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5 Apr

A Week Brimming With Watch Events in Geneva

GENEVA — “The more people discuss watchmaking, the higher,” Watches and Wonders Geneva Foundation chief executive officer Matthieu Humair once told WWD, and the industry definitely seems to agree with that sentiment.

Beyond the boundaries of the Palexpo convention center, there was plenty to maintain conversations going, including the revival of the hallowed Gerald Genta brand, the launch of a recent house by two watch-loving generations of the Biver family and Philipp Plein being loud and proud for his high-watchmaking debut.

Biver

Former watchmaking executive Jean-Claude Biver could have stepped down from a stellar 50-year profession within the industry but he never stepped away from watchmaking, a private passion.

Pierre and Jean-Claude Biver on the launch their first watch in March 2023.

G.Maillot/Courtesy of Biver

That much was clear when months into his apparent retirement, he revealed that he could be launching an eponymous brand and later showcased a carillon repeater with a tourbillon prototype watch that was sold by auction house Philipps in association with Bacs and Russo.

The Sunday before Watches and Wonders, press, fellow watchmakers and collectors convened to a picturesque 18th-century farmhouse now home to Biver, the brand founded by the watch industry veteran and his 22-year-old son Pierre Biver, who cut his teeth at Phillips before working along with his father.

A 42-mm minute repeater with a tourbillon and a microrotor, the Carillon Tourbillon Biver is supposed as “a recent watch, inspired by tradition and representative of each my father and me,” stated cofounder Pierre Biver, noting their intention to make the minute repeater right into a brand signature.

Each aspect — from the minute constituting parts of the movement to the wafer-thin sodalite dial and the five-link metal bracelet developed specially for the brand — was intended to bring soul to the watchmaking world, in accordance with the elder Biver.

This near-spiritual approach is further highlighted by the silver obsidian and sodalite chosen for the watch faces, which symbolize rebirth and protection, respectively. They’re paired with rose gold and titanium, respectively. There’s also a bicolor version.

The Carillon Tourbillon Biver in titanium with a sodalite dial.

Courtesy of Biver

Built into this watch and the brand is the concept that the interoperation of expert hands is required to bring such timepieces to life. “We would like to point out that we are able to do great things because of a collective of subcontractors, partners and skills that we bring together,” said Jean-Claude Biver.

To follow up on these $550,000 timepieces, Pierre Biver said subsequent launches could be a perpetual calendar and a chronograph, in line with their vision of “love, memory and evolution” as pillars of the Biver brand.

Gérald Genta

“We miss Gérald Genta,” proclaimed a T-shirt spotted in Geneva. Although the renowned watch designer died in 2011, his heritage continues to be writ large within the industry, with quite a lot of flagship designs still bearing his mark.

This yr there may be one more reason for his name to be on all lips throughout the week: the Gérald Genta brand is being revived under the auspices of La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton, with the blessing and cooperation of Evelyne Genta, his business partner and widow.

After studying jewelry-making, Genta is claimed to have found the sector unappealing, to the purpose of throwing his tools within the Rhone River and going for watchmaking. Amongst his early clients were Universal Geneve and Omega and within the ‘70s he created his best-known designs, including the unique Patek Philippe Nautilus and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, and the IWC Schaffhausen Ingenieur SL Référence 1832 that was reinterpreted within the Ingenieur Automatic 40 shown at Watches and Wonders.

The Gérald Genta brand was founded around that point and by the early ‘80s, his most striking designs were done under his own name and cemented his position as certainly one of the forerunners of high-complication watchmaking after the so-called quartz crisis in Swiss watchmaking.

Gérald Genta’s 1994 Grande Sonnerie watch, probably the most complicated watches of its time.

Courtesy of La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton

Amongst famous examples are Mickey Mouse watches for Disney that drew the ire of Geneva’s watchmaking circles, but in addition a Grande Sonnerie that took five years of research and development.

That’s also the period when La Fabrique Du Temps founders Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini began working together for Genta throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, overseeing the minute repeater, tourbillon and high complications workshops.

After the 1996 purchase of a majority stake within the brand by Singapore-based retailer The Hour Glass, it was acquired by Bulgari in 2000 in a deal meant to bolster the Roman jeweler’s high watchmaking division, which saw it also purchase Daniel Roth. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton subsequently took control of Bulgari in 2011.

There’s no word yet on recent designs but the corporate said it might concentrate production on high complications made in small quantities. And with Evelyn Genta giving access to the designer’s archives, said to incorporate tons of of yet-unproduced designs, there’s little question these recent watches shall be as striking as their late designer intended.

Philipp Plein

“I’m too poor to not be loud,” Philipp Plein told WWD in a set on the Fairmont Hotel as he unveiled his first high watchmaking collection, dubbed Timemachine and completely made in Switzerland.  

To make sure, his timepieces are chunky, daring and flamboyant, embellished with Plein’s signature skull. They cater to a distinct segment audience he’s been carving throughout his profession in fashion, too. 

“I desired to have a watch which is out of competition by some means…we now have numerous watches and numerous value for a reasonable price, that’s our gamble here. I at all times approach the patron first, not the retailer. The buyer has power,” Plein offered. 

Philipp Plein's high watchmaking timepieces come in a box with a screen showcasing NFTs.

Philipp Plein’s high watchmaking timepieces are available a box with a screen showcasing NFTs.

Courtesy of Philipp Plein

The gathering comprises nine men’s “Crypto King” and five women’s “Crypto Queen” timepieces. Each watch, manufactured in a limited run of around 200 pieces, comes with an NFT designed by Antonio Tudisco — Plein having found his sweet spot in all things Web3.  

“I don’t have a reputation within the watch industry, I come from the opposite side, I even have a product which it is advisable to buy simply because you prefer it. You don’t have to know Philipp Plein [as a brand],” he said. 

One yr within the making, the lads’s barrel-shaped timepieces feature a hexagonal-patterned polycarbonate case, double layer see-through dial revealing Plein’s signature skull and a double dome sapphire crystal. They arrive with interchangeable silicon and alligator straps.  

Philipp Plein's Crypto King timepiece.

Philipp Plein’s Crypto King timepiece.

Courtesy of Philipp Plein

Crafted from ceramic, the Crypto Queens watches also feature a see-through dial, here embellished with a hexagon, 12 or 38 diamonds depending on the model, and enamels throughout. They arrive with a silicone strap in pastel hues.  

Retailing between 2,700 and 20,000 euros, the timepieces will hit retail in early fall at Philipp Plein’s flagship stores, priced below entry-price models of brands Plein sees as competitors. He said he’s also in advanced talks with some luxury watch retailers to have a broader distribution. 

The designer is taking the gathering, which is licensed to Timex, on a roadshow. It’ll touch down in Monaco throughout the Formula 1 Grand Prix in May, before Singapore, London, Paris, Latest York and Las Vegas, also throughout the Grand Prix weekend in November.

Bulgari

Bulgari unveiled recent renditions of its Octo Roma timepieces, introducing one chronograph and 4 tourbillon iterations, that are geared toward furthering the appeal of the Roman house within the high watchmaking space.

First introduced in 2012, the range nods to Rome’s architecture with the octagonal-shaped case superimposed with a round bezel referencing such landmarks because the Basilica di Massenzio and the Pantheon.

Upping the ante on its watchmaking craft, the primary tourbillon collection within the Octo Roma range was developed in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, and comprises 4 watches, including three flying tourbillon styles and a female-geared bejeweled design.

Bulgari Octo Roma Striking Papillon Tourbillon and Striking Tourbillon Sapphire watches.

Bulgari Octo Roma Striking Papillon Tourbillon and Striking Tourbillon Sapphire watches.

Courtesy of Bulgari

Encased in a 44-mm titanium case with neon green accents, making for the sportier and edgier offering in the gathering, the Octo Roma Striking Papillon Tourbillon and the Striking Tourbillon Sapphire feature the complication positioned at the middle of the dial and at 6 o’clock, respectively. The Sapphire version comes with a see-through face, back case and middle layer to display all complications.

Combining its high jewelry prowess and watch making know-how, the extra two tourbillons — named Octo Roma Precious Naturalia and Precious Tourbillon Lumière respectively — nod to a trend for jewelry timepieces seen in Geneva.

Bulgari Octo Roma Precious Tourbillon Lumière.

Bulgari Octo Roma Precious Tourbillon Lumière.

Courtesy of Bulgari

The previous is available in a satin-brushed rose gold octagonal case and contains a Tiger’s Eye watch plate welcoming the flying tourbillon, while the 38-mm Precious Tourbillon Lumière is the one female-intended timepiece Bulgari is debuting, with the case and bezel set with 315 diamonds. It displays a skeletonized intricate movement with the minute track punctuated by diamonds and rubies.

Along with its carryover Automatic, 41-mm timepieces the season’s other hero product is the brand new Chronograph design. It embeds stopwatch minute and hour windows and a small seconds window and it is offered with a blue or black dial bearing a date window and a see-through sapphire back case revealing the inner mechanisms. All of them include interchangeable straps, in steel and rubber and crocodile leather.

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