The first of 2019's watch fairs, the Salon Internationale de la Haute Horlogerie, wrapped in Geneva with 23,000 visitors thronging the exhibition halls over four days for a first look at what's coming for the wrist this year. And what did they see? Timepieces with an emphasis on restrained sizing, fine finishing, fresh dial treatments and new materials casing old favourites. Yes, there were the usual dazzling complications – what are fairs for if not to impress - but for everyday the radical is for the most part out, replaced by the refined and the refurbished.
Colour too was in the air – blue (or green) dials the current 'thing' – so too a slew of anything-but-round case-shapes siren-singing to the dapper-Dans out there. Cartier, unsurprisingly given the back-catalogue it can draw on, found itself leading the rectangular rally although with 37 brands showing their wares at SIHH there was, literally, something for everyone – even if individual offerings seemed rather pared-back compared to pre-Trumpian times.
1. Cartier Santos Skeleton "Noctambule"
This fresh take on Cartier's iconic Santos is not just skeletonised, but those Roman numerals have been lumed in black, providing a glowing contrast to the blackened (ADLC-coated) steel case. One of the most striking looking watches of the fair, it's due mid-year.
2. Laurent Ferrier Bridge One
Another seductive stunner, the curvaceous rectangular shape of the steel case is inspired by the "Passerelle de l'Ile" bridge in Geneva, which Laurent Ferrier had a view of from his room as a child. Your choice of dial in white enamel or slate-grey.
3. A.Lange & Sohne Richard Lange Jumping Seconds
Exhibits faintly retro but undeniable charm thanks to an elegant "regulator" dial with a scientific, technical feel, one dominated by a giant seconds display and backed by a typically stunning movement. A white gold case contributes to a six-figure tag.
4. Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Manual Winding
Covet its clarity, prize its purity - a shimmering 'majestic' blue dial spanning almost 40mm highlights the superb restraint of the dial, while behind the scenes a 98-part hand-wound movement just 2.6mm thick powers things. No date, but unlikely to date.
5. Montblanc Heritage Pulsograph
Is it old or is it new? Either way it's unusually handsome thanks to looks (domed crystal, salmon dial) and internals inspired by classic wrist watches from the 1940s and 1950s Minerva catalogue, a revered maker once dormant but now part of Montblanc's operation.
6. IWC Pilot's Watch Chrono Top Gun Edition 'Mojave Desert'
With its desert décor – sandy tones from dial to strap, 44.5mm ceramic case, and an in-house movement, this limited edition is no shrinking violet, but brings a bit of brio without too much brawn.
7. IWC Pilot's Watch Automatic Spitfire
Want less for less? The 39mm Spitfire cased in bronze or steel with a fresh in-house movement also gets our thumbs-up for weekend wear. A simple time-teller with rugged presence and robust performance.
8. Jaeger LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Moon Enamel
Defined by a hand-guilloched blue enamel dial and displaying the moon-phase and date in addition to the time, this JLC limited edition (100 pieces) is cased in white gold (39mm) with a self-winding movement (70-hours power reserve) driving things.
9. Hermes Arceau L'Heure de la Lune
Rich in detail and a sophisticated marvel, this creation beguiles with an adventurine or meteorite dial presenting twin moon indications revolving around the time, the southern hemisphere moon playfully revealed above it's northern counterpart.
10. Cartier Santos-Dumont
This 2019 version of the Santos is wonderfully true to the 1904 original originally intended to reflect the four corners of the Eiffel Tower. The one concession to modernity? The movement is quartz, but it's calibrated to run for six years before the battery needs replacing.
Check out the gallery above to see our top 10 from SIHH.
Prices listed are approximate. Bani McSpedden is watch editor of The Australian Financial Review.