The biggest watch fair of them all, Basel World, offered a plethora of novelties, decreased prices and a peak into what looks like crisis.
– Oh no, it does not look very bright, my fellow passenger on row 9 mumbled while flipping through the last financial newspaper. If Trump wins, the Chinese crisis will escalate, he continued, while yours truly activated his BeoPlay H9 and turned up the volume.
We were on our way to the annual Basel World watch show. A show that was anticipated with doubt and fear as the global sales are in a poor state these days, due to the uncapping of the Swiss Franc to the Euro last year, the trend of smart watches, the Chinese anti-corruption campaign, low oil prices and European terror attacks have had their effects on sales of watches in pretty much any segment.
The current situation looks bleak admittedly. But please do remember that watch sales have been in a slump before. And I bet that you, dear reader, have had your eyes on another great timepiece that could probably be purchased before summer or as a nice gift “from me to me” for your next birthday or even Christmas (or both).
There is plenty to choose from. Basel World of course showed a plethora of novelties from all brands attending. Sure, there were more steel watches with complications (which are usually made from precious metals) and some watch companies even decreasing their prices, i.e. Zenith. But besides that, business was as usual at Basel World 2016. At least when talking to brand managers over a glass or two of champagne, while getting a look at the new watches that were on show. Of which we found ten staff favourites.
Basel World 2016 in numbers
1 500 exhibitors from 40 countries (including jewellery and suppliers) of which 304 were of Swiss origin. 145.000 participants of which 4 400 were journalists, which is +2.3% higher than 2015. Retailer visitor numbers were down by –3.3%.
You may not realise it if just glancing at the Rolex Explorer, but it is actually a novelty from the crowned Swiss manufacturer. This face lifted version offers an entirely luminescent display for enhanced legibility, including the 3,6 and 9 markers that are now filled with luminescent Chromalight which offers a long-lasting blue glow, which also goes for the central hands, offering exceptional legibility in any conditions. Also, and probably more important for detail freaks and design heads, the “new” Explorer is fitted with broader and longer hands, which this model needed to look great again. Diameter is 39 mm and the movement offers the Superlative Chronometer certification ensuring a daily precision of +2/-2 seconds.
TAG Heuer Monza Calibre 17
40 years ago (TAG) Heuer celebrated Niki Lauda’s first Formula 1 World Champion title with Ferrari (which was actually in 1975, but the watch was not launched until 1976) with an all black Monza. Back then the all black Monza was a rather different watch, yet considered stylish. And to celebrate this timepiece TAG Heuer presented an all black titanium Monza Calibre 17 with coloured SuperLuminova on the hands and hour markers to give the novelty instant vintage look. TAG Heuer Monza Calibre 17 has a diameter of 42 mm and is limited to 2 000 pieces.
Casio G-Shock MT-G-G1000AR
The Casio G-Shock collection offers quite a few models that are not your usual seen-on-the-wrist-of-a-skater and the all-new G-Shock MTG-G1000AR is one of these high-end models. The watch is made of a combination of resin and steel treated with an ion plating of pink gold, which is then coated with a black colour and then afterwards partially removed to give the watch an almost steam punkish look and finish. Function-wise the G-Shock MTG-G1000AR offers a hybrid time-setting system that receives both radio and GPS-satellite signals and is furthermore solar powered.
The sporty watch manufacturer Breitling introduced a brand new, lightweight alloy during Basel World 2016, called Breitlight. Breitling is 3.3 times lighter than titanium and 5.8 times lighter than steel. Also this new material is scratch- and corrosion-resistant as well as anti-magnetic and anti-allergic. The 50-mm all new Avenger Hurricane is the first model to use this material, powered by the COSC certified inhouse calibre B12 with 24-hour dial layout and fitted with a military textile fibre exterior strap with yellow rubber core, ensuring extreme comfort on the wrist.
Oris Carl Brashear
Oris hit jackpot, when they launched the immensely popular Divers Sixty Five in Basel 2015. This year the Swiss manufacturer introduces the Carl Brashear Limited Edition that somewhat looks like the Divers Sixty-Five, but is made of a bronze alloy and fitted with a wonderful blue dial with “aged” hands and indices. The watch is named after the first African-American Master Diver in the US Navy and the material is inspired by Brashear’s diving helmet. The Carl Brashear Limited Edition has a diameter of 42-mm and is limited to 2000 pieces.
Patek Philippe Annual Calendar ref. 5396
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of their first annual calendar watch (yes, Patek Philippe pioneered this function in a wristwatch and spend four years R&D’ing before it was ready in 1996) Patek Philippe decided to give their ref. 5396 a subtle facelift with elegant Arabic indices and a stunning new anthracite grey dial on the white gold version. This 38.5-mm novelty is fitted with an automatic movement that automatically knows if the month has 30 or 31 days. Meaning you only have to manually regulate the calendar function on March 1st. That’s pretty smart, actually.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms
Blancpain was one of the underwater pioneers, when they launched the Fifty Fathoms divers watch in 1953 and became the superhero of the seas. Used by amateur as well as pro divers the Fifty Fathoms was the watch to trust, when diving into great depths. The latest version, the 43-mm Fifty Fathoms Bathyscape, has a case of grey plasma ceramic, which gives the watch a metallic appearance. But the dial with its ocean blue finish is as impressive as the material of the watch, expressing the maritime theme very well.
Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT
The Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean is not a new watch per se. But the 43.5 mm GMT version, which was presented at Basel World 2016, offers quite some news anyway. Seamaster Planet GMT features for the first time a black and white bezel inlay made of polished ceramic (Zr02), which according to Omega is a very unique combination and rather hard to master. The contrasting colours of the turning bezel distinguish between day and night, which is very useful when reading local as well as home time.
Tudor Black Bay Bronze
Tudor is doing extremely well and ever since they started the re-introduction of historic pieces in 2010 starting with the Heritage Chronograph, all eyes are on the Swiss manufacturer. This year Tudor introduced their COSC in-house movement, calibre MT5601 (MT for Manufacture Tudor) in all the models in the Black Bay line. This also goes for the 43-mm Black Bay Bronze, which debuted this year. An impressive watch offered not only with a cool vintage-looking leather strap, but also with a green/brown woven NATO strap, inspired by the primitive elastic parachute straps that were fitted on the original period watches as worn by members of the French Army back in the 1960s.
By: Kristian Haagen