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Two times a top 5 of great BaselWorld 2011 timepieces!

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Top 5 Watches BaselWorld 2011

Two times per year, it is time to come up with a list of watches. That's end of the year, summing up the best watches of the entire year and just after BaselWorld 2011, the biggest watch exhibition in the world. At the end of the year, the watches introduced during other exhibitions - or without an exhibition - are added to that list.

This year's BaselWorld wasn't as spectacular as last year in my opinion, but still good enough to come up with a list filled with very nice timepieces. I say 'less spectacular', since this year was clearly the year of contemplation by most brands. Only few +$100,000.00 USD watches and a lot of decently priced models that are probably more fitting to the budget of those who are living in the real world.

Nevertheless, some hefty priced watches were very interesting to look at and discover more about their inner workings and craftsmanship. A few of them are included in this BaselWorld 2011 list.

Actually, I divided the list in two. There is one list with exclusive and expensive timepieces, but worth discovering and then there is a list with watches that could be well affordable for the readers of Watchuseek.

Let's start with the list of exotic timepieces that will make the heart of the haute horlogerie fan tick faster!

1. Urwerk UR-202S

Based on Urwerk's existing model ref. UR-202, this UR-202S has a bracelet added to it. A bracelet that just breathes 'quality' and 'durability' due to the exceptional high finish brushed and polished elements. This watch, nicked 'Hammerhead', definitely is as solid as a hammer with this new Urwerk bracelet. Although the UR-110 was this year's real novelty, this UR-202S seems to have stolen the heart of many fans of independent haute horlogerie watchmaking.

Besides the bracelet, there is more then meets the eye, as this moon phase and day/night complication timepiece has a superb manner of showing time by the use of satellites. These satellites are a trademark of Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei, founders of the Urwerk brand.

On the backside of the watch, you will find the twin turbines that regulate the energy that the free spin of the rotor produces. With a small switch you can select a mode for different activities. If you are into sports like golf or tennis, you might want to switch the setting to extreme sports, which will result in a blocked twin turbine system and rotor. This way, your swing won't damage the moving parts (like the rotor) in the mechanical movement.

Price of this fabulous Hammerhead is CHF 150,000.-

2. Grönefeld Exclusive Timepieces: One Hertz (Dune)

Who said haute horlogerie can only be created in Switzerland or Germany? Grönefeld Exclusive Timepieces is located in The Netherlands and introduced their second high-end timepiece during BaselWorld 2011. The One Hertz by Grönefeld has a 'secondes mortes' or dead beat complication. This means that the second hand ticks per second instead of a continuous sweep, using a mechanical movement of course (Grönefeld caliber G-02). A very difficult complication as there is no constant force device in a mechanical movement.

Watchmakers Tim and Bart Grönefeld came up with the idea of a second gear train construction with its own power supply. Friction of the mechanism has to be minimal to guarantee perfect operation of the One Hertz (1 cycle per second) second hand. A separate mainspring for the deadbeat seconds will make sure that friction is kept to an absolute minimum.

Aside from all the technical high lights of the One Hertz, it is a stunning piece to look at as well. I had the pleasure in BaselWorld to try it on, and its 43mm diameter watchcase fits like a glove. Although different from their first complicated timepiece, the GMT-06 (featuring a tourbillon and minute repeater), it is unmistakably a Grönefeld timepiece.

The design of the case is very elegant, the side of the case has a satin brush finish and the bezel and case back have been polished, to make the watch look a bit thinner than it actually is.

You probably already took some guesses about the S/W indicator on the dial. This is for setting the crown mechanism to either 'Set' or 'Wind'. With one push on the crown, you will change this setting so you can either set the time or just wind the watch. No crown pulling needed with the One Hertz, aside from the fact that it can't be pulled out anyway.

There are two versions of the One Hertz, one is the stainless steel version, limited to 12 pieces (29.500,- Euro) and then there is the One Hertz Dune. This One Hertz Dune version is created in red gold and limited to 20 pieces (49.500,- Euro).

3. Ladoire Mr Race

Ladoire added a new variation to their Black Widow collection, called Mr Race. With its typical Ladoire design, Mr Race will immediately remind you of fast cars, a racing circuit and waving checkered flags. The asymmetrical case (50.85mm wide and 41.77mm in length (6-12 o'clock) of the watch and the black, white and red colored elements on the dial makes this a timepiece that really stand out of the crowd.

Besides the Mr Race model, the Black Widow collection consists of Mr Green, Mr Grey and Mr Ice. Each with their own characteristics and restricted to 12 pieces each.

With the Ladoire Calvet/02 calibre movement, the time is being displayed at three different rotating silicium discs, mounted on ceramic ball-bearings. A 12-hour GMT feature is also present, with a quick set button located at 2 o'clock and makes this watch a perfect travel companion. If you turn the watch around to have a glance at its movement, you will immediately see that the black, white and red didn't stop at the dial. The movement is black PVD (A-DLC) and has this white W-shaped bridge structure.

Price approximately CHF 65.000,-

4. Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Ref. 5270

Patek Philippe takes the 4th spot in this list. It is the watch manufacturer that everyone here at Watchuseek knows. This perpetual calendar chronograph ref.5270 uses Patek's recently launched in-house chronograph movement and combines it with a perpetual calendar.

Patek's caliber CH 29-535 PS Q is a manual winding movement with a column-wheel chronograph and a perpetual calendar module. This module, only 1.65mm in height, is a traditional cam-controlled calendar-mechanism with 182 parts alone. In total this movement has 456 parts in just 32mm in diameter and 7mm in height.

Aside, from the technical details, Patek Philippe is the uncrowned king of watches that are being aesthetically near perfect. This 41mm diameter perpetual calendar chronograph (let's shorten this to ref.5270) is truly a piece of art for the wrist. A 18 carat white gold case with tear drop lugs and a silver opalescent dial with twelve applied hour markers in black-oxidized gold are just mesmerizing. The sub dials with a circular guilloché pattern demonstrate the seconds (9 o'clock), the chronograph minute counter (3 o'clock) and the date and moon phase combined in one sub dial at 6 o'clock.

Further more, the dial tell us the day and date in two apertures just below 12 o'clock and a day/night indicator is located between 7 and 8 o'clock. The leap year cycle is located between 4 and 5 o'clock.

A piece of art, and perhaps the most popular Patek Philippe introduced during the BaselWorld 2011 exhibition. Price? Around $155,000.- USD.

5. Harry Winston Opus Eleven

Last but certainly not least is Harry Winston's Opus Eleven. As you might know, the Opus watches by Harry Winston are projects of its own, lead by a watch maker or designer who creates master piece for the Opus range of watches. This year, Harry Winston introduces the 11th Opus. In partnership with Denis Giguet of MCT, Harry Winston did it again and revealed their Opus 11 during BaselWorld 2011.

An odd looking fellow, this Opus 11, as it consists of three round watch cases that have been slide into one total design. The large round watchcase will tell you the hour, the upper smaller watch case the minutes and the lower smaller watch case shows the wearer the balance at work.

It looks like a weird watch in pictures, I must admit. This is mainly due to the strange hour complication in the biggest round case of the watch. As you can see, the small black parts will move around like satellites and will (per hour) form the number of the actual time. Having seen it work, as demonstrated by Denis Giguet in the Harry Winston booth at BaselWorld, I was blown away by it.

Although I wonder whether its owners will wear this watch in the future (only 111 pieces will be made), due to the size and its awkward shape, it deserves a spot in this top 5.

Price unknown, but I expect it to be hefty.

And now, we continue our top 5 journey for the timepieces that are likely to be more in the range of our watch budgets (starting at 1.950,- Euro up to $32,300 USD). Together with Ernie Romers, I had a great time walking around in BaselWorld visiting all these different brands and making up my list of favorite watches.

1. Sinn 358

I have a weak spot for Sinn Spezialuhren from Frankfurt, Germany. I don't know exactly why, but their functional flavor and their pricing structure might have something to do with it. As Sinn exists 50 years this coming September (1961 - 2011), the small company from Frankfurt celebrates this with a special Flieger watch based on their iconic 356.

This 358 Jubiläums-Chronograph has a two-register chronograph instead of the classic 3 sub dials, and shows the years of Sinn on the spot where the third sub dial was located on the 356 Flieger. Based on the solid workhorse ETA/Valjoux 7750 movement, Sinn designed and crafted their own SZ05 movement for this timepiece.

Because Sinn galvanized the grey dial, the color is protected from wearing out due to UV radiation. A satin-brushed case and the slightly domed sapphire crystal give this watch a classic pilot's watch look and feel.

Limited to 500 pieces only, Sinn assured me that they have thought about creating more 358 watches, but it needed to have a '5' in the number. 5 and 50 would definitely be a number too low and 5000 would be almost half of their full annual production number of Sinn watches. We can only hope you will be able to get one of these 358 Flieger watches or that Sinn will embed a 'regular' version in their normal collection as well.

With a price tag of 1.950,- Euro, this watch is going to be sold out in a heart beat.

2. Rolex Explorer II

Like every year, the Rolex booth is the most crowded booth when the doors open at BaselWorld. Last year's introduction of the stainless steel Submariner Date and Explorer was very successful for the first and a bit less for the latter. Rolex made a mistake with the hands of the new Explorer, as they are way too small and seems to be from its previous model, the 36mm diameter Explorer.

Also, Rolex ended up giving away a preview for their new Explorer II. Probably by mistake, as this year is the 40th anniversary of the Explorer II model that came out in 1971 by the reference of 1655. To celebrate this anniversary, Rolex has put a bit of DNA of the ref.1655 into this new. ref.216570 Explorer II.

This DNA mainly consists of a large orange 24-hour hand, just like the original model of 1971 that is being called the Steve McQueen Explorer. For unknown reasons of course, as Steve McQueen was wearing a Submariner all the time.

Just like the other new Rolex models, this Explorer II also has a movement (caliber 3187) with Rolex's latest Paraflex shock absorbers and non-magnetic Parachrom spring innovations.

This pumped-up version of its predecessor is one of the last watches that Rolex needed to upgrade to align it with their actual standards of watchmaking. This means it features all the updates Rolex did in the last few years.

So why is this watch no.2 in the list? Well, the popularity of the brand and the high expectations of the new Explorer II are sky high. Although some find the new Explorer II a bit disappointing because of the wide minute hand, others already enrolled on the list of their authorized Rolex dealer.

Price will be 6,080.- Euro.

3. Zenith El Primero 38mm

Do include me on the list of people who disliked Zenith for the period that Nataf was the CEO-clown of the company. With their new CEO, Mr Dufour, it seems that a new era for Zenith started. It is going to be a positive new period with a lot of DNA from the pre-Nataf Zenith embedded in their new line-up of watches.

The Zenith El Primero Striking 10th watch could already be held accountable for a lot of returning fans to the brand, but this year's line-up was just amazing. I always like the fast ticking El Primero movements, from the day I saw the El Primero Rainbow Fly-Back in the late 1990s and the El Primero Chronomaster with Moon Phase. Incredible looking chronographs at that time (and still are).

My favorite Zenith El Primero of the current collection isn't the Striking 10th, but the new 38mm El Primero. Looking a lot like the Striking 10th in terms of case design and dial lay-out, the 38mm case made me decide that I like the El Primero 38mm even better. Perhaps people tend to find it a bit too small, and Zenith did introduced a line-up of 38mm El Primero watches for ladies as well, the 38mm reminds me about the vintage Zenith El Primero watches.

Let's face it; 38mm isn't that small of course. It will fit perfectly around your wrist and the large dial in combination with a very small or even no bezel will optically fix the size for you as well.

Zenith decided to put a brown alligator strap on the El Primero 38mm which looks perfect on it. A big part of the fun of this watch is the El Primero movement that ticks at a speed of 36,600 beats per hour, two times as fast as the Omega Speedmaster Professional 'Moonwatch'. The nicely finished Zenith caliber is demonstrated through the display back of the watch.

List price of this stunning chronograph is set at 5.100,- Euro.

4. Omega Planet Ocean Seamaster Co-Axial Chronograph Automatic

Omega surprised me this year. Not particularly because of their new Speedmaster or Lady-Matic, although both are nice, but because of the upgrades of movements, materials and bracelets of their watches.

One of the first things that went to my mind when I finished the product presentation of Omega in Basel is that they are now truly a luxury brand that can compete with manufacture companies like Rolex.

To start with the bracelets, they now have screws to hold the links instead of the push-pins. A step forward when it comes to the small finesses of watch making and securing quality. The in-house movement 8500 also got a new family member, namely that of its chronograph counter part, caliber 9300/9301. This new movement is also equipped with a silicon balance spring, ensuring a longer life time due to less wear. Omega has extended their warranty on these watches to 4 years.

For this new Planet Ocean Seamaster, Omega decided to use the co-axial chronograph movement caliber 9300. A wise decision, as it will probably make the Planet Ocean Seamaster even more popular than it already was.

Like all other Planet Ocean watches, these new models are also equipped with an unidirectional bezel, helium escape valve and are WR to 600 meters. The hour indices of the Planet Ocean have been coated with white Super-LumiNova, emitting a blue light in the dark. The minute hand and diving bezel are emitting a green light, to make it a bit more easy for divers using it below the surface.

Price estimated between CHF 6.000,- and CHF 7.000,-

5. Patek Philippe: Aquanaut 'Travel Time' ref.5164

Another Patek Philippe in this list, but this time in the 'affordable' section of the list. One can doubt this of course, as this Aquanaut Travel Time I'm about to cover has a list price of $32,300.- USD. On the other hand, this might be in reach for a number of visitors and/or collectors over here at Watchuseek as well, so I decided to include it in this list of watches.

The Aquanaut was introduced by Patek in 1997 and was meant to be a mode modern version of the cult watch designed by Gérald Genta in 1976, the Nautilus. Targeting at a younger public and priced a bit more friendly, the Aquanaut started out with a 38mm version that was upgraded to a 40mm version a few years later (ref.5167).

Unfortunately, the Aquanaut never became as popular as the Nautilus, but with this new Travel Time version of the watch, this is might going to change. With its correctors at the left side of the case, and the crown guard at the right side of the case, it looks a bit more like the Nautilus than the regular Aquanaut models.

The correctors are there to increase or decrease the hour hand of the second timezone of the watch. This is a very simple but effective manner to operate this watch. The typical Aquanaut dial features a day/night indicator, which I find a more elegant way to demonstrate AM/PM than a colored bezel or a 24-hour scale (on a bezel or on the dial).

Patek Philippe's caliber 324 S C FUS movement is based on the caliber 324 S C movement as used in the 'normal' Aquanaut and Nautilus models.

The only personal downside of this watch is the rubber strap that comes with it. I am not very much into rubber straps, especially not on +$30K USD timepieces. In all honesty, who is going to use this watch under water anyway? Luckily, I have seen a number of Aquanauts with alligator straps that looked terrific as well. Try to bargain one at your Patek dealer.
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With a price tag of 1.950,- Euro, this watch is going to be sold out in a heart beat.
Couldn't agree more. That watch is stunning :p
Great collection I can only endorse in terms of selection. Perhaps are you missing the TAG Heuer Mikrotimer 1000, the 1st ever mechanical chronograph measuring and displaying the 1/1000th of a second, i.e. an accuracy 125 times higher than 99% of market chronographs. You should have a look at it!
TAG Heuer News - BASELWORLD 2011 | TAG Heuer

what were your thoughts on the Glasshüte Original Seventies Panorama Date?
I really like the updated Planet Ocean, the Explorer and the LE Sinn 358.

The El Primero is so :p too!
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