If 2018 was known as the year Baselworld ate humble pie, 2019 will be known as the year Baselworld was missing (and will forever be missing) the Swatch group brands. Baselworld’s trend of continuously shrinking number of exhibitors was not helped by the fact that heavyweight brands such as Breguet, Omega, and Harry Winston under the Swatch Group have left the show for good. That said, many household names still remain – Patek Philippe, Rolex, Hublot, Tag Heuer, and Bulgari, to name a few.
I cheekily wondered if I would struggle to find even three watches from three different brands that I might like from Baselworld this year. Now, as the dust settles on the show, I can say that the answer is a hard “no”. There were plenty of interesting pieces to be seen and talking points to be had from the past week. After some deliberation, I have selected three timepieces that I was most fascinated by from three very different manufacturers.
The Classic: Patek Philippe Calatrava Weekly Calendar Ref. 5212A
The Ref. 5212A took some getting used to but I do feel now that it is *the* Patek Philippe novelty of the year thus far. The watch is a Patek collector’s wet dream. Firstly, it is a steel watch, which is a big deal because they are very uncommon in the Calatrava line and are highly desirable. Secondly, it features a new complication for the brand. And lastly, the typography, which is based on the handwriting of one of the watch’s designers, is pretty unique. At first, I was taken aback by how busy the dial looks with all that print and all those hands. My reservations were soon melted away as I realised how charming, almost whimsical, the watch was. For those who are interested in buying the watch, my guess is, you’ll be on the wait list for a long time unless you’re more famous than John Mayer.
The Minimalist: H. Moser & Cie. Venturer Concept Vantablack
H. Moser & Cie. somehow manages to find itself onto yet another one of my lists. Riding on the back of the critically acclaimed Endeavour Perpetual Moon Concept from 2018, the Venturer Concept Vantablack pushes the concept of minimalism further by doing without any features on its Vantablack dial save for two hands. Many from the watch community asked for a completely blank dial, and now their wishes have come true. With the Vantablack coating, almost all incident light falling on the dial is absorbed, thus accentuating everything else that’s not in Vantablack – the polished leaf hands, in this instance. The best part is, the Venturer Concept Vantablack, in spite of its name, is a regular production piece, not a limited edition one like the seminal Endeavour Perpetual Moon Concept.
The Maverick: Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu II
Hublot. That one word alone is potent enough to shut down the prefrontal cortices of susceptible adult watch enthusiasts at GTGs. But hear me out, and please don’t call the cops: not all Hublots are bad. In fact, some are rather amazing. One example that I’ve always liked is the Big Bang Sang Bleu. The watch is quite something from a design perspective. This year, Hublot introduces the Big Bang Sang Bleu II, now with more edges and geometry. And its not just about shapes. The case is also gorgeously finished with alternating satin and polished finishes that highlight one another. This is one watch that will jolt your senses and make you utter “wow” before you even know it. For the movement snobs out there, though, my advice is to not look at the case back.