This guide covers the best watches released at Baselworld 2018. You can read our other Baselworld 2018 coverage here, or skip right to the best watches below.
Were you hoping for jaw-dropping releases at Baselworld 2018? Sorry to disappoint you. There were few horological heavy-hitters or unexpected drops. But that’s okay. If there was an overall theme at this year’s show, it was “evolution, not revolution,” and most watchmakers focused on making their existing offerings better by refining designs, updating movements, adding new dial options and downsizing cases. These are all things watch enthusiasts have been clamoring for, so having watchmakers take note — and in many cases take direct advice from enthusiasts and collectors — means that in the end, we all win big time.
Rolex GMT-Master II
Why It Matters: Rolex has taken to revising its tool watches in the mold of their iconic forbareres (look at last year’s Sea-Dweller and 2016’s Daytona for proof) and now the GMT finally gets its due. In doing so, Rolex offers what enthusiasts have been wishing for a long time: a return of the steel GMT with a red-and-blue Pepsi bezel. In addition to the new color scheme, the case has been slightly refined and the movement upgraded. While the addition of the Jubilee bracelet has been contentious, we think it’s a great addition to a fantastic travel watch.
Who It’s For: Die-hard Rolex enthusiasts for one, assuming they’re pro-Jubilee. Otherwise, the GMT-Master II has always been a phenomenal travel watch for those who could afford it. We don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
Key Specs: GMT function. Chronometer accuracy. Water resistant to 100 meters.
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight
Why It Matters: While Tudor’s GMT got the most headlines, it was the Black Bay Fifty-Eight that thoroughly impressed on the wrist. This homage to the Tudor Submariner reference 7924 (released in 1958), certainly takes on the look of its source of inspiration with a black dial and gold accents, but it really cinches the look in size: it’s just 39mm in diameter and 11.9mm thick. That gives this a feel much more in line with a vintage Submariner of the 7924’s era, and its indicative of the industry’s current shift to downsize (especially in the case of dive watches).
Who It’s For: Vintage diehards will love the slim case and the gold gilt-style printing, but just about anyone in search of a refined diver for desk duty will appreciate the Fifty-Eight, too.
Key Specs: Chronometer accuracy. 11.9mm thick. Water resistant to 200 meters.
Why It Matters: Tudor has been filling its entire lineup with in-house movements in recent years, but it’s new entry-level model keeps the workhorse ETA 2824 movement inside. That keeps things affordable and, for well under $2,000, you can buy a brand new Tudor watch, which is amazing. But this is more than just an entry-level piece. It’s expertly finished, especially on the dial which carries a “waffle” textured pattern that calls back to some early Tudor references.
Who It’s For: Given the vast amount of dial colors and case sizes on offer, the 1926 should appeal to a lot of different men and women looking at entry-level luxury watches.
Key Specs: Waffle dial. Available steel and rose gold two-tone. Water-resistant to 100 meters.
Seiko Presage SJE073
Why It Matters: It’s not every day that Seiko unveils a new caliber; the brand usually sticks with what works. So the introduction of the new 6L35 movement is reason enough to be excited about Seiko’s latest addition to its Presage lineup. At 3.7mm, it’s notably slimmer than the 6R15 Seiko has traditionally used in Presage watches. That’s on full display in the SJE073’s sharp, sleek 9.8mm case. The fact that the brand added a beautiful textured white dial is just icing on the cake. It’s a shame this is just a limited edition piece of just 1,881 watches, but we’ll likely see more watches like it using the 6L35 in the future.
Who It’s For: This is one for the Seikoholics, given its limited nature. But if you can get your hands on one it’ll make a great everyday watch that can double as a dressy watch for more formal occasions.
Key Specs: Thin, in-house automatic movement. Textured dial. A 100-meter depth rating.
Why It Matters: Perhaps one of the most deeply underrated watches at the show. The Olympos’s funky case design is based on an old Zodiac design from the ’60s, and the brand really knocked it out of the park in terms of recreating the vintage feel of the original. The case is just 37mm in diameter and, despite an automatic movement ticking inside, it’s super slim, too. A couple brushed dials are available for only $795 though you can get the limited edition with a black “mystery” dial for a $200 premium. Zodiac has been quietly making some excellent watches over the last couple years, and this watch is further proof of the brand’s mastery of vintage-inspired design.
Who It’s For: Vintage enthusiasts will appreciate the attention to detail for sure, but just about anyone whose work requires them to dress to a certain standard will appreciate the Olympos’s dressy leanings and affordable price-point.
Key Specs: Automatic movement. 37mm by 11mm case. Water resistant to 50 meters.
Bulova Oceanographer 666
Why It Matters: Tudor wasn’t the only one to reissue a classic diver — Bulova’s “Devil Diver” reissue comes to us after a collaboration with Analog/Shift. The result is a nearly spot-on recreation of the original. Yes, the case is bigger at 44mm (the original was around 40mm), but small details like the applied, vintage Bulova logo at 12 o’clock on the dial and the light, jangly bracelet are considered touches that go a long way. Better still, it houses an automatic movement from Miyota but still only costs $795, far cheaper than other hyper-accurate dive watch reissues.
Who It’s For: Again, this is one with hardcore watch geeks and vintage diehards written all over it, but the Bulova’s low price point means the appeal extends well beyond that to anyone who wants a dive watch or a summer beater at a reasonable price.
Key Specs: Automatic movement. Vintage dial design. Water resistant to 666 feet.
Zenith Defy Classic
Why It Matters: While Zenith has relied on the cachet of its legendary El Primero for years, its in need of a new timepiece with more mass appeal. That’s where the Defy Classic comes in. Its an addition to the brand’s growing technology-based Defy lineup, but while the conventional (but good) automatic movement inside does’t quite fall in line with the super high-frequency movements of the Defy Lab, its sleek titanium case and relatively affordable price point will make it a great competitor to watches like the Rolex DateJust or Omega Aqua Terra.
Who It’s For: Anyone looking for a high-end watch that they can wear on a delay basis and for all occasions. Also, the titanium case and bracelet will surely appeal to those who have allergic skin reactions to steel.
Key Specs:Titanium case and bracelet. Available skeleton dial. Silicon escapement. A 100-meter depth rating.
Patek Philippe 5968A Aquanaut Chrono
Why It Matters: Because it’s fun to speculate, we’ll say this has the potential makings of a future collector’s item. It’s a Patek tool watch, first of all, which will always be considered collectible. But it’s also steel and the first Aquanaut to have a chronograph movement. It features an uncharacteristically bold design with orange accents on a black dial, giving it an almost ’70s-vibe that might be hit or miss with Patek collectors. If it leans more towards miss, and few are produced, this could be the kind of watch fetching big bucks at auction decades down the road when people warm up to the bold styling.
Who It’s For: This is poised as a Royal Oak competitor for sure, and definitely an attempt to reach out to a younger generation of high-end watch buyers who otherwise might not be interested in Patek Philippe’s generally classic aesthetic.
Key Specs: Chronograph function. Stainless steel case. Water-resistant to 120 meters.
Oris Big Crown Pointer Date
Why It Matters: The new Oris Big Crown Pointer Date is exemplary of this year’s arching thesis: refinement. It offers buyers the option of 40mm or 36mm cases, further broadening its appeal. Bronze is also now an offering on the model. The biggest change, though, is the addition of three new pastel-like dials in blue, green and brown.
Who It’s For: Pretty much anyone looking at a solid timepiece in the sub-$2,000 price range. More specifically, the androgynously sized 36mm option will certainly appeal to both men who like smaller watches and women who don’t want an oversized watch on their wrists.
Key Specs: Pointer date function. Optional bronze case. Water resistant to 50 meters.
Omega Seamaster 1948
Why It Matters: Most people think of the big, modern diver when they hear the name Seamster. But the watch first debuted in 1948 as a water-resistant dress watch. For the watch’s 70th anniversary, Omega put out two limited edition Seamsters modeled after the original. They’re both stunningly beautiful and look plucked straight from the ’40s, thanks to a relatively small 38mm case, domed dials and box crystals.
Who It’s For: Though ostensibly a dress watch, the Seamaster 1948 is well-rounded enough (anti-magnetic, water-resistant to 60 meters, etc.) that it could work as an everyday watch, especially for those whose profession requires more formal attire.
Key Specs: Opaline silver dial. Stainless steel case. Chronometer accuracy. Water resistant to 60 meters.
TAG Heuer Carrera Tête de Vipère
Why It Matters: How can a $20,000 watch be considered a bargain? Give it an in-house chronograph movement, a tourbillon, a blue ceramic case and chronometer certification from Besançon Observatory in France. The Carrera Tête de Vipère is a horological heavyweight meant to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Heuer Carrera chronograph, and it uses the Heuer 02T movement that caused quite a stir in 2016 when it debuted as the world’s most affordable Swiss-made tourbillon. Adding to that is the fact that this watch features the Tête de Vipère certification, which is much harder to obtain than COSC. According to TAG Heuer, only around 500 watches have received it to date.
Who It’s For: A $20,000 watch is still a $20,000 watch, so because of that and the limited nature of the watch (150 pieces), this is pretty much just for high-end collectors and horology obsessives.
Key Specs: Chronograph function. Tourbillon. Blue ceramic case. Water resistant to 100 meters.
Sinn 910 SRS
Why It Matters: Sin has always been known for its tough, utilitarian watches. That won’t change with the new 910 SRS (which stands for Stop-Retur-Start). What’s notable here is that it makes a flyback chronograph — a rare, tricky-to-master complication — significantly more affordable than other watches that carry the complication. In addition to that, Sinn nailed the design, going for a neo-vintage look replete with a cream dial, red accents and syringe-style hands, making this a well-rounded watch on pretty much ever front.
Who It’s For: Sinn watches have always appealed to those who value toughness, engineering and utility over the finer aspects of watchmaking. The same goes here, given that it’s shockproof and anti-magnetic, but this 910 has a classy vintage vibe to it that further widens its appeal beyond the tough-watch sect.
Key Specs: Flyback chronograph function. Shock resistant and antimagnetic to German Institute for Standardization (DIN) standards. Water resistant to 100 meters.