At this year’s Baselworld, a number of brands caused a sensation by launching their own manufactured movements at very competitive prices.
One of the biggest surprises will have to be Tudor’s new North Flag, powered by its in-house COSC-certified calibre MT5621. The central hour, minute, second are clearly displayed on the dial, where you can also see the date at the three o’clock position and power reserve at nine. The 40 mm-diameter case, which houses the self-winding mechanical movement, fits most wrist sizes. At just over 3000 CHF, Tudor’s North Flag blends a Swiss movement, sporty DNA and practical function all in one contemporary timepiece.
ORIS has also come up with its own movement. Calibre 111, hand-wound with a date function and 10-day power reserve, signals the arrival of a new innovator amongst Swiss movement makers. You can see the power reserve at three o’clock, small seconds and date at nine on the dial. ORIS shows off its pride and joy through the sapphire crystal case back. Four styles are available: stainless steel with a sunray black-gold or silver dial for 5,300 CHF – a great price – and 18-carat rose gold case with opaline silver-gold or marron dial for 14,500 CHF.
Slim d’Hermès, a collection of ultra-thin watches, puts a new twist on a much-visited concept. Just 2.6 mm thick, the Manufacture Hermès H1950 mechanical self-winding movement is proof of the fashion maison’s commitment to watchmaking. Calibre H1950 is equipped with a highly sensitive micro-rotor that has been incorporated into the movment to achieve the thinness. The case back reveals a beautiful ‘H’ symbol decoration all over the calibre. Crisp and legible, the dial has traced Roman numerals that give the watch a contemporary look that is a true departure from Montres Hermès’ traditional styles.
We also scoured Baselworld for beautiful jewellery. Mikimoto displayed an unprecendented number of pieces in their stand, dazzling us with four masterpieces. ‘Duet’ features the rare conch pearl on a diamond necklace with six strands of Akoya cultured pearls. ‘Feather’ has a similar design, where fluttering diamond and gem-set feathers sit on top of five strands of Akoya cultured pearls. For an avant-garde design, the ‘Universe’ necklace contrasts 11 chunky South Sea white cultured pearls with openwork white gold spheres.
But the showstopper will have to be ‘Pearl Stream’, a breathtaking drapery of Akoya cultured pearls that blurs the line between couture and jewellery. The Mikimoto technical team flew to the Middle East to meet the princess who purchased the masterpiece for her wedding. Every pearl has been meticulously re-strung for the perfect fit. The Japanese maison, known for its time-honoured quality, craftsmanship and jewellery design, is without doubt an authority in Akoya and South Sea pearls.
Chopard, presented a whopping 41.57-carat paraiba tourmaline. The stunning oval checked all the boxes of the 4 c’s: carat, clarity, colour and cut. But no words could aptly describe the incredible greenish-blue which glowed from within. Looking into this paraiba tourmaline is like admiring a pristine Caribbean ocean. Its depth of colour is the true sign of a magnificent gem.
5. USB key press kits
One of the best things about going to Swiss watch fairs is the USB keys and gifts guests receive. The keys, containing high-resolution images and press releases, means lighter luggage which is always a plus after our exhausting schedule of back-to-back appointments and late-night business dinners. We are always surprised at the quality of the USB keys which the brands put so much thought and resources into creating.
Breguet crafted a dark wooden box which slides open to reveal a clear USB key that has the same guilloché pattern as Tradition’s iconic dials. British watchmaker Bremont made a little airplane which recalls its pilots watches and aviation partnerships. Snyper’s ergonomic design hides a red laser beam which we can use during our next presentation, or play a joke on a colleague. Louis Moinet made a hard-cover book with a pocket watch embedded inside. Just pull the button to get the USB key. Independent watchmaker MB&F celebrates its 10th anniversary with the Melchior table clock. The spectacular timepiece looks like a hero out of a ‘Transformer’ movie, and has been caricaturised in a gummy black and white USB key which might just be our favourite this year.
6. Patek Philippe
At Baselworld 2015, Patek Philippe offers a real departure from tradition with the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time. The dial has got to be one of the maison’s sportiest to date. Large Arabic numerals and broad local time hands stand out at first glance. The home time hand has been skeletonised to be easily distinguished. At the three and nine o’clock positions are the day/night display for home and local time, respectively. The date is displayed in a large sub-dial at six, again facilitating legibility. The pushers that adjust local time at the eight and ten o’clock positions are quite rugged to cater to professional pilots who wear gloves during their flight.
7. Romain Gauthier
Besides major players, independent watchmakers also made their presence known at Baselworld. We met with Romain Gauthier who researches, develops and manufactures refined timepieces in the tradition of La Vallé de Joux where he comes from. The Logical One spotlights a flat chain-and-fusée constant force system and a balance on the dial, an unusual design that is nonetheless very elegant. The ergonomic push button winding system is innovative and easy to use. But what surprised us was the beautiful finishings of the movement, which go to show the amount of attention that Mr. Gauthier pays to every detail of his watches.
The spirit of innovation carries on at Manufacture Contemporaine du Temps, albeit with a daring flair. This year’s Sequential One has been updated to put the MCT-S1.0 movement in the spotlight. Like venturing into the machine world of Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’, we dove deep into the layers of the calibre, to discover just how the the hour rolling prisms and minute jumping C-shaped arc work. The secret behind the time indication system is four modules. Though the square case has a robust size of 45 by 45 mm, its titanium Grande 5 material keeps it relatively light to wear.
We saw another unexpected use of modules at Ressence where founder and designer Ben Mintiens approached watches with an innovative industrial design approach. The calibre, housed in a round case, is completely hidden. Just turn the bezel and the hour, minute, second and days of the week displays will rotate as if floating around the dial. Several references from matte black to sophisticated guilloché prove that the design can be as minimalistic as dynamic.
10. Young Talents 2015 winners of the AHCI
The commitment to individualism has been strongly felt at the Académie Horlogère des Créateur Indépendants Young Talents Awards Ceremony. In an emotional moment, founder Vincent Calabrese expressed his conviction for independent watchmaking as AHCI celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. Switzerland’s Alexandre Gotze, Sweden’s Sebastian Schlette and Pontus Kohler, and Denmark’s Kristian Myren received the prize for their unique timepieces.
Most memorable was Myren’s wall clock called ‘Monsters from the Id’. The daring construction has been inspired by church spires and his favourite vintage science-fiction movie ‘The Forbidden Planet’. The moving parts are activated every hour to reveal the ‘inner demons’ of the clock. Myren made every part by hand with sculptural flair. The clock blends design concept, mechanism and above all free-reigned creativity that stays true to independent watchmaking.