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To Watches and Wonders, The MAD Gallery and Beyond

Last month I had the pleasure of flying to Geneva for Watches and Wonders.

However leading up to this I took the opportunity to arrange a meeting and showroom visit with MB&F at their MAD Gallery. I figured it was the perfect opportunity to bring the Retro-Bot to visit what I hope will be its future home.

As a bit of back story; late last year I had been in touch with Max Busser via the old fashioned medium of letter writing. I reached out to say how much I admired what he does and how I would like to in many ways emulate his creativity and success. To my shock he replied and was impressed by the Retro-Bot. He had the manager of the MAD Gallery reach out and enquire about my design, the retail and wholesale prices and what my plans for it were in the future. The conversations continued while they renovated their gallery and as Watches and Wonders rolled around their gallery was complete and ready for guests. I arranged to call in to view the new place and asked if I could bring the Retro-Bot. I expected a bit of resistance but was met with a delighted invitation to bring it along.



When I turned up on the Saturday morning I assumed I would get a 10 minute meeting, a quick demonstration and then they would move on to talk to their other clients. I was amazed when we had a meeting from over an hour and we spent a long time discussing the Retro-Bot, showing it to one of the designers and staff members. They offered advice and possible ideas for bringing the Retro-Bot to the next level. We discussed everything from finishing, weight distribution, bolt types, colours, packaging and even presentation videos. When I left my mind was swimming with ideas and a realisation occurred. I was at a crossroads. I will discuss the outcomes and details of this in an email shortly to the people who subscribe and support me on my mailing list. There is a lot to explain and hopefully you will be willing to come along on the journey. Please subscribe to know more.


The second part of my trip was taken up with my first trip to Watches and Wonders. I've decided to do a little review of some of the highlights and some of my opinions on the various releases.

I hope you enjoy the read.

 

Every year one of the most anticipated reveals comes from Rolex. Huge crowds gather around their stand hoping to get a glimpse of the latest releases and decide if they want to join the long waiting lists to purchase their preferred model at retail prices. While 2023 saw some unique pieces and dial designs that moved outside of the usual Rolex comfort zone, this year Rolex kept things more subdued. Fans hoping for a new version of the Milgaus were left disappointed. However, the Crown released a watch that had a lot of people baffled but it was still talked about at length by everyone in attendance and across all the media. Rolex released an all-gold Deep-Sea Dweller. This was huge and adding the extra weight by making it gold only adds to how humongous it looks and feels. It’s a strange material choice for a watch that can easily go to the deepest parts of the ocean while strapped to the outside of a submarine but maybe Rolex knows something we the public don’t.

As well as the Deepsea, Rolex released a very subdued tweak to the Master GMT II with a grey and black bezel being the main difference from the other models available. Another year has gone by and another request by the fans for a new Coke bezel has been ignored. Maybe the production issues around the 2 colours on the ceramic bezel still aren’t cracked.

 

Rolex’s baby sister Tudor had a slightly better release with the new Pink Dial Black Bay Chronograph in partnership with Inter Miami. This was launched/leaked just before the show and was on hand for the journalists and people in the industry during the week but was absent when the public arrived. This was one of the watches I really wanted to get hands on with but alas it was nowhere to be found and instead we were treated to a strange promotional video voice by what sounded like a fake AI voice talking about what it was like to be a Tudor watch. Besides some changes in size to their existing models and some models we have already seen in authorised dealers’ boutiques there was little else to excite me.


Moving on to IWC I was hugely impressed with the perpetual calendar release which once correctly set won’t need to be adjusted for millions of years. I’m not sure who will be around to check the accuracy, but it’s an amazing feat of engineering encapsulated in a watch you can wear comfortably on your wrist. The IWC stand featured a massive moon feature which projected light down into a pool of water which had the new watch releases floating on small Perspex islands below. I’ve always been impressed with the perpetual calendar watches from IWC and was delighted to try on the Big Pilot Perpetual Lake Tahoe in all its splendour. I’m hoping they release a white ceramic bracelet for this soon to match the all black and all green versions they have already released. That would be my ultimate exit watch but at over 42000 Swiss francs for the watch on rubber I will need to save for a while before I can get it.




Patek Phillipe had a subdued launch for some of their watches. Mainly iterating on existing designs as opposed to launching anything ground-breaking or new. Many of the watches were available to view on the outside of the stand in one of the windows. The only one that caught my eye was a sapphire covered Nautilus but maybe that was just the reflection of light off the stones as opposed to any attraction to the model itself. I did like the 5396G in white gold but Patek has never been a brand that spoke to my style so I have a take it or leave it attitude toward them.

Many brands this year decided to keep their releases simple and limit it to only one or 2 watches. A Lange & Sonne focussed on their Duograph Perpetual Tourbillion Honeygold Lumen. A long name for a very complex and beautiful watch. On their stand you are greeted by a larger than life replica of one of their watches hanging from the ceiling. This allows you an in depth 360 degree look at the watch. Its an amazing display. On the stand there are a select few models to  view and a small dark room area to experience the Lumen in all its glowing glory. I love lume and this looked fantastic.

 



 

 

Another stand that had a Lifesize version of their watch was the ever-impressive Ulysse Nardin and their replica of the Freak watch. The design of the Freak watch is famous for having the full movement incorporated into its hands as they rotate around the watch allowing the owner to view the amazing feat of engineering and more importantly tell the time. 80% of the stand is made up of a large replica of the movement that you are invited to stand or sit on while you look up at the reflection of you standing on the watch in the massive mirror hanging from the ceiling. Its very amusing and interesting to see yourself walking around a huge watch face as if you have been shrunk down to the size of an ant. Getting to try on the watch that I was just walking inside with their CEO was a delightfully surreal moment but one I enjoyed immensely. I also ran in to Nico Van Der Horst of youtube fame for a quick chat and photo on the stand.

 

There were some surprising releases from brands you wouldn’t normally associate with watches such as Hermes who released a minute repeater with a full sapphire bridge which allows the owner a full view of all the beautifully finished cogs and wheels withing the movement. Add to this the chime hammers designed like horses’ heads and gears designed to resemble the cartwheels on the carriage in their logo. A nice touch from the head of sales came when he discussed the design cues by using the logo on the back of his tie to point out the various design parts that transferred to the watch.


My main highlights came from many of the smaller independent brands. Seeing watches by watchmakers like Groenfeld from the Netherlands and Ressence with their oil filled watches makes me smile and wonder why people even bother with the bigger watch giants. There are so many more interesting options available from smaller brands and for similar or lower prices. This is always a key argument I have among my watch friends. Why would I spend 20,000 on a basic Rolex with no notable horological wizardry when I could support an artisan who creates an amazingly beautiful and complex watch for the same retail price.



Honourable mentions go to the wonderful salespeople at Chopard, the designer with Laurent Ferrier and the amazingly named Baptiste Cassanova from Piaget for their hospitality. Next year when I go back to Geneva for the 2025 show I might decide to take one day for the show and another to experience the large independent watchmaking community on show who were not part of the main event but were on display at various satellite shows around Geneva. MB&F, Urwerk, Kari Voutilainen, and L’eppee are all on my list for next year. I might even call in to Audemars Piguet while I’m there. Overall my first experience at Watches and Wonders was enjoyable, I’ll definitely go back.

 

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