Each year, members of the watch community, from journalists to diehard enthusiasts, flock to Switzerland with high expectations. After a long journey and inevitable jetlag, patrons rush to their favorite exhibitors hoping to be wowed. And each year, without fail, the watch industry delivers.
Baselworld may be known for the latest and greatest offerings from the watch industry. Many of the tens of thousands of patrons approach Baselworld like the watch industry Christmas, eagerly waiting for the doors of the tradeshow to open and unveil an exciting new line, an astounding innovation in technology, or a breathtaking aesthetic. This year at Baselworld, amidst the array marvels, it was clear that “new is always better” was not the sole mentality. Many top brands found comfort in refining old creations, models, and collections.
Exploring the New: 3 Models Breaking Horological Ground
There are numerous qualities that separate a certain watch brand from the pack. For Ulysse Nardin, that thing is imagination. At the recent tradeshow, the brand boasted one of its most unique offerings, the Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon. This model takes the maritime theme to a whole new level, with a face designed to resemble a wooden ship and a brand new complication featuring a retrograde minute hand fashioned in the likeness of a ship’s boom. The impressive, ultra-thin nanowires that control the boom-like hand are thinner than a strand of hair but can support more than a kilo of weight. Not surprisingly, this model will only be available in a limited edition of eighteen pieces.
Bvlgari has always been one of those companies frequently viewed as a fashion brand, not a watchmaking brand. Now, Bvlgari is making big moves to change their reputation and gain respect among watchmakers. It’s clear they’re taking a step in the right direction with one of their latest creations, the Octo Finnisimo Minute Repeater. This timepiece is the world’s thinnest minute repeater, with a remarkable thickness of only 6.85mm. The combination of the sand-blasted titanium and the matte alligator strap make this watch even more eye-catching.TAG Heuer is quickly evolving into the watch brand with something for everyone: the classic connoisseur, the tech geek, and now, the young collector. One of the brand’s latest offerings, the Carrera Heuer-02T Tourbillon, embodies a modern, rugged, and sporty aesthetic, and it features an automatic chronograph tourbillon. This perfect balance of fashion and function can be acquired at a perfect price for the up and coming collector looking for attainable haute horology. The Carrera Heuer-02T Tourbillon starts around $15,500, roughly four times less than the average tourbillon on the market.
Elevating the Old: 3 Models Redefined
Rolex fans rejoice. After patiently waiting for three long years since the 2013 50th Anniversary of the Cosmograph Daytona, the model is back and better than ever with subtle but significant updates. The new stainless steel Rolex Cosmograph Daytona features a black ceramic bezel that pays homage to the one of the original models from 1965. In addition to capturing the vintage aesthetic, the black Cerachrom bezel is corrosion resistant, impervious to UV rays, and virtually scratch proof.
For those who’ve scoffed at Tudor timepieces for lacking in-house movements, it’s time to bite your tongue. The brand has come into its own this year with the release of the brand new Heritage Black Bay Dark, whose high quality look and feel now radiates from the inside out. The updated model features Tudor’s in-house MT5601 movement while maintaining the classic vintage aesthetic. With a 70-hour power reserve and water resistance up to 200 meters, this latest offering from Tudor epitomizes the marriage of fashion and function in modern timepieces.
While TAG Heuer has received widespread attention over their growing line of connected watches, the brand continues to prove their diversity and overarching commitment to the art of fine watchmaking with the debut of pieces like the new Monza Chronograph. This model pays tribute to the brand’s roots with the look and feel of a Heuer Classic. TAG has taken the vintage aesthetic and added a modern twist by adding a Calibre 17 movement. Offerings like these exemplify the delicate balance than can be achieved between honoring the history of watchmaking and adapting to modern technology and trends.
Top Trends Out of Baselworld 2016
Despite the wide array of watches displayed at the tradeshow, there are some notable industry trends across the board. After many years of believing the bigger the better, the demand for large, oversized watches is finally on the decline. Interest in smaller watches has resurfaced, possibly as a result of the growing popularity of vintage watches. Another trend that may also be tied to the rise of the vintage watch market is the emphasis on simplicity and going back to the basics with the classic three-handed watch.
As was noted at the SIHH tradeshow in January, blue remains the most popular color in the watch industry. From straps to dials and every detail in between, blue continues to be the most widely preferred hue by consumers. However, in contrast to the trends noted at the SIHH, stainless steel proved to be the most popular metal at Baselworld this year.
In an industry historically focused on men and recently focused on shifts in the technological landscape, some brands seem to be abandoning the past, throwing caution to the wind, and shifting their target altogether – to women. At this year’s tradeshow, there was a special emphasis on offerings for ladies, reminding us that women’s watches are an essential part of the ever-changing horological landscape.
When Watches and Tech Collide
Move over TAG Heuer, you’re no longer the only smartwatch in the luxury watch industry. Nearly a dozen watch brands have been rumored to be jumping on the smartwatch bandwagon, several of which made history at Baselworld with their offerings.
Just a year after showcasing the prototype for their first connected timepiece, the veteran watch brand Breitling has made their B55 Connected watch a reality. Tissot debuted their first solar-powered smartwatch, the Tissot Smart-Touch, which features their innovative T-Touch tactile dial technology. The brand has plans to launch two additional smartwatches later this year. Movado has partnered with HP to create their first smartwatch, the Movado Bold Motion. Nixon unveiled their first smartwatch, The Mission, designed with surfers and skiers in mind. Casio also presented its first men’s and women’s connected watch, the Casio Smart Outdoor Watch WSD-F10. The rugged timepieces run on Android Wear technology. Finally, TAG Heuer confirmed the success of their first smartwatch and their plans to release the TAG Heuer Connected 2 in 2017.
Fashion brands are also breaking into the smartwatch market. Michael Kors unveiled its first smartwatch, which is also made in tandem with Android Wear. Another fashion powerhouse, Gucci, created their first smartwatch in collaboration with singer/songwriter Will.i.am.
Watch Industry Outlook
From innovations in the art of watchmaking to the fusion of watchmaking and new technologies, one thing about the watch industry remains steadfast: the demand for superior timepieces. It’s true, in a world with smartphones and computers, we rarely need a watch to tell the time. However, Ariel Adams of aBlogtoWatch put it best: “the high-end watch industry is more like the art market than, say, the fashion market – the high-end horological items we love satisfy us emotionally versus practically.” We no longer crave a well-crafted timepiece solely for its function. We long for a piece of wearable art that speaks to us in some way, and that emotional connection is what drives us to invest in a luxury watch.