Chanel celebrates an icon; Breitling consolidates its strengths; TAG Heuer debuts a smart watch for golf; Tudor embraces the past; Bell & Ross conquers land, sea and air
2019 was truly a watershed year for Baselworld. Held over six days instead of the nine before, this edition attracted an estimated 81,200 visitors – 22 per cent fewer than in 2018. There were just 520 exhibiting brands and a total of 3,300 media representatives at the event, both numbers also down from that of 2018, although the organisers have promised to keep improving. According to Michel Loris-Melikoff, managing director of Baselworld, the first round of changes was well received.
“We received an extremely positive response to initial innovations such as the layout of Hall 1.0, the new Press Centre, the Show Plaza in Hall 1.2 and the intensified communication, which also spanned digital channels,” he said.
Come 2020, Baselworld will once again be staged together with SIHH. Both events will happen in the Spring: 26thto 29th April for SIHH and 30th April to 5th May for Baselworld. While that may do something to boost visitor numbers, both shows still need to continue evolving. And the jury is still out on whether the watch fair still has its relevance in today’s ultra-connected digital world.
Bell & Ross
Extreme utility takes Bell & Ross from the skies to the racing track and on to the underwater world. Drawing inspiration from the US Air Force’s standard issue attire for pilots known as the MA-1 bomber jacket, the BR03-92 MA-1 is crafted in dark khaki ceramic with a sandwich dial stencilled to reveal an orange luminescent layer beneath. Like the jacket, the strap of this watch is also reversible, dark khaki on one side and bright orange on the other.
The Bell & Ross R.S.19 Chronographs always feature the most cutting edge materials – naturally, since this series is dedicated to the world of Formula One racing. A collaboration between Bell & Ross and the Renault F1 Team, four new pieces join the family. The BR V3-94 R.S.19 and the BR03-94 R.S.19 are dressed in Team Renault’s livery and made with a carbon fibre dial. The BR-X1 R.S.19 offers a skeletonised dial with the ergonomic rocker push buttons that are a BR-X1 signature. Finally, the BR-X1 Tourbillon R.S.19 tops everything off with a dose of haute horlogerie.
Bronze-and-green fever has reached Bell & Ross and manifested in the BR03-92 Diver Green Bronze. Given the alloy’s strong ties with the sea, it’s a natural fit for this diver’s watch. The bezel is also made in bronze coupled with an anodised aluminium insert. Watch enthusiasts are certainly going to have lots of fun oxidising the case.
Having a long and storied history means that Breitling has got loads of archival material to mine for inspiration. This year the brand goes back in time to retell the best stories of its most iconic watches. Above all else, collectors love the Navitimer. Since 1952 there has been innumerable iterations but this year Breitling chose to pay tribute to the original Ref. 806. So the Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition offers a fresh update of this 60-year-old model that’s accurate down to the last notch on its beaded bezel.
Showing yet another side of this Breitling flagship is the Navitimer 41, the first Navitimer without the chronograph function. A very handsome timepiece, it has the right mix of classic and contemporary; the 41mm case diameter also means it’s not too big for small wrists.
Breitling today is also big on brand partnerships. Squad On A Mission is what CEO Georges Kern is going with. And it’s everywhere, from cinema to sports to philanthropy. New for 2019 are two motoring inspired Breitling Premiers, once dedicated to luxury automobiles and another to vintage motorcycling. The Premier Bentley Centenary Limited Edition honours Breitling’s 16-year collaboration with Bentley Motors while the Premier Norton Edition kick starts a new one with the British motorcycle marque.
Another staunch favourite at Chez Breitling is the Superocean and this watch is now presented as a serious diver’s watch. Offered in multiple colours and material finishes – that orange dial is just begging to go underwater – it also comes in four different sizes: 48mm, 44mm, 42mm, and 36mm. All you sporty women out there, do check out the 36mm with light blue dial – it’s sublime.
Meanwhile, it’s business as usual for the exhibitors who aren’t daunted in the least by the organiser’s woes. For one, Chanel’s line up this year is pure watchmaking goals, hitting all the right notes from quality in-house manufacturing to ultra-precious jewellery crafting.
Designed in 1999, the J12 is the maison’s de facto horology icon and a style must-have among the fashion-savvy crowd. This was the first luxury timepiece that championed high-tech ceramic like its life depended on it. Years on, every high end watchmaking brand began embracing this material.
Today’s J12 is more refined, with a new bezel and redesigned typeface. It is also more technical, with a new automatic Swiss made movement the Calibre 12.1 developed by the Kenissi Manufacture for Chanel. COSC-certified and offering 70 hours of power reserve, it is the J12’s most horologically significant model since its birth.
Chanel’s Mademoiselle Privé line also grew this year although by just one piece. But what the piece-unique Sautoir Mademoiselle Privé Coromandel lacks for in numbers it more than makes up for in pricelessness. Inspired by Gabrielle Chanel’s collection of coromandel screens, this exquisite creation is the first of its kind by the Chanel watch creation studio.
Without forgetting the men, Chanel also released the Monsieur Edition Noire, a 55-piece limited edition cloaked entirely in the maison’s favourite colour of all time.
A two-pronged strategy leads the way at TAG Heuer this year, where one is focused on mechanical innovation and the other, smart technology. Specifically, the new Autavia models deftly marry traditional aesthetics with state-of-the-art technique. On the outside, the watch delivers exciting case materials and a wide assortment of dial colours and interchangeable strap options. On the inside, you’ll be astonished to find the new carbon-composite hairspring introduced in January this year. Developed by TAG Heuer, this lightweight, low-density hairspring is virtually unaffected by gravity and shock, and is completely antimagnetic.
Moving over to the other side of the pond, TAG Heuer’s connected watch division unveiled a new timepiece dedicated to the world of golf. The Connected Modular 45 “Golf Edition” is meant to be paired with its own app that promises to be indispensable on the green. For a start, it offers 3D renderings of more than 39,000 courses around the world so you could tour the course before tee off.
Taking a trip down memory lane, Tudor revisits a 1960s legend known as the P01. This was a prototype model the brand intended for the US Navy. Its hinged end-link system is all but familiar to Tudor fans and the subject of a patent in 1968. With its crown at four o’clock, the Black Bay P01 embraces the utilitarian nature of this unique timepiece. It also stays loyal to the core aesthetics, adding only the signature snowflake hour hand and a contemporary calibre; the historical model had Mercedes hands and was nicknamed the Commando.
The other 2019 Tudor novelties include the Black Bay Bronze now with a slate grey dial, the Black Bay Chrono S&G with a yellow gold reverse panda dial, and classic Black Bay S&G. Suffice it to say, bi-colour steel and gold is a big trend for the Rolex group this year.