At a Smaller Baselworld 2018, Luxury Watchmakers Showcase the Latest in World-Class Technique and Artistic Flair

The 101st edition of Baselworld featured the best of haute horology.

The entrance at Baselworld in Basel, Switzerland 2018. Courtesy of Baselworld.

On Tuesday, Baselworld, the world’s premier watch and jewelry show, closed its doors on what was touted by the organizers as a successful 101st edition. Shorter and more concentrated, this year’s iteration featured some of the most powerful pillars of the watch industry—inlcuding Patek Philippe, Rolex, and the LVMH watch brands—on the ground floor of the main hall. The array of maisons in attendance proved that a smaller fair can still showcase the world-class artistry and a mastery of technical craft for which Baselworld has come to be known. From Harry Winston’s Ocean-inspired collection to Bulgari’s record-setting timepieces, see the best of Baselworld 2018’s haute horology below. 

Patek Philippe Embraces the Future

Patek Philippe’s inaugural Instagram post. Courtesy of @patekphilippe via Instagram.

Patek Philippe, an “anchor” exhibitor whose presence lends much gravitas to Baselworld, surprised the watch world just days before the fair opened when the 179-year old company launched its official Instagram account. The brand used the social media platform to debut its first self-winding travel watch for women, the Reference 7234R, with a rose gold case and a brown sunburst dial.

“Here we are on Instagram, finally, because we have to evolve and adapt, and here you will discover things that we will not show elsewhere,” said Thierry Stern, president of Patek Philippe in his first Instagram story, signaling a younger, hipper direction for the Swiss company founded in 1839.

This year, Patek Philippe’s beloved Nautilus model was given for the first time a grand complication—a perpetual calendar—one year into the 40th anniversary of the iconic Gerald Genta model. The new Nautilus Perpetual Calendar 5740G in white gold has a smaller 40mm case and a thinner shape, sure to make this elegantly proportioned newcomer a sports classic.

Patek Philippe’s new WorldTime Minute Repeater Reference 5531R was nothing short of exceptional—the only chiming complication capable of striking the “local time” while providing time in 24 different time zones.

The new WorldTime Minute Repeater combines technical watchmaking with high craftsmanship techniques of grand feu or “high-fire” enameling on a dial that depicts the Lavaux vineyards on the shores of Lake Geneva. It follows in the tracks of last year’s 10-piece limited edition WorldTime Minute Repeater, rolled out to mark the New York opening of Patek Philippe’s 175th anniversary travelling museum show, “The Art of Watches Grand Exhibition,” which appropriately featured a view of New York City’s skyline by day or by night on the dial.

The Many Faces of Jaquet Droz

Jaquet Droz’s Classique Grande Seconde Tribute Timepiece, 2018.

At Jaquet Droz, the first order of the day was to celebrate the brand’s 280th anniversary, which the Chaux-de-Fonds-based manufacture marked with the new Classique Grande Seconde Tribute, a watch in line with Jaquet Droz’s heritage.

“Pierre Jaquet-Droz had created a pocket watch with an ivory-enamel dial and a yellow gold case,” said a spokesperson for Jaquet Droz. “This is a very special watch that references our history.”

The Tribute is a limited edition continuation of the Grande Seconde collection, first launched in 2002. It has a grand-feu ivory-colored enamel dial and, for the first time, a yellow gold case. The dial features two interlaced subdials that form a signature figure eight, a symbol associated with abundance.

Jaquet Droz’s Petite Heure Minute Timpieces, 2018.

The brand also introduced two spectacular additions to the Petite Heure Minute collection. For the first time, Jaquet Droz has created a piece using a method called plique-à-jour, which literally means “letting in daylight.” The technique dates to the Byzantine Empire and requires fitting together discrete pieces of enamel to produce the effect of stained glass, in this case an abstracted mosaic of a tiger’s face made of translucent enamel. The new Petite Heure Minute models are available in both a warm and a cool color palette, with the watch face encircled with 100 diamonds and mother-of-pearl accents. 

Harry Winston’s Aquatic Aesthetics

Harry Winston’s Ocean Biretrograde Perpetual Calendar Automatic 42mm, 2018.

The American jeweler Harry Winston, today wholly owned by the Swatch Group, has married its jewelry heritage to watchmaking since 1989, particularly with the 2007 opening of a watch manufacturer in Geneva.

This year, Harry Winston marked the 20th anniversary of its sporty Ocean Collection (until now dedicated to women), with new contemporary timepieces that combine signature bi-retrograde displays and off-centered hours and minutes. 

The new Ocean Biretrograde Perpetual Calendar Automatic designed for men this year, offered a spectacle of functions in different colors inside the case, with components visible on different strata inside the highly constructed timepiece, shown in either rose or white gold. A limited anniversary edition of 20 is also planned in white gold with baguette-cut diamonds set into the bezel and lugs.

The Future Is Gender-Fluid at Chanel

Chanel’s Boy.Friend Skeleton Calibre 3, 2018.

At Chanel, the main event at this year’s Baselworld was the launch of the third in-house movement, the Boy.Friend Skeleton Calibre 3. The piece arrives after three years in development; it was first designed by the fashion house’s Paris studio, and then produced and assembled at Chanel’s Swiss manufacturer.

“At Chanel, technique is always in the service of design,” Nicolas Beau, Chanel’s global head of watches and fine jewelry business development, told artnet News.

The new movement was fitted inside the androgynous Boy.Friend watch first launched in 2015, and finished in beige gold, a special rose gold alloy that is exclusive to Chanel. The plain octagonal case and the watch’s clean vertical alignment of black components in the center, with mirror-polished beige gold hands, give this timepiece a “gender-fluid” appeal.

Breguet Brings Its Best

Breguet’s Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique 5367, 2018.

At Breguet, the highlight among the novelties this year was the Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique 5367, shown in a high-fire enamel dial with hand-painted numerals. “This heritage-inspired timepiece is reminiscent of the pocket watches in our museum, with a very thin movement and an in-house tourbillon from Breguet, the brand that invented the tourbillon,” said a spokesperson for Breguet. “This watch represents the best of Breguet watchmaking.”

The Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat model has been in Breguet’s catalog since 2013, but the new enamel dial makes for a cleaner dial layout, representing the epitome of classic, understated elegance in the ultra-thin category watches.

Bulgari’s World Record-Setting Watch

Octo Finissimo Automatic Tourbillon, 2018. Courtesy of Bulgari.

At Bulgari, the star of the show was the new Octo Finissimo Automatic Tourbillon, an “icon in Bulgari’s men’s watches,” and the world’s thinnest automatic watch measuring just 3.95 mm in thickness. The watch established two new world records, according to Bulgari, for both the world’s thinnest tourbillon watch and the world’s thinnest automatic watch.

Since the Octo Finissimo line of ultra-thin watches at Bulgari was launched in 2014, it has single-handedly raised the profile of the Italian jeweler as a leader in technically advanced watchmaking. The Octo line now includes a range of materials: carbon, steel, and a new sand-blasted rose gold.

“We have made the Octo into a fully integrated watch in the sense that we use the same material for the case, the dial, and the bracelet,” said Jean-Christophe Babin, chief executive of Bulgari. “The rose-gold treatment of the Octo makes the watch perfectly chic for both men and women.”

The Thrill of the Drive at Graff

Graff’s GyroGraff Timepieces with Diamond Bezel and Rose Gold (Left) and White Gold (Right).

At Graff Diamonds, all the 2018 novelties for men showcased the brand’s mastery of complex métiers d’art and marquetry techniques. Among them, the striking new MasterGraff GyroGraff Drive watches were directly inspired by the passion of François Graff, the brand’s chief executive, for modern and vintage cars. Produced in three dial versions, the GyroGraff Drive puts the wearer in the driving seat by depicting three unique scenes taken out of a high-speed driving experience.

Encased in a signature “faceted” case designed like a cut diamond, the GyroGraff Drive watches combine micro-painted layers and marquetry techniques on the dial, suggesting the e

xperience of a car being driven on a racetrack, on an open road or in the city, with the tourbillon poised as the car’s steering wheel.  A three-dimensional miniature moon adds a moon-phase complication with hand carvings replicating the craters on the moon.

“This watch demonstrates our constantly developing skills in watchmaking,” a spokesperson for Graff Diamonds said. “The racing car design is an exciting new direction that promises to be the starting point of new watch collections at Graff.”


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