Watches & Jew­ellery

While dif­fi­cult eco­nomic con­di­tions are caus­ing tur­bu­lence for the watch in­dus­try, Basel­world shows the pace of in­no­va­tion is as strong as ever. Sean Li and Char­lene Co re­view some of the de­sir­able pieces un­veiled in Basel

Hong Kong Tatler - - Contents -

We re­view the most de­sir­able time­pieces at Basel­world. 118 Omega has em­braced its Mas­ter Chronome­ter des­ig­na­tion with al­most 50 new mod­els. 122 Ten things to know about Rolex’s new Pearl­mas­ter 39. 124 The strong light of sum­mer cries out for brightly coloured jew­ellery, and these fun pieces de­serve to make it into your beach tote. 126 The lat­est ex­hi­bi­tion by Van Cleef & Ar­pels ex­plores the ori­gins of min­er­als and their trans­for­ma­tion into ex­quis­ite adorn­ments. 130 Chow Tai Fook presents spec­tac­u­lar jew­ellery in­spired by the ti­tans of ab­stract art

It’s time to face the facts: the watch in­dus­try is suf­fer­ing. Ex­ports con­tinue to de­cline, re­ports the Fed­er­a­tion of the Swiss Watch In­dus­try, with very few mar­kets reg­is­ter­ing any growth. Even Ja­pan, which had been buck­ing the trend, saw a sig­nif­i­cant year-on-year de­cline in March of 9.4 per cent.

It was against this back­ground that the in­dus­try’s big­gest trade fair, Basel­world, threw open its doors from March 17 to 24. The at­mos­phere lead­ing up to the fair re­minded me of that feel­ing when you’re on a transcon­ti­nen­tal flight, cruis­ing smoothly at 38,000 feet, and the cap­tain turns on the fas­ten seat­belts sign; you know the tur­bu­lence is com­ing, but you don’t know how long it will last nor how se­vere it will be.

I have to ad­mit that dur­ing the fair it­self, there was lit­tle in­di­ca­tion of any­thing but rou­tine tur­bu­lence. Some com­mented that the halls felt less busy than pre­vi­ously, but I didn’t get that im­pres­sion, at least not on the days I vis­ited. It was per­haps eas­ier to find a seat in the sur­round­ing restau­rants, if that’s any in­di­ca­tion of re­duced at­ten­dance, though maybe it was sim­ply a re­ac­tion to the out­ra­geous prices and lack­adaisi­cal ser­vice you ex­pe­ri­ence at these peak times.

What­ever the wor­ries, it seems the in­dus­try is weath­er­ing the storm and stay­ing the course. While the trend for more

af­ford­able watches that started in earnest last year con­tin­ues, the high end is not be­ing ig­nored. Take Bul­gari, for ex­am­ple, which in­tro­duced the world’s thinnest minute re­peater, the Octo Finis­simo Minute Re­peater. A few steps away, Patek Philippe pre­sented the 5930G World Time Chrono­graph to the great sat­is­fac­tion of col­lec­tors who had lamented the re­cent trend for larger case sizes. Tag Heuer made a big splash a year ago, an­nounc­ing its part­ner­ships with Google and In­tel to de­velop its Con­nected smart­watch. Fol­low­ing its New York un­veil­ing a few months ago, the smart­watch was given pride of place at the front of the Tag Heuer booth, al­low­ing vis­i­tors to take a closer look and try out its var­i­ous func­tions. De Griso­gono also joined the con­nected de­vice fray in part­ner­ship with Sam­sung, pre­sent­ing a smart­watch with a jew­ellery feel.

The talk of the fair, though, was Rolex’s lat­est time­pieces, and in par­tic­u­lar the new Day­tonas. Tech­ni­cally, the 2016 Day­tonas re­tain the same di­men­sions and 4130 cal­i­bre we’re fa­mil­iar with, but they’re dis­tin­guished by a black ce­ramic bezel evok­ing a some­what vin­tage aes­thetic that has struck a nerve among hard­core Rolex col­lec­tors.

Of course, many more time­pieces caught our at­ten­tion, some of which you will dis­cover in the fol­low­ing pages. These are highly at­trac­tive pieces, most at price points that will not lead you to re­mort­gage your apart­ment, but whether that will be enough to spark the com­mer­cial side in the short term, par­tic­u­larly within Asia, re­mains to be seen. From a col­lec­tor’s per­spec­tive, we’re more than happy with the level of in­no­va­tion com­ing from the in­dus­try as it seeks to ad­dress mar­ket con­di­tions.


GO­ING STRONG Some 145,000 ex­hibitors, buy­ers and mem­bers of the me­dia from more than 100 coun­tries flocked to ex­am­ine the wares in the halls of Basel­world this year

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