As fairs go, Baselworld is disappointingly low on rides and candy floss. Instead, once a year the industry descends en masse on the Swiss town of Basel to ooh-ah at thousands of new watches presented as part of the world’s largest watch and jewellery trade show.
But who has time for that? Instead, this is FashionBeans’ (entirely subjective) rollercoaster ride through 2016’s sweetest wrist candy – all highs, no lows.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona With Cerachrom Bezel
Take arguably the world’s most desirable watch. Add a black ceramic ‘Cerachrom’ bezel, which is both scratch-proof and impervious to the sun-bleaching effect of UV rays (and harks back to the Plexiglass insert on the 1965 version). Drop the microphone. Walk off. (To roaring applause.)
You’ll struggle to find a Baselworld round-up that doesn’t feature the new Daytona in pride of place. Probably the most Instagrammed of this fair’s timepieces, it’s so handsome we’d wager it could enter a mirror-mirror-on-the-wall face-off with its famous ambassador, Paul Newman, and win.
Omega Speedmaster CK2998 Limited Edition
Omega would have had most watch collectors at ‘limited edition’. (The clue is in the name: only 2,998 individually numbered pieces will be produced.) And that’s before they found out that the manual Calibre 1861 movement inside this update of a much-coveted vintage ‘Speedy’ – which provides an oops-forgot-to-wind-it power reserve of 48 hours – is the same as in the original ‘Moonwatch’.
The chief difference between the 1960s and 2016 models? The deep blue on the dial and bezel, which draws more longing gazes than Daniel Craig’s eyes.
5,400 CHF, omegawatches.com
Seiko Prospex Special Edition PADI Automatic Diver SRPA21
Given the deluge of ever-popular diver’s watches on the market, Seiko has performed something of a coup by surfacing at Baselworld with the only timepiece to be accredited by PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.
Qualified for 200m below (assuming you are too), it features PADI’s red and blue livery, plus co-branding on the dial that will emphatically answer the question, “Bro, do you even dive?”
But even if you don’t, this is a money-looking affordable watch that will underscore your horological credentials, if not your frogman ones.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater
Watch brands are constantly clamouring to claim records of some kind or other. This year, Italian luxury label Bulgari made noise about its striking-looking minute repeater – a complication that chimes at intervals – which is the thinnest in production, with a sandblasted titanium case that’s just 6.85mm ‘thick’. (As well as looking snazzy, the titanium aids audibility; ditto the cut-out markers.)
Yes, the price is obscene, but the result is really quite elegant. Besides, the limited edition run of 50 more or less sold out before you could say “Ding-dong”.
160,000 CHF, bulgari.com
Tudor Heritage Black Bay Dark Watch
Baselworld 2016 was a Black Bay bonanza for Tudor, with bigger bronze and smaller, more democratically priced versions that were noteworthy, not to mention lustworthy. (The latter will appeal particularly to fans of the vintage look, and not bankrupting themselves.) This stealth all-black iteration, however, leaves them all in the shade.
Sidestepping the problem of what to call a black Black Bay – presumably ‘The Night’s Watch’ was discounted – its PVD-coated steel case ensconces Tudor’s in-house MT5602 movement, which is certified by COSC. In other words, it’s legit.
$4,150 on the strap; $4,475 on the bracelet, tudorwatch.com
Patek Philippe 5930G World Time Chronograph
It’s not a ‘best watches of Baselworld’ party until Patek walks in – right on time, of course. As the hybrid name suggests, the World Time Chronograph is a mash-up of the two complications; this being Patek, it’s the smallest and thinnest example of such dual-function timepieces on the planet.
With so much information to cram on the dial, world-timers tend to get busier than the kind of people who have need for them, but this navigates the design challenges in impeccable style. If you’re balling around the globe, accept no substitute.
Monsieur de Chanel
Fashion’s big guns have been training their sights on the ‘proper’ watch market in recent years, and this Baselworld, Chanel parked its tanks on the lawn with its first high-end timepiece aimed squarely at men.
The Monsieur contains Chanel’s first in-fashion house movement, the Calibre 1, with parts supplied by connoisseur’s watchmaker Romain Gauthier (which should dispel any doubts about its propriety) and has a modernist vibe that extends to its specially designed font.
Monsieur, with this Chanel, you’re really spoiling us.
$34,500 for beige gold; $36,000 for white gold, chanel.com
TAG Heuer Caliber Heuer Carrera 02T
The words ‘affordable’ and ‘tourbillon’ don’t usually go together. Difficult to produce (and extremely expensive because of it), yet not especially beneficial – in theory, it’s supposed to counteract the effects of gravity – you buy a tourbillon for the same reason that, as a brand, you produce one: to show that you can.
So the headline news at TAG was undoubtedly how the hell it had managed to make the whizzy complication vaguely attainable for the haves as well as the have-yachts. While £12,000 is not inconsiderable, it’s a fraction of the previous going rate.
Breitling Superocean Héritage Chronograph
Breitling is synonymous with pilot’s watches, but its diving timepieces have hidden depths, too. This limited edition model has been souped-up by the brand’s new performance division – like the AMG to Breitling’s Mercedes – which promises serious mileage thanks to an extended power reserve of 100 hours (previously 70).
It also boasts Prius-beating energy efficiency, on account of strategic implanting of lighter silicon parts, while the black ceramic case is transparent at the back so you can see under the bonnet. Or should that be boot?
Frédérique Constant Perpetual Calendar
The watch world is a heady one, where you catch yourself saying things like “Only £12,000? Pretty reasonable…” But blue dials aside, one of the biggest trends at Basel was value for money, whether Tudor’s shrunken Black Bay 36 with modest price tag to match or TAG’s ‘affordable’ tourbillon (see above).
In a similar vein, this Frédérique Constant is a relative snip for a complication normally found in the astronomical bracket. And while perpetual calendars can be a bit trad, this one – in steel with white dial – feels right up to date.
8,350 CHF, frederiqueconstant.com
Found a new grail watch to quest for? Or seen anything else from Baselworld 2016 on Instagram that you like?
TAG or Rolex us in the comments below.