Baselworld 2018 Report

Baselworld 2018

Uniform Wares Creative Director Michael Carr gives his verdict on this years’ Baselworld international watch show

 

Words: Michael Carr
Photography: Bulgari, Tudor, Rolex, Zenith, Omega, Chanel, Laurent Ferrier, Patek Philippe, Ressence

Another year and another trip to Baselworld complete. The biggest event of the year for the watch industry, where everyone from brands and manufacturers to buyers and fans gather together to showcase and witness some of the biggest new releases for the year ahead.  It’s always an amazing show and you can’t help but be in awe of some of the work going on behind the scenes and return home inspired to create something new.  As I mentioned last year, it’s a slightly challenging time for the industry and this is reflected in the fact that the show has shrunk quite dramatically over the last couple of years – by almost 50% this year.  But amongst all the discussion and concern, there are also some strong positives starting to show.  The industry has always evolved and we like to think that we are part of that evolution, rather than the history. One of the results of less exhibitors is that the average quality of the ones that are left has gone up, with more considered choices made about their focus and direction. You might think that this would make choosing our favourites easier, but there were still many outstanding pieces on show. Here are some of our highlights

Bulgari-Octo-Finissimo-Tourbillon-Automatic-Watch-03

BULGARI OCTO FINISSIMO TOURBILLON AUTOMATIC.
This is the fourth time this unusual watch has featured in our Baselworld round up, in some form or another.  It is very hard to explain as it’s not something any of us at Uniform Wares would necessarily choose to wear.  But there is something extremely fascinating about the architecture of this case.  It somehow manages to be so distinctively complicated, yet logical at the same time and when combined with technical innovation and executed so well, it’s also something utterly captivating. This year it was the triple world record-breaking Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic that was unveiled.  The world’s thinnest automatic watch, thinnest automatic tourbillon and thinnest tourbillon at an overall thickness of only 3.95mm.  Whether it’s to your taste or not, it’s hard to deny that this is one seriously impressive timepiece!

TUDOR BLACK BAY FIFTY EIGHT

TUDOR BLACK BAY FIFTY EIGHT
At the other end of the spectrum is this piece. As we’ve come to expect from Tudor, no shouting or big impressive tricks, just a carefully curated set of decisions resulting in an elegantly simple, tasteful and very relevant timepiece. It’s Tudor’s best selling Black Bay dive watch but produced in a thinner 39mm case, carefully finished with warm markings and gold hands and batons. This is effectively a watch designed with the same uncompromising eye as a vintage dive watch but produced and finished to the highest standards, using the most modern techniques and all with a very affordable price tag.  The watch was presented on a choice of three straps, all suitable for daily wear but our personal favourite is the Tudor fabric strap option, with matching warm stripe down the centre.

ROLEX GMT-MASTER II PEPSI IN STAINLESS STEEL
This was a tough call… it was a bit of a year for GMT’s and we could very easily have picked the Tudor Black Bay GMT instead, but thought it only fair to give Rolex some representation. It was a pretty strong show for them, launching a subtle redesign of their famous Datejust and Deepsea models, as well as a new rainbow gem set Cosmograph Daytona. But it was the release of the Rolex GMT Master II in stainless steel with a Pepsi bezel and Jubilee bracelet which really caught our attention. As always with Rolex, nothing too dramatic, but just enough freshness to generate some serious desire.

TUDOR HERITAGE BLACK BAY CHRONOGRAPH

ZENITH DEFY ZERO G
In years gone by, Zenith’s Baselworld presentation would have been dominated by a new take on its traditional El Primero Chronograph aesthetic. But since the new CEO, Julien Tornare took the helm, working alongside the Head of LVMH’s Watch Division, Jean-Claude Biver, it seems that the brand has adjusted their direction with a particular focus on the new Defy collection. Following in the footsteps of the Defy Lab concept watch l showcased last year, which won the GPHG Innovation Watch Prize for the most accurate mechanical watch, Zenith has now launched a series of models set for full production in the form of the Defy Classic and the Defy Zero G.  Both feature a skeleton movement, based on the re-engineered version of the brand’s famous Elite 670 base calibre, with the latter also featuring Zenith’s patented ‘Gravity Control’ optimised gyroscopic module, which cancels the effects of gravity on the running rate of the watch by maintaining the regulating organ and the balance wheel, allowing it to ‘Defy’ the laws of gravity..

OMEGA SEAMASTER 1948 LIMITED EDITIONS
Another vintage re-interpretation and another 38mm stainless steel case design, this time in the form of the Omega Seamaster 1948 Limited Edition, launched to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the original Seamaster – one of the most well known watch collections ever made. Once again, the brand keeps things simple – just two models, both featuring domed silver dials and classic applied markers. One features leaf hands and a small seconds sub dial and the other features dauphine hands and centre seconds, with a touch of Superluminova. The classic touches are purely aesthetic however, with both being driven by the brand’s latest METAS-certified automatic calibers with co-axial escapements. It’s no secret that we’re attracted to the simplicity and purity of mid-century design and are also fans of slightly more conservatively sized timepieces, so these are a no brainer for us… both really wearable, well-executed watches with style and substance in equal measure.

CHANEL BOY-FRIEND SKELETON
This beautiful timepiece has been another regular in our Baselworld round ups since the launch of the original version in 2015. But quite frankly, it’s still one of the most stunning examples of both a rectangular case design and a well-executed women’s wristwatch.  This year was no exception, with the launch of the Boy-Friend Skeleton.  The ultimate attraction for us is the same as before, an elegantly designed, rectangular timepiece, with impeccable attention to detail that is ultimately beautiful to the eyes of both men and women, but finished with just enough femininity to give it its now unique identity, without being girly or patronising.  In a world that is, unfortunately, largely dominated by round case designs and pieces designed for men, this deserves all the admiration it gets..

LAURENT FERRIER GALET MINUTE REPEATER SCHOOL PIECE
Thirty seven successful years of experience at Patek Philippe as well as being the son and grandson of watchmakers is more than enough experience to justify launching your own watch brand, which is exactly what Laurent Ferrier did in 2010.  After a succession of releases showing off their unique combination of carefully restrained, yet characterful designs and traditional watch making techniques, the brand continues to live up to its reputation. This year it came in the form of the Galet Minute Repeater School Piece which features not only a new complication for the brand but also a striking, salmon coloured dial which resonates strongly with us. A salmon dial is a difficult colour to get right, but Laurent Ferrier has achieved a perfect balance here by breaking it up with a white sub dial and silver markings and batons, and combining it with a stainless steel case, which was chosen over other materials for its superior acoustic properties.

BELL & ROSS BR-X2 MICRO ROTOR AUTOMATIC

PATEK PHILIPPE GOLDEN ELLIPSE REF. 5738R
Another release based on a well known archive piece, but this one is something very special. It’s a new version of a watch originally launched 50 years ago, but now presented in a larger size of 34.5mm x 39.5mm and in a rose gold with an ebony black sunburst dial.  It features a slim 2.53mm movement allowing the overall watch to measure just 6mm thick. But there is a lot more to this watch than just the obvious specification details. The unique thing about it is its carefully considered elliptical shape. This is something that many brands try to do, but rarely get right. However, Patek really mastered it with the Golden Ellipse, which makes sense when you consider that it was designed around the timelessly beautiful proportions of the golden ratio.  Something we often use to inform our own designs.

LONGINES CONQUEST VHP (very High Precision)

RESSENCE TYPE 2 E-CROWN
Ok, so this watch wasn’t actually presented at Baselworld, as Ressence were one of the brands that decided not to show this year. It was actually launched back in January for SIHH, but it’s such a stand out piece and represents some of the positives of where we think the mechanical watch industry is heading, that we had to include it. Ressence has been known for its refreshing aesthetic and innovative take on watch making ever since it presented its first prototypes at Baselworld in 2010.  Since then, it has continued to push the envelope of what is possible and this watch is no exception.  Not only has the watch been designed with the same unique look and quality that we have come to expect from Ressence, but it features a brand new innovation they call E-Crown technology, which is an electronic system that syncs with a smart phone and allows the mechanical movement to self adjust to the local time zone automatically, from nothing more than a tap of the top crystal. Yes, we know… seriously, seriously cool!