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Throwback Sundays: Six Watch Highlights from Baselworld 2017, from Our Archives

Let us take a step back before we welcome Baselworld 2018 next week.
by Robin Lim on March 18, 2018

In the next few days, the city of Basel in Switzerland will open its doors with welcoming arms for Baselworld 2018. For those who are not familiar with Baselworld, it is an annual watch and jewellery show where brands will showcase their latest novelties and creations to the world. It was first organised in 1917 under the name “Swiss Design Fair Basel”, before undergoing several changes and eventually culminated with its present name: Baselworld. 

While the whole industry is busy preparing themselves for the launch of the novelties in this year’s exhibition, we thought that it would be a good opportunity to take a step back to recap some of the new launches from last year’s Baselworld. What were some of the watches that had caught our eyes in Baselworld 2017? Let us go back in time to find out!

 

Grand Seiko SBGR305

 

The Grand Seiko SBGR305, limited to a production run of 968 pieces.

 

Baselworld 2017 is a watershed year for Grand Seiko. Last year, the brand announced that it had separated itself and spun-off as an independent brand – in which it aims to draw a clearer distinction with the mainstream Seiko collections.

There were several models that were launched in the new Grand Seiko collection. The SBGR305 is one of the pieces that had caught our eyes, with its simple but excellent execution. We particularly like how the watchmaker had combined classic finishing techniques with modern aesthetics. The textured dial, for instance, gives the watch an interesting visual cue. In addition, the brand had stuck to traditional finishing methods, such as the Zaratsu-polishing that can be seen on the case, indices, and hands of the watch. The result is nothing short of amazing.

The 40.5mm watch is cased in titanium, and it is limited to just 968 pieces. It retails at €8,800 (approximately S$14,257). It is certainly a beautiful piece, and one that we think is capable of beating the Swiss powerhouses at their own game.

 

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic

 

The ultra-thin Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatique.

The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic – in leather and metal bracelet variants.

 

The obsession with thinness has certainly got many watch manufacturers trying to outdo one another with their latest offerings. The Octo Finissimo is an interesting collection from Bulgari, with focuses on ultra-thin watches. In the last few years, the collection had seen the creation of both the thinnest Tourbillon and Minute Repeater ever produced. Bulgari had set records again in 2017, with the Automatic.

The Automatic is 2.23mm thick, which means that it is 0.15mm thinner than the Piaget Altiplano – which is the benchmark in the industry for ultra-thin timepieces. However, this watch does not simply focus on its thinness alone. The movement – Calibre BVL 138 – for instance, is rather well-finished. It is also fitted with a platinum micro-rotor, which adds a nice touch to the piece. Finally, it has a power reserve of 60 hours, which is incredible for an ultra-thin timepiece.

The 40mm sand-blasted watch is not just a device that tells time. This is also a work of art, as seen in the design of the watch case. It is certainly a good-looking piece, and one that exudes style and character. The watch retails at CHF 11,900 (approximately S$16,475) for the leather strap version, or an additional CHF 1,000 (approximately S$1,380) more for the full titanium bracelet variant.

 

Rolex Cellini Moonphase

 

The Rolex Cellini Moonphase. Perhaps the most underappreciated timepiece in the Rolex repertoire.

 

When it comes to Rolex watches, the greatest amount of attention is usually dedicated to the Sports models. After all, they are some of the best-selling and highly-desirable timepieces – and hence that had relegated the consumers’ preference for dressier watches in the Rolex family. We think that this is a pity, considering that Rolex is capable of producing nice dress pieces as well.

The Cellini, for instance, is one of the most underrated collections in the repertoire. The Cellini Moonphase, which was launched last year, is easily one of our favourite pieces from Baselworld 2017. We absolutely love how Rolex had designed this piece, as well as the subtle design cues that had made this dress watch a tad more elegant. The moonphase, for instance, is mesmerising. The disc is made from blue enamel, and the moon is depicted by a stunning meteorite applique. The combination, together with the stars and a sliver ring (which depicts the new moon) adds a classy yet interesting touch to this timepiece.

Powered by the in-house Calibre 3195, the self-winding timepiece boasts a decent power reserve of around 48 hours. In addition, the watch is accurate up to +/- 2 seconds daily, which earns it the “Superlative Chronometer” certification. The 39mm Cellini Moonphase is priced at S$35,980, and we reckon that it is probably one of the best offerings from Rolex in recent years.

 

Patek Philippe Aquanaut

 

The Aquanaut – a staple in the Patek Philippe line-up.

 

Since its launch in 1997, the Aquanaut has been a staple in the Patek Philippe line-up. It is seen as an entry-level sports watch from the Geneva-based watch manufacturer, especially more so in today’s age as the Nautilus is getting more inaccessible with the increasing retail price and the ever-growing demand from consumers (which skews the demand-supply gap – and causing prices to rise even more in the secondary market).

In last year’s Baselworld, Patek Philippe had launched a special Aquanaut to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the collection. The new watch is cased in white gold, and it is fitted with an alluring blue dial. It is slightly larger as well, at 42.2mm.

The new Aquanaut is powered by Patek Philippe’s Calibre 324 SC, a self-winding movement that features a date function and a power reserve of between 35 to 45 hours. The watch retails at S$50,800, and it will be paired with a matching blue rubber strap.

 

Haldimann H12

 

A pair of Haldimanns – the H11 and H12 (the latter is differentiated with the off-center seconds indicator).

 

The Haldimann brand might be unfamiliar to many, but their watchmaking lineage can be dated as far back to 1642. However, it was only until more recently in 1991 when Beat Haldimann established the modern Haldimann brand, and they had started to produce some rather incredible timepieces.

The H12 was one of the pieces that was launched in Baselworld 2017. The H12 is basically the H11, but with the inclusion of an additional sub-seconds dial at the 5 o’clock position. The 39mm wristwatch may look simple, but the execution is sublime. The case, for example, is perfectly symmetrical and finished nicely by hand – all without the help of the CNC machine. The midnight blue frosted dial is exceptional as well, in which it had undergone a myriad of touches which includes engraving, silver lacquering, and the hand application of silver powder.

Another interesting feature of the H12 is its movement. The plate is finished in frosted gilt, and it occupies almost 3/4 of the caseback. This allows the centrally-placed balance wheel – which is almost suspended by a skeletonised balance cock –  to stand out. Overall, the H12 is an extremely well-made dress watch, and we feel that this is something that collectors should go for if they are looking for a timepiece that is different from the crowd. The watch is priced at CHF31,000 (approximately S$42,917).

 

Hajime Asaoka Chronograph

 

The Hajime Asaoka Chronograph. A truly magnificent piece of horological art.

 

Finally, we round up the article with one of the most gorgeous pieces from Baselworld 2017: the Hajime Asaoka Chronograph.

Hajime Asaoka is a relatively up-and-coming independent watchmaker from Japan, and what is amazing is the fact that he is self-taught. The Chronograph is his latest creation, and it is a seemingly amazing timepiece in picture. The 38mm timepiece features an open-work dial that incorporates the different mechanical bits of the movement on the watch face. It is also fitted with a classic chronograph movement, featuring a column wheel mechanism and a large 15mm balance wheel which beating at 18,000 bph. The finishing – with a combination of bevelling, circular graining, and polishing – is certainly captivating.

The watch, unfortunately, is limited to an initial production of three pieces, and they are each priced at US$108,000 (approximately S$142,300).

 

Concluding Thoughts

 

Baselworld 2017 had certainly brought us many wonderful pieces. No doubts about that. There are some pieces, such as the Hajime Asaoka Chronograph and Haldimann H12, which we would simply describe as “works of art”. In fact, we think that mere words might not even do justice to the incredible craftsmanship that was executed on those two watches. They are simply mind-boggling.

What is also interesting about Baselworld is that there is always something for everyone, at different price points. On one end of the spectrum, we have the high-end pieces from the likes of Patek Philippe and Hajime Asaoka. On the other end, we have entry-level brands such as Seiko/Citizen, or the likes of Tissot and Hamilton. As we have always preached, watch collecting is not necessarily an expensive hobby – there are always watches at different price points that collectors can consider.

So, what are some of your favourite watches from Baselworld 2017? In addition, what are some of the watches that you’d like to see in Baselworld 2018? Let us know in the comments section below!

 

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