What were Chinese collectors’ top Watches and Wonders picks?

    Jing Daily speaks to five Chinese watch collectors to find out which brands and models won them over at the horological fair in Geneva.
    A watch by German manufacturer of luxury and prestige watches A Lange & Sohne is displayed during the opening day of the Watches and Wonders Geneva luxury watch fair, in Geneva, on April 9, 2024. Photo: Ghetty Images
    Shilpa DhamijaAuthor
      Published   in Hard Luxury

    This year, Geneva’s popular Watches and Wonders fair opened its doors to the public for three days. Last year it opened to the public for two days – before then it had been accessible only to retailers, press, special invitees and watch collectors.

    While 54 mainstream and indie brands such as Patek Philippe, Rolex, Chopard, Cartier and Czapek & Cie exhibited glittering and grail watches at Palexpo (the fair’s main venue), more than 50 brands exhibited their new launches at smaller venues around Geneva, making the Swiss city the hottest place to be for horology enthusiasts this spring.

    With the week-long watch mega-fair ending today, Jing Daily caught up with Gen-Z and millennial Chinese watch collectors to discover their top picks.

    For Hong Kong-based watch collector Mervin Ling, who is also the founder of on Instagram, the winners of the watch week in Geneva were Cartier’s animal jewelry watch collection De Bethune DB28XS, a.k.a. The Purple Rain, and Czapek & Cie’s Promenade Goutte d’Eau.

    While Cartier’s 2024 rendition of the early 20th century Tortue watch, featuring a tonneau shape and Roman numerals, was arguably the most talked-about novelty at this installment of Watches & Wonders, the brand’s gender-neutral, gem-set animal dial watches are what stood out more for Ling: “I loved the Tiger and Zebra dial watches in particular.”

    Although animal motifs have been an integral part of Cartier’s design language since the introduction of the Panther watch more than a century ago, Ling says, “I was amazed by how elegantly the native aesthetics of both the tiger and zebra were executed in these watches.”

    This year, independent watch brand Czapek and Cie presented a handful of watches with exemplary guilloché and enamel dials at Palexpo, turning attention away from mainstream watch brands. One highlight was the Promenade Goutte d’Eau watch, which presented the ripple effect of a water drop in vivid shades of blue achieved using clever enameling. “I love the optical illusion created by the ripples,” says Ling.

    A collector of Rolex and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watches, 24-year-old Hangzhou-based Leo Wang added classic designs by Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe at Watches and Wonders to his shopping list.

    The new green dial in Vacheron Constantin’s “Overseas” collection, “with simple ‘4520V’ model dial, looks very low-key and high-end at the same time,” Wang says, adding that when compared to an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, this watch is much more comfortable on the wrist.

    From nearly a dozen watches launched by Patek Philippe this year, Wang’s heart is set on the new Golden Ellipse ref. 5738/1R. “The whole phenotype on this watch is very antique along with the unique texture of the strap, making it a very classic and charming watch,” he says.

    Singapore-based Pearly Yeo, known as @thegirlwithbirthmark on Instagram, started collecting watches as a lockdown hobby during the pandemic and has accumulated a diverse collection of Cartier, Piaget and vintage Vacheron Constantin watches. Yeo’s top pick from Geneva was the Bulgari Serpenti designed in collaboration with Japanese architect Tadao Ando: “The dial reminds me of a Serpent’s head seen from the top. It’s like wearable art on the wrist,” she says.

    Yeo’s other two favorite pieces from this year’s novelties are Vacheron Constantin’s Les Cabinotiers Berkley Grand Complication pocket watch with 63 complications, and A. Lange & Söhne’s Datograph Up/Down ref 405.028, “because despite being a chronograph, the Datograph does not have a busy dial design,” says Yeo, adding that another reason why she appreciates the datograph series is that “Annegret Fleischer, a lady engineer at A. Lange & Söhne, designed its movement.”

    Los Angeles and Beijing-based Zhao Chen’s first watch acquisition was a Casio G-Shock at age 11.

    “I had to beg and cry to my mom at a mall for it because I wanted to look cool in front of my friends,” he says. His watch-collecting journey has come a long way since. “Watches have become beyond just a symbol of success and image for me as I’ve grown to learn more about horology,” he says.

    Chen’s collection includes the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Tiffany stamp 5164R and a variety of Rolex and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watches.

    From this year’s fresh horology crop, Chen’s favorite watches are from Patek Philippe and Rolex. Atop his list is the Patek Philippe high complication 5160/500R watch in rose gold, his favorite watch metal after platinum because he likes “the feel of a hefty watch on my wrist.”

    The model’s engraved caseback was another highlight. “Watchmakers rarely care about giving the extra attention to the backside of the watch as they tend to use more glass casebacks,” says Chen.

    His other favorites are the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time 5164G in white gold and gray-blue shade, and the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller in rose gold, “especially because Rolex has used the Jubilee bracelet on this gold Sky-Dweller.”

    A former professional tennis player from Hangzhou, Li Yunyan’s (@lyy_0228 on Instagram) watch-collecting journey is inspired by tennis legends Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal’s endorsements of Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille watches, respectively.

    Li’s collection is dominated by Audemars Piguet watches. However, this year’s novelties, featuring modern shades of blue, have Yunyan considering a Patek Philippe “denim style” Nautilus and a Rolex Day Date, the latter of which features an intense blue-green dial and a bezel set with 60 trapeze-cut diamonds.

    • The Watches and Wonders fair in Geneva, a haven for horology enthusiasts, extended public access to three days this year, with over 50 luxury brands showcasing their latest creations.
    • Chinese collectors like Mervin Ling highlighted Cartier's De Bethune DB28XS and Czapek & Cie’s Promenade Goutte d’Eau among their top picks for their unique designs and craftsmanship.
    • Younger collectors like Leo Wang and Pearly Yeo are diversifying their preferences, with Wang eyeing Vacheron Constantin's "Overseas" collection for its elegance and Yeo admiring Bulgari's collaboration with Tadao Ando for its artistic design.
    • Zhao Chen's growing appreciation for horology is reflected in his admiration for Patek Philippe's intricate 5160/500R watch and Rolex's Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller for their attention to detail and luxurious feel.
    • Influenced by tennis icons, Li Yunyan's passion for Audemars Piguet is now accompanied by interest in Patek Philippe's "denim style" Nautilus and Rolex's Day Date with its distinctive blue-green dial and diamond-studded bezel.
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