Back For The Future – Baselworld 2017

by Ross Povey - Mar 31 2017

The dust has now settled following another marathon year at the epic watch and jewelry fair held annually in Basel. And what a year it was! The feeling that I came away with was that the vast majority of the brands present were focused on heritage and looking into their archives for inspiration to take their sale forward…back for the future!

It is widely reported that new watch sales are struggling, along with other sectors of the luxury market. However, I expect that the executives in these watch brands are looking at the phenomenally strong sales in the vintage watch market, at auction and dealer sites, and asking themselves how can they tempt customers into their modern offerings? The answer seems to be by creating pieces that heavily reference iconic pieces from their back catalogue that allow customers access to a modern, wearable version of watches that are attainable by only a small number of vintage buyers. Imagine if Rolex created a heritage Paul Newman Oyster Sotto…

It isn’t only the watch industry that seems to be focused on this thread. Customers want timeless iconic design in all high-end (and mid range) markets. We have recently written about Range Rover Reborn, which came hot on the heels of the Heritage Land Rover Defenders; beautifully restored vintage and vintage-esque vehicles that were virtually impossible to even get on the list for. And Fender has had huge success over the years with their Custom shop relic pieces and vintage re-editions. Even fashion brands and tailors are look at it; ‘it’ being timeless classic aesthetics.

Tudor

I’ve already written fairly extensively about Tudor’s offerings this year. Tudor actually started with the Heritage range back in 2010, which was arguably ahead of the curve in many ways. This year their focus was firmly on the Black Bay line, with four significant additions to the family – the BB Chrono, BB Steel, BB S&G (steel and gold) and the BB41. All great watches and all well executed.

Rolex

No other brand seems to garner more pre-Baselworld interest or speculation than Rolex. 2017 was the 50th anniversary of the Seadweller and so it made sense that they celebrate it with a new Seadweller. Housed in a new 43mm case (inbetween the Deepsea and the SD4000) the watch nods its head to its prototype relative with the single line of red text for Seadweller. The biggest change, however, was the addition of a ‘cyclops’ date magnifier on the crystal. This will always divide opinion as a lot of people prefer the Seadweller over the Submariner date because of the clean look that the cyclops-free crystal gives the watch. It seems, however, that Rolex never actually had the date bubble on the Seadweller because it compromised the crystal’s ability to withstand the significant pressure at the limits of its depth rating.

Other big Rolex news was the Skydweller being available in steel. The annual calendar movement was big news for Rolex when the Skydweller was originally launched. The prohibitive cost, however, prevented the watch getting the distribution that I believe it deserved. Now available in steel, I expect we will start to see a lot more wrist shots on the forums and Insta!

Maybe the biggest news came from the Cellini line. Rolex have only ever produced two mood-phase wrist watches – the 6062 and the 8171 ‘Padellone’ and this year they launched their third! Housed in a 39mm rose gold case, the Cellini moonphase is a beautiful watch with an incredibly accurate moon phase – accurate for the next 122 years in fact! This is a seriously elegant watch.

Omega

The most talked about release from Omega was the ‘1957 Trilogy’. As Omega puts it:

Over the course of one famous year, OMEGA released three professional timepieces that would all go on to become absolute classics: The Seamaster 300, the Railmaster and the Speedmaster. That year was 1957. In 2017, OMEGA is paying tribute to these three mechanical masterpieces by releasing special 60th Anniversary editions of each model, which can be acquired separately or as a beautifully presented trio.”

And they have done a great job with these pieces. A new digital scanning technology was emplyed by Omega, which offered accurate representations of the original watches. All three watches are cased in brushed and polished stainless steel and feature black ‘tropical’ dials. The stainless steel bracelets have been updated for strength and feature a retro-style OMEGA logo on the clasp. In a playful nod to the past, all logos on the watches are in a different style. A reference to how suppliers back in the 50’s all interpreted the OMEGA logo in their own way.

Each watch is limited to 3,557 pieces and delivered inside a presentation box inspired by the original 1957 packaging, right down to the Seahorse on the lid, a retro logo and red corduroy lining. The presentation box contains two spare straps; leather and NATO, as well as a tool to change them.

Longines

One of the coolest watches we saw was the Longines Heritage 1945. There has been a huge surge in interest in vintage Longines watches over the past few years and we love the 1940s calatrava watches from this iconic brand. With vintage examples now fetching in excess of 30,000 Euros, it is a master stroke by Longines to produce a faithful reimagined version at a frankly aggressive price point of around 1500 Euros.

Housed in a 40mm steel case, the Heritage 1945 is (unlike it’s vintage predecessor) automatic and comes on a vintage style leather strap.

The other cool Longines watch which caught our eye was the 60th Anniversary Flagship Heriatge model.

Nomos

Nomos is a German manufacturer that has made a name for itself by producing high quality watches in a very minimalist style that is heavily influenced by Bauhaus, the early 20th Century German design era. The Nomos factory is in Glashutte; home to a number of watch manufacturers including A. Lange & Sohne and is regarded as the birthplace of German watchmaking.

Yet again, we were impressed by the forward thinking designs that Nomos produced. In an industry obsessed with the past it was nice to see a fresh approach and such clean aesthetics!

Patek Philippe

This year seemed to be the year that a lot of brands celebrated anniversaries of important models. Patek also had a birthday – the Aquanaut celebrated its 20th year and to mark the occasion we were presented with a new 42mm blue dialed Aquanaut, the  reference 5168G. Where in the past the aquanaut was a steel sports watch, the new model is in a large white gold case. The dial is actually amazing, with blue and black tones across a gradient finish. The size? Well, yes its big for an Aquanaut but this seems to be a theme recently with Patek anniversary sports watches. Whatever, we’re sure it’ll be a hit!

There was also a heritage inspired release from Patek, the 5320G perpetual calendar. The cream dial is beautiful with classic vintage Patek-esque day and mont windows in the upper half with a moon phase and date calendar on the lower half. The arabic numbers have luminous filling and are accompanied by lovely filled dot markers on the outer rim of the dial. The details that have been attended to here are stunning, all housed in a white gold case with interesting stepped lugs. The vintage inspiration is clear – the hands are very 1940s in their shape and form and it is bigger than you might initially believe from the pics at 40mm. This is a classic and we’d love to wear this!

Until Next Year

So there we have it – just some of our highlights.Hope you enjoyed it and we’ll see you all there next year!