The Baselworld watch and jewellery fair was bigger than ever this year, with over 150,000 visitors thronging this indoor city of gleaming brand pavilions. But among the pizzazz was some rare subtlety and charm, from frothy colourways to rose-tinted trips down memory lane…
GO FOR GREEN
The vitrines of Baselworld were a riot of technicolour this year – especially over at Graff, where its $55m Hallucination used every colour of diamond in existence. But one colour burned the brightest, and it wasn’t royal blue or retro orange, or even the fastest of go-faster colours, red. Instead, a strangely universal wash of emerald, khaki, olive and Kermit proved that it’s easy being green after all. And rather attractive for it.
Ball Engineer II Magneto S
This has some hardcore scientific wizardry lurking beneath its subtle green accents. An inner “mumetal” case protects the movement from magnetic fields up to 80,000A/m, yet opens like a camera iris at the press of a button to reveal the movement through a clear caseback.
Bulova Accutron II
Another watch that wears its science on its sleeve, this is a nod to Bulova’s cult “Spaceview” watch of 1960 – dial left off to showcase the US firm’s new tuning-fork technology. The quartz technology here is infinitely better, however –
accurate to within 10 seconds a year.
Grand Seiko Hi-Beat GMT
This may seem pricey for a Seiko, but few are aware of the Japanese brand’s long history of top-end mechanical watches. Its “Grand Seikos” are painstakingly crafted in the remote forests of Morioka, whose verdant landscape has inspired the lush green of this piece’s dial.
For an industry so steeped in its heritage, it’s no surprise that watch brands occasionally dip into their archives. (Sometimes a design is so instantly classic it never goes away in the first place – viz. Rolex Submariner, Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso etc.) But when the bottom fell out of the global economy in 2008, it was everyone who hunkered down and reached for the archive – yes as a comfort blanket, but also as a means of re-learning how to design a simple watch.
Bell & Ross WWI-92 Guynemer
No, this isn’t a tie-in with a popular margarine brand. That stork logo was in fact the mascot of a trailblazing French pilot from the First World War, called Georges Guynemer, who flew reconnaissance sorties at the altitude of a
cruising stork. Worth it for those faux-patina numerals alone.
Hamilton Pan Europ
A universally adored Baselworld hit, this. Not only does the curvaceous ovoid case feel sumptuously Seventies, but the Kodachrome vibe is set off perfectly by its bang-up-the-minute ‘NATO’ military strap – admittedly more ‘Superman’ than ‘GI Joe’. With an automatic movement too, that pricetag is just ridiculous.
Longines Heritage 1935
Another rose-tinted tribute to the aviators of yore, and a rare ‘cushion’ shape for Longines, this great-value automatic is an exact (well, slightly larger) reissue of a classic cockpit watch commissioned by the Czech Air Force in 1935. If you can find an original, buy it. For now, buy this.
With the trend of retro reminding us of more elegant days and with bling-bling arm-carbuncles becoming a little weary (not to mention wearing on the cuff), the dress watch is making a welcome return. Slimmer profiles and diameters to suit your wrist rather than your ankle, with yellow gold even shaking off its Seventies hangover and appealing to a new generation of dapper chaps. This is a trend that will definitely stick – unlike the pocket watch, whose revival was, let’s be frank, dead on arrival.
Dior Chiffre Rouge C03
When Hedi Slimane created Dior Homme in the mid-Noughties, his Chiffre Rouge watch embodied the collection’s edgy monochrome tailoring in perfect watch form. It now boasts a devastatingly chic grey-metallised mother-of-pearl dial, and a Zenith “manufacture” movement ticks away inside. C’est genial!
Patek Philippe Calatrava
No cocktail soirée would be complete without a sprinkling of diamonds, but that’s not to say a discerning lady must compromise on haute horlogerie for the sake of her haute joaillerie. Ticking beneath a dazzling array of 162 baguette diamonds is the venerable maison’s 215 calibre, whose silicon hairspring ensures a precision of
–3 to +2 seconds per day.
The watchmaking titan’s dapper Cellini range was never quite as attractive as the Oyster Perpetual watches, thanks to its lack of Oyster (i.e. water resistance) and Perpetual (i.e. automatic winding). Both of these shortcomings have now been addressed, given a handsome facelift, and even a Dual Time function in the model pictured.