Like every year, BaselWorld features great new products. If there are 1,400+ exhibitors and they all have an average of 15 new products, we’re talking about at least 21.000 new products.
How to make sense of all these new offerings? Here’s a guide to the most important developments this year.
Designs to Stand Out
With so many watch companies in the market today, it’s more important than ever for new watches to stand out, whether it’s through unique designs, technical prowess or unique materials. It’s no longer enough for a watch company to have simply a “me too” product. If it doesn’t make a statement, chances are it won’t get noticed.
Vintage, Classic and Elegant Continues to Dominate
The vintage/classical/elegant trend that surfaced when the world’s economic troubles began is continuing. Customers seem to be looking for watches that have attractive designs that can stand the test of time. At the same time, people seem to be looking for value for money and are willing to pay a premium (how much depends on the market) for a recognized brand name and high quality.
Doing things differently, from a technical standpoint, is certainly one way to stand out in today’s watch market. At Basel, there were two significant technical introductions. The TAG Heuer MikroPendulumS uses the magnetic escapement first introduced in TAG’s Pendulum concept system. There was a problem with the Pendulum, as it wasn’t stable in varying temperatures. TAG Heuer has solved this problem and put the pendulum system to work in a new double tourbillon concept watch. One tourbillon regulates the operation of the watch, while the other tourbillon handles the chronograph.
While TAG Heuer was introducing magnets, Omega was fighting against magnetic forces, with its new Seamaster Aqua Terra >15,000 gauss. This new watch which can withstand magnetic fields greater than 1.5 tesla (15,000 gauss), far exceeding the levels of magnetic resistance by any watch movement previously. A true breakthrough, working to solve a problem that has plagued watches forever.
Women are becoming more of a force at the retail level, and it’s more and more important for brands to develop watches specifically for women. Take Patek Philippe, for example, where creative director Sandrine Stern has been developing interesting women’s complications, like the minute repeater and chronograph debuted in previous years. This year, one of Patek’s key introductions was in the same case style as the chronograph and the minute repeater, using a pure, high grade mechanical movement.
Mechanical watches for women are becoming more important, certainly in the Asia countries. As an example, Chopard chose to exclusively power its Happy Sport 20thAnniversary edition with an automatic movement, complete with a sapphire crystal exhibition back to showcase the mechanics.
Where Has Yellow Gold Gone?
For many years, the return of yellow gold to watches has been forecasted – well, no more. This year at Basel, yellow gold was almost nowhere to be seen. White gold, rose/pink gold and red gold are at the forefront. Omega even introduced Sedna Gold, which is more resistant to discoloration (reddish gold eventually returns to yellow gold as the copper on the surface oxidizes).
Yellow gold might come back one day, but not this year.
For several years, there has been a trend towards useful complications, features that will make people’s lives easier. This year’s BaselWorld was the year of the world time/GMT watch, a must for any world traveler or international business person. Many companies released world timers, but the most exciting were the watches from Citizen (Satellite Wave-Air), Omega (Aquaterra GMT), Seiko (Astron Limited Edition), Nixon (the Passport), Tissot (Heritage Navigator), Hautlence (the Destination) and Jacob & Co. (the Ghost).
Swatch 30th Anniversary Watch
To celebrate the anniversary of the first Swatch models introduced in 1983, Swatch is doing it again. The new Swatch Est. 1983 is housed in a transparent plastic case with a skeleton dial that showcases the mechanical movement inside. The word “Celebrate” is printed twice on the golden driving wheel and around the dial are all the years from 1983 to 2013.
The introduction of this new entry level mechanical will introduce Swatch style to a whole new segment of the population, hopefully igniting the desire for mechanical watches in future generations.
Tudor in the USA
Tudor announced that it will be going back into the USA, after an absence of ten years. The announcement was very welcome, as Tudor is succeeding all over the world. Most people think that Tudor will be carried mostly in existing Rolex retailers, but the management of Tudor has been given some freedom, so some shake ups might be in order. Tudor has seen phenomenal success in key markets like China, but it also been absent from the United Kingdom for some time, so the British Isles might be next.
More USA: Shinola Debuts
Large scale watch assembly is back in the USA, with the debut of Shinola. With a beautiful booth in Hall 1.2, Shinola announced to the world that it is here and its watches are “Built in Detroit.”
A partnership between Swiss movement maker Ronda and Bedrock Manufacturing (founded by Tom Kartsosis of Fossil fame), Shinola fuses vintage designs with modern attention to detail, and the first collections from the company, the Runwell and the Brakeman, are good looking and priced well enough. It will be interesting to see if Shinola enjoys the phenomenal success that Fossil did.
Keith W. Strandberg, Contributor