These brands are special because they offer a potent combination of watchmaking ability along with the financial resources to make the most complicated ideas happen in reality.
Because of this, releases from these brands this year go along widely differing themes, with some being out of the box and totally unexpected, like Hautlence experimenting with SuperLuminova, and Angelus coming up with a vintage reissue, or simply logical, like the rest of the brands offering aesthetic or technical variations on previous released watches.
Chronodate Gold and Titanium
The Chronodate from Angelus, is a watch that attempts to do something quite unique, and that is firstly, to pay tribute to the brand’s famous chronograph presented 80 years ago in 1942 of the same name, and secondly, to reference the sleek, openworked lines of its recent pieces since the brand was relaunched in 2015.
It’s not easy to have old and new design codes in one watch, and for this, the Chronodate somehow manages to succeed. The various dial details, including the old school logo and the chronograph layout references the old, while the complex, angular and sleek case grounds the watch firmly in the future.
For Watches & Wonders 2023, the new Chronodate collection is joined by three new variants. The most luxurious, with a 5N red-gold case with a jet black dial; and then as well, two titanium models – one with a jet black dial and the other with fern green dial.
Powered by their A500 calibre with column wheel chronograph beating at 4Hz housed in a carbon composite container, it is surrounded by the 42.5mm wide case of said red gold or titanium. The Chronodate displays small seconds at 9 o’clock and a 30 minute counter at 3 o’clock; as well as the feature that gives the watch its name – a long and thin hand that reaches to the edge of the dial to point out the current date just like the 1942 Chronodate.
Chronographe Médical x Massena LAB
Probably one of the most unexpected, yet welcome launches from Angelus this year is a watch that was made in consultation with William Massena, founder of Massena LAB. This 99 piece limited edition series of the Chronographe Médical x Massena LAB was inspired by a “doctor’s watch” made by Angelus in the 1960’s, which featured a unique dial with indications designed for medical professionals.
In conjunction with the on board chronograph, a doctor would have been able to use the watch to read the vital signs of a patient, with either a pulsometer – to measure the patient’s pulse, or an asthmometer – to record their respiratory rate.
The modern version of the watch keeps largely to the same aesthetics of the original, with the same cream coloured dial, typefaces, and even the same specific color codes of green, black and red numerals for the pulsometer scale, to indicate the severity of the reading obtained during examination. As well, there is no 30 minute chronograph counter on the dial and only a single monopusher at 2 o’clock, which goes well with the designated use of a watch requiring measurements only up to a minute.
The only concession to modernity is a larger case size of 39mm vs the original’s 36mm, which makes the dial and associated medical scales more legible, as well as a view of the finely finished A5000 calibre from the sapphire caseback, which operates at 3 Hz, and comes with a column wheel and vertical clutch.
Arnold & Son
Ultra Thin Tourbillon Gold
The key advantage of having a manufacture is that it is possible to continually refine and update the movements that one creates. This is the key story behind the new Ultra Thin Tourbillon Gold from Arnold & Son, which on the surface resembles their iconic and well loved UTTE Tourbillon, which at the time of release in 2013 was the thinnest tourbillon watch on the market at 8.34mm thick.
The new watch takes the best features of the UTTE Tourbillon and adds a number of refinements that make it effectively an evolved version of the iconic predecessor. In terms of the case width, it has come down slightly from 42mm to 41.5mm. A slimmer bezel as well allows the dial to breathe more, giving more negative space to enjoy the time-telling sub-dial as well as the flying tourbillon that both reside on its central axis. The watch is also slightly thinner at 8.3mm vs the UTTE Tourbillon’s 8.34mm.
Inside there is a new calibre, the A&S8300 that is the same thickness as the previously used A&S8220 at 2.97mm thick, but it has an improved power reserve of 100 hours as opposed to 90 hours previously.
Aesthetically there are two key external changes for the highlight feature – the tourbillon. The tourbillon carriage has been redesigned to look like a sextant, a navigational tool that references the namesake founder of the brand John Arnold, who was famous for his marine chronometers. Round the back of the watch, one can also see that the tourbillon bridge is now rendered in a luxurious 18K yellow gold which contrasts nicely with the surrounding movement. It is as well, more elaborately hand engraved than that in the UTTE Tourbillon in a more complex pattern that was inspired by a John Arnold pocket watch.
Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud
The best way to think about the Chronomètre FB2T from Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud, is that it is a round case version of the brand’s first creation, the FB, back in 2015, which had an octogonal shaped case.
The FB1 stands as a cornerstone watch for the rest of the Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud’s subsequent watches having been awarded the “Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix best-in-show award at the GPHG 2016.
Like the FB1, the FB2T It is equipped with a mechanical hand wound movement consisting of 1,120 components, developed, crafted and assembled in Fleurier. The FB-T.FC caliber has a 3 Hz low frequency tourbillon with central seconds hand and constant force regulating device with suspended fusee-and-chain transmission.
In coming up with the Chronomètre FB2T, Ferdinand Berthoud decided to dispense with the octagonal shaped case of the FB1 which referenced the boxes that marine chronometers were held in, in favor of a round case which was more traditional in appearance. The FB2T is thus available as one of 38 examples to be made and offered in three variations – designated FB 2T.1; FB 2T.2 and FB 2T.2-1.
In the Chronomètre FB3, Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud focuses on elevating the essential component of time keeping which is the balance spring. Based on Ferdinand Berthoud’s nephew’s decimal watch No. 26, created during the French Revolution, where the main feature was a vertically deployed balance spring, it’s accuracy was adjusted via two dedicated curves where the balance spring meets the balance wheel; and the pin of the balance bridge – the distinctive geometry of the curves is named “Berthoud”.
The FB 3SPC offers clear views of this mechanism through a central main plate with 16 bridges (six on the dial side, ten on the case back side). At 12 o’clock the barrel is held in place by a 120 degree bridge. There are three days of power reserve – with 8 hours more before the movement stops; hacking seconds; beating at 3Hz. Bridges support the small seconds at 6 o’clock; perhaps most striking is the regulating mechanism at 9 o’clock secured by four dedicated screw-in heel bridges, typical of 18th century construction. The large variable inertia balance wheel and cylindrical balance spring sits at the centre of the mechanism. It is currently the world’s only Tourbillon free regulating organ with cylindrical balance wheel which is also COSC certified.
Available in two versions. An 18K white gold case with 2N pale yellow gold movement components and an eggshell coloured dial. An 18K 5N rose gold case with black rhodium-plated components and translucent black patent dial. Limited to 25 watches produced annually.
Vagabonde X Black Badger
The Vagabonde X Black Badger, plays with the duality of night and day; light and dark; and highlights the differences between them whilst redefining their mutual connection. Black Badger, otherwise known as James Thompson, is a world renowned designer who has worked with high end watch brands, giving his unique take on the possibilities of SuperLuminova.
In the new Hautlence Vagabonde X Black Badger, it is a next generation SuperLuminova technology called “Badgerite” that has been used to provide the unique shapes that form the features on the dial of the watch. The “Badgerite” forms a pattern around the time telling discs (wandering time display) to enhance its visual appeal in the day – manifested by the energetic orange patterns on blue background of the dial. When day turns into night, the “Badgerite” patterns light up giving the whole dial another face – and for the wearer a unique time telling experience in the dark
The base Vagabonde comes in the form of the iconic TV shaped case, with four discs working in harmony to show the passing of time. Limited to 28 pieces, it comes with an automatic in-house calibre and an integrated rubber bracelet.
Linear Series Two
The Liner Series Two is a continuation of the Linear Series One that was launched in 2022 at the Geneva Watch Days, with both watches being essentially the same technically but differing in their color schemes.
The Linear Series Two is a decidedly sporty offering, featuring the iconic Hautlence TV shaped case now attached securely via a new integrated rubber strap and a water resistance to 100 metres and a 72 hour power reserve. These specifications ensure that this is a watch that will be able to stand up to most things that life will throw at you.
Yet there is more that this watch brings to the table with the best of high watchmaking evident in the specification. For starters it contains the D50 In-house automatic tourbillon movement that has a double hairspring, a component coming from sister brand, H Moser & Cie with their inhouse hairspring making ability. Then there is the multi-layered dial that features 3D Globolight® indexes, for an unrivaled show of the dial when the lights go down. Lastly, there is the Hautlence style of having an alternative time telling display via the linear retrograde jumping hours, with the components of how it works visible through the open worked section of the dial.
Significantly, the new Linear Series Two comes with a stealthy black theme as opposed to the vibrant blue of the Linear Series One. This new colourway does give a more purpose-oriented demeanor to the watch, and is probably more suitable for a wider range of wearing situations. Limited to 28 pieces.
Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante
Building on the success of 2022’s Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante, the Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante arrives with another related and similarly discreet innovation. It is a hidden on-demand function that lets one see in minutes (either five or one minute settings manipulated by two pushers at 8 o’clock and ten o’clock respectively) the time left until a target moment.
The functionality is similar to what you would have with a countdown bezel, in which you mark an event up to 60 minutes in the future and be able to watch as the time counts down to it, yet it is different because it relies on exceptional watchmaking know-how to achieve, and it can disappear completely to leave an elegant time only watch when it is not required.
The rhodium plated minute hand hides a rose gold minute rattrapante hand which is called into action when the desired functions are activated via the pushers. As the rhodium minute hand approaches the selected position of the minute rattrapante, the countdown continues until the two hands overlap and target time is reached. Resetting is achieved via a third pusher on the winding crown.
Tonda PF Micro Rotor
The Tonda PF Micro Rotor represents an aspect of watchmaking that seems easy to accomplish yet is fiendishly difficult when attempted – Simplicity is a distillation of the essential elements and in this the Tonda PF Micro Rotor is the ultimate manifestation of this principle.
The basic design achieves further refinement as it is presented in an all platinum case, bracelet and dial. The calibre PF 703 self winding is ultra thin at 3mm and is motivated by a platinum micro-rotor. This allows the watch to blend smoothly into the contours of the wrist comfortably as it is only 7.8mm thick. Functions are hours, minutes and date; superbly displayed on a 40mm dial with a pared down, sandblasted textured platinum dial. The overall effect is one of subtle transformations with the interplay of various textures and shapes present, that is still practical to wear as its water resistance is 100m.
Tonda PF Split Seconds Chronograph
It might seem difficult to believe that the split seconds chronograph is as difficult to achieve as a minute repeater or tourbillon but it does mean that any watch brand that is able to make one inhouse has the technical ability to do almost anything in watchmaking.
Designed to measure intermediate times, a split seconds chronograph does this with two superimposed central seconds hands activated by the one o’clock and four o’clock pushers. A second press of the four o’clock pusher brings the second chronograph hand in line with the first – to ‘catch up’ or rattrapante (in French). The integrated manufacture movement beats at 5 Hz (36,000 beats per minute) with 309 components and 65 hour power reserve. Two column wheels play the roles of operating the chronograph and the split seconds mechanism.
Achieving haute horology standards here is requisite, starting with a vertical clutch and balance held by an 18ct rose gold bridge amidst a baseplate of the same material, with aesthetic hand finishing throughout. The whole watch is of course luxuriously presented in 18k rose gold – from the case, bracelet and folding clasp, knurled bezel, crown and pushers – 42mm in diameter and 15mm thick. The dial is platinum 950 and features tachymeter and pulsometer scales, in a sandblasted finish, with hand applied 18k rose gold appliqués and skeletonised hands and with the chronograph and small seconds hands in rhodium or rose gold plated.
Jacob & Co
Jason & Co’s Astronomia Revolution definitely lives up to its name in more ways than one. The watch’s Caliber JCAM48B spins a double axis flying Tourbillon in sixty seconds. The mechanism of the watch also forms a third axis in this magical sequence, with the whole carriage powered by massive energy generated by a patented and innovative constant force mechanism powered by two barrels of exceptional size.
Beneath this feat of technical brilliance – is a red gold, curved 18 array mirror field inspired by James Webb’s Space Telescope. The seconds are shown via a spinning arrow with a ruby head which looks like a space probe.
This is the peak evolution of the Astronomia series – the four arms of the satellite carriage, each bearing a different function – spinning around a central axis completing a rotation once every 20 minutes, then 10, then 5 and now 1 minute.
The entire carriage is visible from above, from the sides, from below. The sapphire case is polished for 20 days by hand to ensure diamond-like clarity; The caseband is made of transparent sapphire as are the open worked lugs offering 360 degree views of the movement. Lastly, the Astronomia Revolution is a chronometer, with 36 hour power reserve, and is 47mm in diameter, with a height of 27mm.