Last year, Watches & Wonders was presented with a challenge. The Swiss show had just rebranded from SIHH, and the whole celebratory shebang — once the jewel in the crown of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie — had been shunted unceremoniously online. But organisers, brands and trade professionals all rose to this challenge, overcame the obstacles and unwittingly set the digital blueprint for the 2021 show.
And, this year, the challenge is ours. With every brand switched-on plugged into the cyber-showcasing interface, we’re seeing even bolder presentations — and more exciting and experimental watches than ever. So, with such a surfeit of new models, how are we meant to sort the shockingly good releases from the merely shrug-worthy? It seems impossible.
Thankfully, MR PORTER is here to help. The award-winning destination for men’s style has scrutinised every watch shown at Watches & Wonders 2021, uncovering hidden gems and deciding which revamps, refinements and redesigns are actually worth our precious time. Here are the 10 best you can buy at MR PORTER…
Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921 Hand-Wound
Let’s start with a brand close to our hearts and familiar to our wrists; Vacheron Constantin. We’ve long admired the Swiss watchmaker’s eye for innovation — and nowhere is the mould-breaking and envelope-pushing more evident than in the vintage-inspired, diagonal-dialled, corner-crowned Historique American 1921 collection.
This new addition to the retro-flavoured range is a 40mm 18-karat white gold model. With a white dial, numerals painted black and that rakish small-seconds sub-dial, it’s a glamorous, Gatsby-looking thing. And, thanks to a 65-hour power reserve and hardy, handsome brown leather strap, it’s got a tough edge, too.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921Shop Now
Cartier Ballon Bleu de Cartier Automatic
There’s something sultry and shapely about Cartier’s Ballon Bleu watches. Introduced in 2007, the models are neat, soft and elegant — but that enclosed crown gives them a design edge. It’s unexpected, eye-catching and highlighted in bold blue on this latest model from the fabled French brand.
But then the entire watch is bold. It’s crafted from 18-karat pink gold and the sunray-effect dial has been lacquered and finished with silvered flinqué (enamel engraving). The calibre 1847 MC automatic movement is utterly reliable — and those blued steel sword-shaped hands work wonders to emphasise the bold colour of the crown.
Cartier Ballon Bleu de Cartier AutomaticShop Now
IWC Pilot's Automatic Chronograph
IWC has always been a watchmaker to keep up with the times. The brand produced a digital watch in 1885, and was one of the first major watchmakers to champion eco-friendly initiatives. But the brand’s latest release is a different type of green; an emerald-dialled, slightly-smaller Pilot’s Automatic Chronograph.
Cutting the case from 43mm to 41mm could prove a masterstroke, as this chronograph feels considerably neater and snugger on the wrist. There’s less distance for that sweep-second hand to travel, the sub-dial legibility doesn’t suffer and, most importantly, that punchy new colour doesn’t feel too overbearing on a smaller, subtler scale.
IWC Pilot's Automatic ChronographShop Now
Piaget Polo Automatic Chronograph
There are few watches with the iconic shape and standing of Piaget’s Polo. The similarly shaped Patek Philippe Nautilus springs to mind — or perhaps the Polo’s sporting stablemate, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. But this latest move by Piaget, adding an automatic chronograph movement into that stainless steel case, has elevated this classic even higher in our estimations.
Just look at those two striking sub-dials. Sitting at 3 and 9 o’clock, the bold blue pairs perfectly with the rubber strap. And those stainless steel hands, with lashings of lume? Guaranteed to draw focus even against the tried-and-tested ridged grey dial. A remarkable new spin on a beloved classic.
Piaget Polo Automatic ChronographShop Now
Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Limited Edition Automatic
Montblanc’s 1858 collection is all about adventure. From the globe-trotting, compass-doubling 24H model to the limited edition honouring climber Reinhold Messner, these are tool watches built for real explorers. But the latest Geosphere has descended the mountain — and ended up squarely in the desert.
Featuring a sandy smoked brown and beige dial, it certainly still looks like a 1858 Geosphere — retaining the dual times zones, northern and southern hemisphere globes and 24-hour scale. But, with its bronze case, brown leather strap and dusty decorations, it’s a whole new design direction for enthusiasts to explore.
Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Limited Edition AutomaticShop Now
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Small Seconds
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso — the polo-playing, hard-wearing watch we mentioned above — this year celebrates its 90th anniversary. And it’s a design that has stood the test of time (not to mention many, many swings of the polo mallet) for a reason. So we’re happy to see the watchmaker celebrating in suitably momentous style.
In fact, the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Small Seconds has us green with envy. And why wouldn’t it? From the sunray-brushed lacquer dial and matching strap to its Swiss-made manually-wound movement, this case-flipping, birthday-marking model is a timekeeping treat.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Small SecondsShop Now
Panerai Submersible Bronzo Blu Abisso
Like the Montblanc above, there’s something about the bronze colour of Panerai’s latest Submersible that gives it an almost romantic quality. It’s certainly calling for adventure. But that’s no surprise; given the Italian brand’s history with yacht racing and naval support, it’s a watch built with strong heritage and history.
And it’s a strength that carries over into the design. With 300 deep, dark meters of water resistance, a dark blue non-reflective dial and Panerai’s patented crown guard system, this ‘Abisso’ automatic (with three-day power reserve) is as useful as it is striking.
Panerai Submersible Bronzo Blu AbissoShop Now
Hermès Graphene H08 Automatic
Any idea what ‘graphene’ is? No? That’s okay, we didn’t know either. Turns out, it’s a super-strong carbon-based material, created by assembling a hardy honeycomb lattice on an atomic level. It’s also what Hermès has used to craft the most covetable and creative model of its new H08 range.
Ultra-light and ultra-dark, this automatic features a polished black ceramic bezel and crown, with black gold-coated dial and black rubber strap (with titanium clasp). It almost has a utilitarian flavour to it — but an exhibition caseback belies its inner beauty; a heart that ticks with the impressive H1837 automatic movement.
Hermès Graphene H08 AutomaticShop Now
Roger Dubuis Excalibur Flying Tourbillon Limited Edition
If you’ve never heard of Roger Dubuis, then this year’s Watches & Wonders will give you cause to prick up your ears and listen. And, when you do, you’ll hear the impressive, innovative ticking of this, the skeletonised Excalibur Flying Tourbillon Limited Edition.
It’s a sight to behold, with the star-like angles stretching out to the edges of that 18-karat pink gold case. A seconds sub-dial sits around 8 o’clock and the Swiss-made calibre D512SQ automatic movement that makes the whole thing work is on beautiful, bejewelled show for all to see. It’s expensive, extravagant — and exceptional.
Roger Dubuis Excalibur Flying Tourbillon Limited EditionShop Now
H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Tourbillon Automatic
Only 50 of these retro-inspired watches will ever be made — but that’s because H. Moser & Cie has used the chatoyant gemstone ‘Ox’s Eye’ to create its striking dial design. In a deep blood red, those horizontal lines are completely natural — and mean each model produced is a one-of-a-kind.
Inside the 18-karat red gold case, a Swiss-made automatic tourbillon ticks — visible below those golden hands and through that aesthetically pleasing round window at 6 o’clock. But our favourite feature? Flip the watch over and you can see the movement, through an exhibition case back, in all its mechanical glory.