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
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.
WHILE THE TREND FOR MORE AFFORDABLE WATCHES THAT STARTED IN EARNEST LAST YEAR CONTINUES, THE HIGH END IS NOT BEING IGNORED
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