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Tech tock: the most technically advanced luxury watches

While the mass market may be proliferated by smart watches, the high end is still the domain of Swiss luxury. Ben Winstanley selects the mechanical watches still pushing the boundaries

Apple shipped 5.7 million smartwatches worldwide in Q2 2019 – rising an above-average 50 percent from 3.8 million in the same quarter last year. The predictions for total year sales is around the 33 million mark.

And while it is the biggest manufacturer by quite some margin, Apple still only has about 46% market share – so we're talking around 70 million for total global smartwatch sales this year alone.

Yet despite the new kids on the block, the traditional luxury watch market has witnessed continuous growth in the past few years and is projected to grow even further well into the next decade.

Increased air travel, a growing demand for luxury watches among millennials, and the rise in e-commerce channels are all contributing factors to the growth in sales.

And it's at the very top end where some of the most impressive figures – not to mention watches – are to be seen. Here, innovation in both technology and materials continues apace. We've selected some of our favourite launches from the last 24 months, all of them proving there's plenty of life in the old dogs yet. 

For Zenith, the future of watches looks like the Defy Inventor. Beneath the titanium case, you’ll find the calibre 9100 automatic movement, which operates at a whopping 18Hz with 50 hours of power reserve. Why is this important? Well, 18Hz translates into a rate of 129,600 bph – or, to put it another way, more than four times a standard movement – which results in fewer errors and an overall more accurate movement. It looks pretty damn cool, too.

For more information, see zenith-watches.com

Project Z has created a number of unique ways of displaying popular watch complications since the collection’s debut in 2004. The latest – the Z13 –features a retrograde date and moonphase complications, presented on an unusual three-dimensional structured dial and encased in the immensely durable zirconium-aluminium alloy Zalium.

For more information, see harrywinston.com

Graff’s latest timepiece is aptly named: strip out the frippery until it’s down to its skeleton, add a tourbillon balance wheel, and an eye-catching excavated case structure, and you’re left with a Structural Tourbillon Skeleton. Got it? You don’t need us to tell you this is a highly technical exercise.

For more information, see graff.com

The Freak X freely defies general watchmaking convention – employing the movement as a watch hand is completely backwards – and utilises the latest technology to boost the timepiece’s efficiency. You can’t help but love it.

For more information, see ulysse-nardin.com

The wristwatch has always been at the forefront of the day’s technology – just ask historical manufacturer Jaeger-LeCoultre. This stunning 39mm ultra-thin timepiece may be classic in its presentation, but the impeccable gullioché engraving on the sunburst-blue enamel dial, and the ability to squeeze a perpetual calendar inside this 10.44mm-thick case are still examples of cutting-edge watchmaking.

For more information, see jaeger-lecoultre.com

Hublot and Ferrari’s collaboration stretches back eight years now, but this is the best yet. Flavio Manzoni, senior vice-president of design at Ferrari, and his Centro Stile team (the brand’s in-house design group) are said to have provided the driving force for the watch’s blueprint – using as their muse the Ferrari GT. In automotive terms, Hublot simply provided the engine. It’s gorgeous: especially the unusual saucer-like case with its convex central console sitting proud from the outer body.

For more information, see hublot.com