Baselworld 2012 is coming to a close, so we thought we’d round up some info and our opinions on a handful of the watches that were debuted this year. Now, w&w typically focuses on affordable watches, but most of what’s on the list below is not affordable. This isn’t because we are changing gears, I promise, it’s because that’s what all of the forums and news sites have been talking about. Don’t get me wrong, I really like these watches, but we are reporting on them less so you can know what to run out and buy and more to bring them to your attention, because you’ll be hearing about them until Basel 2013. That being said, we are avoiding any 5 million dollar diamond-clad monstrosities or the super-watches made by mechanical wizards. These are just the watches that caught our attention and might set some trends… And maybe in 2013 we’ll be able to go to Basel ourselves and report on the more affordable watches that get unveiled… fingers crossed.
The Bell&Ross WW2 Regulateur has got to be the most interesting riff on a military or pilot design in some time. Designed as a tool for bombers, the watch features an oversized bezel with large scalloped indentations and a large onion crown at 9 to make adjustment while wearing gloves easier (you know, during a bombing raid). This 49mm behemoth is fit with a Dubois Dépraz regulator movement that has been turned 180 from its typical positioning, putting the hours at 6. The idea here was to maximize the visibility of the minute hand, as that is the most crucial timing interval for bombers. Bombing functions aside, B&R managed to pull off their heritage aesthetic with flying colors. From the grey PVD bezel, to the aged colors of the dial, this watch just looks amazing. We are also fond of the un-fixed lugs, which will allow the watch sit on one’s wrist more easily…a very necessary detail for such a large watch. Pricing on this one is still unavailable, but I’d guesstimate in the 5k+ range…oh well.
The hot-topic of Basel this year is certainly the showing by Tudor, the “inexpensive”, ETA powered and not-US-sold (booo), but seemingly more innovative branch of Rolex. Amongst their offering are two very nice divers that are more or less in the Submariner style. First, there is the Heritage Black Bay, an ETA 2824-2 powered homage, to… themselves. Featuring a red bezel, gilt dial and oh-so-attractive snowflake hands, the Black Bay hits all of the right vintage notes. Though we’ve certainly seen plenty of 2824-2’s for a lot cheaper, the Tudor is priced intelligently within the mid $2000’s.
Then there is the Pelagos, which is their modern diver for the year. Despite just being plainly attractive, it sports some great features, like a titanium construction, a 500m depth rating, a classic but contemporary take on the Tudor dial and a self-adjusting clasp. I especially enjoy the added depth of the dial created by the applied markers and beveled edge. At around $4000 for an ETA 2824-2 diver, this is one that is definitely best appreciated on paper, but that’s fine by me.
Bremont goes from the sky to sea for their newest special edition, the HMS Victory. And this chronograph is very special indeed. Not only does it feature atypical retrograde dials for both seconds and date, it is actually made with pieces of the HMS Victory, an 18th century British warship. The styling of the watch itself is very reserved and befitting of a collaboration with The National Museum of the Royal Navy, but nonetheless quite handsome. The retrograde dials and slender bowed hands in particular sing of refinement. This one goes for $18,800, but considering it contains pieces of something priceless, I guess that is to be expected.
Hamilton dropped a little history lesson as well with their stunning Khaki Navy Pioneer Edition, in honor of their 120th year. This 46.5mm Unitas powered Marine Chronometer is a hybrid wristwatch / deck clock that hearkens to their chronometers from the 1940’s. The Navy Pioneer edition has a silver dial, blued steel hands and wire lugs, giving it a truly classic look. Yet, the large size and textured bezel grant it a ruggedness that befits a seafaring tool. The watch can be converted into a deck clock by installing it into the large wooden gimbaled chronometer box that accompanies this special edition. This one runs around $3000 and is limited to 1892 units, referring to the year Hamilton was founded. Check out this video if the pics don’t convince you.
On to, hopefully, an affordable watch: The Victorinox Infantry Mechanical. Information is limited on this one at the moment, but judging by the brand itself and a picture of the watch, I’m thinking this is an ETA 2824-2 auto that will have and MSRP of under $1000. Victorinox is clearly paying attention to the trends of the moment as they jumped on the military heritage watch. Sure, they had their Infantry Vintage line for a bit, but those feel interpretive of a time period and style, rather than recreations. The WW2 aesthetic is very apparent in the hands of the watch, the near-antique font and the ladder-style markings on the perimeter. While the look itself can be found in plenty of watches, such as the Bulova I reviewed some time back, the Infantry Mechanical is simply well executed and a welcome addition to the Swiss Army line.
I know this doesn’t cover nearly everything, so let us know what you found interesting from this year’s Basel in the comments. Thanks for reading!
I also want to thank all of the forums and blogs that did an awesome job reporting on Baselworld 2012 live from Switzerland, hopefully we’ll join you next year!
by Zach Weiss