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I spent the first half of this week in Miami, Big Willie Style. LVMH flew in journalists from around the world to present watches inside a mansion belonging to one of the city’s most famous plastic surgeons. (The massive home might be recognizable to viewers of Real Housewives of Miami as the place where the surgeon got caught on a hot mic telling his friend he planned to divorce his wife!) Anyway, the group’s brands—Tag Heuer, Hublot, Bulgari, and Zenith—rolled out plenty of tasty watches. You can find our favorites here. But the most exciting and historic watches I saw in Miami weren’t pumped up in a press release—instead, they were silently worn on an executive’s wrist or still in a sketch form on a designer’s desk. Here are all the finest timepieces you didn’t see come out of LVMH Watch Week.
The Sketch Master
Lying across the desk of Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, Bulgari’s product creation executive director, is a sheaf of sketches romantically plotting out the curves and dimensions of a watch. “98% of my time I design by hand,” Buonamassa Stigliani said. According to the designer, a well-known jack of all trades, he gets as much joy—if not more—out of sketching as he does from making the actual watches. “Before, I made sketches because I wanted to make a product,” he said. “Now I make a product because I want to make sketches. We are working on very interesting watches for 2026 and 2027 that may be starting from the beauty of the sketches.”
Buonamassa Stigliani said sketching is a dying art in his industry. “Today the computer helps you a lot so you are not obliged to develop some specific skills,” he said. “Now it’s difficult when we hire some new designer—they just use an iPad or a Wacom tablet or Photoshop. That's it. But [sketching] is a kind of ability that makes your brain work in a certain way.”
For Display Only
At first glance, I thought Dimepiece’s Brynn Wallner and I were twinning. I hate to admit it in my own blog, but it turns out she had me beat. While her watch looks like the increasingly popular Tag Heuer Formula 1s I was wearing, it’s actually a dive watch that shares the F1’s petite size. Otherwise, this is quite a different piece, which was apparent as soon as she handed it to me: This thing was heavy! While my cute lil’ F1 is made of steel and fiberglass, Wallner’s diver, which Alan Bedwell of Foundwell located and gave to her, is entirely built from steel, coated in PVD, and comes on a sturdy bracelet. This watch was also made before Heuer merged with Tag, so it features the brand’s old logo (flex). These are decidedly more rare than the F1 Tag Heuer pumped out through the ‘80s and ‘90s (the brand sold over 3,000,000 of them). Wallner thinks hers might have been relegated to a display case; when she first received it, there was no movement inside. She and Bedwell had to stick one in themselves.
The OG Zenith
One of the biggest new releases out of LVMH Watch Week was the Zenith Triple Calendar. Even better, however, was the watch on the wrist of Romain Marietta, Zenith’s chief product officer, who headed up the brand’s presentation. Marietta had the very watch from Charles Vermot that inspired these new releases (pictured side-by-side above). Vermot is a mythical figure in Zenith’s history—the man who famously saved all the necessary parts to produce Zenith’s defining El Primero movement, even after the company’s then-owner, Zenith Radio Corporation, ordered it all sold off or jettisoned in 1975. Vermot went as far as to build a fake wall in the attic to ensure they remained hidden. The watchmaker’s personal timepiece was passed down to his son, who bequeathed it to the Zenith museum. Marietta wore it to the presentation to demonstrate where the story began for the brand’s latest model.
A Brief Chat with Two Horological History Makers (and Gérald Genta’s BFFs)
Enrico Barbasini and Michel Navas made a special appearance at the Miami event. The pair are currently heading up the La Fabrique du Temps, LVMH’s specialty watch manufacturer, but are maybe best known for the ample time they spent working with Gérald Genta, who is responsible for designing heat like the Patek Philippe Nautilus and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Barbasini said he had a job offer from Patek Philippe coming out of university, but decided to hitch his wagon to Genta instead. ”When I finished school, the day after that I was at Gérald Genta,” Barbasini said. “When I started, the first day I worked on a minute repeater pocket watch.”
Last year, LVMH announced that Barbasini and Navas are heading up the resurrection of Genta’s eponymous brand through La Fabrique du Temps. Along with a select group of journalists in Miami, I got to sit down with Navas and Barbasini. Here are a few highlights.
On Genta’s notorious Disney collaboration, which got him kicked out of the 1984 Montres et Bijoux tradeshow (and which the new GG is bringing back with a golfing Donald Duck graphic)
Barbasini: Mr. Genta said they're too serious. They don't do nothing. We have to do something to wake up the watchmakers.
Navas: The others didn’t like this meeting of high watchmaking and these Disney movies.
Barbasini: But I think it's a great idea because perhaps our industry is not as strong today if Mr. Gentile didn’t exist. The mentality of Mr. Genta is important in our in our industry today.
GQ: I was told they're doing the Donald Duck because [Barbasini is] such an enthusiastic golf player. What's your golf game like?
Barbasini: I'm not very good. My handicap is 17.3. Before I worked on this brand, I was playing not every day, but for three or four days per week. Now I play once every three weeks.
On the super-hot Louis Vuitton Monterey II
Navas: I love this model of Monterey. Jean [Arnault, the director of watches at Louis Vuitton] loves this model. Yeah, We dream about [bringing it back]…someday.
On Genta’s love of painting and hatred of jewelry
Navas: He started with a jewelry school but very quickly he threw away his jewelry tools [LITERALLY threw them into Lake Geneva] because he wanted to make designs.
We have the collection of all the paintings he did. We have more than 3,000 paintings from Genta. He was painting every day.
Watch Show Rule #1: Always Get a Wrist Shot of the Heritage Director
Every time I run into Tag Heuer’s heritage director Nicholas Biebuyck, he’s wearing a watch (or two!) that proves some guys really do have all the luck. This was no different in Miami, where Biebuyck was double wristing with a vintage gold Carrera and a Dato that was issued to a member of the Albanian Air Force. If everyone at the Miami mansion where LVMH Watch Week was held competed in a provenance-off, Biebuyck would have been in pole position to emerge victorious.
A Solid Gold Digital Watch
One of the most fascinating little treats at LVMH watch week was a vintage Bulgari Roma. In 1975, it was a brazen rule breaker: a gold watch with an electronic digital display. It was such a firebrand at the time that Bulgari didn’t even dare sell it. Instead, the brand gave the Roma to its top 100 clients at the time. “Bulgari was the first to make the digital watch in gold,” said Bulgari’s Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani (although Hamilton might have something to say about that claim). “This is a part of the brand: to catch the biggest trend in the market and turn it into a luxury experience.” The clients liked this refashioned luxury experience so much that it led to the launch of the Bulgari Bulgari, now a tentpole in the maker’s catalog, just two years later in 1977. Unfortunately, it is wishcasting to hope Bulgari will bring this watch back, even for the dude responsible for making the watches.
“I would love [to re-release the Bulgari Roma],”Buonamassa Stigliani said, in his red-saucy Italian accent. “We discuss a lot about that a few years ago. I'll tell you very honestly, we don't have any plan to have this watch in the future. But I would love to because we can make these kinds of things. Again, a gold watch or a carbon fiber Bulgari Bulgari with a digital display exactly like the previous one—just very simple, no features like an alarm. But we have so many [other] things to do.”
At Menta Watches, Everyone Knows Your Name (and Invites You to Poke Around the Safe)
During my last day in Miami, I stopped by the office of my friend Adam Golden, the founder of Menta Watches. Even better: the Davidoff Brothers, Sacha and Roy, were in town from Geneva. You’d be hard pressed to find a room with more all-time grails in it. Sacha was wearing the most expensive Cartier Bamboo in the world—he set the market for it when he purchased it for 50,000 Swiss francs (nearly $60,000) at a November auction. I unraveled Golden’s pouch to find, among many other treasures, a mint gold Rolex Daytona 6263. Note the “T Swiss T” at the bottom of the dial, signifying that tritium was used to help the watch’s dial and hands glow.
Once I thought I’d seen all the magic the Davidoffs brought over from Geneva, Sacha directed me to a leather pouch where they kept the really primo stuff. He wasn’t kidding. I got to try on Audemars Piguet’s Star Wheel—the watch’s signature discs have some really strong dimensions in person that don't translate as well to pictures. The other was a blingy Vacheron Constantin with a perpetual calendar—according to Roy, it’s the only one in yellow gold with the months written out in French. (Sacha later added over text that he’s only seen one in platinum with that quirk. He also mentioned another with cream subdials and the months written out in Spanish. I want to get my hands on it.) I’m proud of how many killer watches I saw in just 48 hours.
Originally Appeared on GQ