The top watch trends of 2022 – 71Bait

Returning to the show for the first time since 2019, Van Cleef & Arpels brought the wonder in Watches & Wonders with a trio of automatic watches crafted from precious metals, precious stones and ornamental stones that dazzled with their stunning combination of mechanical existence and aesthetic sophistication. There was a planetarium that could not only replicate the movements of the celestial bodies in real time, but also make them “dance” to music. The Rêveries de Berylline automaton featured a flower with petals that opened, allowing flight for a hummingbird of white gold, mauve, and blue sapphires, emeralds, and tsavorite garnets. The showpiece was the Fontaine aux Oiseaux, which depicts two birds of paradise, set in gold and jewels, singing and walking around the edge of a pool of rippling water made of chalcedony and rock crystal. Even the clatter of their claws and the movements of their feathers were mechanically reproduced.

Fontaine aux Oiseaux Automat, POA

Fontaine aux Oiseaux Automat from above, POA

Fontaine aux Oiseaux Automat from above, POA

Van Cleef & Arpels wasn’t the only house to focus on watches. Jaeger LeCoultre is almost as well known for its Atmos as it is for its art deco Reverso wristwatch. It relies on minute changes in temperature to cause an accordion-shaped container of ethylene chloride gas to expand and contract, providing the energy to wind up the movement. It’s a timepiece with a history as storied as any famous wristwatch and has caught the attention of Marc Newson, who has designed what I think is the most appealing version. There are two new iterations this year: a pared-down minimalist called Infinite, and Tellurium, which presents a wealth of astronomical and celestial information that you really need to be Brian Cox to make the most of.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos Infinite, £13,400

Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos Infinite, £13,400

Resisting the easy win that would have been the launch of a new Nautilus, Patek Philippe instead chose to highlight a generation of classic timepieces aimed at younger collectors in search of vintage-inspired design. One of the stars of 2022 is the stunningly beautiful hand-wound chronograph Ref. 5172G with a salmon-colored dial and white gold case.

Patek Philippe Ref. 5172G, £61,940

Patek Philippe Ref. 5172G, £61,940

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air King, £5,900

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air King, £5,900

Over at Rolex, the left-handed GMT Master II (from £8,800) – which inevitably earned the soft-drink-inspired moniker “Sprite” thanks to its green-and-black bezel – might have been the star, but I was more impressed by the Air-King’s quiet reimagining as a member of the Rolex Professional family. This is a perfect example of using seemingly small details that add up to one big change where Rolex excels: the straight case band as opposed to the rounded profile; the inclusion of the Oysterlock clasp; the addition of Crown Guards; a slightly larger dial; a whisker over a millimeter across the width of the bracelet; optimized Chromalight display; the use of caliber 3230 and the addition of a zero before the number five on the minute track, adding the balance wheel that no one knew was missing from the top of the dial. The height of the watch has been reduced from 13.1mm to 11.59mm as the use of magnetic components in the movement eliminates the need for a soft iron Faraday cage. At £5,900, it was by no means the most expensive watch on display at Watches & Wonders, but it was still one of the most impressive.

Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222, £53,500
Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222, £53,500

Over the past 10 years I’ve begged/bored every Vacheron Constantin executive I’ve met to re-release the 222, Vacheron’s integrated case and bracelet design from the late 1970’s, and finally it’s as part of his Historiques collection came out. I was also impressed by the ultra-modern skeletonized representation of the Overseas Tourbillon in titanium (£137,000) with a dazzling blue PVD-treated angled minute track – quite possibly the best Overseas made to date.

Hublot Square Bang Unico King Gold Ceramic, £33,000

Hublot Square Bang Unico King Gold Ceramic, £33,000

Shaped cases now account for 18 percent of Hublot production; and after taking a vague Richard Mille direction with their tonneau-cased watches, the Fusion brand is launching a square-cased watch – the Square Bang Unico – that bears more than a passing resemblance to a chunky Cartier Santos (though as CEO Ricardo Guadalupe pointed out to me, a square is a square after all).

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 200 Solargraph, £2,450
TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 200 Solargraph, £2,450

TAG Heuer presented half a dozen novelties that seemed to cater to the TAG (Techniques d’Avant Garde) part of their name rather than the heritage-oriented Heuer. Of particular interest was a sleek black solar-powered Aquaracer Professional 200 Solargraph, which boasts a sleek carbon-green Super-LumiNova bezel and dial with Super-LumiNova indices. The £2,450 price tag seems extremely reasonable, but if you’re looking to spend significantly more then there’s the Plasma (POA), which features a main dial of polycrystalline (lab-grown) diamonds that took 800 hours to cultivate. These diamonds grow at a rate of a micron per hour, which sounds slow until you remember it takes a few billion years to make the right thing.

Chanel Mademoiselle J12 La Pausa, POA

Chanel Mademoiselle J12 La Pausa, POA

Chanel Diamond Tourbillon, €160,000

Chanel Diamond Tourbillon, €160,000

Chanel chose to showcase the serious horological content of its flagship J12 with the unveiling of an in-house flying tourbillon. But it is the continuation of the J12s with manga-style caricatures of Mademoiselle from different periods of her life that are remembered. There, for lunch at La Pausa, her home overlooking Cap-Martin, she wears a striped T-shirt and baggy pants; Next we see her as a confident fashion queen, her neck adorned with pearls.

Cartier Coussin de Cartier, £60,500

Cartier Coussin de Cartier, £60,500

And finally, Cartier continues its winning streak with a watch to suit all tastes: the multicolored enamel and diamond-set (and slightly trippy) Crash is a standout watch, but for entirely different reasons, this is the Masses Mystérieuse — in which the skeletonized semicircular caliber is also the flywheel. And it’s not just movements that get the technical treatment: the Cartier Coussin is released in a special edition with a flexible, almost spongy case that is set with either diamonds or colored stones – a tour de force (in both senses).

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