By Greg Simonian, Westime President
I represent the fourth generation of my family to work in the watch business, so for my entire life I have known that spring is the season to make a pilgrimage to Basel, Switzerland, to see the future of watchmaking.
You see, the annual Baselworld watch fair is the largest gathering in the world of watchmakers, retailers, journalists and watch enthusiasts. Over the course of eight days, 1,400 exhibitors present the tiny works of art they have been perfecting for the last year to a rapt crowd of 122,000 visitors. For Westime, Baselworld is where we first lay eyes on the new timepieces that we’ll soon offer for sale in our three stores, in Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and La Jolla, California. It’s a thrill to find unique, never-before-seen creations, but I also find it helpful to sniff out larger trends through the course of the show. The following seven developments seen at Baselworld 2013 represent trends you’ll soon encounter in the world’s best watch stores.
1. Designing for Women
Not too long ago, women’s watches were essentially scaled-down versions of men’s mechanical watches.
Now, manufacturers are making great strides to produce fine timepieces expressly for a woman’s wrist. A leader in this category is Bulgari, the world-famous Roman jeweler with admirable watchmaking capabilities. The new Bulgari Bulgari Catene, with its sculpted 18K pink gold chain links that coil twice around the wrist, is as much a piece of fine jewelry as it is a watch. The 31mm pink gold case encloses a quartz movement and a white mother-of-pearl dial with 12 diamond hour markers. An additional showering of white diamonds around the bracelet links is available, for that added touch of glamour.
2. Incorporating Modern Technology for a Good Reason
Today’s mechanical watches have incredible capabilities, but some extreme functions require a high-tech power source.
Breitling successfully advances its in-house mechanical watch capabilities, while also developing high-tech timekeepers that suit the lifestyles of its adventurous fans. The new Emergency II is the first wristwatch with a built-in personal locator beacon—a dual frequency transmitter that works through the international satellite alert system to both issue alerts and guide search and rescue missions. This advanced safety feature is powered by a rechargeable battery. And the watch also contains a thermo-compensated SuperQuartz-powered chronograph movement that has attained COSC certification for accuracy.
3. Attention to Artistry and Finishing
A mechanical watch without a beautifully polished case, creatively designed dial or engraved movement may be a mechanical wonder, but not a piece of art.
Some manufacturers are setting new standards when it comes to the attention paid to making every element of their watches visually stunnning. De Bethune raises the bar for the whole industry. Not only is the dial of the new DB28 Skybridge as mesmerizing as the evening firmament complete with diamond stars and spherical moon-phase, but its case and lugs are polished to a mirror-finish—an extraordinary feat considering how difficult titanium is to polish. That De Bethune makes every element of its watches within its own small workshops in Switzerland—no outsourcing the hard steps!—makes their creations true achievements.
4. Diving Deep to Master One Complication
Harry Winston is well-known for its magnificent diamond jewelry and diamond timepieces, but the company has also made a commitment to advancing one particular complication: the tourbillon.
Its Histoire de Tourbillon series—the fourth edition was just released—represents true haute horlogerie that can only be produced with dedicated R&D and seriously talented master watchmakers. Watch collectors who build their collections around particular complications will cheer the dedication of Harry Winston for ushering the tourbillon into new territory.
5. Innovating Beyond the Case
Watches have come a long way, but straps are generally the same as they have always been.
Now a few manufacturers are innovating with natural and man-made materials to produce a better watch strap. Blancpain’s new Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe dive watch features a unique triple-loop NATO strap, made from a durable material first used by the British Ministry of Defense.
6. Solving Centuries-Old Watchmaking Challenges
For as long as watchmakers have built mechanical timepieces, they have battled for accuracy.
The scourge of mechanical watches, historically, has been waning power which results in timekeeping getting less and less accurate as the power reserve runs down. After many years of research and development, Girard-Perregaux watchmakers have attained the holy grail, and developed a patented movement that delivers a constant force. The impressive new movement will power all of Girard-Perregaux’s haute horlogerie watches going forward.
7. Partnering Beyond the Watch Industry for Creative Style and Design
Guest artists, charitable causes and brand ambassadors can all provide a watchmaker with a fresh breath of inspiration when it comes to designing a watch.
The most successful examples are true collaborations, where the most important symbols and style codes of both partners complement one another in a joint watch design. New this season is Hublot’s King Power Black Mamba, which combines the watchmaker’s sleek style codes with Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant’s personal symbols including a silver snake around the counter at 9 o’clock and his jersey number 24 at 6 o’clock.