Upbeat Basel Fair Gets A Contemporary Makeover

Basel 2000, the world?s largest annual watch, clock, and jewelry show in Basel, Switzerland (April 23-30), began the new century in a buoyant mood. Business and attendance were up. Celebrities from diverse fields?including supermodel Cindy Crawford, actor Sir Peter Ustinov, and Anthony Oppenheimer of De Beers?strolled the show. Thousands of jewelers and suppliers bought and sold, debated trade issues in forums like the Gemological Institute of America?s GemFest Europe, and went to glittering awards ceremonies and elegant receptions hosted by luxury watch and jewelry firms.

Attending were 85,000 visitors from around the world, 6% more than last year?s total. Americans represented 9%, a slight gain over the 1999 figure. Awaiting them were 2,376 exhibitors, including larger delegations from China, Hong Kong, and India and first-time Russian and Sri Lankan contingents. Altogether, it was an auspicious start for a new era of business in this busy Swiss city on the Rhine.

A ?new? fair. For visitors and vendors, this was a ?new? Basel show, thanks to the Basel Fair?s young new manager, René Kamm, formerly with Swiss watch firm TAG Heuer, and his staff. Together, they?ve given it a more contemporary image and worked ?to upgrade the whole set-up,? Kamm told JCK.

To emphasize that this isn?t your dad?s trade fair anymore, a futuristic three-corner white canopy was pitched over the main building?s entrance and a blue carpet rolled out to welcome visitors. Inside, 80% of watch exhibitors (up from 30% last year) had stylish two-story boutiques, a mini-metropolis of luxurious show architecture. Watches were grouped by product for the first time, making it easy for visitors to find them (and to find their way around). Luxury timepieces were in front, fashion watches in the center, and low-priced ones in back. Clocks had their own separate sector, another first. There were wider aisles, spacious piazzas, and new furniture for the foot-weary. Hall entrances and the Prestige Jewelry building foyer were redesigned. Altogether, there was 10% more exhibition space (865,000 sq. ft.) than there was in 1999.

To help visitors navigate the fair, there were more information stands in the show (and outside, ?Welcome to Basel 2000? desks at train stations and airports and six ?Infomobiles? touring Basel). Also new was live show coverage on the Internet and on large screens in the fair?s halls by SwissWatchTV (www.SwissWatchTV.com), a new Web site that covers the Swiss watch industry.

High profile. To make Basel the No. 1 event of the watch and jewelry trades, Kamm and his team added two new high-profile events. In the Basel Forum, hot-button issues are discussed by industry leaders and retailers. (This year: branding and Internet retailing.) The other is the Basel Prize, underwritten by 10 major jewelry vendors, for young designers from around the world. ?The perception is we are primarily a watch fair,? says Kamm. ?But this underlines our strong commitment to jewelry, too.? Three winners?from German, Swiss, and Italian design schools and picked from 100 entries?were congratulated by Ustinov at the fair?s welcome reception. Winning pieces will be auctioned in November, with proceeds going to Global Harmony, a self-help charity for the Third World headed by Ustinov.

The fair, especially its watch sector, was crowded most days, with buyers and vendors in an upbeat mood. Much optimism was due to good business worldwide in 1999, including record-setting sales for Swiss and Hong Kong watchmakers, robust economies in the United States and parts of Europe, and economic revival in Southeast Asia. ?With Asia rebounding, Hong Kong?s jewelry industry is well-positioned to meet resurgent demand,? observed Lawrence Ma, chairman of the Diamond Federation of Hong Kong. ?I am a happy president,? said François Habersaat, head of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, noting 1999 Swiss watch exports for the first time topped 900 million Swiss francs (about $562.5 million), with gains in most categories, including the United States.

Concerns. Still, there were some concerns. One is the uncertainty created by recent acquisitions of leading Swiss watch firms by major watch or luxury goods conglomerates, like the Swatch Group of Switzerland or LVMH of Paris. ?Now, we must reckon with the dominance of a few powerful groups, though this doesn?t mean there is no place for independent players,? said Rolf Portman, head of the Swiss exhibitors committee.

Moving the fair from late spring (where it varied between April and May) to March for the next several years pleased watch vendors, who want to debut products earlier to capture important mid-year and year-end orders. But some colored stone dealers grumbled that the new dates come too soon after February?s Tucson gem shows.

Another concern is housing. Despite $125 million in recent improvements, hotel space is so tight many visitors stay in Swiss, German, or French towns an hour away by train. ?Any Las Vegas megahotel has more rooms than Basel,? said Kamm. Though room capacity should rise 30% over the next three years, a 20-story fairgrounds tower (with fair offices and 300 hotel rooms) first set for 2000?and ?indispensable to future Basel shows,? says Jacques Duchêne, exhibitors? committee chairman?has been delayed to 2003. ? Hedda T. Schupak, Editor-in Chief

The dominant jewelry design trends at the 2000 Basel fair this spring were evolutions of some of the popular themes at earlier winter shows. The biggest theme, of course, is the return to colored gemstones and yellow gold. Both were very much in evidence, with a noticeable increase in fine-quality garnet, citrine, tourmaline, aquamarine, and other gems.

Most of the yellow gold and colored gemstone jewelry had polished finishes rather than matte or textured surfaces. As a trend, matte and textured surfaces are far from finished, but the look was used much more frequently in all-metal or metal-and-diamond pieces than it was in metal and color pieces.

Designers leaned heavily toward oranges and yellows or earthy browns and warm greens. Pink, following on the heels of apparel and accessory fashion trends, was everywhere. Consumers like it, and its versatility?it can be warm or cool, depending on how it?s used?appeals to designers. When combined with orange or yellow?a leading trend?it looks warm; combined with white metal and diamonds, also a popular combo in Basel, it looks cool.

Pink stones ranged from intense, magenta rhodolite garnets and rubellite tourmalines through a wide palette of lighter tourmalines and pale pink sapphires. Most orange stones were fine specimens of mandarin garnet or palmeira citrine. Combinations of yellow and brown stones frequently were set in white gold or platinum. So was citrine, but the colors ranged from light yellow to almost brown. Equally popular were yellow sapphire, yellow diamond, smoky quartz, and deep-brown or cognac diamonds.

Warm-toned green stones such as peridot and tsavorite garnet also were evident. Tsavorite is a rich green, but it has more yellow undertones than most emeralds or green tourmalines. Some designers used tsavorite in place of emerald, especially in pavé or other settings that feature many small stones. Italian designer Roberto Coin?s tsavorite collection attracted a lot of attention.

Most color combinations were complementary or tonal rather than opposing. Pink, for example, was combined with orange (both are based on red) rather than green. Color pavé looked fresh and was most frequently executed in vivid shades of sapphire. Bead necklaces were big?in size as well as popularity. The most innovative, shunning perfectly round beads, look like chunks and pieces of raw gem crystal strung together.

Despite all the color, the old standbys?platinum, white gold, diamonds, and pearls?held their own. Fine examples of white jewelry, much of it delicate, feminine, drippy, or lacy, were everywhere. White jewelry, of course, has ceased to be news and is now a jewelry wardrobe staple.

Many colored gemstone pieces had diamond accents, frequently executed as pavé. Black diamond pavé continued as a high-end novelty look. Pearls, however, were shown more frequently in singles?a single South Seas drop pendant, a South Seas solitaire ring, or a drop in each ear. Tahitian pearls remain popular, but white pearls seemed to outnumber black pearls at Basel. In strands, the freshest look was tricolor pearl combinations of white South Seas, Tahitian, and golden South Seas.

Necklace shapes were delicate, lacy, airy, feminine, and ribbon-like, and many had delicate drops. Mesh continues. The lariat or Y shape is one to watch?is it poised for a comeback, or did it never really leave?

Big gold necklaces seem set for a major comeback. The fair was awash in large, soft, bulbous, round chain-link necklaces. (Imagine a rolo chain on steroids.) Many links were pea-size, but some were almost as big as a fat Life Saver. There were many gold necklaces in this style, often with a big pendant in front. Multiple-strand necklaces with delicate chains continue to sell, as do neck wires and snake chains, but the newest incarnation of the minimalist look is the mini round omega. Slightly more substantial than wire, somewhat more rigid than snake chain, the small round omega was shown collar-length with a single pendant drop, not with a slide. Round omegas were shown in both white and yellow, but white predominated.

Finally, one cannot visit Basel without mentioning geometric design. Oval and pear-shaped stones dominated, as they did in Vicenza, but in Basel, squares and marquises joined the mix. Bezel setting remains as strong as ever, and there were many pieces with multiple bezel-set stones or flat metal discs linked together.

The big stories of Basel 2000 were women?s watches and high style. In the following articles, Senior Editor William George Shuster reviews some of the debuts in ladies? watches, style trends, and new technology.

Ladies? Day

Women are being actively courted, again, by many watch brands?including those known primarily for their technology and sports watches. That was evident opening day of Basel 2000 at Omega?s crowded press conference starring Omega Constellation spokeswoman Cindy Crawford. The supermodel helped introduce three ?My Choice? models (highly polished timepieces in small and mini sizes, two-tone steel or 18k, with mother-of-pearl dials).

Debutantes. The show was filled with timepiece debutantes. One eyecatcher was Tissot?s Bellflower (starting price, $2,500), an all-yellow 18k watch?in contrast to the many stainless-steel models?with an expansion Milanese mesh bracelet, a first in 18k.

A talked-about debut was Rolex?s colorful Cosmograph Daytona for women, selling for about $18,000. The series comes in white gold with vibrant yellow, pink, green, and blue lizard leather straps and matching dials of yellow or pink mother-of-pearl, turquoise, or green chrysoprase.

Hamilton unveiled ?Marylin? (starting at $175), introduced by former Charlie?s Angels star Kate Jackson. (Hamilton watches are featured in the new Charlie?s Angels movie.) The stainless-steel cuff timepiece, targeted to the 24-32 age group, was inspired by the styling of 1960s? women?s watches. With its sleek bracelet, detachable jewelry chain, and curved organic shapes, it challenges current geometric designs.

Citizen Watch is emphasizing design to increase sales to women, who account for 25% of its Eco-Drive sales. The goal is 50%. It?s expanding its stylish light-powered Eco-Drive Silhouette series with three steel adjustable bangles (in two-tone and yellow) and unveiled Elektra (starting at $335), a silver dial polished collection with 16 diamonds in the steel bezel ($295).

Façonnable, the French apparel brand whose watches have sold in the United States since 1999, launched three collections for women: Diagonal, a rectangular watch with diagonal bracelet design (plain steel or with diamonds); the cushion-shaped Mezza Luna chronograph with manchette bracelet; and the pastel-colored Façomarine Diamonds (starting at $1,450), a stainless chronograph on a women?s-sized translucent silicon strap, with 53 diamonds (0.83 ct. t.w.) on three-quarters of the bezel.

Fashion forward. More jewelry designers are expanding their watch markets, too. American designer David Yurman, who now has a separate watch division, introduced the Ladies? Thoroughbred watch. (He introduced the men?s version a year ago.) It?s in steel and sterling or 18k, with trademark cable motif on the side of the case. Fope S.r.L., the Vicenza-based upscale gold jewelry manufacturer, added white 18k watches with round or square cases to its Lady Fope series.

Two trends are notable for fashion-forward women. One is the increase in watches with straps that wrap around the wrist and forearm, a style first noted last year and made popular by Hermès. One example is Gucci?s 6100. The watch features a simple leather lace through holes at either end of a petite curved, rectangular case (in steel or gold plate) that wraps twice around the wrist and fastens with a specially designed buckle. Guess introduced G-Wraps in three styles, including Double Wraps in snake leathers. Duality Showers from cK Watch has colored dials and wrap-around transparent sky-blue or pale-green straps.

There were more cuff watches, too, in both fashion and upscale timepieces, with rigid or articulated bracelets and even links. These included Movado?s striated stainless-steel Concerto Mancetta ($695) with square case, mother-of-pearl dial, and sizable bracelet. Clerc, known for its eight-sided stainless-steel watches set with colored diamonds, unveiled C125, a refined mirror-polish steel cuff watch with integrated case and bracelet and baton hands on a silver or dark gray dial (also available with diamonds).

The focus on women even has affected new technology. ETA, the movement-maker of the Swatch Group, unveiled the world?s smallest auto quartz movement for women?s watches. Breguet, one of the oldest luxury watchmakers, introduced its Type XX Transatlantique Dame, with an extremely compact mechanical chronograph movement. The Ronda Group, a well-known maker of movements, added two new ones for women?s watches?Attraction, powered by a lithium battery that lasts more than nine years, and PowerTech, with a large date window.

A different ?chrono.? Basel didn?t forget the guys. Many new sports watches, dress watches, and chronographs were on display, but chronometers?which a small but growing number of fine brands have added to their collections?attracted the most attention. (A chronometer has a highly accurate mechanical movement that has undergone tough precision tests?involving various temperatures, gravitational effects, and positions?and been certified by an official institute, usually Swiss. Accuracy can?t vary more than six seconds a day.)

One prominent example is Breitling?s new Headwind, a high-performance timepiece in steel or yellow 18k (reinforced by an inner titanium cage). It has a date/day calendar and is water-resistant to 500 meters. Among other certified chronometers at Basel were Bertolucci?s stylish Uomo Gold (with mother-of-pearl dial), Ikepod?s futuristic domed watches, Hermès? new Kepler chronograph, Boucheron?s first automatic 18k chronograph (with El Primero movement), Xemex?s award-winning Avenue chronograph chronometer, and Omega?s new steel Seamaster GMT.

For the man on the go, there were a number of new world time or traveler?s watches. Xemex introduced two watches, the WorldTimer ($1,950), with easy-to-read large 24-hour hands and simplified ?day/night? design, and the GMT ($1,850). Blancpain?s new automatic ?2100 Time Zone? displays two time zones, moon phase and a day/night indicator on a cleanly designed, easily readable dial.

For aviation buffs, there?s Citizen?s new Eco-Drive Skyhawk, the first light-powered flight chronograph and perpetual calendar, and Swiss Army Brands? sleekly styled Hunter, whose functions include chronograph, appointment alarm, and countdown.

Basel 2000 also saw some established models revamped, revived, or renewed. Movado gave Vizio Sport ($695) a simplified, streamlined profile without sacrificing its postmodern architectural styling. Concord redefined its avant-garde La Scala in steel (introduced in 18k in 1997) for a wider audience. Jaeger-Le Coultre presented its Master Date in a contemporary version with white 18k case and hinged back, which opens to show its handmade automatic movement.

Rubber and diamonds. Steel and yellow gold. Pastels and mother-of-pearl. These were dominant characteristics in watch designs at Basel 2000, which also saw more creative freedom in shapes, materials, and dials than had been seen in recent years.

White metals and geometry (square, rectangular, and round cases) still prevail in all types of watches, as some striking designs demonstrated. Examples include Hermès? Trapeze (for men and women), whose geometrical character is reinforced by a beveled, rectangular case ending in two H-shaped attachments and horizontal lines; Cyma?s new ?Grande Imperium? chronograph, with a wide, curved case, stylishly designed push buttons, and time zone correction; and Tissot?s TXL, the men?s version of its women?s T-Collection watches.

Originality in design wasn?t limited to geometry and steel. Rado, for example, is making a major effort to its expand its market among young, affluent adults with the darkly futuristic Xeramo. Sleek, black, and polished, with integrated band and case and a plain dial with half-circle hour markers and baton hands, Xeramo is the first Rado ceramic watch with a strap. One version of American designer David Yurman?s Ladies? Thoroughbred watch features black grosgrain straps, with removable, interchangeable sapphires and diamonds. Other designers gave classical themes new expression. German designer Georg Plum, for example, has adapted the ?S? motif of the ?Meander frieze? of ancient Greek temples to bracelets for women?s slender wrists in Alfex?s new steel 5438.

Design even has transformed traditionally muscular, technological watches. The face of Seiko?s striking Sportura Kinetic chronograph, for example, resembles the dashboard of a car or plane. Other new chronograph designs?such as Raymond Weil?s Don Giovanni, Xemex?s Avenue chronometer chrono, Façonnable?s women?s Chrono Mezza Luna designs, and Longines?s DolceVita?are so elegant, they?re more suited to an evening out than to a sports track.

Wider is better. Wider cases, often curved, and larger watches with domed crystals were very evident in dress and fashion watches for men. Oris?s oversized, open-faced stainless-steel automatic Classic XXL watches come in three large sizes: 33-mm, 40-mm, and 44-mm. Corum?s 12 new lines included some oversized and domed watches. Its Trapeze has a thin, curved case wider at the top than the bottom, with offset hour, minute, and second hands and diamond-set bezel. Its Bubble is a large, domed steel watch in blue or orange, in quartz or automatic. (Basel 2000 also saw much more variety in watch case shapes, including trapezoids, thin ?squashed? ovals, rounded octagons, tonneau, and heart-shaped.)

Not everything is steel. More titanium, aluminum, and other lightweight metals are being used. Swiss Army?s flat, oval-cased Whisper and Chopard?s Mille Miglia 2000 chronograph both have titanium cases. Citizen?s Eco-Drive perpetual calendar combines titanium and steel case. Aluminum and titanium chronographs were introduced by Guess Watches and Porsche Design, while Robergé?s new oval Altaïr has a carbon fiber dial and aluminum case.

Gold and diamonds. A reaction to five years of steel watches and white metals was also noticeable at Basel 2000. There were more two-tone and all-yellow gold watch debuts, which a number of watch exhibitors predicted would increase next year. Meanwhile, virtually every mid- and upscale-priced collection offered models with diamonds, as accents on dials or on (or set in) bezels. Rows of diamonds paralleling the dial in square and rectangular watches are one popular design feature, as seen in Boucheron?s Reflet; Monad?s sleek, black steel La Nouvelle with satin-coated leather strap; and Patek Philippe?s Twenty-4, in rose or white gold. But diamonds also sparkled on some fashion watches, such as Guess Watches? Diamond Collection, available in five styles, with one to 11 faceted diamonds on the dials.

Important details. This year, less-noticed watch details captured designers? attention. Watch crowns are one example. There were watches with double-barreled crowns, crowns with precious gem cabochons, crowns with the brand?s logo on the tip, and crowns recessed into the watch case or covered?for protection or an unadulterated view of the watch case design. Or take the watchband. In 1980, Hublot was roundly criticized for creating a fine gold watch with a black rubber strap. This year, it had the last laugh. Almost every mid- and upscale brand offered stylish timepieces with black rubber or silicon straps (some with innovative clasps), and not just on sport watches.

Considerations of comfort and ease of wear are spreading, too. More mid- and upscale timepieces feature cases, bracelets, and molded straps curved to a wearer?s wrist. Small push buttons spring open deployment buckles, and larger numerals and hands make dial faces easier to read. A few upscale models even have expansion bands.

More watch dials this year glimmered with guilloche dials or iridescent mother-of-pearl, which complemented the pastel colors of many of this year?s fashion and dress watches, such as Michele?s colorful ?Diamonds? series, with matching iridescent colored leather straps.

Award Fever Grips Basel

Maybe it was the new timing, coinciding with the Academy Awards: This year?s Basel fair saw an unprecedented number of design and talent competitions. One, the Prix Golay, is an annual tradition, but this year the fair itself launched a jewelry design contest, while exhibitor cK Watch showcased its second annual jewelry design winners. Another exhibitor, La Montre Hermès, unveiled the winner of its first photography competition, and two European publications announced which timepiece their readers had chosen as the ?Watch of the Year.?

Basel was also the stage for the third annual Prix Hublot 2000, a humanitarian award presented by the makers of Hublot watches for individuals or groups working with Third World underprivileged children.

Pearls for men. The 16th annual Prix Golay, or Golay Prize, is the top award for young Swiss jewelers in their final year of apprenticeship. The competition, sponsored by Golay Buchel of Lausanne, follows a theme each year, and this year?s was ?Men and the Pearl,? focusing on innovative uses of pearls in men?s jewelry. Entrants were required to submit pieces worked only in gold, with a total weight of not more than 20 grams, and, of course, with pearls. Forty-six students entered. Three prizes were awarded, two for conceptual excellence and one special ?prize of the jury.? Each prize was 1,500 Swiss francs ($940). The prizes for conceptual excellence went to Daniel Maiolino, a fourth-year apprentice at Beat Lehmann Goldsmiths in Basel, and Karine Dupont, a student at the Ecole d?Art des Montagnes Neuchateloises in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

Maiolino?s piece was a ?luxurious herdsman?s cap,? inspired by the concept of an intercontinental cultural link between Switzerland and China. Although large, the piece does indeed weigh only 20 grams. The cap is formed of yellow gold wire, with a Swiss cross and a cow in wafer-thin gold, and an edelweiss and ?Swiss made? declaration in yellow gold wire. The freshwater pearl that crowns the cap comes from China.

Dupont?s piece is a modern interpretation of the traditional male signet ring. It?s architectural, futuristic, and highly refined in construction. Its use of white gold creates a light, airy impression, despite the ring?s height. The center is a rose-colored freshwater pearl, protected on all sides with metal. When it?s used as a signet ring, the side surface stamps the word ?HOMO? (Latin for man) or the rune-like ?OMOH? on paper.

The special jury prize was awarded to Philippe Barbey, a student at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs in Geneva. The jury proclaimed it an extraordinary jewelry object, provocative and poignant at the same time. The white gold pendant shows two faces, which can be interpreted as life and death. When the pendant is opened, it reveals a rose-colored baroque pearl, symbolizing the brain breathing life into the piece and giving it the ritual character of an amulet. The pendant, therefore, serves as a vault for the pearl, a protector of the living.

Photos inspired by watches. La Montre Hermès, the watch division of luxury goods purveyor Hermès, announced its first Photography Prize, organized in partnership with the School of Applied Arts in Vevey, Switzerland.

Open to students in creative, advertising, or journalistic photography, the contest was based on the theme of ?a free treatment of the natural and imaginary associations inspired by watches, and in particular, the Hermès style in watchmaking.? The three prize winners were Europeans. First prize went to Olivier Gaud, for his photo titled ?Time Image.? Second prize was awarded to Christophe Bosset, whose work was untitled, and third prize was given to Robert Falkowski, whose work also was untitled. Each winner received an Hermès watch.

Student competition. A platinum wire and Tahitian pearl necklace designed by a German woman won the top prize in a new international student jewelry design competition sponsored by the Basel Fair.

In hewing to the competition?s theme??In Harmony with Nature??contestants depicted the earth, sea, and sky and were inspired by such concepts as paradise, the four seasons, and the interaction of the elements in creating oneness and the power of life. Lilies and aurum lilies were used to signify purity, tree branches to signify the future. Other symbolic elements, such as tangled webs and fishing nets, cropped up as well.

The 10 finalists all came from European art schools: four Italian, two German, two French, one Danish, and one Swiss. One of the 10 was of Japanese origin. Nine were women. The first-prize winner was Natascha Rachel Reichel, 32, a student at the Fachhochschule (Technical School of Design) in Pforzheim, Germany. She won 10,000 Swiss francs (about $6,250) for her necklace made of fine platinum wire and Tahitian cultured pearls, resembling tubular nets containing pearls fished from the sea. Second prize went to Julie Fremolle from the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Appliqués in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, and third prize to Maria Francesca Morese from Istituto Europeo di Design in Rome.

The award, underwritten by 10 of the fair?s jewelry exhibitors, is intended to help change the perception of the fair as well as encourage young designers. Fair director René Kamm says, ?The perception is that we are primarily a watch fair, but this is intended to underline our strong commitment to jewelry and the jewelry portion of our show, which has twice as many exhibitors [1,366] as the watch side [579].? The award, which will be given annually, is also part of an overall campaign to raise the fair?s public profile.

At the end of the year, all the prize pieces will be auctioned off by Christie?s, with proceeds going to Global Harmony, a charity headed by Peter Ustinov, which works to assist underprivileged people worldwide.

Recognizing humanitarian service. For more than 20 years, English physician Jack Preger has treated the destitute on the streets of Calcutta without any financial aid. He finally got some at Basel.

Preger and the association he founded to assist the deprived in India won the ?Prix Hublot 2000,? awarded by the MDM Foundation at the Hublot watch exhibition boutique at the Basel Fair. The prize comes with an award of 50,000 Swiss francs (about $31,000).

The MDM Foundation was established in 1998 by MDM Genève S.A., headed by President Carlo Crocco, which produces Hublot watches. It provides various forms of assistance to underprivileged Third World children (including a village under construction for abandoned children) and annually recognizes individuals or organizations who do the same.

The cK Watch Prize. The second international ?cK Watch Prize? was awarded by the cK Watch Co., which produces Calvin Klein watches and is part of the Swatch Group. The theme of this year?s competition was ?Accessories.? Contestants were asked to create watches and jewelry based on the motto ?Dress Your Time,? with a link to cK watches.

A total of 148 students from 14 schools around the world took part. The three winners, all from renowned schools of art or design, were Julien Toninelli of Switzerland (first prize), Jing-Yun Jeng of Taiwan (second prize), and Linda Pieri of Switzerland (third prize). They were chosen by a jury that included the top officials of cK Watch and the Swatch Group.

Watch of the Year. The ?Watch of the Year 2000? title was awarded to the Senator Klassic perpetual calendar, produced by Armband Uhren (Wristwatches) and the European newspaper Welt am Sonntag (Sunday?s World). The top 10 finalists are chosen by the publications? readers.

The other finalists were, in order, A. Lange & Söhne, for its Datagraph watch; Maurice LaCroix?s Masterpiece Large Date; Chronoswiss?s Tora chronograph; Fortis?s Flieger (Flyer) chronograph alarm; Nomos?s Tangente; Omega?s DeVille Coaxiale; Patek Philippe?s model 5054 (moon phase); Jaeger-Le Coultre?s Reverso Sun/Moon; and Sinn?s Finanzplatzurh (?financial center watch?).

Limited Editions

Basel is the premier forum for watch collectors and connoisseurs interested in new and intriguing limited editions, which more watch brands are providing. Here are a few of this year?s debuts:

  • Longines has created a replica of its original 1925 square-case Heritage watch, reportedly the first such timepiece. ?Everyone is doing square watches now, but this is a reminder that Longines did it first,? says Abe Shamash, a Longines regional manager. The series is available in 18k yellow (400 pieces), 18k rose (600), and 18k white (1,000).

  • Ikepod?s Hemipode Tourbillon is the first industrially produced automatic tourbillon. Each of the more than 140 components is individually detailed and decorated by designer Marc Newsom. The pod-shaped caseback aperture allows the owner to view the movement. The watch, priced at $30,000 and limited to 99 pieces, is available in white 18k with two dial colors.

  • Breguet?s commemorative Classique edition marks the 225th anniversary of the company?s founding in Paris. The watch incorporates features from a famed pocket watch that founder Abraham Breguet sold to Marechal Ney, one of Napoleon?s generals, in 1813. Each watch in the edition (limited to 225 pieces) has the secret Breguet signature on the dial and the inscription ?Breguet 225 anniversaire 1775-2000.?

  • Hamilton?s automatic chronograph edition of its octagon-shaped Lloyd series (introduced in the 1950s) is limited to 1,000 pieces at $1,750 each. It?s the first chronograph in Hamilton’s American Classic line.

  • Hublot has three unique automatic limited-edition watches. One is a replica of the controversial 1980 ?Hublot Couvercle,? the first watch to combine a precious metal watch with a rubber strap. The new version, in steel, includes the vanilla-scented mat-black rubber strap of the original, but the cover (which now has Hublot?s ?H? logo on it) opens vertically with the push of a button on the side of the case ($4,500, 200 pieces). The Noir Hublot is white 18k with black gold dial and hands, and day/date windows at ?12? and ?6? (about $15,000, 100 pieces). The Hublot Cover Watch has a black dial and an engraved dragon motif on the steel case ($6,900, 100 pieces).

  • Jaeger-Le Coultre?s pink gold Reverso Quantième Perpétuel (500 pieces) is the sixth and final edition in its large-size Reverso Grande Taille complications series.

Coming to America

Several European brands announced plans at Basel to launch or relaunch in the United States this year. They include French brands Nina Ricci, Robergé, and Pequignet and the renowned century-old German watchmaker Junghans, best known for its radio- and solar-controlled watches. Junghans will reintroduce itself to the U.S. market at The JCK Show in June. Meanwhile, several U.S. brands entered the Basel show for the first time, including Timex, Bonneville Watches, and Oakley.

Light & Power: Advances in Watch Technology

Citizen Watch unveiled light-energy cells so small they?re virtually invisible. Called Vitro cells (Latin for glass), the minuscule silicon strips are attached to the underside of the crystal in a quartz watch. Electricity is generated when light strikes the glass and again when reflected back off the dial. The tiny cells generate enough energy to run a watch for five years. Most important is that the Vitro cells remove restrictions on designing solar-powered watches in terms of size, case, thinness, and dial.

Another advance in quartz technology is Tissot?s T-Touch, a black dial and stainless-steel watch that?s the first timepiece with tactile controls. The wearer selects functions (chronograph, alarm, barometer, thermometer, altimeter, compass ) by simply touching the watch crystal with a finger. The functions are displayed on a digital window on the analog dial.

Two leading luxury watchmakers introduced watches with extended power reserves. Patek Philippe?s elegant new 10 Jours (10 Days) chronometer contains an exceptional new movement with a unique 10-day power reserve. It attracted interest from collectors and connoisseurs even before the show opened. Only 3,000 will be made. Chopard?s new L.U.C. Quattro chronometer uses an innovative new 1.98-caliber movement with four barrels, providing a nine-day power reserve. Chopard has applied for two patents on it.

Breguet houses its new ultra-thin mechanical movement (with a 40-hour power reserve) in a gold half-hunter case. This watch won the prestigious Côtes de Genève award.

The German firm Glasshutte Original introduced its limited-edition PanRetroGraph (about $40,000). Its new 60-caliber movement features both a flyback and countdown function (with an audible signal), the first-ever created in a mechanical chronograph movement. It can count forward as well as backward.

Progress Watch, formed last year by two former Swatch Group employees, presented its 4Hz flying tourbillon, another global first. Progress claims it has greater precision, efficiency, and shock resistance than similar movements. The Progress tourbillon was used in several upscale brands at Basel.

Multi-function watches continue to grow in popularity and number of features, which now include tone dialers, pagers, and incoming call alerts for mobile phones. Swiss Army’s sleek ana-digi aluminum and rubber StarTech chronograph provides altitude, barometric pressure, and temperature readings as well as dual-time, alarm, and stopwatch functions. Casio, one of Japan’s other watchmaking giants, unveiled GPS, the first global positioning watch, which tells the wearer his location anywhere in the world (thanks to built-in navigation, distance, and landmark memory functions). Casio also announced the first wrist-wearable digital camera and audio player, both of which also tell time.

Other Basel ?world firsts? include Maurice Lacroix?s Flyback Annuaire chronograph (the first with a split-second chrono and annual calendar in the same movement) and Tissot?s chronograph with flyback and alarm.

Branding Was Hot at Basel

If there was one hot topic running through the Basel seminars, workshops, and press conferences, it was branding. Consider:

  • The Diamond High Council launched its new ?Antwerp Certified? brand?a permanent inscription of the council?s logo (HRD) and the words ?Antwerp Certified? on the diamond girdle. If required, the diamond?s certificate number also will be inscribed, for added security. Customers of the council?s certificate department will have the option of using the service, though a price hadn?t been set at press time.

Customers are demanding the inscription as ?a guarantee? of a diamond?s quality, said Peter Meeus, HRD general manager. Branding is a logical, if long overdue, development, he noted. ?Shoes, watches, ties?everything is branded. Diamonds are the last,? he said.

  • At a press breakfast sponsored by the Israel Diamond Institute, it was reported that most diamond mine companies?even ones that won?t open for two to three years?plan to put their own or their clients? brands on diamonds. It?s part of their move into manufacturing and other profitable diamond business activities.

During the Basel Forum, Derek Palmer, De Beers? regional marketing director for Europe and America, said branding diamonds is a good thing for the jewelry business because it will ?grow the market? through increased investment in advertising and marketing to promote the brands.

  • Branding also was discussed at a second Basel Forum, devoted to the effects of the Internet on retailing and distribution. The consensus of both sessions was that in today?s world, products and those who sell them need to establish or reinforce strong brand images to compete, whether in traditional retailing or on the ?Net.

  • The Basel Fair?s managers are concerned about their ?brand.? The Basel Forum and the new Basel Award for innovative design are, in part, efforts to raise the fair?s public and media profile in the competitive trade show market. ? William George Shuster