Baselworld 2017 came and went faster than a steel and ceramic Rolex Daytona sitting in an AD display window. While it’s estimated that there were 200 (!) fewer exhibitors than last year, Baselworld is still the industry’s most important exhibition. As expected, there were some overlapping trends from SIHH 2017. However, Baselworld boasted some of its own overall themes too. Let’s take a closer look at the big news and product launches in a quick recap of Baselworld 2017.
The vintage-inspired trend that we saw at SIHH was also heavily present at Baselworld. Since most of the top watch brands have long histories, it’s inevitable that there are anniversaries to celebrate.
To mark the 50 years since its debut, Rolex released the new Sea-Dweller ref. 126600. The mega dive watch is now larger at 43mm rather than the previous 40mm. Plus, there’s the addition of the Cyclops lens above the date window. Although the execution of those two details are up for debate among Rolex enthusiasts, everyone can agree on the red “SEA-DWELLER” label on the dial. The red text is clearly inspired by the inaugural Sea-Dweller from 1967.
Another big anniversary celebration came from OMEGA. To commemorate six decades of the Speedmaster, Railmaster, and Seamaster 300, OMEGA unveiled the 1957 Trilogy. Essentially, each new model is a faithful re-edition of the originals from 1957. The watches, limited to 3,557 pieces, even feature tropical dials and patina hands to emphasize the vintage appeal. Each piece is available separately or in a set of three.
Continuing the vintage trend was the highly-anticipated TAG Heuer Autavia Heuer 02. Created in 1962, the Heuer Autavia enjoyed iconic status as the chronograph of the era. TAG Heuer’s new edition balances old-school charm with modern details. The case is now 42mm and the watch runs on the new automatic Heuer-02 caliber.
Slimmer Profiles and Reduced Sizes
To accompany the vintage-inspired designs that are currently all the rage, we saw the reduction of case widths and diameters.
One of the most popular novelties at Baselworld 2017 was the titanium Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatique. Bulgari is continuing on its quest as master of the ultra-thin watch and this “world’s thinnest automatic movement” is now the company’s third world record in that realm.
Blancpain’s legendary dive watch also shrunk. The new Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe 38 is now 38mm instead of 43mm, and the width is also slimmer at 10.77mm. Due to its reduced size, the Fifty Fathoms can now comfortably fit both men and women.
Solid Showing from Affordable Luxury Watch Brands
Savvy watch enthusiasts increasingly demand more value from their luxury watches, and the market is responding. Not only are some of the big brands lowering entry price points, but the more affordable luxury watch brands are upping their game too. 2017’s Baselworld had some great hits from more accessible brands.
Longines turned heads with the Flagship Heritage 60th Anniversary and the Heritage 1945. Again, we see the vintage approach interpreted into contemporary timepieces.
Tudor also had a solid presentation. The new Heritage Black Bay Steel ref. 79730 now features a steel bezel and date window. And let’s not forget the brand’s first in-house chronograph, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chrono.
German watch brand NOMOS Glashütte already made a name for itself producing excellent quality watches that don’t break the bank. But this year, its fresh new collection, the Club Campus, drops the entry-level price and welcomes a younger crowd to its circle.
Baselworld 2017 Surprises
It wouldn’t be a proper Baselworld without some surprises. First, there was the Rolex Cellini Moonphase—the first time in fifty years the moonphase complication appears on a Rolex watch. Then there was the new 42mm “jumbo” size of the Patek Philippe Aquanaut in white gold for the collection’s 20th birthday. Furthermore, the open collaboration between Tudor and Breitling to produce mechanical movements is a refreshing bout of transparency and cooperation for the Swiss watch industry. And finally, Baselworld was the stage where Grand Seiko announced its separation from Seiko as an independent brand. This move is to strengthen Grand Seiko’s position as a high-end watch company.
As the Swiss watch industry faces an uncertain future, one thing is clear—it’s looking to its past for help. The slew of watches celebrating heydays of a bygone era was everywhere. Is choosing to reissue former classics a smart move? Or does it just emphasize the old-fashioned nature of the industry’s culture? What’s to stop consumers from buying the actual vintage timepieces rather than modern ones with simulated signs of aging? Perhaps some luxury watch brands should slow down on highlighting their “rich heritage” and focus on a more “robust future.”
Image Credits: Header; c/o Baselworld. 1; OMEGA. 2; Blancpain. 3; Longines.