Baselworld, the world watch and jewelry fair, concludes March 27 after a shortened six-day run. Organizers released a statement saying the number of visitors on the first two days had increased by 8 percent compared with last year, but that was greeted with skepticism by some attendees, who reported thinner crowds and a general sense of uncertainty about the future of the fair, which lost about half its exhibitors from last year.
Still, the event’s leading brands used the occasion to introduce new collections mostly focused on everyday timepieces. Watchmakers eschewed high complications in favor of tried-and-true models such as dive watches, chronographs, and GMTs. Aesthetically, chocolate brown emerged as the color du jour—not counting blue, which remains the industry’s preferred hue for dials—with many models reflecting a new obsession with bronze.
Thematically, watchmakers indulged their nostalgia for the late 1960s and early 1970s with a slew of vintage-looking timepieces inspired by the era—chief among them Patek Philippe’s stylish Golden Ellipse, a cult watch celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Below you’ll find five of the fair’s most buzzed-about introductions—four wristwatches and one mind-blowing automaton. Unless specified, prices are on request. (Look for a full trend recap in JCK’s June issue!)
Rolex GMT-Master II in 18k Everose Gold
Guaranteed to inspire hordes of interest among buyers, the new Rolex GMT-Master II—the latest iteration of the brand’s 1955 GMT, the first watch to keep time in two time zones—in the brand’s proprietary Everose gold with trademark red-and-blue “Pepsi” bezel was an Instagram sensation. $36,750; rolex.com
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic Watch
Bulgari has done it again. For the fourth time, the brand unveiled a world record–setting timepiece at Baselworld: the 3.95-mm-thick Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic Watch, which unseated Piaget’s December 2017 Altiplano introduction to become the slimmest self-winding watch on the market. Housed in a sandblasted titanium case, the model proves there’s no such thing as too thin in watchmaking.
Jaquet Droz Signing Machine
Four years in development, the Signing Machine by automaton specialist Jaquet Droz is as delightful as it is complicated. The 100 percent mechanical device boasts 585 parts that, once unlocked by a four-digit code chosen by the user, work in concert to produce a customized signature. Finished with hand-engraved red gold or blackened hardwood, the portable machine exemplifies the very best of Jaquet Droz, which turns a ripe 280 years old this year.
Chanel Code Coco
Introduced last fall, Chanel’s new Code Coco collection renders the classic features of Mademoiselle’s handbags—a quilted pattern and iconic clasp—in a sleek ceramic timepiece. New for Basel is a black ceramic version in steel, including the diamond-set model featured here, whose 52 brilliant-cut diamonds and black lacquered dial elevate this sexy timekeeper to the most-coveted list.
Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse Ref. 5738R
The second-oldest watch in the Patek Philippe collection (after the Calatrava), the Golden Ellipse has beguiled watch lovers since its debut in 1968. Bearing an elegant rounded square case whose proportions are inspired by the “golden section” (the so-called divine proportion based on the number 1.6180339…), the model is reborn this year in rose gold with a black dial. Meow! $30,846; patek.com.