From gemstones to candies, neon brights to pastel lights, the horology creations at this year’s edition of Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie was a sweet store of delights. Charmaine Ho reports.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

The 29th Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) was buzzing with activity. An international horde of journalists had descended upon Geneva once again for the sole purpose of previewing the first wave of timepieces for the year. And what a show they got: There were technical marvels and haute joaillerie designs aplenty, resulting in a buffet of wonders to satiate any gourmand desire.

Audemars Piguet, for example, kicked things off  with an unbeatable act. To continue the high momentum set by its Diamond Trilogy, the brand unleashed a new gem-encrusted number that would look right at home on the set of the next Star Trek movie. The Sapphire Orb features over 12,100 snow-set diamonds and sapphires set on a concentric frame. In the midst of its articulated waves sits a 2cm swivel orb that reveals a petite dial. Approximately 1,050 hours went into its gem-setting alone, resulting in a futuristic secret watch designed to get heads turning and tongues wagging, especially when worn with an avant-gardist ensemble like those by Iris van Herpen.

As if this were not enough, the brand, which will not be returning to Palexpo next year, raised the bar with Code 11.59, a new collection that Audemars Piguet CEO Francois-Henry Bennahmias has been quoted as calling the brand’s “most important launch” since the unveiling of the iconoclast Royal Oak in 1972. While others might be happy with a healthy showing of five new watches, Audemars Piguet threw down the gauntlet with 13 references containing three new calibres and fi ve complications, including a Perpetual Calendar, Flying Tourbillon and a Minute Repeater.

Richard Mille (yet another brand who will not be returning), on the other hand, took a different approach to mark its last SIHH showing. Like a perfectly plated dessert to end a meal on an unforgettable note, the watchmaker’s Bonbon collection lightens the heart with vivacious colours and motifs that speak directly to anyone with a sweet tooth: Sweets and sugar-frosted fruits that hark back to carefree childhood days and visits to the candy store.

Arguably one of the most talked about collections at the fair (if only because of the collection’s unexpected direction, coming from a watchmaker so connected to sports and supercar racing), Bonbon features 10 references—each produced in a limited edition of just 30 pieces—and offers a smorgasbord of delectable delights like marshmallows and candied orange slices on designs that any athleisure-clad hypebeast or hip-hop denizen would sport with glee.

Over at Cartier, the Maison once again turned its impeccable eye to the shape of things to come with the same finesse that saw the birth of the Crash watch (an emblem of trend-breaking artistic freedom) in 1912. From Baignoire timepieces that have had their oval forms stretched even further, to the Libre collection’s play on proportions and colours, Cartier has once again put forth collections that amaze and astonish with their breadth and complexity.

The Révélation d’une Panthère watch, for example, sees the master of illusion returning to the captivating sleight of hand that it first unveiled in 2017. While its precursor saw minute gold beads tumbling down its Ronde Louis Cartier watch dial to form a graphic panther’s head, this year’s edition sees a shower of 650 diamonds dancing on the black lacquer dial. Throw in the new fleet of Santos de Cartier (including the revamped Santos-Dumont that’s perfect for the feminine wrist), and cuff versions of its Panthère de Cartier that would look oh-so-perfect peeking out from under a French cuff, and you’ve got yourself a glorious showing that explains why women react with such excitement when receiving that red box.

Not to be outdone in the jewellery watch department is Piaget who returned to the fair with the same joie de vivre that has allowed it to stand out from the crowd. Shining the spotlight once again on hand-engraved gold straps (a Piaget signature), the brand has unveiled a new Extremely Lady timepiece with a snake scale pattern running continuously from strap to dial for a effortlessly bold yet feminine vibe. In the Limelight Gala department, yet another brand signature is brought to the foreground with hard stone dials in the form of malachite accompanied by the horizontally etched “Décor Palace” finish. Altiplano timepieces with coloured meteorite dials round up a glamorous offering that is as at home on the red carpet as it is on the French Riviera.

Last but not least is Jaeger-LeCoultre, who brought out the big guns with a new Hybris Mechanica that delivers everything its impressive name promises: The Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel sees the watchmaker returning to its revered multi-axis tourbillon, but scaled down to a micro version that’s just 8.8mm wide and 0.4gms light. Even more astonishing are the other functions that have been tucked snugly into its 43mm case—from the Westminster Carillon Minute Repeater, to the Perpetual Calendar (whose date can be adjusted both forwards or backwards)—fronted by a blue grand feu enamel or silver-grained openworked dial.

For women, the Manufacture has released several new Rendez-Vous editions. The Rendez-Vous Moon timepiece, for example, presents a new updated Moon Phase display in the midst of a beguiling textured guilloché dial. Then, there are the two new jewellery designs for the Night & Day and Moon models that feature 186 diamonds (3.52 carats) on its dial and bezel, the latter of which is set with the Griffe technique—a modified prong setting that holds the diamond above the case for optimum light reflection and brilliance.

From decadent diamond designs that play out the romance of time in metal and stones, to beautiful metier d’art creations that showcase immense creativity and prowess on canvases barely 40mm wide, there is plenty for women to look forward to in the race for time.

My Reading Room
My Reading Room
There were technical marvels and haute joaillerie designs aplenty, resulting in a buffet of wonders to satiate any gourmand desire.
My Reading Room
My Reading Room
Clockwise from top left: Gold, spinel, sapphire and diamond Baignoire Allongée watch, Cartier. Piaget’s pink gold, malachite and diamond LImelight Gala watch pairs beautifully with the brand’s other hard stone creations. Pink gold and diamond RendezVous Night & Day Jewellery watch, Jaeger-LeCoultre. OPPOSITE: (from left) Carbon TPT® RM 37-01 Automatic Cerise and Kiwi watch, Richard Mille. White gold, sapphire and diamond Sapphire Orb watch, Audemars Piguet.