Watches: Harry Winston, Patek Philippe & More



It’s Complicated

Among watch aficionados, the term complication refers not to a problem or an unexpected difficulty, but to features that allow a watch to do more than simply tell time. For centuries, watchmakers have strived to outdo themselves in this realm by creating timepieces boasting ever more eccentric functions—displaying phases and orbits of the moon, for example, or the hours and minutes of mean solar time. At the recent Baselworld fair, however, one brand took the concept of complexity in a brand new direction.

Enter the Opus Eleven, the latest model in Harry Winston’s Opus series, which began in 2000 as a collaboration between the brand—eager to establish its chops in haute horlogerie—and a guest watchmaker.

What distinguishes the 2011 edition—designed by Denis Giguet, the watchmaker behind the boutique brand MCT—from its complicated cohorts is the sheer number of parts the watch requires to merely display the hours and minutes.

Composed of 566 pieces choreographed to move in a way that Giguet likens to a school of fish, the watch relies on an architecture of cylinders configured to assemble the numeral of the hour in the center of the main dial before exploding, so to speak, and reconfiguring to display the new hour.

The unconventional approach to timekeeping is a Giguet trademark. “I like to play with opposites,” he says. “Simplicity, complexity, tradition, innovation.”

The model is limited to 100 pieces in white gold for 229,600 Swiss francs and 11 with diamonds for 289,600 Swiss francs (at press time, $248,464 and $313,412, respectively).

Ladies in Waiting No More

The Ladies First Split Seconds Chronograph, Ref. 7059, from Patek Philippe

In November 2009, when Patek Philippe unveiled its Ladies First Chronograph, the women’s ­mechanical watch market still represented something of a missed opportunity for the Swiss. The esteemed Geneva-based watchmaker did its best to rectify that situation at the 2011 Baselworld fair, where it introduced a slew of ladies’ references with major horological talking points. Chief among them: the Ladies First Minute Repeater, Ref. 7000, widely considered one of the watch world’s rarest and most valuable complications; and the ultra-thin Ladies First Split Seconds Chronograph, Ref. 7059. Both pieces suggest that president Thierry Stern, with the help of his wife and creative director, Sandrine Stern, sees major potential in the female collector market. Retailers, consider this a call to arms.

Black Moon Rising

JG9400-13 chronograph in 45.4 mm stainless steel case; $895; Jorg Gray, Tustin, Calif.; 877-547-4438; jorggray.com

Watch manufacturers apparently got the memo: Black-on-black combinations—featuring black cases, black straps, and black dials—are the horological equivalent of this season’s It Dress. Everybody needs to have one. At Chopard, the Classic Racing Superfast Chrono Split Second in a 45 mm DLC (diamond-like carbon) blackened steel case takes its inspiration from the world of vintage motor sports, down to the rubber Dunlop Racing strap, whose design mimics the tread of the company’s famed 1960s racing tires. Sporty chic is the theme at Jorg Gray, whose new JG9400-13 chronograph features a black two-layer dial with embossed texture and black indexes. While at Corum, the Admiral’s Cup Legend 38 mm ladies’ watch boasts a black mother-of-pearl dial on a black satin strap that, despite its 18k rose gold case, handily conveys the point: Black is back (not that it ever went away).