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LVMH Watch Week: Passing time

TIME passes. The 525,600 minutes of 2020 are now in the past, and the passing of the 525,600 minutes of 2021 are being marked on our watches. For some, the passing of time is marked on luxury watches like those that LVMH showed in a virtual press conference in the last days of January.

Standing outside the Hublot offices in Switzerland, Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot, bade us to “step inside.” Press from around the world, sitting at their desks, followed Mr. Guadalupe as he stepped into different rooms in their manufacture. He started out in the room where they make the “magic” gold they developed that is scratch-resistant thanks to combining 24k gold and ceramics.

Here he showed the Big Bang MP-11, with seven barrels that serve as a 14-day power reserve. This power is displayed with a clear case. Next came the Unico Integral, with a case and bracelet made of ceramic. The new lines come in gray metallic finish, navy blue, and white.

Mr. Guadalupe took his virtual guests to the room where they add jewels in watches, showing the Big Bang One Click, named after the ease with which its straps are replaced. Next, appearing over at a sculpture by Richard Orlinski, he showed the Classic Fusion line, made in collaboration with Mr. Orlinski, boasting a sculpted dial. While the first collection had come out in 2017, these have their dials and bracelets in black and blue ceramic — and are limited to 200 pieces.

Finally, Mr. Guadalupe showed us their new development, a new color of sapphire: orange. The orange sapphires are made in the shape of watch components, which will be made into the Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic. “Innovation, specifically in materials, is very important for me,” he said.

Zenith was the watch of choice for India’s national icon Mahatma Gandhi.

Julien Tornare, CEO of Zenith, also took us on a tour of their offices, showing the Chronomaster Sport, capable of displaying 1/10th of a second, using the El Primero chronograph. The El Primero A386 serves as an older sibling for this Chronomaster Sport, but the Chronomaster also takes inspiration from other Zenith lines, such as the El Primero Rainbow and the de Luca. It measures about 41mm, crafted in steel and is set with a black ceramic bezel.

Mr. Tornare also introduced their new ambassador, 2020 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, during the tour.

The creation of beauty doesn’t stop for Bulgari, not even during a pandemic.

Antoine Pin, Bulgari General Manager for Bulgari Horlogerie, showed an even grander Bulgari Serpenti (the ovoid head and coiling bracelet should make you think about serpents). The new Serpenti Spiga has a new pattern on the bracelet, suggesting scales — except these are studded with diamonds.

They’ve also added to the Divas’ Dream collection with the Peacock Dischi and the Tourbillon Lumiere. The bezels are studded with diamonds and precious stones, but the dial is even grander: they’re made of a marquetry  of peacock feathers, shown during the press conference as being assembled by hand.

Meanwhile, CEO Jean-Christophe Babin showed what else has been keeping the company busy over the pandemic: the Bulgari Virus Free Fund. The fund has donated 800,000 bottles of sanitizer (made using the resources at their perfumery) to the governments of Italy, the UK, and Switzerland. Through their funding, they have also helped Oxford University develop the Oxford-AstraZenecea vaccine; and they continue to fund research at Rockefeller University.

Discussing how the business fared during the pandemic, Mr. Babin said, “We have managed not only to do good but to do much better than the market,” noting that they closed 2020 on a note of growth in watches. “2021 will for sure be better than 2020,” he said. — Joseph L. Garcia

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