Watches & Wonders 2024: Technical Feats Galore

by Shaun Lee

A medley of watchmaking advancements alongside new and improved complications

Watches & Wonders has settled into a steady cadence, and cemented itself as the anchoring event for the industry’s players to showcase their latest and greatest creations. Like previous years, there’s much to unpack for the 2024 edition of the show. Thematically, the standout this year are the technical advancements made by several different manufactures. From completely new complications to new paradigms for existing ones, here are the highlights.

IWC Portugieser Eternal Calendar

Owing to a quirk of the Gregorian calendar system, the years 2100, 2200, and 2300 are not leap years even though they are all divisible by 4. Perpetual calendar watches thus require three corrections every 400 years. To be fair, this is hardly an inconvenience. IWC, however, has done away with this completely with its Portugieser Eternal Calendar, which offers a secular perpetual calendar complication that requires no adjustment until the year 4000. This is complemented by an ultra-precise moon phase display that will deviate by just one day in 45 million years – a new record in watchmaking.

Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon

Another year, another new record in ultrathin watchmaking set by Piaget. The star this time is the Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon that, at just two millimetres thick, is the world’s thinnest tourbillon watch.

The timepiece follows the concept first established by Piaget with calibre 900P, which blurred the line between the watch case, its dial, and the movement’s main plate. To fit every component within the constraints of two millimetres, however, more had to be done. One particular highlight: an “annular tourbillon” with a cage held by its rim, which does away with the need for upper and/or lower bridges entirely.

What’s perhaps even more impressive is the lack of any compromises in the watch. Here, time is displayed in the typical format with hands, in a case measuring 41.5 millimetres thick – with a 20-metre water resistance, no less.

Patek Philippe Ref. 5330G World Time with Date

The worldtimer has long been a Patek Philippe signature, thanks to the manufacture’s mastery of the complication through attractive, well-proportioned cases and eminently legible dials. With ref. 5330G, the brand has written a new chapter for the worldtimer by solving a longstanding technical hurdle of pairing it with the date complication.

The challenge lies with its wearer’s movement: when travelling eastwards across the International Date Line, local time must advance forwards, but the date must make a jump backwards. Patek Philippe’s solution is a patented differential system that’s complex but, nonetheless, easy for the wearer to operate. This extends to the choice of display; in lieu of a date aperture, the brand has opted for a pointer hand to reduce clutter.

Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers “The Berkley” Grand Complication

This is the world’s most complicated watch. With over 63 horological complications, “The Berkley” surpasses the previous record holder, 2015’s Reference 57260, which was also a Vacheron Constantin creation.

Beyond just its sheer number of complications, “The Berkley” also presents the world’s first Chinese perpetual calendar – a particularly remarkable feat considering this lunisolar calendar’s complexity and irregularity. Under the Chinese calendar, a complete “cycle” sees the perfect synchronisation of the solar and lunar cycles every 6,940 days (i.e. 19 years). Mechanically “coding” such a system – along with its other intricacies – has been an unfathomable challenge so far.

Vacheron Constantin’s work here represents a new frontier for calendar complications, and echoes the Hebraic perpetual calendar included in Reference 57260, which was also a world’s first. The parallels are unsurprising though, as both Reference 57260 and “The Berkley” were commissioned by the same American collector.

A.Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon Honeygold “Lumen”

The Datograph celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and A. Lange & Söhne has pulled out all the stops with a limited edition variant featuring several exclusives from the manufactory.

First introduced in 2018, the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon was a technical tour de force that elegantly combined its three eponymous complications. The timepiece has now been reinterpreted with the “Lumen” treatment. What’s changed are the smoky translucent dial and luminous coatings, which give the watch a classy elegance under the light, and an ethereal glow in the dark. The cherry on the cake here is the case rendered in honey gold – an alloy with exceptional warmth and hardness that the brand reserves for its most exclusive models.

Images courtesy of respective brands featured, artwork by Curatedition. All rights reserved.

Related links:

Audemars Piguet: Shaping Materials

Blancpain: Sea Change

Jaeger-LeCoultre: The Artistry of Time

Patek Philippe: Band of Gold

Vacheron Constantin: Forest Bath

Zenith: The El Primero Triple Calendar Returns

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