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Chief Editor’s Choice: Top 5 watches from Baselworld 2019.

by Peter Chong on April 3, 2019
Watches

Another Baselworld done and dusted. This year, we did the frantic thing of covering the show live from the booths as we see the watches and published a total of 40 articles in the six days of the fair live. We hope you have enjoyed that coverage, and the Top 3 picks from each of our writers. Here is the Chief Editor’s take on the Best of the Show.

After sifting though thousands of photographs, here is the Chief Editor’s Top 5. In no particular order…let’s go!

Patek Philippe Calatrava Weekly Calendar Ref. 5212

For the bulk of Patek’s new releases this year, Thierry Stern played it safe. Updates on the Nautilus with an annual calendar, Ref 5726/1A is a nice addition to the family, but many might prefer the cleaner dial of the Ref 5711. The ladies Nautilus got an update, and are gorgeous, Five models in three different sizes. All self winding. An khaki green Aquanaut was also shown. The other talked about piece is the Calatrava Alarm Travel Time Ref. 5520P, which Patek considers a Grand Complication, and many journalists who saw it thought it had one (or two) crowns too many. The new Calatrava Regulator 5235/50R is also a beauty, but not earth shattering technically.

So it comes to the Ref 5212 Weekly Calendar to hold up the Patek fort. A useful complication if one deals with the Europeans who use the week number of a year frequently. Indeed, the only other high end brand with this complication is Lange’s 1815 Kalendarwoche, which was a limited edition for the German market.

But the Ref. 5212 captivates. It is in Stainless Steel, The case is the rather beautiful and elegant Calatrava. And the indication show a whimsical side – the hand writing for the day of the week is a nice touch. A really nice one, giving a hint at the humanity of the grand maison. And at a retail price of S$44,100 incl GST, it is reachable…provided that one can get past the wait lists and lay one’s hands on one.

Hautlence HL Sphere 01

Hautlence has been a sleeper for years. We had thought that the wind had been knocked out of them more than once, where they failed to inspire when they so clearly led the way at their founding. With the Meylan ownership, we became wary that it might be just a second fiddle to the more handsome H. Moser brand. But they pulled no punches this year. The HL Sphere 01 is perhaps the most interesting from Hautlence in recent years. And one not merely a more avant garde copycat of the elder Moser.

The concept was tested with the Hautlence HL clock which we showed in our coverage during SIHH. The idea is whimsical. Teasing. Playful. Just like what we imagined Hautlence would be. On the sphere on the left are the hours, which jump…no spin around at the top of the hour from one to the next. Fun to watch. At the same time, the retrograde minutes fly from 60 to 00.

The price is steep at S$150,000 in a white gold case, but one pays for exclusivity, and perhaps a bit of a smile every time the hour turns.

Citizen AQ 6010-06A Caliber 0100

We never thought we’d say that a quartz watch might be complicated. But the Citizen Caliber 0100 is one. We touched on the Caliber 0100 as a prototype in our review of The Citizen AQ4020. And while we still wished they had opted for a special edition in the sapphire cased pocket watch that we saw as a prototype in 2018, but the new watch is just as interesting.

Accurate to just +/- 1 second a year. Think about that for a while. The movement is so accurate, that it deviates no more than 1 part every 31,557,600. Amazing accuracy. The most accurate watch on the planet which is not connected to an atomic clock, either terrestial or GPS satelite. Ingenious engineering. Pure attention to detail. It beats its own AQ4020, Longines VHP, and a specially tuned Grand Seiko 9F handily, which holds their own with their 5s maximum deviation a year.

The white gold version in the photograph is my pick. The austerity of the design and the simplicity speaks of restraint. One which comes from a century of good breeding and class. It is a limited edition of only 100 pieces, and priced at US$16,800. Expensive? Perhaps, but perhaps not so for the exclusivity as it is the only watch in that ultra accurate category. But also alternatives are offered by Citizen: Two other versions in Super Titanium with Duratect alpha with a black dial limited to 500 pcs and in a dark MOP dial limited 200 pieces. Both priced at a rather more affordable US$7,400.

Breitling Navitimer 806 1959 Re-Edition

Breitling continues to impress us ever since the dynamic Georges Kern took over as CEO scarcely two years ago. There was a complete turnaround of the brand – from the branding image to the boutiques, from the communication strategy to the events. And right down to the revamped product line. While most of their watches are commercially targeted as Kern’s aspiration is to be the top of the CHF 3,000 to CHF 8000 price range, he is also paying attention to the collectors who has been long played second fiddle to commercial strategies.

So Boom! Rising out of the stark commercialism of the Navitimer 8 and the Premier Collection, or the Super Ocean, comes the spirit of the Navitimer 806 of 1959. The new 806 is a faithful reproduction, with painstaking attention to detail to ensure that every element is correct. From the printed fonts with the Breitling inscription in capital letters and an unsigned winged logo , to the hand painted SuperLuminova which is aged to ensure the color is the same as the patina of the old, to the beads around the bezel and the domed hasalite crystal. Every detail is accurate to the original. With the important exception that the new watch is now water resistant to 30m, and the movement is updated. The new 806 is armed with the B09 movement, an adaptation to the in-house Breitling Caliber B01. Magnificent, and a great kudos to Georges Kern, and at S$ 11,750 for a limited edition of 1,959 pieces, is set to sell out in no time.

F. Berthoud FB1.L4

And from Berthoud, we continue to be amazed. The new watch is a brand new excution of the FB1.1 which was the first watch they presented. The age of the moon is the complication added to the base movement. But it is no module. More than 30% of the movement is reworked to add this complication. The already complicated FB1 movement, with the gorgeous tourbillon and the suspended fusée chain constant force system remains. The magnificent finishing remains.

F. Berthoud offers this watch in two versions – one in white gold with ceramic lugs known as the FB1L.1 showing a 3D moon engraved with the surface of the near side of the moon. And the other is in ceramized titanium and sand blasted matte white gold bezel, back and crown. This version features the moon engraved with the image of the far side of the moon. Both are limited to 10 pieces and priced at CHF 265,000 and CHF 250,000 respectively.

Special mention: Sylvian Pinaud Monopoussoir Chronograph

And a final surprise. One by a totally one man show – Sylvian Pinaud working alone in his workshop. And submitting his work to the Un des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France. The MOF is a highly credible award for master craftsmen and held once every 4 years. He was awarded the MOF with his submission of a monopoussoir chronograph.

The watch is based on the ETA 6497, but totally stripped out, and retaining only the only the gear train. As the 6497 is not a chronograph, Sylvain had to fabricate the entire chronograph works on his own. All the bridges, the mainplate, the winding system and balance wheel which were completely rebuilt and manufactured to fully integrate the chronograph. With traditional finishing. The chronograph works is very traditional, using a horizontal clutch with column wheel, but the layout is interesting. The entire chronograph is fully visible through a large aperture on the dial at 6 o’clock. With this prototype, Sylvian is now taking orders to make the watch commercially, though that is quite a stretch, as production is likely to be very limited, perhaps no more than 10 a year. Priced at CHF 78,000 in a titanium case, it is also rather pricey. But I do admire the efforts of a young man, daring to go out to create something on his own. And a first showing in the form of a chronograph is a bold statement of his skills and ambition. Perhaps this is another Rexhep Rexhepi in the making. One never knows.

Concluding thoughts

So here are the crème de la crème of Baselworld this year for me. Read also the picks from each of my editorial colleagues published over the last few days. And tell us what do you pick as your best from the show. And what watches will you be looking to add to your collection this year.

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