By Maria Doulton in London
Here at the Jewellery Editor, no sooner has the Christmas tree been dragged out and the final mince pie consumed, then thoughts turn to that other big winter event: the SIHH. The enigmatic acronym stands for the more long-winded Salon Internationale de la Haute Horlogerie, which is held in Geneva each January.
Sixteen brands, mainly from the Richemont Group, including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, IWC and Montblanc, elegantly arrange their wares for the world's retailers and the press to peruse - and, in the case of the former, purchase to fill their shops around the world. This makes the SIHH an ideal starting point to look at what to expect from the year ahead on the horological front.
One of the most interesting developments is the joint venture between highbrow Swiss watchmaker Parmigiani Fleurier and high-glamour Italian jeweller Pomellato. The new Tonda watches manage to unite the best of Swiss watchmaking and Italian style, with colourful stone dials and decorative details that are a welcome new direction for both companies. Expect to see more canny collaborations like this one.
But the idea of teaming up is not entirely new. Five years ago, Ralph Lauren partnered with the Richemont Group to create a line of watches that are every inch part of Ralph Lauren's gentrified and elegantly worn-in lifestyle as much as Richemont's technical prowess. This year, the brand presents the Automative Flying Tourbillon, inspired by Mr Lauren's 1938 57SC Bugatti.
Cartier once again updates a classic, the Tortue, which first graced wrists in 1912 and still looks remarkably fresh and desirable. A more daring new direction is the Ballon Bleu Parrot watch, whose fine plumage is made up of a floral marquetry or a jigsaw of flower petals.
Roger Dubuis goes straight for women's weakest spot with a stunning Velvet watch set with 304 diamonds. Another diamond delight is Vacheron Constantin's Patrimony Traditionelle small model, which manages to pack in over 10 carats of diamonds.
Audemars Piguet surprises with a futuristic-looking Royal Oak Concept GMT Tourbillon with white ceramic details, while Cartier ventures into a new sport area for this luxury brand with the Calibre de Cartier Diver watch. Greubel Forsey's Platinum GMT is another horological marvel, with a 24-second tourbillon tilted at 24 degrees for connoisseurs of extreme watchmaking. At IWC, it's all about the Aquatimer, with new functions such as a perpetual calendar and gauge depths, as well as innovative materials like titanium.
Jaeger-LeCoultre offers us a glimpse into its world with the highly sophisticated Duometre Unique Travel Time, with a manually wound movement and a dial bristling with functions. More streamlined is the Grande Reverso in pink gold with a chocolate-coloured dial.
Paneristi will be flooding the social media to discuss each detail of the Panerai Luminor 1950 3-Day hand-wound model with a left-hand side crown - big news for those who faithfully follow this brand. Meanwhile, Piaget is ever thinning down and coming up with new ways to pack more into less as witnessed with the Altiplano 38 mm 900P with hands tucked under the bridges.
The watch of playboys, Roger Dubuis is looking remarkably restrained with the handsome Hommage Chronograph in pink gold, while the Vacheron Constantin Malte Tourbillon is all understated sobriety in platinum. Lange & Sohne's Grande Lange 1 Moon Phase is a variation on a house classic, with a life-like lunar indication so precise that it will remain accurate for 122.6 years.
To conclude, it seems that the watch houses are playing it safe, giving a new lease of life to classic, well-loved models with tweaks, new materials and combinations of functions. But what had me most intrigued was Cartier's revival of a craft I never even knew existed: floral marquetry. I hardly dare ask: whatever next?