There was more elbow room at Baselworld this year. Chalk it up to a skittish economy or the emergence of the smartwatch but whatever it was — it sure made for easier walking in Hall 1. Watch brands showed signs of caution too, many dropping prices and reducing new models. But there was still a whole lot of horological goodness to enjoy.
While it’s tempting to look for trends in the watch world, the fact is, product development takes years rather than months. So reacting to fashion fads or customer tastes is a slow process. But we did see a lot of red and black, more bronze cases, blue dials and smaller diameters this year. Some companies pushed the boundaries of style and engineering, and others scaled back to the basics. After 60 appointments over five days, gallons of espresso and a lot of chocolate, we’ve distilled a list of our favorite new timepieces from Baselworld 2016.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
The new stainless steel Daytona is the watch Rolex lovers have been waiting for. Keeping its perfect 40mm Oyster case, screw-down pushers, and proven calibre 4130, the watch’s updates are subtle but significant. Replacing the engraved steel tachymetre bezel is a black Cerachrom engraved monobloc — one previously only found on the gold and platinum Daytonas. In addition, the white-dial watch gets black surrounds on its chronograph subdials; the black dial gets silver. The new watch is reminiscent of the 1965 reference that introduced the black bezel and is much sought after by vintage collectors, a fact not lost on Rolex.
ORIS Diver 65 Carl Brashear Limited Edition
There is badass, and then there is Carl Brashear. The first African-American Master Diver in the US Navy, Brashear also became the first amputee Navy diver after losing a leg while recovering a nuclear warhead in the Mediterranean. If anyone deserves a commemorative dive watch, it’s him. Based on last year’s Baselworld darling, the Diver 65, the Carl Brashear Limited Edition’s case is made from bronze (a nod to the type of diving helmet Brashear wore), which offsets nicely against the deep marine-blue dial with its creamy markers. A thick stitched leather strap completes the picture but can easily be swapped out for a diving strap, should you have errant sunken warheads to fetch.
TAG Heuer Monza
Vintage-inspired motoring chronographs are perennial favorites, but this year’s haul was especially good (see Rolex Daytona, above). TAG Heuer’s Monza heritage piece revisits a watch Jack Heuer devised in 1975 to commemorate Ferrari’s winning F1 season. The all-black cushion case of the original has been modified to sharpen its lines, the dial is more symmetrical, and the crown moved to the right flank, but the overall design is pure ’70s. The dial retains the bold red accents and Heuer shield logo, and a leather rally-style strap would make old Enzo happy.
OMEGA Speedmaster Moonphase
There may be no watch that deserves a moonphase complication more. The new Speedmaster Co-Axial Master Chronometer is a descendent of the first watch worn on the moon, but now is powered by OMEGA’s calibre 9904, a technical tour de force with a precision verified by Switzerland’s independent standards agency, even under the influence of 15,000 Gauss (roughly that of an MRI scanner). Its moonphase disc is so detailed, if you look closely enough, you can even see Neil Armstrong’s footprint in the Sea of Tranquility.
Bremont Regatta OTUSA
While other sailing watches spring for signal flags and sailcloth straps, Bremont’s new Regatta OTUSA is a proper racing watch with a regatta-timing complication. And it should be; it’s the latest timepiece commemorating the brand’s role role as official timekeeping partner for the America’s Cup and a sponsor of Oracle Team USA. In addition to a graphical dual countdown display that shows the time remaining before the start of a yacht race, the watch also has a 15-minute timer and 12-hour totalizer. All of this wizardry is housed in a satin-finished titanium case with bi-directional bezel that is well suited for the rigors of defending the Cup.
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Citizen Eco-Drive One
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been four decades since Citizen invented the solar-powered wristwatch. This year at Baselworld, the Japanese brand commemorated that anniversary with the Eco-Drive One, a watch no thicker than two stacked quarters. Achieving this incredible svelteness requires a movement that is a mere 1mm in height, thinner than the strap you wear it on. To mitigate its fragility, Citizen uses high-tech Cermet, a ceramic derivative that is not only light and strong but also ultra hard and highly scratch resistant. It is a fittingly groundbreaking tribute to a watch that launched a revolution 40 years ago.
Bulova Moon Watch
Baselworld produced two great new Moon Watches this year: one you might expect (see below) and this one from Bulova. It’s based on a chronograph worn by Apollo 15 Commander Dave Scott on the surface of the moon after his NASA-issued one lost its crystal. Scott’s watch, the only privately owned timepiece worn on the moon, sold at auction last year for $1.8 million. The new Bulova Moon Watch sells for considerably less but looks remarkably like its forebear, with a legible white-on-black dial and levered push-pieces. Instead of a mechanical movement, the new one is fitted with a high-frequency quartz movement for extreme accuracy. It comes on a bracelet or leather strap; both versions come packaged with a hook-and-loop strap for your own extra-vehicular activities.
Ressence Type 5B
There are amazing feats of watchmaking, and then there is the utter re-invention of watchmaking itself. More than any other brand in recent years, Ressence has created an entirely new type of timekeeping, from the display of hours and minutes (orbiting discs) to the movement (magnetic transfer) to the case (no crown, oil-filled). Their latest creation, the Type 5B, continues the evolution in the form of that most basic of tool watches, the diver. Taking advantage of the low light refraction properties of its oil-filled case, the Type 5’s dial can be read at extreme angles underwater. The oil also mitigates water pressure while diving, allowing the watch to remain slim, without a massive crystal and a heavy titanium case. A rotating external bezel makes this a proper diving instrument, compliant even with the ISO 6425 dive-watch standard — but we suspect this one will spend most of its time topside.
Frederique Constant Manufacture Perpetual
Frederique Constant is all about bringing fine watchmaking to the masses, and this year that goal has reached its peak with the Manufacture Perpetual Calendar. The Quantième Perpetuel has long sat at the top of the heap in terms of watch complications. Kept wound up, a perpetual calendar will account for all short months (June, November, etc.), as well as Leap Years, until the year 2100, while also keeping track of the phases of the Moon. You might expect a watch that does all of this mechanically to cost a small fortune; most do. But Frederique Constant brings it in at $8,700 — which may sound like a lot, but is thousands less than its nearest competitor.
Sinn 910 Anniversary
Venture beyond the big players at Baselworld and you can find some hidden gems in the smaller booths of Hall 2. Sinn Spezialuhren of Frankfurt, Germany flies well under the radar of the big brands and is known for its rugged, no-nonsense tool watches. But with the 910 Anniversary, Sinn proved it can also create an elegant beauty. It has the classic lines of a 1960s pilot’s chronograph, a creamy dial and enough numeric scales to practice your dead reckoning. But the real magic with this piece is that it’s a split seconds chronograph. That push-piece sprouting from the 8:00 position can be used to stop a second stopwatch hand to track intermediate times. Pressing the button again snaps the stopped hand back in synch. The so-called “Schleppzeiger” complication is rarely seen, eminently useful and simply ausgezeichnet.