MB & F LM Flying T
Iconic Baselworld may be due for some changes, but that didn’t stop watchmakers from exhibiting some of their most exciting new pieces at this year’s show.
The mechanical watch industry is nearing the end of its convalescence after a particularly rough couple of years in 2015 and 2016, during which Swiss watch export revenue dropped by 12.8 percent. Today, however, thanks to favorable developments like a rebound in Chinese demand and increased sales in the United States and Japan, as well as an increased consumer preference for more expensive models that helps to counter lower overall sales volume, industry revenue has nearly returned to its pre-dip level.
That said, the news wasn’t quite so rosy earlier this year in Basel, Switzerland, at the world’s largest watch trade show, Baselworld—a venerable horological institution that traces its roots back more than a century. A significant number of exhibitor defections over the years, including luxury brands like Corum, Ulysse Nardin and Girard-Perregaux, have contributed to the show’s steady atrophy, culminating this year in the loss of the Swatch Group Swatch Group, which owns 18 watch brands including big names like Breguet, Blancpain, Harry Winston and Jaquet Droz.
Instead of relying on the show to meet with retailers and generate hype, brands are selling direct to consumers through their own boutiques and online platforms and marketing more through social media.
GMT Quadruple Tourbillon Watch
Frustrations with the show range from the perceived arrogance of the former management and wildly inflated local lodging prices to the simple fact that brands didn’t feel like they were connecting directly with their consumers at the show—many exhibitors did the math and decided the high cost of attending the show simply did not make sense. Instead of relying on the show to meet with retailers and generate hype, brands are selling direct to consumers through their own boutiques and online platforms and marketing more through social media.
However, there’s no reason to count out Baselworld yet. At the end of this year’s event, its new management revealed some changes to the show’s format that it hopes will reinvigorate interest.
This includes reducing the price of exhibition space, establishing a concierge service to make travel cheaper, and perhaps most significantly, moving the show from its longstanding time slot in March to February to coincide with the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva, allowing retailers and journalists to attend both shows with a single trip to Switzerland.
All this withstanding, Baselworld remains the largest watch show in the world by far, even with just 520 exhibitors compared with its high of 2,087 in 2008. And the brands that were in attendance brought their A-game, debuting a new host of technically mindboggling and visually captivating timepieces. Here we present some of our favorite new models, all of which prove that while Baselworld may be in flux, the state of watchmaking remains as impressive as ever.
And the brands that were in attendance brought their A-game, debuting a new host of technically mindboggling and visually captivating timepieces.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT
One of the great rivalries in watchmaking exists between Bulgari and Italian watchmaker Piaget, which are perpetually one-upping each other in pursuit of creating the thinnest mechanical wristwatches in the world. This year, Bulgari added a fifth thinness record to its trophy case with the introduction of the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT, the slimmest automatic chronograph (stopwatch) ever produced. The timepiece’s titanium case measures just 6.9 mm thick, while the movement—the mechanism inside the watch—is an astonishing 3.3 mm thick (about the thickness of two and a half dimes). This miracle of the miniscule can be observed through a crystal on the caseback. The Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT is priced at $17,600
Though collectors clamor for complications, beyond their novelty, most are not practical in our modern world. (I mean, how often do you really need to know what phase the moon is in?) However, one of the most useful complications, the alarm clock, is rare to find on modern timepieces, which makes Patek Philippe’s new Alarm Travel Time all the more intriguing. At the preset time, a smaller hammer built into the movement strikes a circular gong ringing the inside of the case to produce a beautiful chiming reminder for up to 40 seconds. Perfect for a time-crunched traveler, the platinum-cased watch is also equipped with a dual time-zone display to track local time as well as the time back home. The result of five years of development and four new patent applications, the Alarm Travel Time is priced at $200,000.
Greubel Forsey GMT Quadruple Tourbillon
In 2004, boutique Swiss watchmaker Greubel Forsey introduced a mechanism that it claimed improved upon the accuracy-enhancing complication known as the tourbillon. Combining two tourbillon cages rotating at different inclinations, the so-called Double Tourbillon was followed by the Quadruple Tourbillon, which linked two double tourbillons via a differential to further increase precision. Introduced at this year’s show, the latest iteration in the line is the GMT Quadruple Tourbillon, which adds the ability to track the time in 24 time zones with a GMT dial visible through the watch’s caseback. In keeping with Gruebel Forsey’s typical aesthetic, the watch is highly three-dimensional, with a large dome sapphire covering multiple layers of indicators, bridges and plates. The GMT Quadruple Tourbillon will be limited to 66 pieces worldwide and is priced at $820,000.
The Baselworld reveal of the Carl F. Bucherer Heritage BiCompax Annual is evidence that the homage watch trend is still steaming forward. The design of the new piece is inspired by a 1956 chronograph from the brand’s archives that featured sporty aesthetic elements that were avant-garde for the time. The new watch shares the same basic design of its predecessor, though it is larger at 41 mm in diameter (in keeping with contemporary proportions), has an annual calendar function, and is equipped with a lighter dial that contrasts better with the hands and indices, making it more legible. The watch is available in two versions: a steel-cased edition for $7,200 and a variation with a two-tone color scheme for $10,200
Carl F. Bucherer Heritage BiCompax Annual
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master 42
Of course, no mention of Baselworld would be complete without highlighting the most exciting new offering from Rolex, the largest luxury watch brand in the world. While many of the company’s offerings were simple variations of existing models, it did introduce a brand new addition to its Yacht-Master collection of sport watches, the Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master 42. The first piece in the collection to feature a white gold case, the watch features a sophisticated black-and-white color scheme and a new movement that offers an improved power reserve of 70 hours. The Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master 42 will be available later this year for $27,000.
Of course, no mention of Baselworld would be complete without highlighting the most exciting new offering from Rolex, the largest luxury watch brand in the world.
One of the most wildly inventive watchmakers around, MB&F has produced timepieces inspired by everything from race cars to fighter jets to arachnids. However, the boutique brand has never released a women’s watch—until this year’s show. The LM FlyingT is refreshingly bold for a women’s watch, with a large, domed crystal that allows full view of the mechanical ballet of its namesake flying tourbillon (a tourbillon that is mounted, as if floating, from the dial plate). The case of the basic version ($115,000) is decorated with diamonds, while other variations add pavé ($145,000) or baguette ($315,000) diamonds to the dial. Now you just need the right place to store it…
MB&F LM FlyingT