It remains the world’s largest watch and jewellery fair, but Baselworld has been hard hit by the changes sweeping through the watch industry in recent years, with just 650 exhibitors this year. This represents a stunning 57 per cent drop over the past two years, with big names such as Ulysse Nardin, Girard-Perregaux, Hermes and the Movado Group having left the fair. While some have chosen to show at rival Genevan fair, the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, others have opted to meet their retailers and press at different sites – or simply rely on digital means to do their business. This year, the duration of the fair was cut by two days, running for five days instead of seven.
However, with big names – including Rolex, Patek Philippe, the Swatch Group, Chopard and the LVMH stable – still throwing their support behind it, Baselworld remains an important fixture on the watch calendar. Demonstrating the cautious optimism that many industry leaders have expressed since the upswing following the industry downturn two years ago, commercial appeal was a key uniting factor across the watch launches this year. Largely putting blockbuster pieces on hold for now, companies introduced pieces designed to sell – think updates on luxury sports watches, vintage reissues and smaller watches meant to appeal to (and fit the wrists of ) both genders. In short, there was something for just about everyone. Here, we present our (tongue-in-cheek) lists of timepieces for horological temperaments of every shade.
FOR MECHANICAL MAXIMALISTS
THREE NO-HOLDS-BARRED HOROLOGICAL STATEMENTS
01 MB&F THE FIFTH ELEMENT
Before smartphones arrived, enabling users to easily avail themselves of meteorological information, there were desktop weather stations. MB&F reimagines these digital instruments by fusing this concept with mid-20th century visions of UFOs to create The Fifth Element. Created in conjunction with partner and Swiss high-end clockmaker L’Epee, this piece of desktop art comprises a brass frame – the so-called Fifth Element – that holds four removable “pods” that are actually a clock, barometer, hygrometer and thermometer. Meteorology just got a whole lot cooler.
02 URWERK AMC PROJECT
In the late 18th century, renowned watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet invented the sympathique pendulum clock – a master clock designed to adjust and set specially designed watches. Urwerk’s AMC (Atomic Master Clock) Project takes this concept into the 21st century: Through a mechanical system, a purpose-built watch is linked to an ultra-accurate atomic clock that has a maximum variation of one second in 317 years. This allows the watch to be wound, set, and adjusted with utmost accuracy. No word yet on whether the AMC Project will make it to production, but if/when it does, we’re sure there will be a good number of Tony Stark wannabes ready to shell out.
03 JAQUET DROZ PARROT REPEATER POCKET WATCH
These days, pocket watches are uncommon, but one like the Jaquet Droz Parrot Repeater is downright rare: Launched to mark the brand’s 280th anniversary, this unique pocket watch – from its two covers to the hand-painted box it comes in – is saturated with traditional decorative and watch making techniques. The dial, for instance, features an elaborate tropical backdrop created using crafts such as miniature painting and engraving. Against this lush landscape, a family of five macaws are set in animated motion when the minute repeater slide is activated.
FOR THOSE WHO ENJOY SURPRISES
WATCHES THAT ARE MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
01 HUBLOT BIG BANG TOURBILLON POWER RESERVE 5 DAYS SAPPHIRE
To the uninitiated, it might look like a plastic watch gone wild. Your fellow watch nerds, however, will know that the Big Bang Tourbillon Power Reserve 5 Days Sapphire is one of the latest examples of highend timepieces that come fully clad in sapphire crystal, the ultra-hard glass that usually covers watch dials or display case backs. In its latest, 45mm glass-centric outing, Hublot has given its five-day power reserve, manually wound tourbillon movement greater transparency by holding it in place with a strip of sapphire crystal, while using acrylic to form its skeletonised main plate.
02 HAUTLENCE NEWTON 01
Don’t bother trying to surreptitiously read the time on this watch if you spy it on someone else’s wrist. This watch tells time with the help of the movable, blue DLC-coated central flange that has a minutes track and a window that shows the correct hour. When the wearer does not have his or her wrist in the position to look at the watch, the flange moves out of position, and shows neither the right hour nor minutes. This new, self winding movement is based on the traditional jumping hours display, but instead of having the date jump in a static window – it brings the window to the correct date.
03 RADO DIAMASTER CERAMOS
Like the look of steel – or rose gold – but not a fan of its weight? Material alchemist Rado’s latest DiaMaster slim automatic watch is made from Ceramos, a mix of 90 per cent high-tech ceramic and 10 per cent metal alloy. Looking highly similar to polished steel or rose gold, Ceramos will never lose its colour or sheen, while possessing the qualities that people like in high-tech ceramics, chiefly lightness and durability.
04 OMEGA SPEEDMASTER “DARK SIDE OF THE MOON” APOLLO 8
Before the 1968 Apollo 8 mission – the first to orbit the moon – nobody had seen the far side of the moon. Half a century after that landmark mission, Omega has created a new “Dark Side of the Moon” watch with a similarly hidden lunar landscape. Housed in a 44.25mm black ceramic case, this Speedmaster features a skeletonised dial that reveals a manual-winding movement that has been blackened and laser-ablated to resemble the lunar surface: The dial side features a lighter, cratered finish, while the display caseback reveals the darker terrain that the Apollo 8 astronauts would have seen on the far side of the moon.
05, 06 CHOPARD L.U.C ALLINONE
Some watches have simple, time-only displays on the front, reveal their real technical prowess – be it a minute repeater movement or a tourbillon, and so on – through the back. And then there are watches that have so much going on that half their features have to be placed on the back. The aptly named Chopard L.U.C All-In-One belongs in the latter camp. This tourbillon perpetual calendar watch has 14 indications, with half of these being located on the back, where you will find astronomical displays such as the equation of time, day and night indicators and an orbital moon phase. First launched in white gold in 2010 to commemorate Chopard’s 150th anniversary, the 46mm watch is now available in rose gold or platinum.
FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE LOOKING (A LITTLE) RUGGED WITHOUT BREAKING A SWEAT
SPORTS WATCHES THAT WE WOULD NOT SUBJECT TO ROUGH PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
01 BLANCPAIN FIFTY FATHOMS BATHYSCAPHE QUANTIEME ANNUEL
If you use dive watches for actual dives, you would (a) be in the minority of dive-watch owners, and (b) probably want a simple watch that is easy to read in deep water. In a nod to the swelling ranks of desk divers who mostly appreciate the robustness of diving timepieces, however, Blancpain has added calendar complications to its new Fifty Fathoms and Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe models: The Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantieme Annuel, for instance, is the first annual calendar within Blancpain’s dive watches. Although yes, you could wear it underwater if you wanted to – the 43mm steel watch has 300-metre water resistance and a unidirectional ceramic bezel that indicates how long you can stay beneath.
02 ROLEX GMT-MASTER II
We cannot quite decide if the new Pepsi bezel (the popular term for red-and-blue bezels) GMT-Master II in steel is actually dressier than the white gold version that was launched four years ago. On one hand, this 2018 version comes in a hardier (and of course, much more affordable) metal – and it is also powered by the efficient, new-generation calibre 3285. On the other hand, it is fitted with Rolex’s Jubilee bracelet, an elegant five-link bracelet usually found on the Datejust, a more formal model. Whether in white gold or steel, we’re pretty sure these covetable timepieces will not be subjected to much banging around.
03 HUBLOT BIG BANG REFEREE 2018 FIFA WORLD CUP RUSSIA
Next month marks the start of the Fifa World Cup – and this 49mm titanium smartwatch might just be the perfect companion for football-loving armchair athletes with sufficiently large wrists. The Big Bang Referee’s main USP is, unsurprisingly, its World Cup-centric apps that will allow wearers to keep track of game times and match schedules, and view real-time displays of match statistics.
04 ZENITH DEFY EL PRIMERO 21 SWIZZ BEATZ
Under the watch of LVMH watch chief Jean-Claude Biver, Zenith’s Defy El Primero 21 was launched last year, featuring a chronograph that could record timings precise to 1/100 of a second – a useful feature for timing motorsports and the like. However, we can’t help feeling that this latest gem-encrusted version of the chronograph (there are five carats’ worth of diamonds here) – one of three limitededition novelties created by Zenith in collaboration with American hip-hop star Swizz Beatz – will be more sought-after for its bling factor rather than its timing prowess.
05 PATEK PHILIPPE NAUTILUS PERPETUAL CALENDAR
If you are among the Patek Philippe sports-watch fans who find themselves torn between the Nautilus and the Aquanaut, you might find yourself as conflicted as ever this year, with the brand releasing handsome additions to both families. Equipped with Patek Philippe’s ultra-thin automatic movement, calibre 240 Q, the Nautilus Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5740/1G-001 is the first Nautilus with a perpetual calendar – and this white gold watch is now the brand’s slimmest wristwatch with this complication. With its sunburst black dial and sporty orange accents, the Aquanaut Chronograph Ref. 5968A-001 in steel – the first chronograph in the Aquanaut range – has a compelling presence of its own.
FOR THOSE WHOSE WRISTS AREN’T BUILT LIKE STALLONE’S
SMALL TIMEPIECES THAT CAN WORK FOR EITHER GENDER
01 BREITLING NAVITIMER 1 AUTOMATIC 38
These days, you are less likely to hear companies marketing smaller watches to a specific gender – fact is, there are many male watch fans out there with moderately sized wrists who welcome the downsized timepieces that have entered the market in recent years. We like the look of the brand new 38mm Navitimer 1 models, which retain the iconic aviation watch’s slide rule while doing away with the chronograph. The COSC certified chronometer comes in steel with black or blue dial variants, and in steel with a red gold bezel.
02 OMEGA SEAMASTER 1948 LIMITED EDITIONS
Heritage brands have been making the most of their long histories by rolling out vintage reissues, a trend that has directly influenced the return to smaller timepieces. To mark the 70th anniversary of the original Seamaster, which was the direct descendant of watches created for the British military during the Second World War, Omega has released two limited editions that feature 38mm steel cases and domed silvered dials. While their aesthetics are vintage-inspired, they are powered by Omega’s very 21st century Master Chronometer movements, which are resistant to magnetism of up to 15,000 Gauss.
03 TUDOR BLACK BAY FIFTY-EIGHT
Tudor has been expanding its Black Bay family to cover a variety of size bases, including a new 32mm diameter model in its range of standard automatics this year ( it a lso comes i n 3 6mm and 41mm). But our vote for the brand’s best novelty goes to the Black Bay Fifty-Eight – relax, the 58 in its name does not refer to its size (phew), but to the fact that its inspiration, the vintage reference 7924 dive watch, was introduced in 1958. Measuring 39mm (the same as the ref. 7924) in diameter, and about 3mm thinner than regular Black Bay watches, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight is driven by Tudor’s new in-house movement, the MT5402.
FOR WATCH FANS WHO ALSO LOVE JEWELLERY
SPARKLING PIECES THAT – HURRAH – ALSO TELL THE TIME
01 CHOPARD HAPPY PALM
Distinguished by diamonds that move freely around the dial, Chopard’s Happy Sport watches were launched 25 years ago, overseen by Chopard co-president Caroline Scheufele. One of the metiers d’art pieces marking this anniversary year is the 36mm watch, Happy Palm, which is made using Chopard’s sustainable Fairmined yellow gold. The watch’s key motif is the Palme d’Or, which was created by Scheufele for the Cannes Film Festival: A mini sculpture of the palm leaf, and diamonds move around against a backdrop of golden leaves created using traditional Japanese urushi lacquering and Fleurisanne engraving.
02 HARRY WINSTON PREMIER WINSTON CANDY
We have seen numerous jewellery watches covered with a rainbow of gemstones, and, trust us – the results a re not always pretty. American jewellery brand Harry Winston shows how to do it right with the Premier Winston Candy, an automatic white-gold timepiece lit up by 244 diamonds and coloured gemstones – the latter comprises blue Paraiba tourmalines, green tsavorites, orange spessartites, dark blue and light blue sapphires, red spinels and pink sapphires. The stones are cut in three different sizes and snow-set to show as little underlying metal as possible. It’s definitely enough to make one feel like a grown-up kid in a candy store.
03 BULGARI SERPENTI TUBOGAS
Bulgari marks a hundred years of jewellery watch making in 2018, and over the century, the house has created some unmistakeable icons – such as the flexible Tubogas bracelet, which was inspired by domestic gas pipes. Updating its tricolour Tubogas bracelets from the 1960s, Bulgari masterfully brings together rose, white and yellow gold in its latest Serpenti timepiece – as well as 38 diamonds that frame the watch face.