Baselworld 2018: 10 new watches that defined the luxury watch and jewellery fair

Baselworld 2018

Despite having a decreased number of exhibitors, Baselworld still managed to pull the stops for a memorable show

Patek Philippe Ref 5531R Grand Complication

The world timer and the minute repeater are two of Patek Philippe’s most sought after complications. In 2018, the manufacture combines them in one timepiece, the Ref 5531R Grand Complication (SFr495,000, S$671,000). This breathtaking model was first introduced in 2017 at Patek Philippe’s The Art of Watches Grand Exhibition in New York. It was a limited-edition model then, but now the watch has become part of the current collection.

Crafted with a cloisonne enamel centre depicting the landscape of Lavaux, a wine-producing region in the Swiss canton of Vaud, this elegant pink gold timepiece brings along a unique feature in the realm of minute repeating world timers. Until Patek Philippe’s Ref 5531R, there has never been a world time minute repeater that chimes the local time. Indeed, all others that existed before it chimed home time – a fact that’s as bizarre as it is true. This trailblazing feature necessitated a completely new movement, Calibre R 27 HU, which has a 22k gold minirotor providing a maximum power reserve of 48 hours. More interestingly, the movement’s two gongs are attached to the case band rather than the base plate to elicit louder chimes.

Replete with haute horlogerie finishes, its case band is decorated with a hand-guilloched hobnail pattern and its lugs are stepped and skeletonised.

Patek Philippe

Rolex GMT-Master II Reference 126710BLRO

What’s red and blue and steel all over? Arguably Superman but I’m referring to the new Rolex GMT-Master II that comes with the signature Pepsi bezel in Cerachrom. While Rolex had already debuted the red-and-blue Cerachrom bezel in 2014, that piece was only available in white gold. Reference 126710BLRO (S$12,430) is big news because it’s delivered in stainless steel, and we all know what that means – hordes of Rolex addicts will be lining up for it.

Another interesting feature in Reference 126710BLRO is the bracelet. Rolex has paired it with a five-link Jubilee bracelet instead of the usual Oyster bracelet, lending the watch a more charmingly old-fashioned appeal. This is the first GMT-Master II with Cerachrom bezel paired with a Jubilee bracelet. On the inside, this watch comes with Rolex’s most advanced movement to date, Calibre 3285, which incorporates the patented Chronergy escapement made of nickel-phosphorus.

To further distinguish this piece with the white gold model, Rolex will now only produce black dials for the steel GMT-Master II and dark blue dials for the white gold ones, so congratulations if you’re one of the lucky few who bought the 2014 white gold reference 116719BLRO because that watch is officially out of production.


Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater Carbon

Making ultrathin watches is a new obsession at Bvlgari, as the Swiss-Italian manufacture had spent the last five years releasing ever more exciting variants of the Octo Finissimo. The Octo Finissimo is the only ultrathin collection on the market that has a complex case construction rather than the usual round cases. This is why the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater is extra fascinating. It combines the unique features of the ultrathin collection with a classical high complication delivered in a futuristic package.

Two years ago Bvlgari had already produced its minute repeater but it was cased in titanium. This new model however is made of Carbon Thin Ply where sheets of carbon are arranged at 45-degree angles to one another and then reinforced using a combination of high heat, pressure and an epoxy resin. It certainly provides an ultra-sexy appeal to the watch but this material also proves to transmit the movement’s chimes beautifully. For such a thin case, they are almost unbelievably loud and clear. Of course some credit must go to the perforated dial (made in carbon as well) and the fact that the gongs are attached directly to the case. The Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater Carbon is paired with a black PVD titanium bracelet and clasp, both of which are also ultrathin in order to match the case.


Tudor Black Bay GMT

Red-and-blue bezels are all the rage as Tudor throws its hat in the ring with the Black Bay GMT (S$5,328 on steel bracelet). The palette is derived from previous Black Bay models, namely Black Bay Blue and the original Black Bay which has a burgundy bezel. As such, the colour tones are more subdued than many other bright red-and-blue bezel combinations on the market.

Gently fluted around the edges, it is comfortable to handle; the bezel turns in both directions. When you’re abroad, use it to track home time with the red hand while local time is read off the hours-and-minutes against oversized white indexes and a black dial.

This highly coveted model adds one of the most useful complications to the collection and comes with one more ‘snowflake’ than standard Black Bays. Apart from the oversized hour hand and the sweeping seconds hand, it has a red GMT hand tipped with the signature Black Bay feature. Powered by the in-house Calibre MT5652, this is a COSC-certified chronometer with a 70-hour power reserve and 41mm case diameter complete with domed sapphire crystal. Strap choices include a steel bracelet, brown leather or black jacquard fabric.


Blancpain Villeret Tourbillon Volant Heure Sautante Minute Retrograde

At a time when similar trends are being repeated all over the industry, it’s comforting to discover such watches as Blancpain’s new grande complication Villeret, which respects the collection’s classical codes and espouses traditional watchmaking values. The Villeret Tourbillon Volant Heure Sautante Minute Retrograde (S$207,000) offers a string of technical features such as the flying tourbillon, jumping hours and retrograde minutes.

Blancpain’s flying tourbillon has an instantly recognisable design, where the carriage is shaped almost like some sort of aircraft and its balance is off-centred while the escape wheel is prominently positioned. In this exquisite novelty piece, the entire construction can be admired rotating through a circular aperture through the dial and from both sides, since the lower bridge has been made in sapphire crystal. This truly gives it the appearance of suspension in mid-air.

Meanwhile, the rest of the dial is pure Zen. Made in Blancpain’s metiers d’arts studio in Le Brassus, its classic white grand feu base is done in the champleve technique, where the artisan hollows out portions of the solid gold base and hand-paints several layers of enamel within those individual portions. The dial then goes into a kiln where it’s fired at 800 degrees Celsius in order to seal the enamel and preserve it for eternity. Even the Blancpain insignia had been registered in black enamel. This stunning timepiece comes in 18kred gold.


Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 VFA

Synonymous with extreme precision, all Grand Seiko watches are adjusted to a daily rate fluctuation of +4/-2 seconds. This is equivalent to the Swiss chronometer standard as set by COSC. But the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 VFA goes one big step further as it guarantees a daily precision rate of +3/-1 seconds, meaning it’s even more accurate than a COSC-certified chronometer. A term introduced by Grand Seiko as early as 1969, VFA stands for Very Fine Adjusted and the watch had indeed been tested and adjusted over 34 days in order to reach this extraordinary level of chronometric precision.

Powered by the 9S85 high-frequency mechanical calibre, this timepiece also celebrates the 20th anniversary of the legendary 9S calibre launched in 1998 which had been continuously enhanced over time with such Grand Seiko inventions as the Spron alloy for mainsprings and balance springs, as well as MEMS micro-engineering accurate to one thousandth of a millimetre.

Three variations have been issued: a platinum (limited to 20 pieces), a yellow gold (limited to 150) and a stainless steel (limited to 1,500). Note that only the platinum is accurate to +3/-1 seconds per day while the yellow gold and stainless steel are adjusted to the +4/-2 seconds per day Grand Seiko standard. All models come with a beautiful dial decorated with a delicate mosaic featuring the historical VFA logo along with the modern Grand Seiko GS logo. In addition, the stainless steel piece comes with a special oscillating weight made of blue titanium and tungsten.

Grand Seiko

Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Apollo 8

It’s been more than 50 years since moon exploration began but stories like the moon landing, the first orbit and so on are stories we never tire of hearing. As the watch that literally went to the moon, the Omega Speedmaster Professional constantly finds new ways to commemorate the numerous lunar conquests achieved by man. In 2018, the new Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Apollo 8 (S$13,500) takes us back to 1968 when the Apollo 8 crew became the first humans to see the dark side of the moon.

Powered by the famous Moon Watch Calibre 1861, this sporty piece is the first Speedmaster Moon Watch made with a skeletonised dial. There’s more: through the open-working, you can see how the movement’s blackened base plates have been laser-ablated to produce a realistic imagery of the lunar surface. From the front, the treatment is done in a lighter shade of grey to evoke our view of the moon’s surface as seen from Earth, while through the back, the colour intensifies into a deep black suggestive of the image of the moon seen only by the astronauts.

The watch is crafted out of sleek black ceramic but it has a sapphire crystal caseback amusingly imprinted with the words “We’ll see you on the other side”, a reference to Jim Lovell’s final words spoken on the ground just before the launch of Apollo 8. Yellow highlights on the case dial and strap underscore the watch’s contemporary spirit.


Chanel Boy.Friend Skeleton

Being a fashion house doesn’t preclude Chanel from producing exceptional timepieces, as evinced by past successes such as the Monsieur Calibre 1 and Premiere Calibre 2. With more emphasis on aesthetics than the average Swiss watch company, the maison offers timepieces that uniquely blend form with function. Its latest star from Baselworld 2018, the Boy.Friend Skeleton (S$58,150, or S$73,600 with diamonds), exemplifies that philosophy in a svelte and elegant package.

Three years of r&d went into the making of the Boy.Friend Skeleton. This is the first model in the Boy.Friend collection with a skeletonised design. Needless to say the bulk of all that time was spent finding the perfect way to integrate the movement with the octagonal case. Calibre 3 is the latest in-house manufactured movement at Chanel and comprises a series of interlinked, vertically aligned circles acting as plates and bridges. This manually wound movement allows the wearer to admire it from both the front and the back. See how its black ADLC bridges contrast so gloriously with their galvanised beige-gold borders. Its case is also made of beige gold and its relatively modest dimensions contain just a single barrel that keeps the movement powered for 55 straight hours.

Like the other two in-house manufactured movements, Calibre 3 bears the seal of the lion on the back which attests to its proprietary status and is an emblem of Chanel fine watchmaking.


Tag Heuer Carrera Tete de Vipere Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer

In the field of chronometric precision, everyone has heard of COSC but it is by no means the only certification institute and neither is it the most precise. Through its Carrera collection, Tag Heuer brings a highly exclusive certification out of the shadows and into the spotlight. The Tete de Vipere stamp was first applied to a chronometer in 1897 at the Besancon Observatory.

Each timepiece awarded this certificate of excellence must be tested fully assembled and would be required to undergo a strict regimen involving 16 days of testing, over five positions and at three temperatures. Abandoned in the 1970s as a response to the quartz crisis, it was relaunched in 2006 and since then the Tete de Vipere hallmark has only been awarded to 500 watches in the world. Tag Heuer’s Carrera Tete de Vipere Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer (S$28,750) is one of them.

Combining two of traditional watchmaking’s best loved complications – the tourbillon and the chronograph – the movement is delivered in a 45mm midnight blue ceramic case, accompanied by matching ceramic bezel and lugs. Calibre Heuer-02T is a self-winding movement and the Tete de Vipere stamp can be clearly seen through the sapphire caseback, engraved on the movement bridge. As it celebrates the 55th anniversary of the Carrera, this watch is limited to just 155 pieces.

Tag Heuer

Hublot Big Bang Tourbillon Croco High Jewellery

Finally, a luxury diamond-encrusted watch that may save your life. The Big Bang Tourbillon Croco High Jewellery (SFr1 million, S$1.36 million) is made in partnership with bespoke leather specialist Karmaloog and comes with a bomber jacket made exclusively for Hublot by the ultra-luxe Dutch label. Using ethically sourced leathers reinforced by a unique underlining called carbon aramid fabric, the material is practically bulletproof. The jacket comes with various zip closures which the owner can customise, while a set of three jewellery 18k white gold and diamond-set sliders are provided per closure.

Karmaloog has also designed four notches within the lining mean to house two watch straps. Why is that necessary? Because the jacket sleeve is equipped with Hublot’s patented One Click device so that the watch case can be attached directly to the cuff. It can also be easily removed and paired with the spare straps and worn on the wrist.

The entire case, bezel, dial and clasp are set with 380 baguette diamonds cut and arranged to resemble the scales of crocodile leather. With the exception of a circular aperture left to display the tourbillon regulator at six o’clock and the power reserve at nine, the entire dial is paved in diamonds echoing the patterns on the case. This breathtaking watch and jacket set is delivered in a black leather sports bag containing a small leather case to house the watch and the nine precious zips.