Basel, Switzerland — From the largest watch companies that produce thousands of timepieces a year, to the independent geniuses who hand-craft only a few masterpieces, collections on display at this year’s BaselWorld hold appeal for any watch lover who is looking for something truly new. The watches unveiled today include great innovations, a wealth of new styles for women, and limited editions aligned with special events and themes.
Update and Innovative
Chanel may be fashion royalty, but that doesn’t prevent it from taking the lead in areas of fine watch-making too. This year, Chanel applies the same precise styling and cutting techniques to black ceramic that are usually reserved for precious gems, resulting in baguette-cut “grains” of ceramic that decorate the case, dial and bracelet of the new J12 Noir Intense. Setting the baguettes on one watch requires 200 hours of labor. They decorate the 42 mm, white gold watch, which features Audemars Piguet’s AP 3125 automatic movement. Only five pieces will be made, and each will cost $312,000.
Cuervo y Sobrinos tapped into tradition when it reproduced a caliber from the 1940s for a new watch model. But by adding its own module, which took two years to develop, the company made an archival timepiece into a real innovation. The Torpedo Historiador Semanal features five rings of indicators around its dial that display day, date, month, hour, and unusually, the week number. Available in a 45-mm case with either a white or black dial, the automatic watch will sell for $6,500 in steel and $16,900 in gold.
Orbiting satellites that support the hour indexes, and cases that could be mistaken for insects from another planet, are just two design elements of Urwerk watches that make every model a work of brilliance for this industry. The newest introduction, affectionately referred to as the Tarantula due to its blackened movement “legs” that are seen moving through the broad sapphire crystal, is based on the 103 collection. This update, the UR 103T Altin, is easier to read since only one hour number is visible at any given time. The white gold version costs $67,000 and the rose gold and black (aluminum, titanium nitride) sell for $65,000.
Speake-Marin is breaking boundaries by introducing a line of watches, Marin One, which incorporate its first in-house caliber, the SM2. The 38.6- and 42-mm round watches contain an entirely hand-finished automatic movement that packs a lot of power—its power reserve is 72 hours. A two-piece enamel dial and skeletonized hands reside in a titanium case, which is unusually polished to a high shine. The price is 32,000 Swiss francs.
Denis Giguet’s career has included key posts at Rolex and Harry Winston (Opus projects), and now he is launching his own brand: Manufacture Contemporaine du Temps (MCT). His striking first watch, a 45-mm square timepiece with gently curving sides and crystal, walks the line between traditional and contemporary style. The white or rose gold case sandwiches a gasket of crystal, which is visible from all sides. And the movement—which contains 471 pieces—tells the hour and minutes in a whole new way. Panes of three-sided “shutters,” located north, south, east and west on the dial, display an hour number on each face. Only one pane is visible at a time, as the other three are obscured by a disc bearing the minutes. The disc remains open just enough to reveal the current hour upon rotation. With dials available in either white or black, the watch will sell for $89,000.
In addition to new watches, Jaquet Droz has brought to market a time-telling marvel: an automaton capable of physically writing the current time on a piece of paper, upon demand. The company spent eight years developing the Time Writing Machine, which contains more than 1,200 components. It is housed in an aluminum cage, and with a simple touch will employ a stylus to write the hour and minutes accurately. Entirely mechanical, only 28 examples of the machine are to be made (at the rate of two per year), and its price is 400,000 Swiss francs.
The newest designs from some watch companies are destined for the wrists of women. Jewelry legend Tiffany & Co. teamed with Swatch Group to relaunch a line of prestige watches known as Tiffany Watch Co. Ltd. About 70 percent of the collection is created for women. The most recognizable design in the premier collection is the Atlas—a round watch that employs elegant Roman numerals on dials and bezels.
Three sizes will appeal to women: 31, 36 and 39 mm. Case materials vary, from steel to white, rose or yellow gold, with an array of diamond treatments. The ETA quartz watches often have a date displayed through a small, heart-shaped aperture at the six o’clock position. The timepieces range from $3,200 for the smallest steel version, to $32,000 for gold with diamonds.
Glashutte’s Star Collection is always adored by women, and this year the line receives a wonderful white addition. “Precious Pearl” will be limited to 25 pieces. The round, rose gold watch has a guilloche mother-of-pearl dial, diamond bezel, big date and open back. It will sell for $46,000.
Chopard launches its first tourbillon for women this year. Part of the line of L.U.C timepieces that all contain in-house movements, the 42-mm tourbillon is fully encased in diamonds (primarily baguette-cut) set in either white or rose gold. It is delivered on a crocodile strap. Prices start at 427,890 Swiss francs.
Patek Philippe relaunched its casually elegant Nautilus line for men in 2006. Now, three years later, the ladies’ editions are ready for the spotlight. A porthole-inspired design and rounded octagonal bezel are key components of the 32-mm three-part case. The quartz timepiece is available in white or rose gold, with a satin-finished or diamond set bezel. The starting price for this collection is $26,800, and a complementary collection of jewelry only adds to the elegance of this line.
The standout timepiece among Breguet’s seven novelties of the year is the Classique Grandes Complications Minute Repeater, which is destined for the arms of many women thanks to its case set with 178 baguette diamonds and dial paved with 392 invisibly-set princess-cut diamonds. Adding in the diamonds on the watch’s buckle and crown, it holds a total of 19 carats of diamonds. The gems don’t only enhance the visible beauty of this 44.5-mm watch, but the sound of it too. All of those settings make the gongs ring louder. Its price is 780,000 Swiss francs.
Concord’s distinctive, multi-layered C1 case is naturally appealing to many men thanks to its thickness. Now, for women who like a large watch that is more suitably proportioned to their wrists, Concord is making its white version smaller. The 40-mm Pure Big Date features a diamond set bezel and hour markers, white rubber inserts around the bezel and crown, a steel case and a white rubber strap. At $15,400, it is destined to be among the most glamorous sport watches women wear this summer.
Movado returned to its vast archives and found inspiration for a lovely diamond watch for women. The revamped Museum Mini “Festa” collection consists of 20-mm white gold cases wrapped in diamonds, secured by diamond bracelets, for $70,000. And to spice things up, the collection also includes colorful versions with natural stones (such as lavender jade, ruby and aventurine) as dials that match brightly-colored python skin straps. Their price is $20,000.
Special Events and Themes
There may be no industry better at marking the most significant moments in time than makers of fine timepieces. New limited edition watches are debuting in time for anniversaries, sporting events and more whimsical reasons. Blancpain formed a partnership with Lamborghini to sponsor the Supertrofeo race, and its new Supertrofeo Flyback Chrono matches the sleek lines of its corresponding race car. This all-black watch is DLC-treated steel with a black dial on an Alcantara suede strap (which matches the dashboard material of the Lambo). The watch’s shape, as viewed from the side, tapers like the body of the vehicle too. Sporty elements include large red 9 and 12 numerals and pusher, and badging on the rotor. Limited to 300 pieces, the watch will sell for $17,300.
Milus is marking its 90th anniversary by launching its first watch made from titanium. The Tirion Triretrograde is skeletonized to show carbon fiber under the movement, and the showpiece feature of that movement is three separate retrograde seconds dials that seem to dance under the sapphire crystal. The piece will sell for $13,500.
Omega is famous for equipping astronauts with its reliable timepieces for their missions to space. Now, it celebrates the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing with two limited edition Speedmasters. (The Speedmaster was also worn by President John F. Kennedy, when he proclaimed his intent to send Americans to the moon). Only 7,969 pieces of the steel version will be made, and each will come with a sterling silver keepsake medallion for $5,800. Additionally, 69 platinum timepieces will be released, which feature an 18K gold subdial and come with a 20K bold medallion and presentation box denoting “Apollo 11 40th Anniversary.” It will debut exclusively in Omega’s new New York City boutique, and sell for $125,000.
Boucheron is reknown for its high-jewelry metals and serious stones. But in its new watch collection it also pays homage to a lighter side of the lifestyle of its clients. The Reflet XL Cruise, a special edition of 26 pieces so named for its address at 26 Place Vendome, is a steel timepiece. Two different woods—mahogany and pear—are inlaid to form the dial in a style evocative of the deck of a sleek wooden speedboat deck. A light brown crocodile strap matches the warm wood of the dial. It will sell for 6,100 Euros.
Frederique Constant sponsors a wooden boat regatta on Lake Geneva, and introduced a watch in honor of the event. “Runabout,” a limited edition, is an automatic, steel timepiece with a propeller engraved on the case back. Limited to 1,888 pieces, it is presented in a box that also holds a miniature wooden Runabout boat. The price is 1,850 Euro.
Alpina is the official timekeeper of the 12 Hours of Sebring 2009 auto race, and introduces an all-black 48-mm steel sport watch on its occasion. The carbon fiber dial features large with numerals with red accents. Limited to 257 pieces, the watch will sell for 1,800 Euros.