It’s been just over a week since the Eve’s Watch team struggled off the plane from Basel, with myriad press kits and enough chocolate to keep a five-year-old happy for a week.
The usual question asked after the fair, by PRs, fellow journalists and absentees, is “what were your highlights”? A question akin to asking what’s your favourite book or whether you’d pick Damon Albarn over Alex James (or is that just me showing my age…? And since you asked Albarn, always.)
Anyway, I digress. Having seen over 40 brands and probably around 400 watches, picking your favourites is hard so, generally speaking, it is easier to pick what trends you think will get people switching up their watches come the second half of the year.
So without further musings on 1990s Britpop pin-ups, here’s our round-up of the biggest watch show on earth.
Get the blues
(Clockwise from top: Oris, Patek Philippe, Shinola, Chanel)
Blue as a dial colour continued to reign supreme, though this year things had moved on from what we call “Daniel Craig blue” – the particular hue decided on by Mr Craig himself for his Omega De Ville Vision Hour Orbis – to being available in every iteration from powdery periwinkle to shockingly vivid turquoise.
At the former end of the spectrum was Chanel, which had chosen to add the shade to the bezel of its latest J12 outing. Moving slightly up the scale but more on the grey spectrum was Oris’s tribute to jazz legend Thelonious Monk, which paid homage to his famous improvisational style by putting 11 markers in between the 10 and 12 rather than the usual ten.
As well as launching an annual calendar that made us a little weak of knee, Patek chose to give you the option of having it in a gorgeous blue dial that was such stuff as swimming pools are made on.
However, if you like your blues bursting with brilliance then look no further than Shinola, whose turquoise dials required sunglasses for prolonged viewing.
(Clockwise from top: Longines, Hamilton, Henry-London, Seiko)
There is a truth universally acknowledged that if economic times are tough then the best place to look for inspiration is the past. Which is precisely what many brands did this year.
To take the brands in order from oldest reference to newest – first up we have Longines, who went all the way back to the 1920s for its Pulsometer. Pulsometers, which aren’t really seen much these days, were used by doctors to take a patient’s pulse rate, as the name suggests. Electronic advances meant that the practical need for them died out, but a few brands are hanging the practicalities and producing watches with this old-school complication on them. This Longines, with its blued hands, retro logo and red scale is perfect. And not just for doctors.
Skip forward 30 years to 1957 and more specifically to Hawaii or rather the set of Blue Hawaii, where Elvis Presley was presented with the instantly recognisable Hamilton Ventura to wear in the film. Presley loved it so much he started wearing it off set as well. To commemorate the King’s 80th birthday, this year Hamilton has launched an update to this iconic style and it still looks as bonkers as it did in 1957.
Only a decade’s jump to the Sixties for two brands – one that is a new brand taking inspiration from a past find, the other an established brand rifling through its archive.
The latter is Henry-London, which came to its first Baselworld with a collection inspired by a watch one of its designers found bearing the inscription ‘Henry, August 1965’. The result is an update of that classic watch that you can imagine your grandfather wearing.
Your grandfather would probably have also liked the 1967 Grand Seiko, if he’d had the necessary readies to buy one. In 1967, Seiko made its first Grand Seiko automatic movement and this latest launch references that original design. It’s retro without feeling like a mere reboot and we love it.
(Clockwise from top: Tudor, Oris, Breitling, TAG Heuer)
It used to be pilot watches that got all the attention, but this year, it seems that it wasn’t about altitude but depth with some seriously desirable divers on offer.
Breitling really ticked that box, especially for women. This isn’t normally a brand associated with really knowing what women want – you just have to look at the not-so-latent misogyny inherent in its store design to realise that.
However, its Superocean in white with its newly reduced 36mm dial is practical, not patronising and, being all white, will look sensational with a tan.
TAG Heuer’s Aquaracer has made a name for itself as a watch that you can actually dive with but looks as good at the bar as it does on the beach. However, this year it has really embraced its diving roots (or should that be depths) with a much more sporty, fun reboot. Something Oris also managed to do with its DeepSea, which it launched in a more feminine guise.
And lastly, the Tudor Pelagos. It also taps into the blue trend but this watch is a diver through and through. And it houses Tudor’s new in-house calibre, which it launched this year. Pure class.
Back to Nature
(Clockwise from top: Jaquet Droz, Harry Winston, Dior)
The natural world featured as an inspiration, as well as a source of materials, this year. In the latter camp was Dior and Harry Winston who launched two of the most exquisitely beautiful watches of the fair both of which used some rather unusual adornments.
Harry Winston used the wings of butterflies in marquetry designs on its Premier Precious Automatic. The result was something mesmeric that changed colours with a movement of the wrist.
The same description could easily be applied to Dior’s 2015 iteration of the Grand Bal with a scarab-beetle dial, which added an extra metallic dimension to the Maison’s iconic timepiece.
Closer to home, Jaquet Droz seemed to have been studying English country gardens for its Butterfly Journey, with its pastoral scenes painted at the bottom of the dial over which a butterfly dances.
(Clockwise from top: Rolex, Victorinox, Rado, Frederique Constant)
It’s been brewing for a while, but this year brown really started to come through as a dominant colour choice. This really isn’t surprising – it is less severe than black or grey, more sophisticated than blue or green and, like rose gold with which it is usually pared, it looks great on any skin colour.
Leading the charge this year was Rolex with its latest Oyster Perpetual Lady-DateJust, while Frederique Constant put its moonphase on the lightest of caramel-leather straps. Victorinox chose to up the ante with a bezel made from vintage brown leather, while Rado went whole hog and presented its new brown ceramic, which it used for dials, cases and bracelets.
Only smarties have the answer
(Clockwise from top: Mondaine, Bulgari, Breitling)
Following Apple’s launch in early March, the smart race was definitely on. So much so that a few brands had impressive presentations but no watches. Those with nothing to show except a very good Powerpoint presentation were TAG, Tissot and Gucci.
TAG wheeled out the cheese, and Jean-Claude Biver, to announce its partnership with Google and Intel, but without a watch to show for it. Also on the “no product” list was Gucci, which threw in its baseball cap with Will.i.am and his concept of “fashionology” (nope, us neither) while Tissot came up with the most Swiss smartwatch concept ever – one that monitors altitude and weather pressures so you are always prepared for skiing or Alpine walking.
Those who did have something to show for themselves were Mondaine, Frederique Constant and Alpina – or the three MMT-eers as we like to call them seeing as all their technology came from the Peter Stas/Philippe Khan-run company MMT.
Breitling showed the most knowledge of its customer base with its B55 Connected, which is in keeping with its ethos of creating instruments for professionals and does sensible things such as log flight times so you can keep a check for your pilot’s license.
Bulgari targeted its more affluent customer base with its forary into horo-technology. Its Diagono Magnesium watch will allow users to make contactless payments, get access to encrypted passwords and also allow them to unlock doors to their multimillion-pound homes, cars or yachts.
Alright for some…