Want a new watch? The good people of Switzerland certainly want to you want one. It was there, in the city of Basel, where the world’s biggest watch brands clustered for the world’s biggest world fair this past week.
At a time when the luxury watch industry is going through something of a dry spell, Baselworld 2018 was a showcase for good honest models like divers, GMTs and chronographs, not to mention the odd to-die-for dress watch. Here are our top picks.
Rolex and Tudor just got that much closer. The new Black Bay GMT – more a twin brother than a distant cousin to the new Rolex GMT Master II – boasts a mid-century aesthetic that’s becoming increasingly popular. Plus, the ‘Pepsi’ (i.e. blue and red) bezel is again another nod to the archives, making this dive watch a new classic in itself.
Rolex still stands very much on its own two feet, though. This particular GMT Master II Everose is the first of its kind to be manufactured in 18-carat gold, which, in partnership with a chocolate brown bezel, ticks the right side of seventies bling.
If luxury watches are considered works of art, consider the Nomos Glashütte Autobahn an installation at the MoMA. This minimalist timepiece packs all the features of a horological heavyweight – 42 jewel movement, 42 hour power reserve and full date aperture – but without the usual over-masculine throttle you get with most driving watches.
The 1960s were something of a trend this Baselworld, and Longines was just one big-name marque to back the decade’s revival. The Legend Diver Black PVD was given an all-black makeover, which, usually, would make for an über-contemporary timepiece. However, this murdered-out ticker took its cue from the sixties instead, with vintage-inspired Arabic numerals and off-white indices throughout.
Breitling, finally, is moving away from the commando-about-town aesthetic. The vintage-inspired Navitimer Super 8 ticker is a historical revival of the brand’s Reference 637: a stopwatch made for bomber pilots from the 1930s onwards. A lot more timeless than a bright yellow arm cannon with a flashing SOS beacon, anyway.
Long a proponent of the size 0 watch, Bulgari has starved its models further for 2018. The new Octo Finissimo Automatic Tourbillon has broken records for being one of the thinnest ever made at 3.95mm thick. And, impressively, it manages to stomach a dizzyingly complex tourbillon movement inside.
Sure, De Bethune’s latest DB25 may be without a slice of moonrock a la Omega’s Speedmaster, but it’s still very much a celestial ticker. The customisable dial allows the wearer to select a section of the night sky, and adds substance to the style thanks to an impressive six-day power reserve. Who needs Elon Musk’s package holiday, anyway?
Zenith is known for the El Primero chronograph and, well, little else actually. But that’s about to change, with the new Defy Zero G defying gravity itself. The watch houses a gyroscopic ‘Gravity Control’ component, which maintains the regulating organ and balance wheel in a horizontal position, thus cancelling the effects of gravity. Our heads hurt. Our eyes don’t.
Rolex doesn’t do things by halves. As if an Everose makeover wasn’t enough, the storied watchmaker has covered the best-selling Daytona in diamonds. Lots of them. Which isn’t anything new – Rolex launched the first ‘Rainbow’ ticker years ago – but there’s even more bling to the lugs and case here. You might need a pair of sunglasses (and an extensive insurance policy).
Don’t confuse affordability for infancy: Tissot wields a heritage just as impressive as any Cartier or Longines. And to prove it, the Swiss label released the Antimagnetique Heritage 2018 – an update of a 1940s ticker with an impressive handwound mechanical movement inside.
Not content with almost ending the traditional watchmaking industry, Seiko still embarrasses the old school with every passing Baselworld. This time, the Japanese outfit relaunched a 1968 dive watch, but used two key advancements – an updated movement and a 55-hour power reserve – to bring it technically into the 21st century.
Aviation watches needn’t boast a wealth of features. Nor should they look like a Top Gun tribute. Instead, Bell & Ross took to the archives with the BRV1-92 – a variant of the bestselling Vintage line with a focus on clean, minimal design. Feel the need?
Did Omega ever mention that the Speedmaster was the first watch worn on the moon? No? Well, here’s another reminder with the Apollo 8. This highly technical rejig has been produced entirely in ceramic, and the movement is encased in a treated shell designed to resemble the craters of Earth’s favourite satellite. Beam us up.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. That’s the logic TAG Heuer applied when teaming up with pro watch modder Bamford Watch Department. The once guarantee-voiding company was welcomed by the Swiss watchmaker with open arms, and remixed the classic Monaco model with aqua blue chronograph counters and a monochrome makeover.