l’ll start my appraisal with the big guns, Rolex. Sadly there wasn’t a new Daytona, as I’d been hoping, but there were some great new models on show. A few years ago the brand introduced a 41mm version of the classic Day-Date, which I felt was clumsy looking. They kept the original 36mm one in production, but that is now considered small for a gents’ watch. I always thought 38/39mm would be ideal and Rolex CEO Jean-Frédéric Dufour, who joined a year ago from Zenith, must have been thinking along the same lines. At 40mm, the new Oyster Perpetual Day-Date is not much smaller, but has been redesigned and fitted with a new movement. This fantastic reboot should ensure that the ‘Presidents’ watch’, as it has long been known, will have many more years ahead of it and I am looking forward to trying it on in the flesh.
We also saw a new Yacht-Master in an 18-carat Everose gold case with a Cerachrom black ceramic bezel and a new Oysterflex strap. There’s a 40mm and 37mm version, which will allow more scope for different sized wrists. The strap looks like rubber but is actually a material they call ‘elastomer’. It’s totally new for Rolex and I hope it will filter down to the sports line. Exciting times lie ahead for a brand that is firmly back on track after a couple of off-par models in recent years.
I thought we might see a period of flux for Zenith when Jean-Frédéric Dufour left last year. My fears were unfounded, and in fact its El Primero Chronograph Classic was my pick of the show. It’s not an overly expensive watch, but ticks all the right boxes. It’s sized at 42mm, housed in a case that Zenith has never used before, is just over 11mm thick, and houses a version of Zenith’s excellent El Primero movement.
I heard that it’s a very tactile watch and, as with the Day-Date, I’m looking forward to road testing this one.
Patek Philippe was by far the most talked-about brand at the show. Most of that attention was focused on the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time ref 5524G in white gold; mainly because it bears an uncanny resemblance to the dial of one of Zenith’s pilot watches. This was not considered acceptable by many Patek purists who felt it didn’t symbolise the brand and was a poor attempt to gain a new audience.
But there was also another camp who really liked the watch because, if you forget about Zenith, it’s a lovely looking timepiece that’s entirely unlike Patek’s other offerings. I personally don’t really like it but it will sell for sure and will probably be very collectable in future. I also think it overshadowed some other great releases, such as the 5370 Split-Seconds Chronograph.
Now, I am not normally into brand collaborations as they can seem a bit tacky. Having said that, Bremont’s Jaguar MKII caught my eye for the right reasons. It draws subtle inspiration from the gauges of the 1960s E-Type Jag, and the retro logo is low-key and doesn’t overpower the dial. Turn the watch over and the automatic movement’s winding rotor is inspired by the three-spoke steering wheel — another nice, understated touch.
The final watch comes from a brand I have never written about before, but Georg Jensen’s Koppel Mechanical Hand wound Small Seconds caught my attention. I am sucker for a green strap and this one has just the perfect shade. The original Koppel watch debuted in 1978, inspired by the designs of famed designer Henning Koppel, and this new model, sized at 38mm, remains a masterclass in Danish understatement, as did the original.
Now comes the hard part of saving up to buy one of these watches when they hit the market in this region later this year. Good luck choosing your favourite — and coming up with the cash!