Basel, the little Swiss haven is the heart of the Swiss watch industry is the home of Baselworld, the most important annual event in the world of luxury watches since the first SchweizerMustermesse Basel in 1917. The event is always anticipated and is the showcase for the elite of watchmaking, and the place where the top brands display their trophy masterpieces, and network with the most important global distributors.
There were some changes this year. The British watchmakers, Bremont, as well as the Timex Group are pulling out of Baselworld. UlysseNardin and Girard-Perregaux have moved over to SIHH, and so too have many of the smaller independent brands usually taking part in the Carré des Horlogers section of the fair.
It makes little difference, though, because Baselworld is still the premier luxury watch fair, and there is more than enough happening to hold our interest. This year the event took place between the 23-30 March and with so many new watch enthusiasts discovering the joys of vintage watch collecting, many leading brands took to re-issuing original designs with modern updates. And it’s a trend that continued this year. Among the best surprises are Breguet, who revealed a new addition to their Tradition collection quite some time before the fair. It’s one of the watches that pay tribute to the brand’s origins, with a movement architecture based on the Souscription watches originally created by Abraham-Louis Breguet. The original Souscription watches had a single hand, and Breguet made it easy for people to buy them – you could put down a downpayment and pay the rest on delivery. Well, I’m not sure that part of the tradition made it into the update. The Dame Ref. 7038 is the first ladies watch in the Tradition series. The offset dial is made of natural white mother of pearl and the bezel is set with 68 brilliant-cut diamonds and a ‘watch jewel’. It is part jewellery, part Haute Horlogerie.
Staying with the theme of re-inventing the past, the Arnold & Son Tourbillon Chronometer No 36 commemorates a noteworthy pocket watch design by brand founder John Arnold, in the 18th century. Arnold was a rival to Abraham-Louis Breguet, mentioned above, so it’s fitting that these two pieces were revealed at the same time in Baselworld. This 46mm showpiece, the Tourbillon Chronometer No. 36 is a beautifully executed piece of micro engineering, with the design mirrored top to bottom, and of course, the pièce de resistance, the tourbillon located at the 4h30 position.
Omega are unveiling a new edition to the Speedmaster family, hot on the heels of their recent #SpeedyTuesday, made especially as a tribute to their online fans. This new Speedmaster, however, goes back to the watch’s original purpose as a racing chronometer – and leaves the well-known arenas of space travel (and cyberspace) behind for the moment.
This year the Omega SpeedmasterMoonwatch Automatic Master Chronometer builds on last year’s success, with the Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 9900 movement. The new look is decidedly different, though.
From the alternating minute track, to the matte black dial with bright orange markings and the sporty orange on the hands. The black leather strap with bright orange underlay finishes it off as a racing Chronometer – even though the name “Moonwatch” is still there, this one is fit for the racetrack.
Blancpain’s contribution to Baselworld this year takes its inspiration from the vintage Bathyscapes of the 1950’s. It has all the hallmarks of a great diving watch, including a unidirectional bezel that rotates counter-clockwise and a luminescent dot that aligns to the minute hand to time your dive.
The blue shades are not exactly new on Blancpain designs, but it seems particularly fitting for this model. The sapphire case-back lets you admire the Caliber 1150 movement, and the 50 Fathoms is water-resistant to approximately 300 meters.