BASELWORLD 2017: Reportagé

Baselworld 2017

Uniform Wares Design Director Michael Carr comments on his top watches from this years international watch show in Basel

Basel 2017

Words: Michael Carr
Photography: Rolex, Hermes, Bvlgari, Tudor, Chanel, Grand Seiko, Nomos,
Bell & Ross, Longines

We returned from Switzerland at the end of last month after another inspiring visit to the biggest annual event of the watch industry, Baselworld. After growing to almost unsustainable levels over the past decade, the show reduced in size this year with 200 less exhibitors. Many were saying this was a reflection of tough economic times but on the positive side, we felt that the reduction in quantity was more than made up for by an increase in quality, with brands once again upping the game through their presentation and new product offering. There were loads of great new pieces to choose from and it’s almost impossible to pick a favourite but here is a selection of some of our highlight pieces.


The Slim d’Hermès is one of our stand out favourite watches of the last couple of years. The combination of beautifully detailed case architecture and perfectly balanced dial layout with custom numerals, results in one of the most elegant watches of recent times. This year Hermès released a rose gold model with a playful new complication, accentuating its charm to another level. The new Slim d’Hermès L’Heure Impatiente features a complication developed in collaboration with Agenhor. It operates in a similar way to an alarm but instead sets from a separate sub dial, with a 60 minute countdown counter that counts down to the set time and releases a single, pleasant chime as a subtle reminder, rather than the usual repetitive alarm sound.


We wouldn’t normally go for a watch as extreme as this but then this is the third time we’ve ended up being charmed by the Bulgari Octo Finissimo in it’s various forms, so it’s impossible to deny our appreciation here. This year it was the brands new ultra slim ‘Automatique’ version that caught our attention. The piece features the same Art Deco inspired, faceted case architecture as the other Octo Finissimo’s but impressively slimmed down to feature the thinnest self-winding movement currently in production. To add to the equation, the watch is made with a titanium case and bracelet that makes the whole package unbelievably light for it’s appearance. Ultimately, Bulgari has yet again created a timepiece that is so bafflingly impressive that it almost appears to be an illusion.


The original version of this watch was launched in 2015 and didn’t go unnoticed by the industry. It is a commonly heard assessment by many in the watch world that ‘rectangular watches don’t sell!’ and no doubt this is largely the case. That said, many of us designers can’t help but feel that maybe this has largely been because, bar a few rare examples (such as the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso, the TAG Heuer Monaco and of course the obvious smart watch example), there are only a handful of well designed rectangular or square watches available, probably largely as a result of the aforementioned assessment. In truth, where those designs do exist, they are some of the most successful and timeless watches on the market today. This theme runs across both mens and womens watches but if anything, is probably more extreme amongst women’s designs. The Chanel Boy-Friend, though a relative newcomer is already considered to be one of the successful few and at the top of many women’s watch ‘wants’ lists. Inspired by the design of the brands iconic No.5 perfume bottle and their 2.55 handbag, the watch is available with a selection of beautifully detailed, yet subtle dial options. We’ve been admiring this piece for a while and looking to include it in our ‘Baselworld Favourites’ but it’s never quite made the final cut. This year however, they took the design up another notch for us, by drawing on further inspiration from the brands heritage and cleverly incorporating the texture of their famous tweed straps in the top surface of a metal mesh bracelet version, adding a whole new dimension to an already stunning offering.


Ask anyone who knows a thing or two about watches and you’ll bring a quiet smile to their face on the mention of Grand Seiko, a humble yet remarkable brand that all too often gets overlooked by the general watch buyer, due to it’s association with the more widely known Seiko. This year however, the brand finally established its independence, removing the Seiko branding from its watches and instead exclusively using ‘Grand Seiko’ on all it’s timepieces going forward. It also launched three new versions of an original Grand Seiko piece from the 1960’s to mark the occasion. The piece is available in steel, gold and platinum, each featuring a slightly different version of the original Grand Seiko logo and the brands own hand wound caliber 9S64. As usual with Grand Seiko, the design is a masterclass in taste, care and attention to detail, all executed with a stunning level of craftsmanship.


One of the most covered launches this year was Tudor’s new Heritage Black Bay Chronograph ref.79350 featuring the new column-wheel chronograph caliber MT5813 movement, designed in collaboration with Breitling. To be honest, there’s not a lot we need to say about this watch, we’re just suckers for a well executed twin register chronograph and think that Tudor is doing a great job of launching sensibly designed, well produced and very wearable watches for a fair price and this piece is another great example of that.


Originally launched in 1963 the Rolex Daytona has become the most famous of all Chronograph watches. It’s timeless design has barely changed since it’s original conception but years of small tweaks and updates have kept it at the top of the stack for many a watch collector and it continues to take prime position in many of Rolex’s Baselworld presentations. This year was no different, with Rolex presenting a new version in a yellow gold and black ceramic bezel, with a champagne and black dial. However, though beautiful, it’s not so much the timepiece itself but more the use of Rolex’s new ‘Oysterflex Bracelet’ that caught our attention. The patented design features a superplastic metal blade core, over molded with high-performance black elastomer, all fitted with an ‘Oysterlock’ safety clasp and ‘Easylink’ rapid extension system. Proof of Rolex’s unsurpassed ability to continue to innovate, without feeling the need to shout too hard about it.


We’re huge admirers of Nomos. Their combination of simple yet beautifully designed and produced timepieces with a humble, no nonsense personality is very appealing in a not so humble world. They had a number of new releases this year and our favourite was the launch of the new Club Campus. Though I wouldn’t say this is our favourite case architecture in the brand’s collection, the careful use of vivid colours and subtle tones on the dial and simple wearability factor, make this an extremely refreshing and attractive proposition and another worthy addition to what is already a wonderful collection of timepieces.


This is one of those watches that answers an extreme design challenge, with a solution that pushes the technical capabilities of the manufacturer to their limits. It’s not the first time that a brand has set itself the goal of making the movement the primary visual focus of the watch by removing, or at least, minimising the visual interference of everything else as much as possible by playing with transparency and material finishing. In fact, it seems to have become a bit of a trend in recent years with similar ideas being presented by the likes of Hublot and Richard Mille. As in those instances, the designers at Bell & Ross have responded to the challenge by reinterpreting their signature case architecture with dramatic effect. However, unlike Hublot and Richard Mille, who chose to produce their entire cases out of sapphire, Bell & Ross have decided instead to make the movement as slim as possible and integrate it with the steel body of the case, then sandwich this between two thick layers of precision machines sapphire crystal, to achieve the visual effect. Maybe not an aesthetic you will ever see amongst our collection but one worth taking a look at nonetheless.

LONGINES CONQUEST VHP (very High Precision)

LONGINES CONQUEST VHP (very High Precision):
We are big fans of the new range of High Precision Quartz movements now on offer from our movement supplier, ETA, so though not a fan of the design of the Conquest VHP, are pleased to see Longines incorporating this technology into their collection, alongside their mechanical pieces. This technology can achieve a precision able to pass COSC Chronometer certification, due to the thermo-compensation operating principle, which controls and regulates the motor pulses according to changes in ambient temperature, ultimately resulting in an accuracy 10 times that of normal quartz movements.