces a very deep furrow between old and new scenarios. In this space I want to choose i five watches that I liked most of this edition, although I was not able to touch them firsthand. And although the atmosphere has been chilled by the quarantine of the spirit we are experiencing, intriguing pieces have been seen. 

I register a general tendency of the Houses - in the absence of design epiphanies - to make the most of the best of their heritage, often incomprehensibly forgotten. Out of Wonders, from owner of old Top Time "Zorro", I'm happy that Breitling relaunched this model, albeit with an industrial caliber. And so much we have said of Audemars Piguet, which has finally reopened the dialogue with the years in which it represented the crème of stately chronography. As for W&W, I choose a Hermès, for an IWC, for an Laurent Ferrier and two Cartier. I reserve the right to dedicate a photo shoot to the new Montblanc Heritage Pulsograph, because the fusion with Minerva has perhaps reached its peak of expression.

Let's start right from the Maison. If the new Pasha it does not shine for charisma in the steel configurations, while I like it much more in yellow gold, I am sorry for the return of the Asymétrique. The elegant reference of the Collection Privée, released at the turn of the last millennium with the Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber, is now replaced by a model more faithful to the original of 1936.

When I write about Cartier, I confess, I lose all detachment. Almost all of my savings over the years have been invested in vintage Cartier. But the strength of the weak staff does not hide objectivity: no one like the Maison has been able 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, right to the Asymmetric of 1936, to the Crash ... Since the dawn of watchmaking the circular flow of time was not simply accompanied by round cases, rather projected, seduced, armored, conquered. And in the art of proportion, in the balance between functional concreteness and dreamlike enchantment, the genius Cartier has always resided.

The warm softness of touch was sublimated at the end of the 50s in the Baignoire, which renewed stylistic flashes introduced as early as 1912; object of superb femininity, we remember him dressing the wrist of queens like Romy Schneider and Catherine Deneuve. But the expressive apex of the model was reached with the Baignoire l'Allongée, a unisex variation chiseled in the Cartier London studios, re-proposed in a jewel version on the occasion of SIHH 2019. 

Cartier Privé Collection Tank 'Asymétrique'

THEAsymmetric of today - also offered in skeletonized version 9623 MC and in various metals - is enhanced by purity in the traditional version in yellow gold, which mounts a Manufacture movement with manual winding, caliber 1917 MC. The Cartier Privé Tank Asymétrique will be produced in 100 pieces for each configuration.

Even the new is irresistible Santos-Dumont XL "La Baladeuse". Made in 300 pieces, mounts the caliber 430 MC Manufacture with manual winding and has a caseback attractively engraved with the motorized airship of the Brazilian pioneer, the n ° 9, the one that flew over Paris in 1903. The chromatic composition is delightful: yellow gold case, champagne dial, matte green crocodile strap hand-sewn. Gladius spheres and Roman numerals are in blue, like the blue of the sapphire that pragmatically embellishes the winding crown, masterfully worked in cabochon.

Hermès Slim byHermès GMT

But not only Cartier, also Hermès is a merit of creativity from beyond the Alps with a universal inspiration. I have always liked the Slim collection, one of the very rare examples of a happy fusion of classic allure and contemporary minimalism. But the 39.5 case was perhaps too much for just time and perpetuals so elegant and subtle, especially with clear dials. The diameter is instead perfect for the sportier GMT.

Wonderful is the new chromatic choice of the dial, very deep and dense, where the unmistakable typographical characters are immersed and where the granite “moon” of the GMT counter shines, with neatly chaotic digits, between 9 and 11. I wait to see it live and wear it, because for those of the old days it is still a defining experience. The 2018 version was already convincing, but seen on screen, with the warmth of the rose gold case embracing the blue ... it's love.

We also know that the watches of the French brand are not just exquisite accessories that slide under the cuff of the shirt; they are also micromechanical jewels, because the Vaucher Fleurier magisterium pulsates inside the Hermès Manufacture dress; the same that moves Parmigiani, so to speak. And in this reference, animated by the automatic caliber H1950, it also makes use of the exclusive contribution of Agenhor, who created the ultra-thin GMT module for Hermès. Skin on skin is a matte abyss blue alligator, crafted with sublime finesse by the Hermès ateliers.

IWC Portugieser Automatic 

IWC also worked very well with the new Portuguese Automatic. The superabundance in proportions, typical of the collection, has always been justified by its genesis: the Portuguese was born as a pocket watch. However, its stylistic cleanliness is by no means betrayed by a more discreet diameter, without falling into the excesses of miniaturization of the 3531mm “Little Portuguese” 35 of the 90s.

The 40.4mm diameter and 12.3mm thick version of the Portugieser Automatic in rose gold with the Manufacture Caliber 82200 presented at Watches & Wonders 2020… is simply stunning. Splendid of simplicity. Only the price - set at 17 thousand euro round - cools the enthusiasm. The figure required by the steel version is more correct, which, slightly exceeding 7 thousand euros, makes this model more commercially attractive, even if close to the 7.950 required for the renewed Chronograph.

Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport Tourbillon

I close with a copy that reconciled me with Laurent Ferrier. His Grand Sport Tourbillon, although mechanically sublime, smelled of profanation, due to that out of tune rubber strap. Today, with the new and highly calibrated integrated bracelet and a beautiful opaline dial that turns from midnight blue to black, he finally finds himself.

This superb and powerful timepiece, with the FP Journe Chronographe Rattrapante and the Audemars Piguet Tourbillon Extra-Flat, represents the fastigium of watchmaking mechanics applied to elegant informal watchmaking. Soon, on these pages, a three-way challenge between these champions.