Women were at the heart of the 2014 edition of the Haute Horlogerie exhibition in Asia. And what better way to appeal to their sense of beauty than to combine the métiers d’art with mechanical art. An alliance that might almost have overshadowed the collections for men.
Is Watches&Wonders guilty of sexism? Were men not welcome at this second edition of the fair? Was this a ladies-only event? A slight exaggeration perhaps, but only to be expected: wherever visitors turned, displays were overflowing with timepieces for women’s wrists. Had brands come to some prior agreement, or was this symptomatic of a space waiting to be filled? A space, but no longer a gaping hole as the mechanical 2015 Newest Omega Replica Watches continues to score points among female admirers of fine timepieces. Or perhaps we can put it down to efforts made by watch brands these past few years in their sudden awareness that there is a substantial “new” audience out there.
Whatever the reason, the results are plain to see. Roger Dubuis‘ Velvet line, introduced in 2013, already accounts for 30% of sales, and this without any real promotional campaign to back the launch. These timepieces are now hot property, says Alvaro Maggini, Creative Director of the brand. So much so, in fact, that Roger Dubuis has decided to give the line its full attention, with new designs and a new campaign fronted by Stephanie Seymour. The fact remains that Roger Dubuis has to work harder in Asia than in Europe to win women’s hearts. Granted, the fairer sex in China or Korea have learned to appreciate the ticking of a mechanical watch, but still less so than their German or Italian counterparts. That said, Roger Dubuis has permanently banished quartz from its timepieces, all of which are Poinçon de Genève certified.
Jaeger-LeCoultre‘s experience is no less telling. Barely three years after launching Rendez-Vous, this eminently feminine collection has cornered 40% of sales in quantity. Not that the brand has spared any effort. Having already equipped its Rendez-Vous with a tourbillon, followed by a Perpetual Calendar and a moving star chart, Jaeger-LeCoultre came to Hong Kong with a Rendez-Vous Ivy Minute Repeater, driven by the new 942A calibre. “When we introduced the first Rendez-Vous, we proposed the steel models in two versions, one with a quartz movement and the other mechanical,” explained Chief Executive Daniel Riedo. “However, we quickly realised that our women customers were buying the quartz models because the mechanical versions had sold out. We therefore ceased production of the electronic version. In a way, this confirmed our choices for this collection.”
Destination métiers d’art
As for the choice of when and where to preview their workshops’ latest creations for women, numerous brands opted for the Hong Kong fair. Baume & Mercier took the opportunity to show off Promesse, a collection that takes inspiration from the brand’s archives and a design first seen in the 1970s. Montblanc, meanwhile, put on a sparkling display with an original collection by the name of Bohème, spearhead of the brand in Hong Kong much as the Meisterstück Heritage had been in Geneva, but in a masculine vein. All that remained was for IWC to warm the atmosphere with a hint of la dolce vita, as the watchmaker returned to its favourite Italian resort for the launch of the Portofino Midsize, its gift to women who aren’t immune to a hint of Latin charm on their wrist.
This horological red carpet laid out before the ladies visiting the fair could only lead to one place: the workshops where the brands’ craftsmen and women explore the métiers d’art in which these Maisons excel. Piaget gave one of the most convincing demonstrations. A consummate master of extra-thin timepieces whose achievements include a double record for the thinnest watch in the world (Altiplano 900P – 3.65 mm) and the thinnest self-winding calibre ever (1208P – 2.35 mm), the brand has added a new string to its bow in the form of skeletonwork. The two together have opened up a whole new playground for Piaget, which naturally didn’t come to Watches&Wonders empty-handed. It presented two new versions of the Altiplano Skeleton Automatic, driven by the 1200S calibre which set its own record in 2012. On one, both sides of the movement are engraved; on the other, bridges and plate are enamelled. An achievement made all the more impressive by the wafer-thinness of the parts, some a mere 0.7mm high.
Diamonds and dragons
Similarly dizzying heights were achieved at Cartier, where the five one-off Les Heures Joaillières Fake Rolex Watches, along with the Pasha 42mm Skeleton Dragon Decor and its diamond-set, engraved 9617 MC calibre, left no doubt as to the brand’s brilliant mastery of the métiers d’art. Chinese mythology represents the dragon as a force of nature, and this creature of legend certainly wasn’t going to miss an event of this calibre on Asian soil. Richard Mille proposed a meticulously crafted dragon in the form of its Tourbillon RM 57-01 Phoenix and Dragon – Jackie Chan. Its movement is inhabited by the two legendary creatures, carved from rose gold then engraved and incised by hand. In the brand’s own words, “miniature tools had to be made specifically to achieve the desired artistic rendering of the two creatures. There then followed a long and painstaking process of micro-painting to ensure absolute realism, even on parts that will not be visible.” More dragons were on view at Vacheron Constantin. Its extraordinary Empreinte du Dragon houses astronomical complications inside a case whose surface is completely covered in “dragon scales”. They are the work of one of the most experienced master hand-engravers of his generation.
Having contemplated this masterpiece, visitors could then marvel at the other major production which Vacheron Constantin took to Hong Kong: the Maître Cabinotier Astronomica. This pièce de résistance brings together a full fifteen complications inside the new, hand-wound 2755-B1 calibre. Among the other rarities on show at Watches&Wonders were Van Cleef & Arpels’ Midnight Planetarium, a wrist-sized replica of the solar system, unveiled to the public earlier in the year, and two Watches&Wonders exclusivities, namely the Roger Dubuis Hommage Minute Repeater Tourbillon Automatic and the Montblanc Metamorphosis II, whose face transforms from a simple hours, minutes and date configuration to a monopusher chronograph by means of a mechanism that substitutes one dial for another. As for A. Lange & Söhne, it turned the spotlight on the Langematik Perpetual, the Glashütte firm’s first ever automatic Top Omega Replica Watches with perpetual calendar and oversized date, presented in white gold with a black dial. Watches&Wonders couldn’t have hoped for more for its second edition. Nor could the 16,000 visitors, women and men!