INTERNATIONAL - Against the lapping waves of the Persian Gulf, four chief executive officers greeted a gathering of journalists, retailers, and collectors, welcoming them to the first-ever LVMH Watch Week.
Stephane Bianchi of TAG Heuer (and the head of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE’s watch group) was joined by Ricardo Guadalupe of Hublot, Julien Tornare of Zenith, and Bulgari’s Jean-Christophe Babin on Monday as the four spoke of friendship among the brands and a group identity apart from the mass of watchmakers that will muster together to show new timepieces at the Baselworld watch expo later in the year.
It was both a show of independence and a flex of luxury muscle, with guests treated to dinners in the desert under the stars, performances by fire dancers, fireworks, and lavish accommodations at the Bulgari resort in Dubai.
“We wanted to showcase our novelties. We wanted to drive business in the first quarter,” Bianchi said. “Then we decided to do it in Dubai, because Dubai at this time of the year—it’s a warm place! And it’s a bit in the middle of the world, so quite accessible for many journalists and many retailers.”
Below are the most exciting watches shown at the event.
Bulgari, ever more ambitious with its watchmaking, created a special tear-shaped movement to fit perfectly into the rounded cases of the new Serpenti Seduttori line. (Often, simply round movements are sandwiched into square or oval cases.) They also inserted the smallest tourbillon on the market into some Seduttoris, filling a market gap in serious horology aimed at women. There are several versions, but the most fun is the one that’s slathered in diamonds, from the pave face (which features contrast hour numerals in blued steel) to the glittery bracelet. $151,000
Zenith Elite Classic
The Elite Classic is known as a watch that keeps faithful to the Zenith legacy. Impeccably built, stringently tested, and subtly beautiful. pic.twitter.com/ns8G6LHZi1
This collection of timepieces stood out for its simplicity and refinement among a wash of rare materials and diamond adornment. Sometimes the classics are the strongest! With an 18-karat rose gold case and gold-plated hands and hour markers, the Zenith Elite looks like a watch your dad would be proud to pass down to you. 12,900 Swiss francs ($13,366)
Like a snowflake, each of these watches features a unique face, created in Hublot’s research and development lab by heating 24-karat gold until it’s basically a gas. Once the gold encounters a cold surface, it accumulates in crystal form. Hublot applies the crystals to a black watch face for a textured visual effect, then covers them with 20 layers of a transparent lacquer so they lie perfectly flat. The black ceramic case further highlights the drama of the gold; it’s definitely a watch that everyone will ask you about no matter where you wear it. And if you’re in Times Square, don’t be surprised if people ask you whether it’s a promotion for the popular new Tina Turner Musical. $21,000
Zenith Defy 21 Land Rover Edition
#Defy21: A complete makeover of the 1/100th of a second chronograph with a raw and minimalistic look, the DEFY 21 Land Rover edition is crafted entirely in microblasted titanium, absorbing light from all angles to better accentuate its faceted surfaces. #Zenith#LandRoverpic.twitter.com/eN4zImKMSn
In Zenith’s continuing partnership with British carmaker Land Rover, the Swiss brand has developed a matte gray timepiece in honor of the Defender, which returns to the roads this year. The watch’s automatic El Primero movement comes with 50 hours of power reserve ticking away inside, and its ceramic case makes it ultralight. It was one of the event’s most elegantly designed pieces. 3,900 Swiss francs
This little jewel looks like a straightforward fashion watch—the kind Bulgari has been making for years with quartz movements. But once again, its clean malachite dial conceals some bold complexity. It’s a minute repeater, meaning it has a very advanced mechanism that chimes the time. Just pull on the little malachite tassel on the side, which is designed to evoke the famous tiles in the Caracalla baths in Bulgari’s home of Rome, and you’ll hear a series of dings and rings. €197,600 ($220,000)
A sweeping trend in the industry is to build a new metal bracelet that integrates directly into the watch. It’s a minor feat of engineering that helps communicate what kind of timepiece one is wearing—dressy, sporty, formal, funky. Watches like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Rolex Datejust, and Patek Phillipe Nautilus are iconic in no small part because of their bracelets. This year, Hublot developed one for its flagship Big Bang line. The all-black, ceramic version is satin-finished with black-plated titanium screws. $23,100
This superslim watch continues to be a stealth favorite, slipping perfectly under the cuff in a subtle manner, but showcasing a unique-enough design that anyone who notices it will guess it’s something special. This year, Bulgari is releasing the Octo Finissimo in a lower-priced stainless steel. $12,000
This ceramic timepiece’s bright red color is so hard to create, it’s patented by Hublot. The seven barrels across the bottom half of the dial can host up to a whopping 14 days of power reserve after manual winding, and the days count down on a wheel at the far left of the barrel system. The small dial is sapphire, with crimson hands and numerals to match the case. It will be limited to 100 pieces, so collectors who admire Hublot’s beefy watchmaking and bold colors should put in their requests now. $86,000
With a new 36-millimeter case size surrounding an Elite movement, the Defy Midnight collection is aimed at women who want a serious watch that’s still a bit of a lark. The diamonds around the bezel in this version highlight the blue gradient dial and the 11 tiny, twinkly diamonds embedded therein. The watch also comes with two extra straps in addition to the metal bracelet, so you can mix it up for a variety of occasions. 10,900 Swiss francs.