From everyday watches to limited-edition collectors’ pieces, the Basel fair has it all, and several trends are always visible at the show.
This year, those trends include blue dials, skeletonized or open-worked watches, interesting new materials, a new standard of elegance in dress watches and, at the high end, some interesting complications, especially minute repeaters. Blue is not really a common color for watches, so despite the fact that it is a trend right now, it is actually rare. The many blue pieces at Basel stood out in the showcases, including pieces from TAG Heuer, Hermès and Tudor.
Open worked and skeletonized movements are hot, and most brands now have models that show off some of the inner workings of the movement on the dial side. Often these components are blackened for a dramatic effect. The components and bridges of the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Chronograph Carbone Forgé, for example, are treated with black DLC. This limited edition of 250 pieces, is inspired by 21st century fighter planes whose cockpits are made of high-tech materials. The case is made of forged carbon.
The Zenith 6150 Elite was also widely admired at Basel. It is the epitome of the minimalist dress watch, with an ultra-thin automatic movement in a slim, 10 mm thick and 42 mm wide steel case with a simple black alligator strap. The movement offers a 100-hour power reserve, which makes this a great everyday watch. It is water resistant to 30 meters.In terms of complications, minute repeaters dominated the high end.
The Girard-Perregaux Minute Repeater Tourbillon with Gold Bridges also generated a lot of buzz at the fair. It is both a nod to G-P’s history (the unique three-bridges concept was patented in 1884), and the modern reworking of the repeater function. G-P has positioned the two large gongs on the dial side, prominently at 12 o’clock. The sapphire crystal caseback is curved to maximize the volume of the chime. In addition, the governor, the component that activates the chime, is positioned on the back of the dial plate where the sound is less likely to interfere with the minute repeater chime. The third bridge of the movement is positioned over this mechanism on the caseback. The movement is beautifully decorated, from the shape of the hammers and beveling on the bridges to the intricate perlage finish on the mainplate.
There are always collectors pieces introduced at the Basel fair and no timepieces are more collectible than those made by Rolex and Patek Philippe. From Rolex, the talking piece this year is the Yacht-Master 40, the first model in this series with an 18k rose gold (Everose, as Rolex calls its proprietary alloy). Previously, the Yacht-Master was available only in stainless steel, with a platinum bezel. It is also the first Rolex piece with a rubber strap, called Oysterflex, a very soft, flexible rubber with an internal cushion system that makes for a comfortable fit. The rubber is fitted over steel blades, so you get the strength of steel and the comfort of rubber.
Patek Philippe’s Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Ref. 5524, was the most visible introduction from that brand. It is a Pilot’s watch like something we expect from IWC or Zenith, with the sporty codes of the aeronautical timepiece: large case, second time zone, outsized Arabic numerals, plenty of Super-LumiNova on large hands and indicators, high-tech pushers, thick case (this one nearly 11 mm) and a strap with contrasting stitching. Functions include two time zones with backwards and forwards adjustment, day/night indication and date window.
Smart watches were also a huge trend at the show; Apple isn’t the only one to launch one this year. Several brands, including Frederique Constant, Alpina, TAG Heuer, Breitling, Gucci and Bulgari all introduced smart watches this year. The Bulgari Magnesium is notable. It is a luxury automatic watch but with smart functions; it serves as an electronic passport, a banking tool and an electronic car door opener, for example. It can transfer data, activate a home alarm system and place calls from a smart phone. The dial is made of magnesium, a metallic material that sparkles. It uses an NFC (Near Field Communication) chip.
Finally, ladies’ timepieces are a major segment now, with most containing automatic movements, particularly in the everyday category. The Ladies’ timepieces that made the biggest impression at this year’s fair, however, were the “moving” jewelry watches.
The Lady Compliquée Peacock, made by Fabergé, for instance, has a jumping retrograde minute function, that uses the unfurling of the peacock’s feathers to track minutes. Hours are indicated by the peacock’s tail, which remains stationary while an engraved mother- of-pearl hour ring rotates. The platinum case is set with 54 diamonds. On the dial are diamonds, Paraiba tourmalines and tsavorite garnets, in homage to the colors used in a Fabergé “Peacock” egg made circa 1908. The hand-wound Caliber 6901 was created by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht of boutique movement design firm, Agenhor.
Graff added power to flowers this year, with the Disco Butterfly collection. The butterflies’ wings are depicted with marquise cut diamonds, sapphires, emeralds or rubies set onto disks that rotate around the dial, a function that is powered by an inner rotor. Each butterfly also rotates on its own axis with the movement of the wearer.
Also “moving” in the jewelry watch category is De Grisogono’s ruby version of the stunning Grappoli jewelry watch. The model is dripping with briolette cut gems set so that they dangle from the case. The new piece is set with 70 briolette-cut rubies, 598 brilliant-cut rubies and 256 snow-set rubies in the dial. Even the clasp is set with 138 rubies, for a grand total of more than 15 carats.
Thousands of timepieces were introduced at the Basel fair this year, and these are only a few highlights. See our Previews and Watch Collector sections for more introductions, in this and upcoming issues.