Swiss Surprises

Looking back to this year’s earlier BaselWorld, our watch fanatic considers what stuck out and what underwhelmed

Round-up by John Galt

The yearly monster that is BaselWorld is over for another year with the dust settling on what is the who’s who of the watch world; think fashion week for clothes and the Geneva motor show for cars – this is the same for watches and jewellery. Anyone who has a passion for watches or jewellery please do go, you will not be disappointed. The easiest way to explain the sheer size of it is to think of the biggest shopping centre you know and at least double it and that is just the main building; outside you have two floors in the hotel plus three other smaller buildings that normally house the independent brands. Over 1,500 brands, around 11,000 journalists visited coming from all over the world, 140,000 visitors in total. BaselWorld is huge.

Looking at the big horological hitters, last year Rolex surprised everyone by releasing a new version of their iconic Daytona with updated bezel and strap so this year the pre-Basel talk was what Rolex would release. Many were saying it would be a 50th anniversary Sea-Dweller and indeed it was. The 50th anniversary single red Sea-Dweller but, apologies to Rolex, it was my one real disappointment from this year’s show.

Rolex did indeed release the 50th anniversary of the Sea-Dweller to very mixed reviews, a watch first launched as a professional tool in 1967, and the first watch commercialized with a helium escape valve. For once Rolex had included a vintage reference in one of its models (similar to its younger brother Tudor), clearly not expected, but yet exactly what the collectors were waiting for: a “red Sea-Dweller.” Indeed, the name of the watch, just like in the old days, is printed in that bright red colour that most vintage collectors praised. This watch has split the watch obsessive fraternity, some writers and collectors praising it as a future classic, others – myself included – see it as a Submariner slightly tweaked with a few Sea-Dweller/vintage features but please make your own mind up.

Talking of Rolex, it younger brother Tudor surprised us this year with another version of their exquisite heritage Black Bay but this time not with a coloured bezel but they surprised us all by releasing a steel version and, boy, did they get it just right. A perfect mix of vintage inspiration but this time not going back as far as the 1950s or 1960s but more up to date taking inspiration from the early 1980s and in my opinion got it spot on especially as now it features a date window that has not been seen before on the heritage Black Bay and which finishes this steel version perfectly.

Omega reissued their icon 1957 trilogy at this year’s BaselWorld and what a re-issue; most re-issues are loosely based on the originals but Omega got these so bang on it’s scary. With such vintage pedigree and knowing that the Omega 1957 Trilogy is celebrating its 60th anniversary, I was expecting a rather faithful re-issue, I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be this close in reality. To the exception of the movements and a few details, the Omega Seamaster 300, the Omega Railmaster and the Omega Speedmaster 60th Anniversary are some of the most faithful re-issues I’ve ever seen. This Omega 1957 Trilogy 60th anniversary is beyond cool. It’s plain and simply stunning.

To achieve this level of faithfulness, Omega used unique digital scanning technology, which supplied the brand with accurate specifications of the original watches. All of the cross sections and dimensions have been measured, and then used in the new 1957 Trilogy. Every single aspect is equal to the original ones. Evolutions are in the small details, the construction techniques and the material used… But for the design, it is a proper reissue of the 1957 models.

Christophe Claret X-TREM-1
The X-TREM-1 is one of my favourite avant-garde pieces that break the mould of having to have hands and dial to be able to show the time. The new Christophe Claret X-TREM-1 StingHD was designed in collaboration with StingHD, a New York-based jewellery and accessories company known for making men’s bracelets with exotic leathers like stingray and python (more on them in the coming months). They are also apparently known for their use of the skull motif. The watch keeps the key components that made the original X-TRME-1 so appealing to me. There’s an inclined flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock, which also displays the running seconds, and the hour and minutes still displayed using magnets and their now infamous two small steel balls. What has changed though is the overall aesthetics of the watch. Changing it from rose gold or steel to black pvd coating gives a total different aesthetic not seen before. Look closely and you will see that the tourbillon at 6 o’clock has a new tourbillon cage that has been conceived by StingHD. The tourbillon cage has been also been redesigned to incorporate a black chrome-plated aluminium skull that is a signature of the brand’s jewellery. And as if that weren’t enough, the skull even features rubies for its eyes, which makes it look even more menacing but still stunning.

Ending part one of my personal highlights and disappointments of BaselWorld 2017 I know some of you will be saying how can a watch writer bash the legend that is Rolex, but that is exactly why I got into watches, no two peoples opinions are the same. Some of you will love the Rolex and can’t see why I don’t, but also hate the Christophe Claret XTREM-1 but isn’t that just part of the fun…? riddle_stop 2

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