With BaselWorld 2015 officially over, and the jetlag having fully dissipated, we figured this edition of the worn&wound round-table would be a good time to see what everyone thought stood out. Now, when you read this, you might think we coordinated our answers, or that people were influencing each other… Nope. None of the contributors see each other’s answers until the article is published, only I get to see them, and I try to write my response prior to reading them. Nevertheless, you’ll see some common responses below… This speaks to some level of common taste amongst us, but also is a genuine reaction to what was released. As always, let us know in the comments what you think, and what your BaselWorld 2015 favorites are.
To be perfectly honest, Baselworld was a bit of a letdown this year. Sure, there were plenty of watches I liked and would love to own, but very few stayed with me after the fair was over. Now, I do mostly focus on watches and brands I can realistically afford, so maybe I’d be singing an entirely different tune if I had more expendable income (oh, Lange). Or maybe I’m just really happy with my current collection, so I’m not really pining for a new watch (is that even possible?).
With that said, I do have to admit to being wholly impressed with Seiko this year, specifically with the Grand Seiko SBGR series featuring three limited edition watches paying homage to the iconic 62GS. As far as dress watches go, these were pretty much perfect. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of handling a Grand Seiko, then you could attest to the brand’s impeccable casework. The SBGR feels even more refined, finished using Seiko’s “Zaratsu,”–or blade polishing–technique to create some of the most precise angles and surfaces I’ve ever seen in a watch. Coupled with the classic dial and tempered case size, you have a watch that will truly stand the test of time. Plus the SBGR is chock full of interesting little details. For example, in keeping with the historical influence, the crown is at 4 o’clock, an uncommon choice for a dress watch. The case is also without a bezel, which emphasizes the box-sapphire and draws the eye to the gorgeous dial. And all of this for less than 5K for the stainless steel model…. Okay, so maybe Basel wasn’t that big of a letdown after all.
It’s not an easy task to pick a favorite from this year’s BaselWorld, with so many strong offerings on hand, and after long deliberation I only managed to narrow it down to two- the Sinn 903 St B E and the Oris Diver’s Sixty-Five, both of which I love for very similar reasons. Both are beautiful, heavily vintage-inspired, and promise to be exceedingly well-made. Both are well priced for their level of quality, and both designs just capture a certain hard-to-define subtle cool factor: the Sinn for its classical handsomeness and ruggedness, and the Oris for its more funky but fantastically balanced approach.
Oh, and tropic straps. Seriously, the fact that someone is bringing back such a staple of early diver history in 2015 makes me very excited, and I’d love to see more manufacturers trying them out. If I had to choose just one to buy, I’d probably go with the 903, but if I did I know I’d have the Oris in the back of my mind every time I wore it. There really is nothing to separate them in terms of desirability, despite the differences in style, function, and price point. I’m definitely looking forward to trying these two out in depth sometime.
Baselworld took over my Twitter and Instagram feeds for a while there with photo after photo of great new watches. Things start to get blurry after a while (even more so I imagine for those present) but there are things that stand out. The one that rose to the top for me was the Bremont MKI & MKII. These models are the production watches based off those from a limited release teamed up with Jaguar(1). The watches are obviously auto inspired and draw their design from the Jaguar Lightweight E-Type that the original six limited watches were to accompany. I’m not really a “car guy” but these watches (especially the chronograph, the MKII) still grabbed my attention. All the small details (hands, gauge-style dial layout, the “red-line” marker) add up to one beautiful watch.
My favorite release from this years BaselWorld would have to be the Seiko Historical Collection Grand Seiko SBGR091, an homage to the incredible 1967 62GS. This model is a very faithful heritage version of the original, keeping the same killer case lines, lugs and dial/hands as the original, while making it slightly larger (the original is fairly small). Seiko has really taken the heritage thing to another level, raising the bar for all other manufactures. The 62GS is a timeless classic, and now has been updated with modern size and specs. Another in this line is the SBGH037, which has a slightly different case and the crown has been moved to three o’clock (instead of 4), but it has a 36,000 hi-beat movement which is just awesome. You just can’t beat that super fast tick tick tick of a hi-beat movement. All the new Historical GS models are a limited edition, and fairly pricey which will add a level of exclusivity to them.
It’s odd to admit, but I was generally underwhelmed by this year’s BaselWorld offerings. There were a few highlights here and there, but those seemed either highly self-referential (Seiko’s Grand Seiko SBGR095) or just a nice update of an already-great watch (Tudor’s Pelagos, now with the new in-house MT-5641 movement). But one watch did catch my eye: the Zenith El Primero Chronograph Classic. It has classic styling without specifically referencing an older watch. The simple silver dial really sets it apart from most modern chronographs – a flat, two-register design with printed subdials for running seconds and 30-minute chronograph.
The El Primero movement ticks along at 36,000 beats per hour, giving that running second hand a nice, smooth motion. The polished steel case clocks in at a rather large 42mm, but at only 11mm thick, it will wear smaller than its true size. I give lots of credit to Zenith for making a classically inspired chronograph that looks amazingly simple and perfectly elegant at the same time.
The idea of a blue dial and bezel Tudor Pelagos just doesn’t seem to jive with the watch’s origins as a minimalist and understated diver. But when I saw a brighter shade of blue, it worked well to contrast with the matte titanium finish of an already fantastic watch. Add in the newly introduced MT5612 in-house movement (with 70 hours power reserve) in place of the ETA 2824 and the new Pelagos, and we have arrived at an all-arounder that stands out with a splash of color that isn’t a typical dark navy found in serious watches.
Coupled with the light ti case and the best bracelet clasp in the business, the new blue Pelagos has me setting my sights on this watch for 2015. One negative: They matched the rubber strap to the same shade of blue. As Bruno says, we don’t want to get “too matchy matchy.” A regular black rubber strap with the blue face is just fine.
Mark McArthur Christie
It’s no contest. It may be a Swiss watch show – the Swiss watch show – but the Japanese aced it this year. I’ll declare an interest though. On my wrist as I write this (it’s a single cask Bunnahabhain from 1987 in the glass) is my Grand Seiko 8J56-8000. For me, Grand Seiko is as damn near perfect as it gets. A robust watch you can wear every single day, that no-one except a fellow watchie will notice and that is better made than a ’37 Derby Bentley.
Other makers can create their expensivium-cased triple-tourbillon retrograde perpetual calendar masterpieces, but in the real world, the SBGR095 aces the lot of ’em. If you’re the sort of person who’d order an Aston Martin with your initials gold-embroidered in the headrests, they won’t work for you. But if understatement, quality and substance over style is your thing, just sign here. Proper case finishing, dials with more depth than the Mariana Trench and hands you could cut yourself with. And a perfect ‘form and function’ 1967 design that still works today.
The Watch Curmudgeon
What’s my favorite Basel watch? I hate questions like this because they make me focus and attempt to make up my mind. That’s impossible when it comes to watches. However, after a considerable struggle, I was able to narrow my decision to two, which is a miracle in itself.
The first watch that blew me away is that absolutely incredible Oris: the Diver’s Sixty-Five. It’s perfect from nearly every respect. The dial, with those wonderful, sort of playful, numerals is a glancer’s dream. The gleaming double-domed crystal really enhances the overall vintage effect. The 100 meter depth rating is fine for someone like me who would probably never even get it wet. The 40mm diameter complements the whole effect, although 38mm would have been preferable. Including the date was a senseless decision, but they had enough taste to make it very inconspicuous. Another thing that nailed it for me is that this watch reminds me in many ways of my beloved Sheffield compressor, a faithful companion for too many years! Thanks Oris! After seeing that Oris, I felt certain that nothing could equal it. WRONG! Along came Fortis with their drop dead magnificent Terrestis Collection, in particular that alluring Orchestra model. Now, my question is this: What business does Fortis have introducing watches like these? Fortis? I never give them even a passing thought. They’ve just done an amazing 360 with a new design sense that proves that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. Well, the Orchestra is making me roll over and beg.
What can I say? They did everything right. Everything! Just stare at the photo. The dial is perfectly proportioned, especially the way the small seconds occupies a drop more space than usual. And the classic, lume-free stick hands really bring the whole effect together. Then there’s the domed crystal, the elegantly subdued 40mm case and one more feature that really peeled my socks off: those incredible drop-shaped lugs. Fortis made that decision? Fortis? Those lugs remind me of one of the most beautiful vintage Vacherons ever made. Fortis is now permanently on my radar. Now that they’ve got the sky and the land, they have to put their new design sense on the ocean and introduce a diver as appealing as the Orchestra. Do you hear that Fortis? The next Basel World is only a year away so get working. I just had a thought. If you could put those lugs on the Oris, then I would have a Basel favorite. That’s what I call reasonably making up my mind.
Every year after going to Basel, I usually have a clear sense of what my favorite was… Basel 2013, the Frederique Constant Slim Line Moonphase stuck out… 2014, the Sinn EZM13 burned a lasting impression in my mind. However, this year, I’m a bit hard pressed. It’s not that I didn’t like what I saw, on the contrary there were many great watches, it’s just that nothing has me ready to start putting away cash, or eyeing some of my lesser worn watches for sale. But for the sake of choosing, I was pleasantly surprised by a brand that while an affordable staple, rarely truly “wows”; Victorinox.
This year through a more focused approach to design and some stylized design choices, Victorinox released a handful of aggressive pilot’s watches that took their Airboss line into cool new territory. My favorite of the lot was the Airboss Mach 9 chronograph, black edition. The new Mach 9 is a big Valjoux 7750 powered chrono with destro crowns and pushers and an internal calculator bezel. Despite being in the 44-45mm neighborhood, the watch more well and looked in proportion as there is a lot going on in the dial space. Yet, it’s very legible with large, applied numerals and clean and clear sub-dials. The coolest feature, however, is the 24-hour index printed on the backside of the sapphire crystal, thus hovering over the dial. It adds depth and a modern feel that gives the Mach 9 a unique personality.