From chronographs to chronometers, tourbillons to tourbographs, there are some extraordinary wristwatches being buckled up in the R&D departments of major watch manufacturers. There are models — meticulously-made — that can follow the astrological calendar, chart the positions of the planets or tell the time in three, four or even five different time zones.
But these watches, by and large, are upfront about their considerable and consummate talents; candidly wearing these flairs and facilities on their flashy sleeves. And we prefer a humbler watch — something more subtly stylish, and with secret skills and functions. So below, from Breitling to Audemars Piguet, we’ve picked the 5 most impressive, innovative watches — with hidden talents…
Breitling Emergency II
What do you see? A watch not unlike the others in Breitling’s ‘Professional’ collection. Highly resistant to scratches, that slick black dial features familiar bold numerals and a bezel crammed with compass points.
What is it hiding? A dual frequency locator beacon. In creating the ‘Emergency’, the Swiss brand brought us the world’s first watch with a transmitter that can both issue alerts and guide search and rescue missions.
How does it do it? By housing a personal locator beacon (PLB) in its titanium case. If you find yourself stranded or in trouble, you must simply turn that thick additional crown — the wire antenna — and help will soon be on its welcome way.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie
What do you see? An open-worked model from Audemars Piguet’s iconic Royal Oak range. There’s a titanium case and bezel, black ceramic pushpieces and glareproofed sapphire crystal. So far, so normal.
What is it hiding? Unprecedented acoustic performance. Because this watch is a ‘minute repeater’, and can chime like a grandfather clock. But, unlike comparably clamorous models, the sheer volume of this Royal Oak rings in around ten times louder than any other.
How does it do it? Using its meticulous mechanism. Using the same principles as an acoustic guitar, the brand managed to enrich and amplify the chime by attaching the gongs to a titanium membrane — rather than the usual movement plate.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso ‘Métiers Rares’
What do you see? A classic Reverso — a collection already renowned for harbouring dual-face secrets. But this collection of revolving wristwatches puts a new spin on Jaeger-LeCoultre’s polo-derived party trick.
What is it hiding? Artwork. Whether a landscape by Georges Seurat or the animal studies of Xu Beihong, each of the ‘Métiers Rares’ concealed and celebrated a different artist. Our favourite? This Reverso Tribute Enamel, featuring Katsushika Hokusai’s legendary ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’.
How does it do it? The Jaeger-LeCoultre artisans studied the technique of Japanese woodblock printing to get this one right — and even gently hinted at the hidden art by delicately guilloching the dial with small blue waves.
Hamilton Jazzmaster Face to Face II
What do you see? Something special. Unlike the Jaeger-LeCoultre above, this Hamilton signals that this is a special model even before it reveals its hidden talents — thanks to that futuristic, oddly-shaped dial.
What is it hiding? Behind its idiosyncratic dial, this Jazzmaster ticks with the exclusive H-41 calibre; a movement that the wearer can read — functions include a pulsometer, tachymeter and telemeter — by spinning the watch within its own case.
How does it do it? The brand fixed the stainless steel bezel, and established the silhouette of the ellipse-shaped case — then suspended the skeletonised centre of the watch on an axis within this central ring.
Richard Mille RM 62-01 Tourbillon Vibrating Alarm
What do you see? A classic Richard Mille. Which is to say; a yellow-handed head-turner of a watch. There’s the brand’s characteristic multicolours and a case hewn from lightweight metal — but unseen tricks lie beneath the titanium.
What is it hiding? A vibrating alarm — alerting the wearer, and the wearer alone, of any important appointments by wavering on their wrist.
How does it do it? Using a special oscillating mass within the case — an innovation that looks a little like an automatic winding rotor, but spins fast enough to produce this unique, gentle vibration.
Want more watches? These were the 13 best releases from Watches & Wonders 2022…
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