Watches & Wonders


By Nancy Olson

Storytelling and imagery are important players in communication, creating connection, emotion and, as a result, remembrance.

Watches and Wonders 2023 in Geneva was rife with stories, often told most dramatically by the watch brandsrespective exhibit space. From the fantasy of jewels at Van Cleef & Arpels to A. Lange & Sohnes Odysseus Chronograph, there was a lot to take in and even more to inspire.

The Montblanc booth at Watches and Wonders 2023 featured an oversized nib as a pendulum.

Walking into the Montblanc booth, for example, was like entering a mountain landscape, where shades of gray, white and wood conjured the primary palette and motif of this years watch debuts. The bold imagery also served as a link between the art of writing—Montblancs foundation in pens since 1906—time, and the theme of exploration. And owing to the brands reputation in handcrafting its pen points, the centerpiece was a dramatic oversize Montblanc nib pendulum, which uninterruptedly drew mountain scenes on a round canvas suggestive of a watch dial.

Each watch in the new Montblanc 1858 Zero Oxygen 8000 Capsule Collection features a Sfumato dark grey Glacier pattern dial, replicating the color of the rock and ice at 8,000 meters.

Montblanc’s Managing Director Watch Division Laurent Lecamp emphasized the importance of imagery and storytelling to share important themes. Story is the soul of the world of Montblanc,” he explained to me during our recent interview. Thus the company often engages high-profile individuals, fans of the brand, to help recount the narrative.

The back of the Montblanc 1858 Geosphere 0 Oxygen 8000 pictures K2, the world’s second-highest mountain.

Reinhold Messner and Nimsdai Purja, mountaineers and Montblanc Mark-Makers,” inspired Montblanc’s intricate art-inspired booth space, as well as the new watches in the collection. Even the walls told a tale, incorporating the mens words taken from their written accounts of climbing expeditions.

The new Montblanc 1858 Geosphere 0 Oxygen The 8000, with MB 29.25 automatic worldtime movement.
This Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date Boutique Edition comes in a 41mm stainless steel case.

Following suit, the 1858 Zero Oxygen The 8000 watch collection on display for the first time revealed colors that recall the rock and ice found at high altitudes, made using zero oxygen technology.

The new Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Chronograph 0 Oxygen The 8000 LE 290 44mm .

All four of the Montblanc 1858 Zero Oxygen 8000 Capsule Collection debuts join Montblanc’s Zero Oxygen series. The collection’s  timepieces boast zero oxygen inside their cases to not only eliminate fogging, but also to prevent oxidization.

The new Montblanc 1858 Unveiled Secret Minerva Monopusher Chronograph LE 88. Inside is a reversed Minerva caliber.

Taking the imagery one step further, the very beautiful and complex Montblanc Unveiled Secret Minerva Monopusher Chronograph, while not specifically among the 8000 Capsule Collection models, nonetheless displays a distressed steel case created partly by tumbling and brushing the metal with quartzite straight from the company’s namesake mountain, Mont Blanc.



During Watches and Wonders 2023, IWC revisited its Ingenieur collection by debuting Ingenieur Automatic 40, a new collection of three steel-cased models, while also adding a new titanium version of the watch.

The new IWC Automatic 40 titanium model. Three steel-cases model also debuted at Watches and Wonders.
The back of the IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40 in titanium.

While we’ve seen titanium versions of the post-1976 Gerald Genta-designed Ingenieur in the past, this year’s debut is an all-new ongoing model that, from early notices, seems bound to be a hit for the Schaffhausen-based watchmaker.

With a name meaning ‘engineer in both French and German, the Ingenieur collection has been where IWC placed its most ‘technical’ designs over the years. IWC launched the collection in 1955 to highlight its first automatic movement protected with a soft-iron inner case for magnetic field protection.


This tool-watch focus remains as all the new Ingenieur Automatic 40 references are powered by the IWC-manufactured Caliber 32111, boasting a superior power reserve of 120 hours.

Also, all the new models feature soft-iron inner cases to protect the movements from magnetic fields, and all are water-resistant to 100 meters. 

The latest Ingenieur collection traces its design from the 1970s, more specifically from Gérald Genta’s Ingenieur SL, Reference 1832.

IWC modeled the new collection on the 1970s-era Ingenieur SL Ref. 1832, designed by Gerald Genta.

On each Ingenieur Automatic 40 watch you’ll see five functional, polygonal screws along the bezel to secure the bezel to the case. These echo the Genta design, though on the original model the screws were not always in the same location along the bezel.


Here, a permanent pattern for the screws contributes to the case and bezel design while also enhancing the watch’s integrity.

To create its new, distinctive ‘grid’ pattern dial, IWC’s watchmakers stamp the pattern (small lines offset by 90 degrees to each other) into a soft iron blank, and then galvanize it.

The result is a pleasing texture and design that meshes nicely with the entire watch’s technical nature. A new, slightly curved case enhances the model’s wrist friendliness.

For the steel Ingenieur Automatic 40, IWC offers black, silver and aqua dials, while the titanium model is matched with a nice grey dial, notably darker than the silver-dialed steel model.

The titanium watch (Ref. IW328904 ) is also sand-blasted with polished bevels and brushed sides.


Its sturdy integrated Grade 5 titanium bracelet with butterfly folding clasp maintains the entire watch’s lightness, which also contributes to the watch’s wrist-friendliness. Titanium’s anti-allergy properties are also a plus.

Price: $11,700 (steel) and $14,600 (titanium).

During its first appearance at Watches and Wonders in Geneva, which this year concluded on April 2,  Frederique Constant unveiled a special thirty-fifth anniversary edition of its Classic Tourbillon Manufacture.

The new Frederique Constant Classic Tourbillon Manufacture, now measuring 39mm in diameter.

Offered in a now-smaller 39mm rose gold case and sporting a beautiful anthracite grey sun-brushed dial with gold hands, the new watch is a cleanly designed model that, at $27,595, is among the most ‘affordable’ in-house Swiss Made tourbillon-regulated watches available, a distinction in line with this Geneva manufacturer’s long-held aim to create high-value luxury watches.

As noted, this latest example of the Frederique Constant Classic Tourbillon Manufacture measures 39mm in diameter, the new size for the Classic Manufacture series. Previous examples of the watch measured 42mm in diameter. The three-hand watch continues to be powered by the in-house automatic FC-980 caliber, first developed in 2008.

Also celebrating its thirty-fifth anniversary, Frédérique Constant offers the watch as an anniversary model in a limited edition of 150, each one individually numbered. In keeping with the brand’s own traditions, the tourbillon is exposed at the 6 o’clock position.

Frédérique Constant fits the movement with a silicon escapement wheel and anchor, which means the owner will benefit from a non-magnetic movement unaffected by variations in temperature.

The watchmaker also engraves each watch’s individual serial number on the rim of the sapphire caseback.

Through the back, the owner can eye (and display) the FC-980 caliber’s fine decor, which includes beveling, beading, circular graining, straight-grained flanks and mirror polishing.

The Frederique Constant Classic Tourbillon Manufacture comes on a dark matte brown leather strap with deployant clasp. Price: $27,595.

More than two decades after releasing the groundbreaking Freak, Ulysse Nardin introduces the Freak One, a version of the flying carrousel movement watch that revives its three signature characteristics: no dial, no hands and no crown.

The new Ulysse Nardin Freak One.

However, the new watch now benefits from the many technical advances Ulysse Nardin devised during the past twenty years (Note that since 2001, Ulysse Nardin has filed more than twenty patents for the Freak).

Thus, the new Freak One is regulated by a silicon hairspring (which Ulysse Nardin introduced in 2008) and is regulated with an escapement treated with the synthetic diamond and silicon plasma treatment called DIAMonSIL, which Ulysse Nardin added to the Freak in 2007.

A more recent technical flourish, the proprietary automatic Grinder system, means the Freak One is much more easily wound.

The system is twice as efficient as a traditional winding system and contributes to the long seventy-two-hour power reserve of the UN-240 manufacture caliber inside.

Aesthetically, the new Freak One combines several favorite Freak designs from the past. These include the notched bezel of the original 2001 Freak, the open gear train seen on the 2013 Freak Cruiser, plus the high-legibility of the 2018 Freak Vision.

As a sort of tribute watch to its original model, the new Freak One glows with beautifully finished rose gold movement components and a rose gold bezel, all contrasting luxuriously with the 44mm black DLC-coated titanium case.

The lightweight metal plus a newly integrated 30% recycled textured rubber strap (one of three included) combine to make the Freak One quite comfortable on the wrist.  

Price: $68,600. 

Specifications: Ulysse Nardin Freak One

Caliber: UN-240 Manufacture automatic movement, 72-hour power reserve, frequency 3 Hz (21,600 V/H) hours, minutes displayed via flying carrousel movement rotating around its own axis. Silicon oversized oscillator and balance spring DIAMonSIL treatment to escapement, Grinder automatic winding system with blades technology, rose-gold bridges with Super-LumiNova, Black engraved sunray pattern on the barrel cover.

Case: 44mm by 12mm black DLC-coated titanium with satin finish, rose gold 5N bezel, black titanium case back with sapphire insert, water-resistant to 30 meters. 

Bracelets: Black rubber ‘ballistic’ textured strap, black matte alligator leather strap and two-tone rubber strap with black DLC-coated titanium deployant buckle. Rubber straps made of 30% recycled rubber from production waste by BIWI, Switzerland.

Price: $68,600.

The Calatrava Reference 5224R-001, the headliner among the seventeen new watches unveiled by Patek Philippe during Watches and Wonders 2023, scores high for legibility, ease of use and originality.

New Ref. 5224R is a Calatrava model equipped with the Travel Time dual time zone function and a 24-hour display.

Arriving amid a strong set of debuts, including a highly jeweled Grandmaster Chime and the first annual calendar within the Aquanaut Luce collection (to be covered in upcoming posts), this newest adaptation of Patek Philippe’s Travel Time dual-time display is paired with an original display of local time and home time via two center hands turning on a 24-hour circle.


Patek Philippe has used similar 24-hour displays, but most have been seen on watches from the distant past. In the early twentieth century Patek Philippe made a series of Chronometro Gondolo watches for the Brazilian retailer Gondolo & Labouriau.


But for the new watch, Patek Philippe flipped the original design. Instead of placing the noontime indication at the more traditional 6 o’clock position, Patek Philippe opts to update (and, to many, simplify) the display by placing noon at the top of the dial where, it seems, more wearers look when checking the time.


In another nod to simplicity and aesthetics, Patek Philippe has also replaced the traditional in-case correction pushers for local time with a new patented correction system that allows the user to pull out the crown.


When pulled out to the intermediate position, the local time can be adjusted backwards and forwards in one-hour increments. 

To accomplish these new features, Patek Philippe built new caliber 31-260 PS FUS 24H. The movement is an update to Patek Philippe’s 31-260 ultra-thin self-winding base caliber from 2011, which here includes a 24-hour mechanism and a Travel Time mechanism.


In 2021, Patek Philippe further enhanced the initial caliber (then placed into the In-Line Perpetual Calendar Reference 5236P-001) with a new operating frequency of 4 Hz, a twenty per cent increase in barrel-spring torque, a mini-rotor in platinum and a reduction wheel that uncouples the self-winding mechanism when the watch is being manually wound.

The watch’s 42mm rose-gold case nicely complements a sharp-looking blue dial that Patek Philippe has set with contemporary, high-relief rose gold numerals, hour markers and five-minute cabochons.


The watch is also notable for its generous use of luminous material within the rose-gold, syringe-type hands, the hour markers and the numerals.   

Price: $57,366. 

More New in 2023

As noted above, Patek Philippe for 2023 adds an annual calendar to the Aquanaut Luce to create Annual Calendar Reference 5261R-001 ($61,506), the first annual calendar in the Aquanaut collection.

 Aquanaut Luce Annual Calendar Reference 5261R-001.

Finished with a very nice blue-gray dial and attached to a matching strap, the 39.9mm rose gold watch enriches Patek Philippe’s range of complicated ladies’ watches.

Also for 2023, Patek Philippe adds a blue-gray sunburst dial and a navy-blue grained calfskin strap to its distinctive Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Chronograph Reference 5924G-001 ($75,699) and adds a khaki green lacquered dial to the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Chronograph Reference 5924G-010 ($79,699).

Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Chronograph Reference 5924G-001.
Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Chronograph, Reference 5924G-010.

Patek Philippe also updates its Calatrava references 6007G-001, 6007G-010 and 6007G-011 with a new modern dial style featuring black dials and three types of finish with an embossed carbon pattern.

Calatrava reference 6007G-001, one of three colorful updates to the series.

Each also receives new color accents in on their respective dials and straps: yellow (6007G-001), red (6007G-010) or sky blue (6007G-011). Each is priced at $37,850.

Patek Philippe also expanded its range of watches for women with the new Calatrava self-winding Reference 4997/200R-001, a rose gold, diamond-set watch ($38,441) now sporting a rich purple wave dial pattern created by fifty layers of translucent lacquer.


Pictures don’t do this dial justice as the lacquer finish here is extraordinary.

We’ll discuss additional Patek Philippe 2023 debuts in upcoming posts.