Following on from his first thoughts on this year’s BaselWorld, our watch fanatic looks at the first five of his 10 favourite pieces from the show
Review by John Galt
Tudor Black Bay Steel and Gold 79733N
At first, when seeing the watch on the press release, my first reaction was Tudor what have you gone and done? You make the excellent Black Bay, a utilitarian vintage-oriented dive watch, now you are going to release a steel and gold combination; it just simply wasn’t going to sit alongside what had gone before. But when strapped on the wrist it simply worked. The Steel and Gold Tudor Black Bay is cool, the combination works great. Even with the insertion of a date – a feature I was warry about – just works.
The watch still relies on Tudor’s traditional 41mm case of the model, with a riveted bracelet that fits the whole vintage inspired theme. For this two-tone version, the bezel and the first link of the bracelet are crafted in solid 18k yellow gold, whilst the crown and the centre links of the bracelet are gold capped (not plated), meaning it remains as accessible and attainable as Tudor’s mostly are, starting at under £3,000 for leather strap.
Bell & Ross BR03-92 Diver
A Bell & Ross dive watch with a square case. Yes, you heard that correctly – the company behind pilot inspired timepieces has released a dive watch. I admit to being extremely sceptical. Because of the ISO standards behind the use of the term “dive watch”, creativity and originality in this field is low, well actually very low. This is why most dive watches are round and with the same kind of dials. Yet, when I got my hands on the Bell & Ross BR03-92 Diver during BaselWorld 2017, I immediately changed my mind. A square dive watch works and works really rather well.
Bell & Ross have successfully combined their iconic instrument-like square case with a 60-minute rotatable bezel of a dive watch. It is utilitarian, it is different, but it is still a real diver certified to 300m with all the ISO6425 features, a nice contrast between the hands, the markers and the dial and it has the Bell & Ross flair that we have become accustomed too.
Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Professional 600m Divers
Post Baselworld 2017, the Grand Seiko brand will become an independent brand sitting alongside Seiko. That’s what Shinji Hattori, Chairman and CEO of the Seiko Watch Corporation, dually announced to us during the press conference. This is big news, and will help bring some coherence to the individual brand rather than the somewhat strange mix of Seiko, Grand Seiko, and Credor watch brands that were co-existing under the same flag.
With this surprising yet welcoming announcement also came a proper novelty, the very first Automatic diver watch to come from Grand Seiko house. It is so good I fell for it straight away. The dark blue clous de Paris dial, the large but very light titanium case and bracelet, and the deep black ceramic bezel… it just all falls into place perfectly. This is a dive watch that is equally good looking in casual settings on land or serious action at hundreds of feet below the waves. With its superbly thought out dimension I cannot think of any occasion that it would not look good in including shirt and tie at the office (even though it wouldn’t fit under the cuff – but who cares when it looks this good).
Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Reference 5320G
Before you read my thoughts I do have say – and it is controversial for a watch writer – but I’m not a fan of Patek Philippe watches (phew.. there I said it). As a watch nerd/writer it is drummed into us from the start of our watch career that we should love and adore Patek Philippe, one of the oldest manufactures in the watch world, but to slightly change the famous saying by one Iron Lady, this writer is not for turning. But new piece released at Baselworld did grab me like no other Patek has grabbed me before.
The new perpetual calendar from Patek Philippe stands out for me with its superb simple design, modern and timeless all at the same time. The dial lay-out is perfectly balanced in pure old school Patek tradition. The luminous hands scream old school tradition and the magnificent applied numerals are redolent of a by-gone era. As always with Patek there is impressive attention to detail throughout including the exquisite movement and 40mm white gold case. As ever, this comes at a price (price of a new Porsche) – I still know what I would prefer.
Blancpain Tribute To Fifty Fathoms
The original Fifty fathoms was designed by Jean-Jacques Fiechter, Blancpain’s CEO at the time, to meet the requirements of Captain Bob Maloubier, for use with the French elite combat frogmen. The watch has now became a standard within the divers watch community and the new tribute still features all the attributes of the original watch and many of the dive watch requirements still to this day (rotating bezel with 60-minute scale, high water resistance, clear luminescent markings…). As indicated in the name, it’s water resistant up to 50 fathoms, which is about 300ft.
Just like the original, the tribute features a circular water-tightness indicator. A coloured disc allows the wearer to check the water resistance of the watch is preserved, its colour turns to red in the event water resistance is compromised. It was present on the dial of the Fifty Fathoms model MIL-SPEC 1, which was introduced in 1957-58 and features on this perfect tribute to the grail of dive watches.