Impressions and images from Geneva - Ian Skellern visits the "Only Watch" preview in Switzerland, weeks before the auction later this month in Monaco.
"I visited the Only Watch 2009 exhibition at Patrizzi & Co's Geneva show room yesterday evening and despite the crowds managed to take a few photos."
Jaquet Droz. Jaquet Droz are starting to make stunning fired-enamel dial look easy, but it isn't. The ceramic case should ensure that this watch looks as good in 20 years as it does now.
Louis Vuitton. Turning cubes to tell the time made me think of URWERK, but neverthless it was good to see that Louis Vuitton make an effort to realize something truly unique and not just a new dial on an existing watch.
MB&F. It was as interesting eavesdropping on comments as looking at the watches and nowhere more so than the MB&f case. 'Is that a butterfly? Is that barbed-wire? Gruesome! How could you possibly wear it? It's fantastic!' The negative comments I heard easily outnumbered the positive by a factor of 5 to 1, but I am sure Max Büsser was smiling because in my short time there, more people were talking passionately about this watch than any other.
Montblanc. The dial is too busy for my taste, but there is no denying the quality and superb finish of this Star Nicolas Rieussec Monopusher Chronograph Open Date. If the bidding is related to name length this will be a winner.
Omega. The Omega Ploprof wins my 'What were they thinking?' award. There is nothing I like about the design of this watch, but then, I've never been accused of having impeccable taste. It is certainly a watch that attracts the eye.
Girard-Perregaux. At first glance I was disappointed in this watch as I expected more from Girard-Perregaux, but the more I learned, the more I liked it. The world time should be a useful complication for the type of people likely to be bidding and the ceramic case looks sublime.
Franck Muller. This was another brand I feel might have done more. A few brands really excelled themselves and that really raised the bar for the others. No doubt this is a very special watch, but if I saw it on somebody's wrist, I'd think 'Franck Muller', and not 'Wow! What's that Franck Muller?'
Franc Vila. This watch was another contender for my 'What were they thinking?' award and I nearly laughed out load when I first saw it. But then the originality of the design slowly won me over and, while it would not be a watch found on my little wrist, it does have something of the iconic Ikepod about it.
deLaCour. I think that you are either a deLaCour fan or you're not. There is no middle ground. And when you think that large unusual watches no longer have the power to surprise, one does. Unfortunately, this one did not surprise me in a positive way as it was far too big and far too busy for me.
De Bethune. If I had to pick one watch here for myself, it would be this sensational De Bethune pocket watch.
Corum. This was another favourite. With this watch Corum have taken their single bridge into the 21st century.
BNB Concept Confrérie Horlogère. If I could have chosen two to take home, this would have been the second. Great design and fascinating to look at. I loved it!
Chaumet. We do not hear much about Chaumet's watchmaking so it's good to see them step out onto the stage. Simple, but elegant with an interesting case shape.
Chanel. Another watch obviously meant for another audience, not me. There are interesting elements in the watch, especially the ceramic bracelet, but I just don't 'get it'.
Cartier. The three different dials of this Cartier Santos would normally be enough to provoke a 'Wow!' from me, and it did when I saw it (different designs) at the SIHH earlier in the year. I expect more than a unique dial design (or three) from Cartier. Nice watch but I'd like to see Cartier stretch themselves a bit more next time.
Cabestan. Now I love the Cabestan, but this is another watch that disappointed. I expect much more - and perhaps unfairly- of an 'Only Watch' than a unique piece, I expect the watch to be truly distinctive and to make a strong statement. The 'normal' Cabestan already makes such a strong statement that a special model has to be much much more. I love this watch, but want much more.
And this is just plain greed talking because for all of the brands involved, especially the smaller ones, just the fact of donating a watch, let alone developing a unique piece, is a major commitment in itself and one we should all be grateful for, but . . .
Breguet. This was another favourite and I felt that Breguet got the spirit of 'Only Watch', not to simply make a one-off, but to make something truly unique.
Bovet. When I saw this watch I didn't think 'Mona Lisa', my first thought was 'Pascal Raffy' (CEO of Bovet). This watch is the essence of Bovet and is certainly the essence of Pascal Raffy.
Blancpain. I am not at all a fan of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, though I appreciate that I appear to be in a minority. However, this one - the 500 Fathoms -I like.
Bell & Ross. The exception that proves the rule? I have said that I expect Only Watch timepieces to offer something more than a new dial variation, but this diamond-encrusted skull and crossbones makes such a bold statement that nothing more is needed. It's not for me, but I'm sure somebody will love it (and hopefully two people to drive up the bidding).
Audemars Piguet. Take a beautiful Audemars Piguet Equation of Time and add 'ONLY WATCH MONACO12h30' is big capital letter at the top of the dial: What on earth were they thinking? There is so much on this this watch that is so right, but can you appreciate the dial without having your gaze drawn continually to the headline at the top? I can't.
Zenith. If retro is the new contemporary, then Zenith is onto something. I wonder if this watch signals a new direction for the brand (I hope so).
Van Cleef & Arpels. Here's another watch proving what a hypocrite I am. 'Midnight in Monaco' is hardly an inspired variation of their Midnight in Paris, but with every Van Cleef & Arpels complication I see, I cannot help but feel that they have no peer when it comes to crafting interesting and absolutely beautiful watches for women. I am sorry my photography let this watch down, because it is poetry (but they should do more next time).
Vacheron Constantin. Come on Vacheron, take a watch, the Quai de l’Ile, which has been designed to make unique variations and make a - gasp !- unique variation. I know that there is a bit more to it than that - tantalum and palladium are very difficult case materials to work with - but it just doesn't look different enough to me. Vacheron Constantin merits being held to a higher standard and they didn't reach that for me with this model.
Ulysse Nardin. What has saved me saying the same thing about this Freak than I said about the Cabestan is that the Freak has been out of the news longer, so seeing it again after a break, especially in this black-dialed rendition, had the power to shock.
Hermes. For a company famous for their leather goods, this alligator-clad 8-day travel clock appears to be appropriate and something different.
Please bear in mind that the opinions expressed above are the result of a fairly quick walk around a hot and crowded exhibition. I am well aware that my views are inconsistent (but hey, so am I) and they may well change . . .in fact some views are starting to change already.
I strongly recommend that you visit the Only Watch 2009 website and click on any image to learn more.
Patrizzi Auction Website --> LINK
Ian Skellern's original Only Watch 2009 exhibition in Geneva post & Watch Photo Post via Horomundi
Ian's Underthedial Facebook page --> LINK
All Current and Past "Only Watch" Auctions
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