Highlights from Baselworld 2016

  • Piaget’s All-New Emperador Coussin XL 700P

Against an increasingly uncertain economic environment, Baselworld wrapped up the 2016 edition. Despite the turmoil, the spotlight was on design, with touches of métiers d’art and innovation. Here’s a roundup of what you can look forward to in the coming months:

The Baselworld took place between March 17th and 24th this year, with a total of 1,500 exhibitors from 40 countries. 1,45,000 visitors and 4,400 journalists attended the event to take a peek at the array of new launches by the exhibitors from across the globe.

We could go on and on about the economic scenario and the challenges it continues to throw up, but much has already been said on this subject. Instead, we choose to focus on the show and what it offers: a comprehensive look at the world of watches and jewellery. It’s just as Shinji Hattori, President and CEO of Seiko, shares, “It seems that the number of visitors to the fair was down by three per cent, but this is a very small change. I felt that Baselworld was as impactful as ever.” He goes on to cite the Seiko conference as an example, which is attended by press from all over the world, adding, “We welcomed more customers and media representatives to our pavilion than ever. For the industry as a whole, I feel that the mood at Baselworld was one of cautious optimism for the year ahead.”

A sense of caution

The general sense of caution impacted exhibitors, who responded with reduced prices—think lower entry-level price points—and some new designs. As product development is a long-term commitment, it’s not possible for brands to present designs that are in sync with fashion trends. Having said that, we did notice smaller dials, more colours, and skeletonised constructions. While many found inspiration in classic design codes—in other words, tried and tested—others were willing to push the boundaries of innovation. All in all, we didn’t come away disappointed.

Trend report

One of the big trends was the scaled-down dial. While it has been seen in small numbers over the last couple of years, there was a wider selection this year. It was clearly a gambit to draw more women into the world of watches. Then there are others who’ve always catered to women, with dedicated collections, such as Carl F. Bucherer’s Pathos line. Sascha Moeri, CEO of Carl F. Bucherer, says, “Unlike most brands that usually offer scaled-down versions of their existing designs, we actually make watches for women. So even if it’s a diving watch, it’s designed specifically for women. Even more important  than the brand name are design and quality of a timepiece, for women.” From smaller dials to slimmer silhouettes, the keywords were elegance and subtlety. Even when packed with complications, the size of the cases demonstrated notable levels of craftsmanship and ingenuity. Take for instance, Breguet’s Classique 7147 that makes an excellent case—pun intended—for slim watches. Despite being 40mm in diameter, the 7147 is just 6.10mm in height, thanks to an ultra-slim movement inside. Then there is the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater, which—at 6.85mm in thickness—is claimed to be the world’s thinnest minute repeater. And it’s stunning to look at too. You can read about this in our trend showcase on complications.

Another area of focus was métiers d’art, which included a host of techniques comprising exceptional designs as well as dedicated collections. This was especially evident at Hermès, as Philippe Delhotal, Artistic Director, La Montre Hermès, shares, “Since 2009, we have been developing the craftsmanship segment with a range of exceptional and limited pieces, highlighting some specific know-how to apply in watchmaking—such as marquetry, crystal, porcelain, enamel or lacquer.” Among its exceptional pieces is the Slim d’Hermès Mille Fleurs du Mexique, which is inspired by the colours and motif of a Hermès silk scarf. Even without the aid of a loupe, the attention to colours and intricacy are easy to admire. The showstoppers Ultimately, there are the showstoppers—the ones that dominate conversations. It was so with Ulysse Nardin’s Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon, which is inspired by the architecture of a ship. From the wood marquetry on the dial to the execution of the retrograde minutes hand, this is one watch that, understandably, made some waves. Another favourite was Rolex’s Oyster Perpetual Air-King, which transported us back to the 1930s, bringing to mind the brand’s association with the world of exploration and aviation. A tribute to the pioneers of flight, the Air-King’s dial also reveals the same font as seen in the original. Even Omega’s Speedmaster Master Chronometer Chronograph Moonphase made it to our list of must-haves. While it’s a truly striking watch—featuring a blue dial with a moonphase aperture— what’s even more noteworthy is the new 9904 movement, certified by the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS).

All of the watches perpetuate a design philosophy that is marked by both form and function. It’s Aldo Magada, CEO of Zenith, who sums up the trends for us when he states, “People want to have meaningful products that have values. And if she or he is not convinced, they won’t buy it. And it’s not a matter of pricing. The watchmaking industry has to realise that a majority of people are not buying watches on a weekly basis. So it has to be something that makes sense for you as a consumer. It’s important that your products invoke emotions—especially because it costs a lot of money. It must bring you pleasure even after 10 years.”

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