Bvlgari, Hublot and Zenith showcase their nifty novelties at LVMH Watch Week 2021
When the haute horlogerie cognoscenti landed in Dubai in January 2020 for the inaugural LVMH Watch Week, few imagined it would be the last time they would gather in more than a year. Or that the next edition, so highly anticipated after a triumphant debut, would take place solely online.
Rather than conform to the increasingly underwhelming efforts of the now-defunct Baselworld trade show, LVMH decided it would henceforth showcase new timepieces by Hublot, Bvlgari, TAG Heuer and Zenith on its own terms.
The frenetic marketplace-like atmosphere of the world’s oldest and largest watch fair was traded in for a more leisurely and lavish experience, from the exclusivity of the guest list to the upscale settings of Bvlgari’s portfolio of resorts and properties worldwide.
A buzz had already surrounded the 2020 event when Covid-19 swept through the world and the rest, well, was history in the making.
The sophomore edition of LVMH Watch Week saw journalists logging on to the eponymous platform for a week of launches, product briefings and interviews with key spokespeople. At the introductory event, Frédéric Arnault, TAG Heuer’s new CEO and scion of LVMH chairman Bernard, announced that the brand would host its own novelties launch at a later date, but joined the top management of Hublot, Bvlgari and Zenith in welcoming guests to another year of innovation and imagination.
While digital fatigue is real, and an online event in no way a suitable substitute where the tactile world of watches is concerned, the quality of the 2021 novelties succeeded in shaking off some of the ennui from a long year of lockdowns. Advancements in materials, technical solutions and aesthetics seemed to prove that long though the days might feel, life still flourished out there.
You may find that spark of joy in the unusual hue of the Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Orange Sapphire by Hublot, the first time sapphire has been machined in that colour, or in the marriage of complications in Bvlgari’s Octo Roma Carillon Tourbillon that strikes the Westminster chime with a ringing sureness.
Zenith reminds us of the exuberance of adrenaline-filled activities with the Chronomaster Sport, fitted with the updated El Primero 3600 calibre to measure time down to 1/10th of a second.
The model was revealed in tandem with the announcement of a fitting brand ambassador, NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
At any other time, such launches may be par for the course, yet another series of events to schedule into overbooked calendars. But they seem to hold particular appeal this year. Maybe it is the renewed appreciation for the centuries-old watchmaking industry that continues to find relevance in changing times, with the pandemic accelerating digitalisation and high horology embracing e-commerce. Maybe it is something as simple as savouring creations so alive and emotive in a time of much upheaval and uncertainty. Whatever their allure, we are happy to share in the wonder that is the micromechanical universe of watchmaking.
The august house of Bvlgari is revered for its work with precious metals and stones, but its watchmaking legacy is thought to be just as old and part of the original business when it was founded in 1884. Its skill in both jewellery and watchmaking is encapsulated in its moniker, the Jeweller of Time, and echoes throughout its 2021 novelties.
Bvlgari Divas’ Dream Peacock Tourbillon Lumière
Craftsmanship radiates throughout the women’s collection. The Divas’ Dream Peacock series returns with three iterations that showcase the natural union between haute horlogerie and haute joaillerie: the 50-piece limited-edition Divas’ Dream Peacock Dischi, the 10-piece Divas’ Dream Peacock Tourbillon Lumière and the Divas’ Dream Peacock Diamonds.
Divas’ Dream collection by Bvlgari
Exquisite traditions from the métiers d’arts atelier evoke the regal beauty of the peacock feather, including gem-setting, the rare craft of feather marquetry, champlevé and miniature painting.
The infinitely contemporary Lvcea line, meanwhile, is revived with five new models. These span three iridescent timepieces with tridimensional mother-of-pearl marquetry to the industrial-inspired Lvcea Skeleton featuring the oversized diamond-studded and rose-gold-plated letters of the Bvlgari logo affixed throughout the openworked dial.
Bvlgari’s novelties would not be complete without new Serpenti Spiga designs. The iconic serpent motif that has endured for 80 years is reinvented for this decade with three models. A black lacquered and mother-of-pearl dial with a single and double-coiled bracelet respectively are set within a 35mm 18-carat rose-gold case, while an 18-carat whitegold high jewellery edition features 205 brilliant-cut diamonds on the bezel, 257 snow pavé-set diamonds on the dial and a single cabochon-cut blue sapphire at the crown. Icy diamonds settle like snow across all the bracelets, glinting with every movement of the wrist.
The brand’s virtuosity with micromechanics resonates throughout the men’s collection. Cult favourite Octo Finissimo bears a trio of new personalities. The ultra-thin Octo Finissimo S takes on a monochromatic aesthetic with a satin-polished steel construction while the Octo Finissimo S Chronograph GMT keeps time in two cities in a choice of satin-polished steel or sandblasted titanium, the latter flaunting a new dial and rubber straps.
Bvlgari Octo Roma Carillon Tourbillon
Last, but certainly not least, is the Octo Roma Carillon Tourbillon. The manually wound Calibre BVL428 was manufactured in-house to ensure no compromises were made. Three hammers affixed directly to the titanium case body ensure ultimate sound transmission and diffusion while the generous proportions of 44mm encourage sound propagation. Twin barrels conduct the striking mechanism and the 75-hour power reserve respectively, and the entire spectacle is visible through the openworked titanium middle case.
Augmenting the gongs’ crystalline resonance as they ring the Westminster chime is the lithe dance of the tourbillon at 6 o’clock. Unlike the typical formal aesthetic of striking watches, as though to indicate the gravitas of the complication, the 15-piece limited-edition Octo Roma Carillon Tourbillon is remarkably chic with its titanium body coated in matte-finished black DLC (diamond-like carbon) and a black rubberised alligator strap.
Headlining Hublot’s presentation — and coverage of LVMH Watch Week 2021 — is the latest world-first premier by the brand that has built its reputation on material innovation and avant-garde ideas. One of the only watchmakers to even attempt machining sapphire, the Swiss brand added a new hue to its palette of sapphires with the Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Orange Sapphire.
Hublot Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Orange Sapphire
In the Metallurgy & Materials laboratory at its Nyon manufacture, the world’s first through-tinted sapphire in orange was achieved with the incorporation of titanium and chromium into the manufacturing process. Sapphirecrystal continues the ethereal aesthetic on the case front and back so the openworked Calibre MHUB6035, a new automatic tourbillon movement with cleverly reconstructed architecture, appears to be suspended in eternal animation.
The model is equipped for the first time with three sapphire bridges and the surfaces are painstakingly decorated for contrast and dimension. Transparent orange rubber straps affixed with the One Click interchangeability system complete the look of this striking timepiece, limited to just 50 pieces.
Hublot’s Big Bang Unico Integral Ceramic
Ceramic is another tricky material Hublot is intimately familiar with, now expressed in white, navy blue and grey in the Big Bang Unico Integral Ceramic. Both harder and lighter than steel, as well as incredibly difficult to machine, ceramic is used throughout the timepiece — from case and caseback to bezel and bracelet — for hypoallergenic, monochromatic cool. Also fashioned entirely in ceramic is the latest magnum opus from Hublot’s collaboration with French sculptor and visual neo-pop artist Richard Orlinski.
Faceted ceramic dresses the entire Classic Fusion Richard Orlinksi — including the hour markers — and the bevelled architecture on the dial recalls the sublime lines of origami. The 40mm model is available in vivid blue and black, so rich in colour that the hues look almost liquid, with straps in matching soft rubber.
Hublot Classic Fusion Richard Orlinksi
Another colour- and material-driven design in the watchmaker’s repertoire is Big Bang One Click 33mm. Iterations in stainless steel or proprietary King Gold can be fixed with straps of vibrant rubber, elegant leather or trendy calfskin in hues such as raspberry, terracotta and electric blue to ensure your watch matches your mood.
The collector who is thrilled by powerful engines will want the Big Bang MP-11 14 Day Power Reserve in Magic Gold or Blue Sapphire. The in-house manufactured MP-11 calibre is now fitted into two cutting-edge cases that brandish the scratch-resistance of its patented Magic Gold alloy or the translucence of its hard and high-tech blue sapphire. Both understand their role in revelling in their own glory without taking away from the nifty construction of the movement, including the sevenin-line barrels set dial-side up that supply the timepiece with 14 days of autonomy. Each version is limited to a mere 50 pieces, restricting ownership to just the most serious collectors.
Although time currently seems to be moving in slow motion for some of us, Zenith is preparing for the day when the clocks appear to leap through every 24 hours again. The Chronomaster Sport draws references from the automatic chronograph El Primero A386, the silhouette of the Chronomaster De Luca and the high-frequency performance of the El Primero calibre to create the ultimate sporty yet suave chronograph. Performance surges forward with the new El Primero 3600 calibre, whose frequency of 36,600 VpH (5Hz) enables the precise timing of 1/10th of a second and 60 hours of power reserve. The graduated 10-second tracker that evinces this measurement is etched directly onto its black ceramic bezel, the only watch to wear this detail.
Its Chronomaster lineage is perceptible from the refined dial in black or white, integrated steel bracelet and harmonious proportions within the 41mm steel timepiece, with visual accents including the pump-style pushers and polished black ceramic bezel. Swap out the ergonomic steel bracelet for a textured cordura-effect rubber strap to pull together a more rugged ensemble. Also in the category of performance-driven machines, the fastest chronograph in production gets a makeover in khaki-green ceramic, a fitting choice of colour as it is sure to elicit envy.
Zenith Chronomaster Sport
The Defy 21 Urban Jungle pushes the limits of high-frequency precision with a chronograph that can measure 1/100th of a second. Futuristic design speaks the language of the sprawling metropolis while the warm hue with a matte finish injects a sliver of jungle fever. Countering the lightweight impression of the skeleton dial is an unmistakably robust black rubber strap finished with a green cordura-effect rubber insert.
Zenith also walks down memory lane with two vintage-inspired models. Long-time fans will appreciate the retro throwback that is the Chronomaster Revival A385, a reproduction of the original cult favourite from 1969 developed in a fascinating reverse- engineering exercise. Blueprints and production plans informed every detail of the A385’s 37mm tonneau-shaped stainless steel case, down to the pump-style pushers and smoked-brown gradient dial. Domed sapphire crystal replaces acrylic glass on top and the solid steel caseback, allowing for a durable, unobstructed view of the El Primero 400 movement. The historically correct proportions are locked in place with a steel “ladder” bracelet or a light brown calfskin strap.
Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385
Meanwhile, the Pilot Type 20 Silver Chronograph showcases an unusual material in modern watchmaking. Sterling silver is rarely used in case designs as the precious metal is expensive and tricky to work with, but it best evokes the aesthetic of old aircraft that Zenith was gunning for here. Intermittent satin-brushed finishing on the 925 silver case and dial enhances the raw beauty of the material. The dial is decorated with riveted details reminiscent of metal panels from aircraft fuselage while Super-Luminova-filled Arabic hour markers and cathedral hands tie together the compelling aviation-themed picture. Brown calfskin leather secures the 45mm watch around the wrist to ensure the limited-edition collectible — just 250 pieces were created — is kept close.
Zenith’s Pilot Type 20 Silver Chronograph