Patek Philippe covers all bases; Grand Seiko goes artisanal; Zenith celebrates the El Primero; Rolex updates its classics
SIHH may be checking all the right boxes now but Baselworld still has the two most important names in luxury horology: Rolex and Patek Philippe. Putting on the lights for countless retailers worldwide, both brands collectively account for more than half of what the world consumes in Swiss watches. Rolex alone makes an estimated one million watches per year, and Patek Philippe, an estimated 60,000 watches.
Other top headliners this year include Zenith as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of the legendary El Primero movement, and Grand Seiko which has released a stunning and ultra-collectible version of the Spring Drive, plus a Grand Seiko collection made exclusively for women. Here are the highlights in detail.
It’s the 20th anniversary of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive and the Japanese company has done what it does best – create a commemorative edition. This year the brand has pulled out all the stops with the Spring Drive Thin Dress Series which is a breath-taking, show-stopping timepiece even for Grand Seiko. One of the many key highlights is the “snowflake” pattern carved by hand decorating the dial and case which is inspired by the beautiful snow-covered landscapes of Japan’s Shinshu region.
Leading the charge this year are two technical achievements new to the maison. First up, a self-winding grand complication Ref. 5520P-001 Alarm Travel Time that combines the two time zone mechanism with a 24-hour alarm that strikes a classic gong. Four patents were filed for this unique calibre. Next, a never-before seen complication at Patek Philippe, the Ref. 5212A-001 Calatrava Weekly Calendar featuring a new base movement cased in stainless steel. All other novelties are existing timepieces that have either been given an aesthetic update or an artisanal touch.
Taking the spotlight at Rolex is a new 42mm Yacht Master in white gold and what a difference two millimetres make. Word on the street is that this is going to be the most hotly desired Yacht Master reference in Rolex’s current portfolio. Rolex has also released a yellow Rolesor Sea-Dweller which is a little controversial but the company isn’t one to shy away from outlandish designs – just look at the latest Daytona model.
Fans of the GMT-Master II with the blue and black Cerachrom bezel nicknamed Batman will be excited to know that the previous version with the Oyster bracelet will be discontinued to make way for this new one with the Jubilee bracelet. Finally, the Day-Date 36 offers up some dazzling new designs to tempt the watch-loving lady.
The significance of the Zenith El Primero simply cannot be overstated. It is a movement that’s as important to Zenith as it is to watchmaking at large. This icon celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019 but rather than rest in its laurels, the company moves swiftly towards the future, ostensibly with the new Defy Inventor.
Proffering the Zenith Oscillator control system, which is a true technical revolution in the luxury watchmaking realm, this watch was previously made in a limited series of just 10 watches. And now it is available to all. Of course Zenith has also released commemorative El Primero models and new variations of the Pilot Type 20.