Industry News, June 2017

By Aaron Recksiek

Baselworld 2017

Baselworld is always guaranteed to be a spectacle of what the watch industry most wants to showcase for the year. It can be incredibly difficult to sift through all the announcements, news, and events to determine what is relevant to our segment of the industry, specifically, the after-sales service industry. After reviewing much of the information available, here is my take on the most relevant bits from the annual event, now in its 100th year.

The Swiss watch industry is in decline, with the luxury segment of the industry taking the biggest hit. There have been two straight years of negative growth, and forecasters are predicting the decline to last another year or longer. Quite a few Swiss watch brands are now embracing smartwatches, a technology that was once feared or discounted by many of them, with nearly every major brand offering smart technology somewhere in their product line. The most notable Swiss brands to debut smartwatches were Movado, Montblanc, and Tag Heuer with their second smartwatch, the Connected Modular 45.

There was a noticeable push by brands to create more value for their timepieces. For example, employing stainless steel where precious metals would normally be used, or for some brands, just lowering the retail price of existing models. Some brands were even suspected of developing certain models to cater specifically to millennials, as they will be a key demographic in the years to come. Of course, it wasn’t all budget cuts. There were still a few “mechanical marvel” masterpieces announced that are only attainable by the super rich, like the Loving Butterfly Automaton by Jaquet Droz and the Opera by Jacob & Co with a 120-note customizable, mechanical music movement.

Collectors are having a much greater effect on models that brands choose to produce. For example, Longines released a new watch called the Heritage 1945, modeled after a personal watch owned by  Hodinkee founder Benjamin Clymer. Longines re-engineered the 70+-year-old watch to look precisely as Clymer’s looked, even down to the color of the aftermarket strap he had attached.

Vintage-inspired watches were a common theme at the show, another sign of collector influence. Watch journalist Carol Besler dubbed them “nouvelle vintage.” The term refers to the trend among luxury watchmakers to combine iconic vintage design with state-of-the-art materials and movements.

Omega released three new models, the 1957 Trilogy 60th Anniversary Limited Editions, all inspired by their predecessor models. Omega had a busy 1957 by releasing three new watch models in the same year. The vintage-inspired Trilogy reproductions: Seamaster 300, Railmaster, and Speedmaster are all available separately but come with some bonus accessories if you buy the complete set.

Seiko launched a re-creation of their first dive watch, the reference 6217, an almost-exact duplicate of the original model. This new version comes with a high-grade automatic 8L35 movement supplied by sister company Grand Seiko, and a super-hard coating on the stainless-steel case to better protect from scratches.

Rolex is continuing to integrate their newest men’s caliber 3235 into several new models: a new Sea-Dweller reference 126600, widely expanding the movement’s production. They also debuted a Cellini Moonphase model. It’s the first time the brand has used the complication since the 1950s. Rolex subsidiary, Tudor, announced a new in-house chronograph movement, the MT5813, developed in collaboration with Breitling. Tudor will also be manufacturing and supplying an in-house movement to Breitling to be used in their Heritage Superocean models with an automatic caliber MT5613.

Bulgari set a new world record for producing the world’s thinnest automatic winding watch. The Octo Finissimo Automatique houses a 2.23mm thick caliber BVL 138 in a distinctly Italian-designed, sandblasted titanium case.

Favre-Leuba, a small brand known for tool watches, introduced the Bivouac 9000, the first mechanical wristwatch capable of measuring altitude accurately up to 9,000 meters. The highest point on earth is Mount Everest at 8,848 meters.

Zenith updated their iconic El Primero chronograph movement for the 21st century with the introduction of the El Primero 21. This new movement is capable of measuring fractions of seconds as the central chronograph hand completes one revolution per second. It does this with the use of two separate escapements and oscillators equipped with patented Carbon-Matrix Carbon Nanotube balance springs. One escapement runs at 36,000 vibrations per hour (vph) and the other at 360,000 vph. The dial also shows a chronograph power reserve indicator, as the extremely high-beat chronograph can only run for up to 50 minutes on a full wind.

And, finally, shortly after the show ended organizers announced that next year’s fair will shrink from eight days down to six. It’s suspected that this comes from a 13% decline in exhibitors and a 4% drop in buyers. There was news that show organizers turned away some exhibitors due to not meeting the show’s desired “quality standards.” The 2018 edition of Baselworld will be held March 22–27.

www.baselworld.com
www.nytimes.com/2017/03/29/fashion/baselworld-luxury-watches-timepieces.html
www.ablogtowatch.com/top-10-watches-baselworld-2017
www.jckonline.com/editorial-article/overheard-at-baselworld-5-watch-execs-sound-off
www.jckonline.com/editorial-article/baselworld-fair-will-shrink-next-year
www.cnn.com/2017/03/29/luxury/baselworld-2017-watch-highlights

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Aaron Recksiek is an independent watchmaker in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is a graduate of the 2008 WOSTEP class at the Lititz Watch Technicum.

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