Where the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Genève (SIHH) is a beautiful plush salon, Baselworld is the mega shopping mall of luxury watch and jewellery brands. To put things into perspective, there are five times as many exhibitors as there are stores at the combined Sandton City and Mandela Square in Johannesburg. What’s more, each brand recreates the full boutique experience on site, down to the very finest detail — in some instances over multiple floors. I think it is safe to say that it is near impossible to see everyone and a well-curated schedule is essential. Apart from some avant-garde, out-there timepieces for those looking to set themselves apart, most manufacturers are reading the signs of our times and erring on the side of caution after a few tough years, with models that are more 'honest' and classic, appealing to a new, younger market. Here are some of the key trends we spotted and our favourites among the hot releases from this grand fair.
2017 looks like the year of comebacks and chronographs. Most often we see a nod to the past with a modernised interpretation of an an iconic piece — a homage so to speak. This year sees some desirable reissues, which are near-faithful copies, their inner bits being brought up to speed to meet the demands of the 21st century. Among these are:
TAG Autavia: this masculine, contemporary take on the Heuer Autavia from the Sixties was selected through an online poll and is a reissue of the ‘Rindt’ model worn by F1 driver Jochen Rindt.
Seiko First Diver’s: The re-creation of this 1965 classic is faithful to the original design, but totally up-to-date in its technology and functions. The choice of professionals, this was Japan’s first diver’s watch and over the years has inspired the development of many innovative diver models that established many world-firsts for Seiko.
Omega Speedmaster 60th Anniversary: the original reference CK2915-1 is arguably the most sought-after chronograph in the world. This was not only the company’s first Speedmaster but also the first chronograph wristwatch in the world with its tachymeter scale on the bezel as opposed to printed on the dial. The limited anniversary edition is a perfect match of the original launched in 1957. The 2017 Speedmaster stays true to the design and proportions with its 38mm case and is powered by a 1861 calibre.
MAKING MOVES ON MILLENNIALS
Brands eager to attract new collectors are hoping to create an interest in mechanical watches among a younger audience with more accessible pieces both in price and more 'honest', less ostentatious designs. We’re obsessing over the all-steel update to the Tudor Black Bay. The perfect timepiece for a distinguished gent who’s into the big blue. A trend also for watches appealing to a younger audience who’d like something that is both sporty and dressy. Features their in-house automatic caliber MT5612, the first steel bezel from Tudor since the 90s and a elegant slimmer ‘riveted’ steel bracelet.
With rapidly growing interest in the mechanical stuff that guys traditionally like, the industry is finally waking up with innovative pieces that speak to the ladies. Beyond the bejeweled, we are seeing more sporty and complicated timepieces focused on these active new collectors. The new women's Carreras are a perfect example, sporting a fresh range of looks and a new modular construction.
More masculine and not so flash, luxury watch brands are not only reading the signs but also refocusing on the Western markets again. Bigger, sportier looks for larger wrists. We see bigger dials like the all new Rolex Sea-Dweller 43mm, featuring a cyclops above the date, which is a first for this model.
Although by smart we don't men dressy, the futuristic and elegant Movado Connect with Android Wear 2.0 will certainly have you covered. The others grabbing attention at the fair were: Samsung's cool Gear S3 pocket watch; Michael Kors Access Grayson and Access Sofie; and Fossil Q Venture.
One for David Bowie fans but alas not enough to go around, Raymond Weil pays homage to the legendary musician with this limited edition Freelancer. Its 42mm case features a dial resembling a vinyl record with the bright red lightning bolt that was painted across Bowie's face on the cover of the Aladdin Sane album in 1973.
Up to date and up to speed, our chronograph fans will love the 21st century update to the Defy El Primero from Zenith, which is all about performance and precision. Remaining true to its legendary roots possibly only through its sizable 44mm dial, this skeletal version is in ceramicised aluminium and on full display is the central chronograph hand, which performs a full turn of the dial in an impressive one second.
Japanese brand Grand Seiko is now independent and no longer a sub-brand of Seiko. The other good news for fans of this brand with its huge cult following is that the expanded range of highly collectable, elegant timepieces are now also more accessible outside of Japan. Although the featured pieces are essentially 'comebacks' we thought Grand Seiko deserved its own space. In celebration, Seiko has releasing three limited editions in steel, gold, and platinum. At 38mm, they are slightly bigger than the original 36mm watch from 1960 on which they are based and are powered by the hand-wound Grand Seiko caliber 9S64.