Hubert Burda Media

Chart Toppers – Top 10 Watches from Baselworld 2014

The annual round-up of Baselworld’s 10 most attention-grabbing timepieces

Compared to the swanky, stoic atmosphere of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in January, the mood at this year’s Baselworld was positive despite gloomy forecasts of a slowing economy, welcoming a record 1,500 exhibitors and 150,000 visitors.
As a whole, most brands adopted a rather conservative approach, updating or expanding collections that have stood the test of time. Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton respectively turned out more J12, Dior VIII and Tambour iterations, while Tudor’s Heritage Black Bay was given a new model in blue that takes its colour from the Tudor MilSubs supplied to the French Marine Nationale in the 1970s.
Glashütte Original’s classic Senator collection was also refreshed with an integrated chronograph while Harry Winston added five novelties to its elegant Midnight Collection. The famed Tourbillon with Three Bridges by Girard-Perregaux — admired by horology enthusiasts since 1884 — now radiates a modern presence with skeletonised PVD-coated titanium bridges.
Inspiration was also sought from the past as watchmakers turned to historically significant designs. Rolex brought back the Cellini (first launched in 1968), which was somehow forgotten in recent years, while Omega reintroduced the Seamaster 300 after more than 50 years. The model is now equipped with modern features that enable it to take on nautical challenges posed by a new generation of seafaring adventurers.
Corum, likewise, paid tribute to its heritage by reintroducing three artistic and unique timepieces — a year after the announcement of its acquisition by China Haidian.
Experimenting with modern materials continues to be the industry’s favourite expression of innovation. Silicon proved to be haute horlogerie’s material du jour, with the Swatch Group championing its benefits. Blancpain, for instance, announced all its watches will bear silicium hairsprings, with fellow stable-mate Jaquet Droz following suit. Elsewhere, Zenith’s latest iteration of the El Primero movement shows off a silicon escapement while Ulysse Nardin, the pioneer in silicium technology, introduced a new anchor escapement made entirely in silicium. But the most talked about development was no doubt Rolex’s Syloxi hairspring in its Datejust Pearlmaster — the titan’s first watch with a silicon balance spring, which interestingly is a bejewelled ladies model.
Also premiered was Hermès’ new tarnish-resistant silver alloy made of 97 percent silver (instead of 92.5 percent) and with a reduced copper content. The Maison also showed off rare pieces with beautiful crystal dials made by its subsidiary Cristalleries Saint-Louis. Another introduction was the use of osmium by Hublot on the dial of its Classic Fusion Tourbillon Firmament. With a melting point over 3,000 degrees C, this is the first time osmium is used in watches. Aesthetically, the sparkly, crushed miniscule crystals produce a celestial effect that’s very pleasing to the eye.
Most importantly, creativity is now less defined by avant-garde (and often obscure) portrayals of time. Today, good design is about modernising watch technology and producing timepieces that are efficient, functional and user-friendly — as evidenced in Bulgari’s L’Ammiraglio Del Tempo, a chiming watch without a visible activator. Instead of a traditional slider, Bulgari uses a necessary and functional design element — one of the lugs — to activate the minute repeater.
Modern technology also made what was previously impossible achievable. In the case of ultra-thin watches, throw in a complicated mechanism and this quadruples the challenge to remain slim. But Breguet and Bulgari have both launched ultra-thin tourbillon movements that are as beautiful as they are innovative. The Breguet Classique Tourbillon Platine relies on a bi-rotational periphery winding rotor to build up its 90-hour power reserve while Bulgari’s Octo Tourbillon Finissimo, at a mere 1.95mm, takes top spot as the world’s thinnest tourbillon movement.
Here are 10 novelties from this year’s Baselworld that made us do a double-take.