It's been three months and we're still reeling from the excitement of this year's BASELWORLD.
A carrousel, minute repeater and flyback chronograph combined? Enough said
Blancpain's Le Brassus collection represents the pinnacle of the manufacture's expertise and comprises its most complicated timepieces. This year, a world premiere known as the Carrousel Répétition Minutes Chronographe Flyback joins the family, featuring the unlikely combination of a carrousel, minute repeater and flyback chronograph with a self-winding movement. The carrousel complication (more accurately referred to as the karussel) was invented by Danish watchmaker Bahne Bonniksen in 1892 with the purpose of mitigating the effects of gravity on a timepiece's movement. In 2008, Blancpain revived and altered the karussel to include two extra wheels in the train. This increased the speed of rotation of the carriage to one minute and led to the creation of the one-minute carrousel, a Blancpain trademark. As for the minute repeater, much effort was made to optimise the acoustics in the mechanism: The gongs which are attached to the case go one and a half times around the movement resulting in superior transmission and chiming. The addition of a flying governor also leads to a reduction of the background sound generated by the movement. Finally, Blancpain adds a flyback chronograph to form an exceptional trio of complications. The signature features of chronographs from the manufacture — namely the column wheel and the vertical coupling clutch — ensure the peerless precision of the function's activation. This watch features a Grand Feu enamel chapter ring that surrounds a skeletonised dial and is presented in a 45mm red gold case.
The future of watchmaking
The pioneers of silicon technology officially launched the Classique Chronométrie 7727 equipped with a silicon escapement that oscillates at a rapid 10Hz — to put things into perspective, most watches today run at a balance frequency of 28,800vph (4Hz). The timepiece's superior movement is thus capable of measuring up to twentieth of a second and keeps time accurate to -1/+3 seconds per day (the COSC standard is -4/+6 seconds per day). However, the major innovation of this watch are the magnetic pivots, which although not exactly a new revelation, is one that is protected by at least six patents. With the magnetic pivot, Breguet has successfully dispelled all the bad press surrounding the negative effects of magnetism in a watch and taken advantage of magnetism to improve the pivoting, rotation and stability of the balance staff. This is a futuristic adaptation of founder Abraham-Louis Breguet's pare-chute system, with two endstones incorporating powerful micro-magnets (approximately 1.3 teslas) to keep the balance staff centred and self-adjusting. Since one of the magnets carries a stronger magnetic force, that holds contact with one end of the pivot. In the event that a shock knocks the balance staff sideways, the system acts like a pare-chute to return it to its position, while the presence of magnetic forces further help to re-centre the staff to regain maximum magnetic flux. This ingenious system is revealed on the dial at two o'clock, while the brilliant tenth-of-a-second indicator — complete with its silicon hand — occupies the position at one o'clock. Aesthetically, the watch's dial is a vision of elegance with no less than six guilloche designs decorating it.
This could save your life
Breitling introduces the world's first wristwatch with a dual-frequency personal locator beacon (PLB) — a great accessory for adventure seekers who are constantly going off the grid. The first Emergency that was launched in 1995 had a built-in emergency microtransmitter operating on a single 121.5MHz international air distress frequency. This year's enhanced Emergency II is equipped with the additional 406MHz digital frequency compliant with the specifications of the International Cospas-Sarsat Program satellite alert system. With a simple twist and tug at both caps attached to the bottom lugs, the microtransmitter sends off two separate frequencies over a 24-hour period. This revolutionary and life-saving watch was developed together with major scientific institutes and features numerous technical innovations, including a specially created cutting-edge rechargeable battery, a miniaturised dual frequency transmitter and an unprecedented integrated antenna system.
Finally, a tourbillon for Bulgari's female haute horlogerie aficionados
Known for its keen eye for beauty and acute technical sensibilities, the Italian luxury house proudly introduces its very first tourbillon created especially for ladies. The 50-piece-only Il Giardino Tropicale di Bulgari features a champlevé enamel dial that had been painstakingly executed by a master artisan. The traditional art of champlevé is known to be difficult because it demands that the artist balances the technical intricacies of the craft with her artistic intuition to create a masterpiece that is delicate, harmonious and vividly coloured. A tourbillon at six o'clock exposes the intricate mechanical heart of the movement while an 18k pink gold case and the addition of diamonds further underscores the femininity of this beautifully made piece of art.
A perpetual calendar and a tourbillon combined in a watch that runs on a nine-day power reserve
Another prestigious addition joins Chopard's L.U.C family, this time featuring two high complications — the tourbillon and the perpetual calendar — on a mechanical self-winding movement with nine days of power reserve. Christened the L.U.C Perpetual T, this watch bears both the COSC and the Poinçon de Genève certifications which guarantee its precision and quality of its craftsmanship. Of all the calendar features, the two big date apertures take pride of place at the 12 o'clock position. The month indication is displayed at three o'clock with the leap-year cycle, while the days and day/night indicator is shown at nine o'clock. Finally, the tourbillon sits enthroned at six o'clock, topped by a steel bridge that has been meticulously polished to a mirror finish. Ensuring that all these functions operate smoothly without any need for repeated adjustments is Chopard's Quattro system, made up of four stacked and series-coupled barrels that deliver nine days of power.
First in-house integrated chronograph movement
The venerable watchmaking house debuts at Baselworld with some exciting new products but our favourite is the Girard-Perregaux 1966 Integrated Column-Wheel Chronograph that is powered by the new GP 03800 movement. No less than five years was spent on the research and development of this movement that is made up of 312 components and measures a remarkably slim 5.40mm in thickness. The GP 03800 has 31 jewels and is equipped with a microvar variable inertia balance wheel that oscillates at a regular 28,800vph. The inclusion of a direct-drive central second hand offers a smoother and more responsive action when the pusher is activated, while a jumping minutes counter at three o'clock allows time to be read much easier than the usual continuous mechanism. Special care has been applied to the finishing: The bridges are bevelled and decorated with Geneva striping, the bevelled steel parts finished with hand-drawn strokes and the wheels are circular-grained. Only the eccentrics are deliberately blued to allow the watchmaker to spot possible adjustments easily. This new calibre will be adopted and incorporated within Girard-Perregaux's 1966 collection, whose previous chronograph calibre was a GP 3300 base movement added with a Dubois-Depraz module attached.
Time told like never before — look ma, no hands!
The coveted Opus series by Harry Winston unveils itself amid much anticipation each year at Baselworld and this year's 13th edition is no different. Once again, the Opus XIII, like all its previous predecessors, fulfils its destiny to defy the logic of time-telling by presenting it differently. Created in collaboration with independent watchmaker Ludovic Ballouard, the Opus XIII shows 59 pivoting minute hands, 11 rotating triangles for the hours and a sliding trapdoor that hides and reveals the time. Every mechanical timepiece is a great work of micromechanics but the Opus XIII takes this one step further — the number of jewels alone in this timepiece stands at 242 and no other watch has featured as many functional jewels. The minutes are represented by batons that accumulate around a track, with each five minutes represented in red. At the turn of every hour, these indicators withdraw in unison and silver triangles (shaped uncannily like the outline of a diamond) spring forth from beneath a faceted dome to show the hours, rotating back only when their duty is done. When noon or midnight approaches, Harry Winston's logo is miraculously revealed on the dial, only to vanish an hour later. Two mainspring barrels deliver separate power supplies: One to the escapement through the going train and keeps the balance swinging at a steady 21,600vph; the other providing the energy for the animated time display. The watch is presented in a white gold case and available in 130 pieces only.
A visual and audio spectacle
Now here's a great conversation starter: A songbird covered in the prettiest blue feathers caged in the confines of your wristwatch. At your command, this bird (an automaton, of course) sings and dances. To celebrate Jaquet Droz's 275th anniversary, the watchmaker presented The Charming Bird, the fourth installment of a watchmaking story that began in 2010. Jaquet Droz has a longstanding historical association with automata and it took several years for the brand to finally succeed in producing what its founder Mr Jaquet Droz used to excel at in his heyday. The animation of the bird is caused by a miniaturised piston-driven bellows system adapted from 18th-century techniques. The rest of the 47mm timepiece is designed in a contemporary spirit and feature black, charcoal-gray and transparent elements. Against a background of a transparent sapphire dial, one can admire the complexity of the watch's gear train, bridges and plate. Of course, the highlight remains shone on the miniaturised bird that has been realistically depicted: Made of real feathers, the Jaquet Droz's songbird is an exact reproduction of a bird's delicate proportions and magnificent radiance. But what's most amazing is its animated state — when it pirouettes, flaps its wings and even opens its beak to chirp. Only 28 of these watches were made.
All black, sleek and super sexy
Stylish men with a penchant for creativity and technical superiority will want to get their hands on Omega's Speedmaster Moonwatch “Dark Side of the Moon”. The watch comes completely suited in black ceramic (save for the time indicators, strap and sapphire crystal glass on the dial and back) — even the dial is made of ceramic, which is something rare even among ceramic timepieces. The Omega Speedmaster chronograph was originally introduced in 1957 and given the moniker “Moonwatch” for its presence on all six Nasa lunar missions. In 2011, Omega outfitted the watch with a new co-axial movement and bi-compax design, both of which are featured in this new piece. The COSC-certified Calibre 9300 with a 60-hour power reserve contains a silicon balance spring and Omega's revolutionary co-axial escapement.
Perfect for Sinatra fans
Ulysse Nardin has successfully adapted the pin-and-roller music box mechanism into a wristwatch with the Stranger, a self-winding sonnerie that plays the 1966 classic “Strangers in the Night” at the top of every hour or on demand. This innovative system was created specifically to fit on the relatively flat surface of a watch dial and movement, as opposed to the traditional music box mechanism that would have no doubt required much more space. In place of the roller, a rotating disc fitted with pins is used — metal gongs (referred to as blades) hit the pins as they rotate on the disc and produce notes that combine to form the tune. An integrated pusher in the crown is used to control several different functions, including winding the movement, as well as adjusting and setting the date and time.