It was fairly obvious that, considering watches, this year was going to see a lot of development in two areas: pilot's watches, and smart watches. With a complete new pilot's watch collection from IWC presented at SIHH in January, Patek Philippe's new Calatrava Travel Time, and pilot's watches from Glashütte Original, Breguet and Montblanc, it's more than evident that watch brands are dedicatiing considerable attention to the genre. Smart watches are undergoing rapid development, and de Grisogono surprised everyone with their collaboration with Samsung, while other brands – Bulgari, Tag Heuer, Hublot, IWC, Montblanc, Frédérique Constant, Alpina and others – are working on their own offerings in this area. Here is a review of some of the most significant new watches seen at Baselworld 2016.
Rolex: 'The Air-King'
The Air-King dates back to the mid-1930s, and this year it has been relaunched with a 40mm steel case and a dial design that is far closer to the pilot’s watch genre than all the previous Air-King models, which had baton hour markers and the Rolex crown at 12 o’clock. Inside, the self-winding Calibre 3131 movement has all the features of Rolex’s watchmaking technology, including the anti-magnetic Parachrom hairspring and escapement. The movement is COSC-certified, and then the entire watch is tested by Rolex’s in-house Superlative Chronometer Certification. The case provides 10 bar water resistance, 100 metres in water. www.rolex.com
Omega: Globemaster revolution
The Omega Globemaster was presented at Baselworld in March 2015 but this year it is still very much in the spotlight. Its most important feature is its new Master Chronometer certification issued by METAS, an independent Swiss institute. Every watch is tested for eight fundamental characteristics, that include precision, power reserve, water resistance and anti-magnetism. We spoke to Omega's President Stephen Urquhart at the brand's boutique on Via Montenapoleone in Milan shortly before Baselworld 2016. Follow this link to read the complete interview.
Ulysse Nardin: Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon
This wonderful watch gives the impression of being aboard a classic yacht. The wood marquetry evokes a teak deck, and the time is shown in an unorthodox manner: the hours in a window, changing instantaneously on the hour, and the minutes indicated by a blue aluminium boom that is towed along by a cable, in turn pulled by pulleys and winches. The top two pairs of wires on the dial are purely decorative, as are the handrails. At the bottom of the dial is the 60-second flying tourbillon that regulates the hand-wound UN-630 Calibre comprising 469 components. This extraordinary mechanism is contained in a 44mm-diameter gold case. Notwithstanding the complication of this piece, it is still water-resistant to 100 metres. The more you look at it, the more details you discover, such as the two flags at the top that spell out the initials UN, and the anchor logo decorating the tourbillon. This is a limited edition of 18 pieces, each costing €280,000. www.ulysse-nardin.com
1000 hours power reserve? How long is that? 41 days. So you wind up the watch and you can put it on and it will keep going for a month. Most mechanical watches run for about 42 hours from when they are fully wound so this piece, Rebellion Prometheus, has about 24 times the power reserve of a normal watch. How did the people at Rebellion achieve it? Six mainspring barrels, connected and wound by means of a miniaturised chain that interconnects them all. The winding system is not a crown, but a square handle – you can see it raised in the photo – that you operate backwards and forwards. The time is shown by two rollers turning in opposite directions. The rollers are in orange, blue or green, but if you have a favourite colour, no problem, Rebellion can produce the watch in whatever hue you like. At 52 mm length and almost 48 mm width, it’s not a watch that goes unnoticed. Just the case has 75 components and the movement another 698. The price is as exceptional as the watch: one million two hundred and fifty thousand Swiss francs. www.rebellion-timepieces.com
BVLGARI Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater
The minute repeater is the grandest of the grand complications, and very difficult to engineer because of an inherent contradiction. Watch designers do all they can to seal the watch to keep dust and water from entering. This makes it very difficult for the sound produced by the gongs in a minute repeater watch to emerge from the case. With the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater, Bulgari have succeeded in creating a watch with the standard water resistance of 3 bar, 30 metres, and excellent sound characteristics. The movement, developed in-house by Bulgari, is the BVL Calibre 362, just 3.12 mm thick. The case is prodigiously slim at 6.85 mm. Case and dial are made from titanium, a lightweight metal, particularly suitable for minute repeaters because its lightness facilitates resonance and sound diffusion. The hour markers are cut-out, so that the sound can circulate inside the case transforming the whole watch into a miniature loudspeaker. The movement is hand-wound, delivering a power reserve of 42 hours. The watch is a 50-piece limited edition, with the distinctive Octo case and a vulcanised black alligator leather strap. Price 165,000 Swiss francs. www.bulgari.com
Samsung & de Grisogono smartwatch
Samsung and de Grisgono
de Grisogono has entered the connected watch arena in a collaboration with Samsung. The Samsung Gear S2 has something original with respect to other smart watches. The gem-set bezel rotates, and it’s this rotation that allows the user to access the apps in an intuitive way. When used in the time function, the dial is very realistic, looking like a classic de Grisogono watch face, though you can choose from different formats such as time, moonphase, power reserve and so forth. Other dial options, for notifications, email, heart rate, talking etc., look more like classic smart watches. The case is in DLC-coated stainless steel, and the gems are diamonds and black diamonds, together with some gold details. The Samsung Gear S2 by de Grisogono will retail at 14,900 Swiss francs. www.degrisogono.com
On the first day of Baselworld, Glashütte Original presented Senator Excellence. This watch is exceptional in many ways. First, in an age when products have to be outlandish or expensive or both to get media attention, the Senator Excellence is beautiful in its simplicity, a three-hand watch with no date window, in a classic, elegant case. Second, it has a new movement, incorporating a vast amount of technical development. The Calibre 36 will in fact become the foundation of a whole new series of watches. Thirdly, one of the three versions presented at Baselworld is a piece with a black dial and luminescent Arabic numerals, in other words, very close to the pilot's watch genre. The movement provides 100 hours power reserve, and another innovation is the fact that the movement is adjusted in six positions, instead of the usual five. The two stainless steel versions cost €8,500 including VAT, and the red gold version costs €15,500 including VAT. www.glashuette-original.com