Business at the world’s biggest watch show was subdued
Truth be told, I have a love-hate relationship with Baselworld. I love traveling abroad to see new products and catch up with old friends, but I hate the punishing schedule, the crowds, and the schlepping (so much schlepping!).
After 15 years of attending the show every spring, I can safely say that the 2016 edition was the most subdued I’d seen in years. Hotel rooms, typically booked months in advance, were rumored to be available last minute. The throngs of buyers from China and America had noticeably thinned. Even the amount of novelties the Swiss introduced seemed much less than in years past. Apart from the troubled economy and the challenging forecast for 2016, no single story emerged.
But that doesn’t mean we didn’t see cool watches or hot trends. Titanium is clearly the metal of the moment, black-on-black the preferred color combination, and blue the first choice in dial colors (followed closely by gray). Thin watches are in (don’t miss Bulgari’s fantastically slim minute repeater, a marvel of mechanical watchmaking) and so is vintage car racing if the number of perforated leather straps I saw (to evoke the look of vintage driving gloves) is any indication.
Here’s a short list of my favorite introductions.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
It’s no exaggeration to suggest that for Rolex lovers, the arrival of a new steel Daytona is akin to the Second Coming. Outfitted with a black ceramic bezel and available in two dial colors—white or black—the watch has already been lionized in countless blogs, so I’ll just say this: The first word that came out of my mouth when I tried the black dial model on my wrist: “hot.” There’s no going wrong with this instant best seller.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona in steel; $12,400; rolex.com
Patek Philippe World Time Chronograph
I’m a sucker for the world time complication—and the armchair travel it inspires—so when Patek unveiled Ref. 5930G, it wasn’t a hard sell. Reported to be the thinnest and smallest world time chronograph on the market, the piece is fronted by a gorgeous blue opaline, hand-guilloched dial. Interestingly, the watchmaker has finally corrected the time zone glitch that featured Caracas, Venezuela, as the city between Buenos Aires, Argentina, and New York.
In 2007, when Venezuela’s former president, Hugo Chavez, arbitrarily moved his country’s time zone back 30 minutes, he made scores of world timers obsolete. Patek stuck with the status quo for years, claiming loyalty to its historic partnership with Caracas retailer Serpico Y Laino. As of this year, however, Caracas has been given the boot in favor of La Paz, Bolivia.
Patek Philippe World Time Chronograph in white gold; $73,000; patek.com
Zenith Academy Tourbillon George Favre-Jacot
I thought I’d had it with tourbillons, but that was before I saw Zenith’s futuristic take on high horology: the new Academy Tourbillon George Favre-Jacot. Equipped with El Primero Calibre 4805 and available in a 150-piece limited edition, the model combines a tourbillon with a fusee and chain transmission system. But it’s the black plated dial, black rubber strap, and black PVD-coated titanium clasp that have my heart. Stealthy!
Zenith Academy Tourbillon George Favre-Jacot; $76,700; zenith-watches.com
Rado Thin Trueline
I hadn’t seen Rado in years, but I was reminded of how much I dig its minimalist aesthetic when I tried the new Thin Trueline model on my wrist. With a case that’s just 4.9 mm thick, it’s wispy but statement making—especially in plasma ceramic, a gray ceramic that looks like liquid metal.
Rado Thin Trueline in high-tech ceramic; $2,200; rado.com
Fiona Krüger Petit Skull
The independent watchmakers at Baselworld are concentrated in a pavilion called the Palace. It is overwhelmingly male dominated. So to find Scottish watchmaker Fiona Krüger holding her own among some of the most respected names in the business (MB&F and Kari Voutilainen, for example) was refreshing to say the least.
Known for her distinctive skull-shaped cases, Krüger lives in France but works in Switzerland. A love of skeletonized movements and a childhood in Mexico City, where Day of the Dead rituals are commonplace, inspired her to launch her first series of manual-wind timepieces in 2013.
This year’s edition, known as Petit Skull for its considerably smaller size—available in black, white, and blue versions—offers a unique twist on classic watchmaking. The dials are decorated with guilloche, a staple of traditional timepieces, and the teeth are decorated in perlage, another traditional technique. I flipped for it!
Fiona Krüger Petit Skull in steel; 13,000 CHF, or $13,407; fionakrugertimepieces.com