It’s time once again to whet your appetite for the biggest event on the watch industry’s (perpetual) calendar, the Baselworld Watch & Jewellery Fair, with our pick of the pre-releases – a surprisingly rich and imaginative tapestry of horological delights, in defiance of the current slowdown.
Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Horograph
The term “Bauhaus” is usually reserved for minimalist, modernist masters of watchmaking like Nomos Glashütte, Junghans and Mondaine – the latter of which has exclusive rights to Swiss Railways’ iconic platform-clock design. Well, prepare to add a fourth to that list, in the guise of Bell & Ross, a brand that has always done pared-back and modernist, yes, but more “utilitarian” than “designer”. Taking inspiration from another sort of public clock, this time from an airport, the BR03-92 Horograph square the circle with its cockpit-instrument brutalism in considerable style, softening the overall impression by bead-blasting the steel case to a smooth matte finish. We feel pupils of Germany’s school of fine arts would approve. Find out more here.
Breitling for Bentley Supersports B55
When Breiting first paid tribute to Bentley’s gamechanging Continental GT coupé by unveiling the watch world’s longest-running automotive partnership, most of us were still struggling with a Blackberry and that silly scroll wheel on the side. Making this year’s new “connected” masterpiece all the more indicative of the two brands’ enduring compatibility. Developed in tribute to the new Continental Supersports – at 209mph, the fastest Continental ever built – the entirely autonomously developed Bentley Supersports B55 has been designed as a fully fledged professional chronograph, with the smartphone connection used to enhance functionality and to store or transmit data; admittedly more handy for pilots than joyriding petrolheads, but then again, how much of an actual Bentley are any of us able to use to its full capability? Find out more here.
Bulgari Otto Roma
The Roman jeweller will say that its horological hero’s eight-sided form is nurtured by the octagonal motifs adorning the Basilica di Massenzio, but it was actually a range introduced in the mid-Noughties by now-absorbed sister watchmaker Gérald Genta in tribute to the iconic octagons populating its titular founder’s copybook (see Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak and Patek Philippe’s Nautilus). This year though, Bulgari’s virtuoso designer Fabrizio Buonamassa truly makes the Octo their own, by paring things down to something quite unlike anything else. The 110 facets milled from a single piece of metal in one process are now down to 58, but still retain the Octo’s distinctive style – both statuesque and chic – yet for a younger, more cosmopolitan customer. Find out more here.
Glashütte Original Sixties Iconic Square
“It’s hip to be square” goes the tagline, and we can’t disagree. Following Glashütte Original’s inaugural Sixties Iconic Collection of 2015, drawing from the gaudy archives of its former, GDR-owned self, yet applying a sheen and élan that only its current, high-end self could, a special collection of five square chronographs has been unveiled, featuring dials of such lurid hues that Ossie Clark would surely have itched to reproduce in chiffon. Made by the watchmaker’s own dialmaker in Pforzheim, Germany, they take up iconic design elements first presented in a range of “Spezimatic” models produced in the 1960s. 25 sets of the distinct Sixties Iconic Square Collection will be available in Glashütte Original Boutiques and selected retailers worldwide. Find out more here.
Hermès Slim D'Hermès Quantième Perpétuel Platine
Hot on the heels of Mondaine’s Helvetica, and Nomos’s beautifully scribed Minimatik, came last year’s third exercise in horological typography – something so quintessentially “Hermès” in all its Parisian whimsy and delicacy that it’s difficult to accept it’s not been in the brand’s oeuvre all along. The French graphic designer Philippe Apeloig designed a completely original suite of numerals for “Slim”, and the result felt at once harmonious and rigorous – perfect in other words for framing all the complicated details of a perpetual calendar. And perfect for this new model, now in platinum and every watchmaker’s colour-of-the-moment, blue. Find out more here.
Hublot Big Bang Unico GMT
Once was a time when Hublot’s Big Bang was simply written off as a chunky contender to the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore’s crown as watch of choice for Riviera posers and footballers alike. So wrong, and unfair we were. For, as Hublot’s state of the art facility on the banks of Lake Geneva has expanded, the technical wizardry has followed suit – from out-there material science (they have an in-house foundry for goodness sake) to joyously imaginative mechanical magic (a movement inspired by Meccano? Yes please.). Occasionally though, things are simply innovative on their own terms, like this new second-time-zoner, whose “home time” indicated by the arrow hand is easily adjusted forward and back by the chronograph-style pushbuttons. Find out more here.
Longines Flagship Heritage 60th Anniversary 1957-2017
This is easily the sort of watch your grandfather would have worn, if your grandfather happened to be Don Draper. As smooth and sepia-tinged as the ad man himself, it’s the Swiss watchmaking giant’s flagship men’s watch (hence the name), but it was actually Longines’ Ambassador of Elegance, Kate Winslet, who was invited to choose the face of its 60th-anniversary limited edition during a visit to the brand’s factory in Switzerland’s Jura Mountains. She’s clearly a woman after our own hearts. Find out more here.
Omega Speedmaster Automatic
Standing at the head of Swatch Group’s vast “plaza” at Baselworld, the atmosphere at Omega will most likely be tinged by sadness at the recent passing of Gene Cernan – the last man who walked on the Moon, and one of only three to have visited twice (the Moon that is, not Baselworld). Fittingly, the pre-Basel men’s novelty is a particularly cool update of the Moonwatch itself, the Speedmaster chronograph, which holds the extraordinary accolade of being the only item of third-party equipment NASA has ever bought in and sent into orbit – everything else being bespoke. The distinctive minute-track style on this stainless steel watch first appeared on a 1968 Speedmaster model linked to the watch’s other heritage in motor racing. Chiming with the racy orange dial accents is a perforated driver’s strap with an orange-rubber insert. Find out more here.
Oris Artelier Calibre 113
More than 110 years ago, Oris was founded with a singleminded vision: to create the best possible watch in the “accessible” price category, unabashedly embracing state-of-the-art industrial watchmaking techniques to keep quality consistent and costs down. By the late 1970s, the company was one of Switzerland’s largest movement manufacturers, but the onslaught of cheap Far Eastern quartz technology soon put paid to its crusade. Luckily, we’ve all fallen back in love with proper mechanical watches, and the crusade has been resumed with Oris’s Artelier range, launched three years ago. Like the three calibres before, Calibre 113 features a 10-day power reserve with its patented non-linear indicator at 3 o’clock, but the addition of a “business calendar”, including the day and month as well as date, makes the whole shebang totally unique to Oris. Find out more here.
Rado True Thinline Colours
Like Glashütte Original’s Sixties Iconic Square, also featured here, Rado is getting funky with colours this year – no bad thing for a brand that can border on the monochromatic. What’s especially impressive in this case, however, is that the monochrome has usually been down to the restrictions of Rado’s speciality case material, ceramic. And yet, far from a lick of paint, the new models are pure ceramic still, but infused at high temperatures and pressure with either of four integral hues – inky blue, forest green, lunar grey, or chocolate brown. Hypoallergenic, lightweight, scratch resistant, and now top of the (colour) pops – watchmaking with ceramic takes a lot of know-how, but boy do Rado know how. Find out more here.
Raymond Weil Buddy Holly Maestro
Some readers’ knowledge of the so-called “Founder of Rock’n’Roll” may only stretch to that song by Weezer, or a vague combination of thick-rimmed glasses and the Bermuda Triangle. But believe us when we say that Raymond Weil, that music-obsessed watchmaker from Geneva, has scored a veritable coup with its latest limited number. Designed in collaboration with Maria Elena Holly, and celebrating his 80th birthday, this special-edition Maestro pays tribute to the man who directly influenced The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and anyone else who played guitar in the Fifties and Sixties. The silver galvanic dial has highlights of pale blue (Buddy’s favourite colour) and the subdial wears a miniature pair of those immortal specs. Find out more here.
Tag Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 day-date chronograph black titanium
Ten years young this year, every kid’s dream first watch, the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre couldn’t feel more grown-up or contemporary. As Switzerland’s self-appointed (and, admittedly, justified) avant-garde sporting watchmaker, titanium has been surprisingly absent from TAG’s portfolio, but 2017’s birthday watch changes that, setting off the light-grey sheen of the lightweight metal with a ceramic bezel, matte-black dial and beige detailed (beige being their word, unfortunately). The bang-on-trend distressed brown-leather strap simply compounds things; a retro-tinged humdinger of a mechanical chronograph fit for another youthful decade. Find out more here.