We came, we saw, we wore. The Tempus team recently descended on BaselWorld, the world’s biggest watch show, and found a feast of horological delights on offer. The show offered the perfect snapshot of what the watch world has in store over the next few months and, as always, threw up several surprises. Boundary-smashing technical innovation and ostentation ruled supreme, making this one of the most vibrant watch fairs to date.
It was only right that Burberry would take the qualities that have made it such a success story – the emphasis on classic, stylish British craftsmanship – and use them for its first watch collection. There’s all the gloss you’d expect from the luxury brand, including the moody styling and celebrity advertising campaign, but don’t let this distract from the simple elegance of The Britain timepieces themselves. This automatic has a distinctive rounded octagonal case and Swiss-made, self-winding mechanical three-hand movement, making it as well-built as it is wearable.
Hermès marks the 35th anniversary of the iconic Arceau model with the Arceau Petite Lune. A delicate face displays two complications: a pointer-type date indication marks off the days of the lunar cycles and a horological complication shows the moon phases, while a mechanical self-winding movement works with a module to power it. Elegant as always, a mother-of-pearl dial and alligator strap that uses Hermès’ famous saddle-stitching technique make this a piece to treasure.
The J12 is arguably one of the most successful high-end ‘fashion’ watches, so fans will be pleased to hear that the latest release – the J12 Chromatic Retrograde Mysterieuse – has raised the bar considerably. It features a tourbillion, digital minute display and 10-day power reserve, so all the technical features are there, and it looks the business too, thanks to a semi-skeletonised case and gold bezel with titanium ceramic inserts.
Weird And Wonderful
Independent watch brand Breva Genie introduced its first timepiece, the weather-predicting Genie 01, at Basel this year. Incredibly, it’s the world’s first timepiece (other than some digital watches) that has the time, altimeter and barometer, as well as power reserve indications provided by the fully mechanical movement, most of which is viewable through the open dial and back. Budding meteorologists will be further entertained by the scale on the caseback which provides correlations between altitude and air pressure.
The Alfex Translucent 8X watch looks like nothing else on the market. In a technical feat, it combines strong steel with transparent, lightweight acrylic to make an interesting aesthetic statement. The bangle watch distorts the traditional look of a timepiece, positioning the dial off-centre, and using repetition to create a pattern that forms the very structure of the bracelet.
The Avant-Garde Retrograde is, as you’d expect from the company that launched its first ever round case four years ago, innovatively designed. An imposing case and a sapphire transparent dial that reveals the in-house mechanical hand-wound movement – complete with jumping hours and retrograde minutes – gives it an ultra-modern, almost weightless appearance.
Harry Winston reinvents the wheel – or in this case the tourbillion – with its latest release, the Histoire de Tourbillion 4. Its watchmakers thinking was that a modern wristwatch, held in many positions during the day, needs more than one rotating cage to successfully counter the effects of gravity. To that end, its latest release sees a single oscillator contained within three concentric cages which all rotate at different speeds and at different angles to each other. This, then, is one of the most complex tourbillons out there, and only 20 of these magnificent watches will be made.
One of several new releases from Chopard at Basel this year, the L.U.C. Engine One H, is our pick of the bunch. Incredibly technical, it continues Chopard’s tradition of combining automobile-style design with fine watch-making. Impressive finishes added to its tourbillion movement include linear engine-like grooves, while the horizontal layout of the watch itself reflects the design of racing car cockpits. More traditional elements remain, however, with all the steps in creating the watch – including movement development, gold casting and hand-crafted finishes – still performed in-house.
Originally released in 1975, the Bulgari Roma set out to change conservative watch-making and chose ancient Rome and its architectural heritage as its inspiration. Today, the newest release is resolutely classic and remains loyal to its heritage, but a 2013 update has given the strictly limited-edition piece a proprietary self-winding movement, elegantly curved 18-carat pink gold case and smart alligator strap.
Like many of Bremont’s watches, the ALT1-B2 has some military pedigree, as the design is very similar to the watches Bremont gave to the elite B2 ‘Stealth Bomber’ aircrew last year. After being approached by the B2 Squadron to make the timepiece, Bremont took the most advanced elements from its chronographs – including a modified BE-54E movement and case with roto-click internal bezel – and created a slick watch with unrivalled clarity.
Hublot’s success continues apace with this, the gloriously-named Big Bang Caviar With Diamonds, available in red gold or steel. It’s based on the design of the One Million $ Black Caviar and inspired by the much-loved and best-selling black ceramic Big Bang Black Caviar, taking the most technical and impressive details from both. Sharply angular, this version is fitted with the impressive HUB1112 self-winding mechanical movement, has a power reserve of 42 hours and is studded with 36 diamonds, giving it a more subtle feel than its predecessors.
The Kantharos is packed full of high-tech features, making for a tremendously desirable piece from one of the world’s greatest watchmakers. Constant force escapement ensures total precision, while an automatic-winding chronograph cathedral gong that chimes with each change of function adds a quirky touch. The gongs, a favoured feature of Christophe Claret, are visible at 10 o’clock, while a special patented system ensures that they don’t vibrate against each other, thus eliminating unwanted buzzing.
Scott Manson is the editor of Tempus, a luxury watch publication.