Baselworld 2015 Brand Highlights
By Aaron Recksiek, CW21
The annual spectacle of world watchmaking took place March 19–26, 2015. As always it was filled with excitement, as many brands announced their releases early, and surprises, as some brands were able to keep tight lips about their new offerings. It would be impossible, and mostly irrelevant, to cover every aspect of the show here in this forum. So I have decided to write brief recaps about the most notable brands, releases most relevant to our profession, new technological innovations, and the news that got everyone around the industry talking.
- Patek Philippe is making a push into an entirely new demographic of buyers by debuting the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Ref. 5524, an aeronautical timepiece completely unlike anything the ultra-luxury watch manufacturer has made before.
- Rolex not only announced a new men’s caliber, the 3255 (a 70-hour power reserve, ultra-precise caliber that incorporates a new escapement design), to be paired with its new line of 40mm Day-Date watches, but they also created a redesigned Yachtmaster with black ceramic bezel and Everose gold case. It also comes equipped with the first-ever Rolex rubber Oysterflex strap.
- Omega started to put their new METAS certification to work in the new Globemaster, the first Master Chronometer, the title they have given to watches that achieve both the METAS standard as well as the traditional COSC certificate. Omega also added four new variations to their Dark Side of the Moon line.
- Oris bested everyone in the “throwback” competition with the new Divers Sixty-Five. Its styling and construction were designed to the smallest detail to feel like you’re wearing a watch from 1965.
- Bremont, one of the babies of the luxury watch world (they were founded in 2002), continued adding to their portfolio by creating a watch in collaboration with the car maker Jaguar, the Jaguar MKII Chronograph. Although the most notable news from Bremont came one week after Basel when Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon presented his father-in-law with a special edition MBI watch that is only available to military pilots who eject from their aircraft in a Martin Baker seat.
- Tudor’s show was a big step in distancing itself from its parent brand, Rolex. They showcased the first in-house Tudor movement. It is not made alongside Rolex movements in Bienne, but at an entirely different facility. The movement is available in several of their new models. It is chronometer certified (also a first for Tudor), and it didn’t increase the price point one bit.
- Tag Heuer not only officially unveiled their partnership with Intel and Google to create a smartwatch, but they also unveiled their plans to produce the most inexpensive Swiss Tourbillon ever made. The watch would incorporate the Calibre Heuer 02 Tourbillon Chronograph movement that is currently in the final stages of development.
- Angelus reintroduced themselves with their first new watch since the late 1970s, the U10 Tourbillon Lumière, with an extremely unique and contemporary floating tourbillon. They were acquired in 2011 by Swiss watch manufacturer La Joux-Perret SA, a subsidiary of the Citizen Watch Company.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger previewed his new watch brand called The Schwarzenegger. Since he is a long-time, outspoken watch collector, many didn’t see it as much of a surprise that the former athlete/actor/politician would be looking to monetize his next passion.
- Breitling unveiled a new worldtimer, the Galactic Unitime SleekT. It’s a “double revolution” for Breitling, meaning that it contains the first non-chronograph in-house Breitling movement, and the first of their watches to utilize a tungsten carbide bezel.
- Nomos Glashutte presented a new, incredibly thin in-house automatic caliber containing their proprietary “Swing System” escapement, along with several new models to contain it.
- Corum brought the highly popular Bubble out of retirement after many collectors clamored for a return of one of the brand’s most iconic styles.
- Shinola introduced two new movement types, both of which are variations of Ronda movements assembled in Detroit, to be used in two new styles—one with a GMT function and the other with a moon phase. They also announced a collaboration to produce watches for outdoor-equipment maker Filson.
- Zenith showed that they are still master of innovation with the Elite 6150, with a simple 30mm diameter, 4mm thick, automatic movement that produces an astonishing (for its size) 100-hour power reserve.
- Bulova is doubling down in the new 262 KHz Ultra-High Frequency Accutron II watches, and they announced a full spectrum of styles to accompany the new technology.
- Ball continued their pursuit of developing antimagnetic technologies with the new Engineer II Volcano, a certified chronometer that is housed in a case made of material that has never before been used before in watchmaking—superimposed layers of carbon and mumetal (a carbon infused nickel-iron alloy, composed of approximately 77% nickel, 16% iron, 5% copper, and 2% chromium or molybdenum). The watch is shockproof to 5,000 Gs and resistant to up to 80,000 A/m of magnetism.
- Citizen improved upon their GPS time-receiving-technology they released last year with the new Satellite Wave F900 Eco-Drive. The improvement comes in the speed. The watch is able to track your location and update the time based on what time zone you are in (now in less than 30 seconds). The functional upgrade to the movement also came with an upgrade to the case and bracelet, which are made from Duratect-coated titanium Citizen calls “Super Titanium.” They claim it has a hardness of 2,200-2,500 on the Vickers scale.
- Seiko is also following suit in the GPS-timekeeping-innovation game by introducing the new Astron GPS Solar Dual-Time. However, the more notable releases from Seiko came in their continued pursuit to compete with the best the Swiss have to offer with the Grand Seiko collection. The new 55th anniversary watches return to 1967 and to its first-ever automatic watch, the impressively accurate Hi-Beat 62GS.
- Smartwatches—Frédérique Constant and Alpina were able to show off the new Motion X-365 Horological Smartwatch Platform designed to turn high-grade Swiss timepieces into low-key smartwatches (more on this next month). Bulgari is taking a unique approach to the smartwatch market by debuting the Diagono Magnesium, an “intelligent watch” equipped with cryptographic Near Field Communications, allowing the user to authenticate payment methods with a connected device.
Several trends became apparent this year. The reproduction of iconic vintage models was certainly one of them. Many brands revived old favorites while others made completely new models that had a distinct vintage look. Many brands ventured into new territory with their offerings, some introducing models going completely away from what many fans of the collections would expect from them. This is largely assumed to be a strategy to appeal to and draw in the next generation of younger watch buyers to invest in their brand. Another large trend was the reduction in expected cost and the added value for already existing prices across the board. The Swiss franc scare frightened the industry earlier this year and no doubt prompted many brands to re-evaluate the direction of the growth of their company and to try to maintain a more competitive price point to better appeal to the recessing markets. An extremely positive trend that was discovered throughout the show was the incredible amount of autonomy that many brands are investing in. One of the most common terms being thrown around was “in-house,” a hallmark achievement of any brand that should be encouraged and supported. It bodes well for the future of the industry to have more innovation coming from more sources around the watchmaking community.