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Style’s 5 biggest luxury watch moments of August 2023,

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With news from bigwigs like Rolex and independent watchmakers such as Ludovic Ballouard and California-based J.N. Shapiro, to a very special collaboration between automobile and watchmaking, high horology is still making waves even as summer winds down and many of us are dreading – or have already returned to – work and school. GMTs are apparently the flavour du jour made for travel while celebrities like rapper Lil Yachty and singer Shawn Mendes have been flaunting their bling watches.

Here’s a round-up of Style’s 5 biggest timepiece moments at the end of summer.

1. Rolex buys Bucherer and expands its retail reach

Swiss luxury watchmaker Rolex made a big move in acquiring Bucherer AG. Photo: Rolex
In a stunning move last week, Rolex announced its acquisition of Bucherer AG – high horology retailer and long time partner – and its associated brands. The latter has a network of over 100 global stores that will continue to operate independently, which means they will still sell other brands.
Rolex’s recent acquisition includes watch brand Carl F. Bucherer, which is known for its peripheral rotor and other patented complications. Photo: Keystone

For high horology, Carl F. Bucherer is chief among the brands associated with Bucherer that Rolex now owns. It owns patents for unique takes on components such as the peripheral rotor and a “floating” tourbillon. It is unclear though how Rolex intends to leverage the brands that came with Bucherer AG in the acquisition.

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Rolex has been hailed as the “king” of watchmaking. Photo: Shutterstock
However, what is immediately clear is that Rolex has just massively expanded its reach and control in the retail process. This, among other moves this year, can either alleviate the ludicrous wait-list size that Rolex is notorious for, or it may force other brands to move out and reconsolidate now that Rolex has just made such a huge step into the retail space. For now, expect to see a lot more of the “king” of watchmaking, everywhere in the world.

2. Lil Yachty and Shawn Mendes sport summer bling Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe

Lil Yachty performs at the Lollapalooza Music Festival at Grant Park in Chicago, US, on August 6. Photo: AP

Though awards ceremonies are fewer and farther between this month, that hasn’t stopped stars from showing off their cool pieces. Chief among these was Lil Yachty as he took the stage to perform on day four of Lollapalooza Music Festival in Chicago.

On stage, he sported a limited-edition Audemars Piguet, specifically an all-metal Royal Oak that came from a collaboration with designer Matthew Williams. Givenchy’s creative director Williams recently re-upped with the Swiss watchmaker to produce Royal Oak Chronograph and Offshore pieces.
Shawn Mendes sporting a Patek Philippe Aquanaut with matching swim trunks. Photo: Splash

But what if you were more aquatically inclined this summer? Enter Canadian star Shawn Mendes’ company. The “Señorita” singer was spotted in Ibiza wearing a Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5168G white gold with a matching pair of khaki swim trunks – perhaps the best possible combination of horology and colour for a wet day in the sun.

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3. Rolls-Royce adds high horology to the dashboard

The Rolls-Royce Droptail Roadster drops jaws with an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept affixed to the dashboard. Photo: Rolls-Royce
Why use your dashboard’s digital clock or even the watch on your wrist when you can drive a Rolls-Royce with a Swiss horological masterpiece on it instead? When we got word that Rolls-Royce had teamed up with Audemars Piguet to affix a Royal Oak Concept to the dashboard of the new Droptail Roadster, we thought it was a fantastic novelty, but surely the British car manufacturer would do this only once.
Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Armillary Tourbillon, exclusively for the Rolls-Royce Amethyst Droptail. Photo: Rolls-Royce

Fast forward to last week when we heard that Vacheron Constantin also threw its name in the ring! Rather than the deep rouge of the former Droptail Roadster, Vacheron Constantin is adding the Armillary Tourbillon from its Les Cabinotiers line of unique watches to the Amethyst Droptail Roadster.

The Vacheron Constantin piece offers a different tune than the Audemars Piguet, resembling a pocket watch and featuring a massive tourbillon to maintain accuracy while navigating the g-forces of countryside driving.

4. GMTs, chic and elegance are all fair game this summer

Bell & Ross BR05 GMT is a sleek companion for travellers. Photo: Bell & Ross

For those with more conservative travel needs this summer, GMT watches were the flavour du jour, with Grand Seiko, Longines and Bell & Ross each releasing stunning pieces that help track more than one timezone.

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The cool and crisp Grand Seiko SBGJ275 GMT’s dial evokes Mount Iwate. Photo: Grand Seiko

Grand Seiko evokes its Shizukuishi studio by releasing two GMT pieces whose dials reflect the blue skies that hover over their workshop. Both pieces feature the 9S movement that turns 25 this year, with the SBGJ275 particularly featuring a rotating GMT bezel with a spectacular dial conjures the majestic Mount Iwate.

Longines Hydroconquest GMT 2023. Photo: Longines

Longines added date and chronograph pieces to its Conquest line this year, but we most enjoyed the addition of the Hydroconquest GMT, which adds a GMT hand for the first time to the black-and-gold dive bezel across all colourways.

Last but not least, Bell & Ross gave GMT fans a square option with the BR05 GMT, which comes with an integrated steel bracelet and satin finish.

German watchmaker Glashütte Original released its playful Seventies Chronograph Panorama. Photo: Glashutte Original

German maison Glashütte Original, however, has doubled down on designs that exemplify its unique identity, releasing the square Seventies Chronograph Panorama in summer colours and the elegant Senator Chronometer. The former oozes 70s playfulness, while it is almost impossible for the latter to be anything but a precise, timeless dress watch with its panorama date window, power reserve indicator and second-stop mechanism with minute detent ensuring precise timekeeping and hand positioning.

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5. Independent excellence – J.N. Shapiro, Ludovic Ballouard and Roger Smith continue to push horology to new heights

The J.N. Shapiro Resurgence is a rare high horology piece almost completely made in the US. Photo: Atom Moore

From a watchmaking perspective, few watches get more interesting than California-based watchmaker J.N. Shapiro’s latest release, Resurgence. It is an extremely rare instance of a high horology piece where almost every last component was built in the United States.

The American watch industry is an enigmatic one. Its robust 19th century clockmaking industry is now mainly survived by brands more known for affordability such as Timex and Shinola (Bulova and Hamilton are Japanese-owned and Swiss-made, respectively).

The caseback and movement of J.N. Shapiro’s Resurgence. Photo: Atom Moore

In this context, J.N. Shapiro celebrates the best of stateside horology, evident in the guilloché and damaskeening work, the latter of which is a type of engraving heavily associated with 19th century American watchmaking.

The 38mm time-only Resurgence is limited by production capacity to 30 a year and comes in gold, tantalum, zirconium or steel, with the gold model costing around US$85,000.

Grail Watch and Ludovic Ballouard collaborated on the Ludovic Ballouard et Fils Upside Down “Series Gaga”. Photo: Grail Watch, Ludovic Ballouard

Other independent watchmakers continued to push boundaries with their announcements this month, too. Ludovic Ballouard made headlines with the new et Fils Upside Down Series Gaga”, which adds doodling from his son on the signature dial with upturned indices, retailing for almost US$123,000.

Across the channel, British horologist Roger Smith, whose pieces consistently command record prices at auction, is looking to cause a stir by announcing a one-off Series One piece for British Watchmakers’ Day in March next year.

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