LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Watch Report: Classicism at Basel and Beyond


The new faces that were introduced at Baselworld and the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) watch fairs marked a return to the classic with watchmakers employing timeless design coupled with innovations in precision.

The annual watch fairs of Baselworld, which took place last month in the Swiss city from which it takes its name, and the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), which presented in January in Geneva, are where new faces are introduced to the watch world. Among the many trends in timepieces at this year’s shows, one of the most prevalent was the return to classicism – clean dials, handsome numerals and smart straps were used at watched makers from Audemars Piguet to Zenith and all in between. Coupled with new innovations in mechanics, particularly with regards to alternatives to the traditional tourbillon, the combination of timeless design with pioneering technology makes these new watches the antiques of the future.

Premiered at Baselworld, this is the first mechanical watch with an instant time-zone display and a memory featuring synchronised date, day/night and city indications. This function allows the traveller to easily display the time in two pre-selected time zones, changing the time and date instantly from one to the other simply by pressing a button, without disturbing the operation of the watch.

This timepiece was presented at SIHH and showcases the Calibre 9800 MC, a highly original movement that compensates for the effects of gravity on the timing mechanism in vertical positions. The subject of four patent applications, this movement is the fruit of five years of development. The designers at the Cartier Manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds developed a movement that offers an alternative solution to the tourbillon, which until now has been the oldest and most common solution to the problem of gravity disturbing the isochronism of a watch.

Romance and innovative mechanics inform the latest Hermes timepiece which premiered at Baselworld. Temps Suspendu features a brand new complication that can suspend time at the push of the crown, resuming normal timekeeping functions when it is pressed again. The idea is that time stops when you are with a loved one.

This watch is named after the explorer Christopher Columbus because of its ultra-complex movement that compensates for the effects of gravity on the precision of a wristwatch. While the tourbillon was specifically designed for this purpose in respect to vertically-carried pocket-watches, wristwatches move through constantly varying positions and thus require a different approach. Inside a remarkable glass bubble, Zenith’s mechanics have managed to ensure that the regulating organ and the escapement are indeed permanently kept in the horizontal position.

Another SIHH debut in Geneva, this is Piaget’s first ever self-winding ultra-thin tourbillon movement. The Piaget Emperador Coussin Tourbillon Automatic housing this cushion-shaped moment holds the world record for slenderness of any watch currently on the market, with a case that measures a mere 10.4mm thick.

The self-winding Millenary watch features a generous case that serves to magnify the three-dimensional movement construction. The watchmakers of Le Brassus have achieved the feat of actually bringing movement to the wrist as the new Calibre 4101 has been literally turned upside down to reveal its inner workings through the front of the watch.

Maurice Lacroix
This deceptively simple looking watch measures 24-hour time and moon phase indications, and date, day and month displays. A series of well placed time indicators with no superfluous aesthetic touches keeps the face clean.

Jaquet Droz
Innovations both technical and in terms of design were made in this timepiece. Featuring a tourbillon carriage crafted from sapphire crystal, a material also used for the figure-8 shaped ring applied to the dial, the anti-gravity effects are ultra precise. The Jaquet Droz dial-makers placed the tourbillon at the very heart of the seconds subdial, off-centered at twelve o'clock, and the classic hours and minutes subdial at six o'clock.

A Lange and Sohne
This timepiece, which made its debut at SIHH in Geneva, features a fusee-and-chain transmission as well as a tourbillon with a patented stop-seconds mechanism. Both of these “grand complications” make great improvements to rate stability and overall precision.

An oversized version of a house classic, the Vintage 1945 is a modern interpretation of an Art Deco-inspired model that was completely reimagined in 2009. Its new generous proportions were debuted at Baselworld, demonstrating the watchmaker’s dedication to design as well as mechanics.

Tag Heuer
One of the most eagerly awaited watches of the year is revival of the Tag Heuer Monza, which should hit stores in June. Only 1,911 pieces will be made to commemorate the famous “Time of Trip” dashboard chronograph of 1911. While technical updates have been made, the watch still pays homage to the original 1970s design: cushion-shaped bezel, blue hands on a white dial, luminescent “old rhodium” on the oversized Arabic numerals and hand markers, and chemin de fer indexes on the counters.

One of the most classic new models to be shown at Baselworld, the TransOcean series combines 1950s design with modern accents for a handsome timepiece that looks as good in steel on steel as it does in rose gold with a crocodile strap.

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