As Baselworld wraps up for another year, Watchuseek welcomes back luxury watch specialist and regular contributor, David Duggan, who brings us his thoughts on this year’s horological highlights. Here’s what he had to say.
I never cease to be surprised by how quickly another Baselworld comes and goes. Though this year felt different, and oddly sentimental. Passion clearly centered around the three Vs; Vintage Vintage and Vintage. And it wasn’t just Patek Philippe and Rolex flying this particular flag. Other brands were equally as eager to celebrate anniversaries of some of their key heritage pieces with hero re-editions; Omega, Tudor, Hublot, Bell & Ross, TAG Heuer, Grand Seiko and Longines to name a few. By all standards, it was a winning year for serious vintage enthusiasts.
Rolex’s surprise addition of the Cellini Moonphase is an archetypal example of how to revisit past models. It’s the brand’s first Moonphase complication for 50 years and, pulling out all the stops in true Rolex fashion, they suggest it will be 122 years before it needs adjusting for accuracy. Cased in Everose gold, it has a beautiful, cream lacquered (rather than enamelled) dial which is pleasing and follows the industry’s current penchant for lacquer. The meteorite moon finished with appliqué is also a lovely touch.
The Cellini’s elegance deviates from the louder Rolex offerings this year at Baselworld, like the gem-bezelled Yacht-Master made up of 32 sapphires, eight tsavorites, and a single diamond. It’s hard to believe they’re cousins.
Longines Heritage 1945
Avid Tudor collector, my good friend and confidante, Ross Povey – who’s been a knowledgeable advisor over the years at David Duggan watches – also made a suitably vintage pitch for his Watch of the Show; the Longines Heritage 1945. It’s so similar that it borders on replica territory, great for watch purists and inspired by a piece owned by Hodinkee’s editor. The differences are there, the original 37mm 1945 model is enlarged to 40mm, it uses the automatic L609 caliber as opposed to manual, and the new dial is brushed copper. Even so, it’s classical and understated.
The original James Bond watch – the Omega Seamaster – was also celebrating its 60th birthday, alongside the Railmaster and Speedmaster models. You only need to look at the Railmaster to appreciate Omega’s devotion to historical accuracy.
Since 1957, the anti-magnetism model has captivated audiences, so they opted for keeping the diameter to 38mm – identical to the original CK2914. Omega have resisted the temptation to up-size for the anniversary addition, and in not doing so have showed a level of restraint that often eludes other major brands. Thanks to the contemporary 8806 caliber, the anniversary edition can stand up to 15 times the amount of magnetic fields of its predecessor. The Speedmaster’s limited edition chronograph also keeps the same proportions as its 1957 precursor, and uses its original typeface. The inclusion of ‘tachymètre’ en français is also a nice touch and, if you’re willing to make the purchase, you’ll be treated to vintage packaging to complete the theme.
In general, Patek Philippe’s offerings were incredibly broad, but their new perpetual calendar 5320G is the first to be seen in 24 years. With three-tiered lugs, the box crystal sits above the slender watch, borrowing from the vintage aesthetic of slim watches with tall glasses. It’s case design is Calatrava-esque – inspired by their 1950s model ref. 2405, it’s a beautiful ode to their heritage. The cream-coloured lacquer dial contrasts with the Arabic numerals in gold, kitted out with Superluminova phosphorescent coating for night time legibility. The baton hands, inspired by its original 1950s design, are also a welcome addition. Though as a fan of Patek perpetuals, I acknowledge my bias.
Amongst the nostalgia, innovations also abounded across Baselworld, with many traditional brands also dabbling in the smartwatch and hybrid arena. An example is the feat of micro-engineering in the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatique, now the thinnest self-winding watch in the world, a record-breaking surprise from fashion-first brand Bulgari.
Similarly, this year saw the first in-house chronograph introduced to the Tudor Black Bay range in a celebration of the original Tudor Submariner watches. The Black Bay Chrono – a terrific watch – was well-received by crowds in Basel. With manufacture caliber MT5813, column wheel and vertical clutch, even the vintage pushers are inspired by the first generation of Tudor chronographs from the 1970s/1980s. The addition of the tachymetric scale makes it seem more like a driving watch than a diving watch, and the combination of the snowflake hour hand and the black domed dial is distinctive. It has retained its traditional lines, which I like, and the addition of the date is astute, a feature which the Rolex Daytona doesn’t come with. I’ve always preferred a date on a chronograph and so that seals the deal for the Black Bay to join my Top Five from the show.
The Black Bay Steel 79730 also surprises, not least because of its additional date function, but also because its brushed-steel bezel is a departure from its cerachrom relatives. This year, Tudor truly cemented its reputation for making great watches for both millennials and longstanding, avid collectors.
After a period of ‘bigger is better’, the watch industry seems to be showing signs of dialling down its fetish for oversized features in favour of more understated numbers. Blue, it seems, remains le couleur du jour, if the cohort of offerings from Urban Jurgensen, Patek Philippe, Hublot, Omega and Rolex’s inclusion of an electric blue dial to their new Sky-Dweller range are anything to go by.
Despite some traditional brands embarking on smartwatch ventures, it’s both surprising and encouraging to have a Baselworld which looks back in time to faithfully honor its heritage. Maybe that’s the effect a 100th birthday has.
Main image courtesy of Baselworld ©Baselworld2017
Live Bulgari shot courtesy Scott Sitkiewitz