w&w Round-Table #14: What Were your Most and Least Favorite Pieces from Baselworld this Year?

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With our Baselworld 2016 coverage coming to an end (there still might be a couple of pieces left to write) we figured we’d sum up the event with one of our Round-Tables. The question is simple: “What were your most and least favorite pieces from Baselworld this year?” Looking back, I’m actually very impressed by this year’s offering. At Basel, it felt a little slower and quieter than previous years, but the brands that we like almost all had a few very strong pieces. Of course, they can’t all be winners, but keep in mind the answers below are purely our subjective opinions on the watches and not “reviews” of them. Let us know what you’re most and least favorites were in the comments, and enjoy!

Christoph McNeill

Well, with each year’s Baselworld, there’s lots to like, and plenty to dislike. There were several new releases this year that I liked, so picking my favorite was a little hard. So I’ll cheat a little by saying that it came down to either the new Squalematic (love!) or the Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 Day Power Reserve SBGD001. And just because the Grand Seiko is so totally bad ass, that’s what I’m going to have to go with. The SBGD001 features a super clean, classically styled Grand Seiko case, albeit in platinum (yep, platinum!). Gorgeous textured white dial with simple applied bar markers and those iconic dauphine hands with bevelled edges, completed with a sweet blued steel seconds hand. But the true beauty here is the incredible three barrel Spring Drive movement with and eight day power reserve! It is truly and incredible work of art in my humble opinion, but with an equally incredible MSRP of around $55k unfortunately.

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SQUALE_SQUALEMATIC_13As I’m a fairly opinionated person, there were a plethora of designs that didn’t do it for me this year, but one stood out as easily my least favorite that I saw, the Omega Globemaster Annual Calendar. It is all kinds of funky, and not in a good way. I like a lot of what Omega is doing recently, like the Seamster 300 for one. However, the Globemaster looks straight out of the 1990’s with its fluted bezel, and the frilly script used for the months printed around the outer edge of the dial in between the hour markers is just too busy and frankly weird looking. The sum of the Globemaster’s parts just don’t add up.

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Zach Weiss

I find myself torn between a few pieces, but in forcing myself to make a decision, I’m going with the Oris 112. I loved the 110 when they debuted it, and likewise the 111 (the difference being a date window and non-limited release). Despite being a bit large, they checked a lot of boxes for me. The design is simple, but elegant, and doesn’t quite look like other watches out there. The silvery/anthracite grays they come in simply drive me crazy (I wear like 90% gray, hence this reaction). But more importantly, the 11x caliber movements really do it for me. 10-day, non-linear power reserve, manual wound with 9 o’clock date that looks from both front and back unlike other movements (i.e. not a clone with their name on it) from a reputable brand that will be able to support it for years to come? Yes please!

So, by adding the dual-time zone with am/pm indicator complication, they really drove it over the edge for me. It’s one of the few practical complications to have on a watch, and their execution was uncommon, adding another layer of interest on these already unique pieces. While the starting price of $6,500 is a bit beyond my reach at the moment, I know I will own one someday…well, assuming they don’t out do the 112 next year, or the year after, or after that, etc…

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While there were a few watches that came out this year that were truly baffling, from ones that hide behind crowns and shields for near universal press support, or simply tacky watches from the tacky brands you’d expect that would be easy to write about, I decided to go with a watch that I actually kind of like, but am ultimately disappointed by; the Tag Heuer Monza. The 1976 Caliber 15 is one of those cool and quirky 70’s chronos that until recently could be had at a very good price (ok, for vintage Heuer, they still are good, but they used be under $2k). They featured black PVD over brass cases with a classic and understated barrel case. The dials were black, red and white, coming across with the right amount of aggressive motorsport attitude. As they age, they gain in beauty with the black wearing down to reveal the warm yellow underneath.

The new model tries to mix the original version with the version from 2000, for a weird, and in my eyes, unsuccessful hybrid. The 2000 Monza is, well, kind of a hot mess, with a clunky lugged cushion case and an uninspired dial. So, they took the case design of the latter and mixed it with the dial of the former. The dial looks good, if a near 1:1 recreation of the old is the goal. They went so far as to use vintage color lume, giving an faux-patina feel, though went with a sun-ray dial instead of matte. The case is then PVD, but over grade 5 Ti, giving in the palette of the 70’s model, but on the modern 42mm case. Conceptually, there’s already a bit of a conflict here between the aged lume, sun-ray dial and modern case material, which wont age like the old brass. They also mix the finishing on it with brushed sides on the central case and high polished surfaces on the bezel.

TAG_HEUER_MONZA_2016In the end, what it really gets wrong is that it has the luxury-watch attitude of the 2000 model rather that the tool-watch attitude of the original. The bling from the bezel and the sun-ray dail are just unwanted, and the attempt at faux vintage feels out of place. At a glance, it’s still attractive, but just could’ve been a lot tighter conceptually. In contrast, last year’s Carrera Telemeter really nailed the design. It’s modernized in size and style, yet keeps a lot of the charm of the vintage without resorting to faux-patina.

James Enloe

Mostly what I saw at Basel this year came from our own worn&wound coverage. There are so many amazing watches that were released (and a lot of oddballs, too) it is hard to pick a favorite. For my pick, though, I’m sticking to a watch that I could realistically afford that also scratches a certain itch. My favorite is the re-release of the Bulova Moon Watch. After learning of the history behind the original and seeing this (slightly updated) re-release it just hit home for some reason. Yes, it is a quartz, which I normally avoid, but these days I’ve become a bit more open minded about it. Having this next to my Omega Speedmaster would be a welcome addition.

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BULOVA_MOON_WATCH_4As for my least favorite, there were certainly a lot to choose from. There were a number of just flat out unappealing watches released. The one that stuck out the most for me, however, was the updated Rolex Air-King. The dial is just too busy with the switch between hours and minutes, the colored crown is gaudy, and I cannot stand their habit of circling the inner bezel with the brand name. We get it, it’s a Rolex. In the end, to me, it looks like someone took a Rolex Explorer muddied up the design.

The Watch Curmudgeon

First of all, I must begin by saying that I’m coming from a bit of a disadvantage. I wasn’t at Basel World, and I haven’t been privy to most of the watches presented there, including entries from many of my favorite brands. However, I do have strong opinions based on what I have seen on worn&wound.

My favorite watch, by far, is the Junghans Meister Driver Chronoscope with the tan dial. The damn thing is impossibly gorgeous! Every last thing about it is, in my opinion, perfect. It’s a timeless watch, that’s perfect for nearly any occasion. The only disadvantage is that, when you wear it, you’ll attract the attention of too many people who’ll want to “discuss” it. If I owned one, all my favorite watches would see lots of drawer time!

JUNGHANS_MEISTER_DRIVER_CHRONO_1Now, my least favorite watch is from a company I highly respect, one that keeps producing winners year after year, a company that epitomizes the principles of form, function, and classic design. I’m talking about Sinn. Yup, Sinn. They presented a watch at Basel World that just didn’t make sense to me. And that happens to be the U1 Camouflage diver. Sinn has always prided themselves on dials that offer the utmost legibility regardless of all the functions. So why this? To me, it’s a novelty that you’d expect from the likes of Casio, Lum-Tec, or Swatch. What exacerbates the matter is that it’s a diver. Am I incorrect in assuming that a diver that’s hard to read can result in, uh, death? What I’ll attribute all this to is a trifle too much Doornkaat Schnaps flowing one day in the design department.

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Sean Lorentzen

Man, this is a tough one. I could list a half dozen or more watches from this year’s Basel that deserve the prize. The Omega Globemaster, Bulova Moon Watch, the bronze Zodiac Seawolf and the stunning Oris Carl Brashear were all worthy, but in the end there could be only one- the Seiko Presage Limited Edition Chronograph. What a way to introduce a new line! Absolutely beautiful fit and finish, an extremely competent movement, and that dial… I’m not usually the turn-of-the-century design type, but here it just works. If it were a no-date I’d call it a perfect 10. As it sits, and at this price, I’d have to settle for a 9.7.

SEIKO_PRESAGE_LE_CHRONO_8On the other side of the coin, it’s pretty easy to pick my least favorite. If you could describe the Longines Heritage 1918 in one word, it’d be “almost”. There’s so much that almost works about this piece, but falls flat right at the line. With a hand-wind movement and a no-date dial, this could really be something special. As it sits, it’s too thick, and the sub seconds dial is so undersized and visually off-balance it looks like a knockoff. Those lovely golden Art Nouveau numerals are broken, nay, butchered by that wide-set standard-ETA-movement date window! If one watch in the world shouldn’t have one, it’s this. That’s what really bothers me about this. It’s easy to pick on the truly awful, but when something so clearly shows promise and fails? That’s tragic. Please, Longines. It wouldn’t take much to make this one a winner.

LONGINES_HERITAGE_1918Li Wang

My favorite watch this year is not one I even desire (because I’d choose a Speedmaster Pro if I wanted chronograph), it’s one I’m choosing as fine example on how to modernize and update a without with losing the esthetic feel of its previous incarnations. The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona reference 116500LN in 904L steel works on every level as a modern chronograph. The ceramic bezel brightens up its looks and is a very tough material. The movement specs have been moved to tighter +2/-2 seconds a day standards and the case size is still around 40mm. Triple lock crowns and lacquer dial (black or white) are all subtle and sensible upgrades to a model that has not been updated in over a decade. Modern Rolex oyster bracelets are a pleasure to use and wear, so the entire package here is spot-on for its intended audience. I just like that there’s no odd case size jumps or drastic dial element changes or wacky colors. Other watch companies should look towards this 2016 Daytona as a model on how to modernize with restraint.

ROLEX_COSMOGRAPH_DAYTONA_STEELThe watch I really didn’t like is the critically acclaimed 36mm version of the Tudor Black Bay. But why would you make a dive watch without a rotating bezel? It’s the watch equivalent of walking out the door without your pants on.

Mark McArthur-Christie

It’s that time of year again – the high (and low) lights of Baselworld. Always tough, since one man’s Horrorshow is another’s Haute Horlogerie. But here’s what I’d put on my wrist and what would go in the bin.

Loser: The new Rolex Air King

Rolex-Air-KingIf you’ve ever woken in a cold sweat at 3am wondering what the illegitimate lovechild of a Rolex Explorer I and a tree frog would look like, you now have your answer. Technically, the Air King is an utterly beautiful watch – 904L stainless case, 3131 movement, protective Faraday cage. But the dial is carrying more fonts and colours than the lost library of Alexandria. That said, I’d buy one as an investment in a heartbeat – it’s the next 6541 Milgauss.

Winner: Seiko’s Presage SRQ019

I don’t know why I’m telling you this as there are only going to be 1,000 of these. And they won’t hang around when they go on sale in September for a daftly cheap €2,500 – €2,800.

SEIKO_PRESAGE_LE_CHRONO_2What do you get? A watch that’s so gorgeous that you keep looking but can’t remember what the time was. Properly blued hands. A white vitreous grand feu enamel dial or a swimmably-deep Urushi lacquer one. Inside, Seiko’s own column wheel 8R48 movement with a 48 hour power reserve and running and 28,800bph.

September, remember? Race you.

Ilya Ryvin

I am going to have to go with a watch that really surprised me this year: Citizen’s Eco-Drive One. Let me just get this out of the way—yes, it’s an expensive quartz watch, and at $6,000 (for the limited edition, $2,600 for the general release) it might be a pill that’s just too hard to swallow for most of the buying public. But of all the releases this year, this one really stayed with me, and it’s great to see a brand doing innovative things with quartz, and doing them unapologetically. At just a hair under 3mm thick, the Eco-Drive One is impossibly thin. But millimeters (or lack thereof) aside, it’s just a great looking watch. The LE is especially nice with the beautifully finished cermet case and tungsten carbide bezel, and I love the apparent Genta influence on the overall design.

CITIZEN_ECO-DRIVE_ONE_3On the wrist, it really impressed. As much as I love the intricacy and inherent beauty of a mechanical movement, there is something fantastic about the “set it and forget it” approach of a light-powered quartz watch. Now, I can’t afford to drop that kind of coin anytime soon, and even if I had the cash I don’t know if I’d put my money where my mouth is. That said, Citizen will eventually democratize the tech and with it the price, so I am really excited to see what Citizen has in store.

When I got wind that Tudor was releasing a 36mm sports watch, I thought, “Finally, they’re going to do right by the Ranger.” And then I saw the Black Bay 36. Boy, was I disappointed. Before I continue, I should confess that the Black Bays have always been hit or miss for me; some I like, some I don’t, but I nevertheless understand their appeal amongst the vast majority of watch lovers. The 36, however, feels almost uninspired by comparison. Tudor took one of their best sellers, scaled it down and removed the bezel, so unsurprisingly it looks like a tiny Black Bay with a missing bezel. I applaud Tudor having the guts to go small, but I really think they did it with the wrong watch. At 36mm, they could have released an appropriately sized Ranger and it would have absolutely killed.

TUDOR_BLACKBAY_36It also nags me that the 36 is now the only Black Bay with an ETA movement. There is nothing wrong with using ETA movements, but Tudor has made a big deal of their measured transition to in-house. Does Tudor plan on releasing a new in-house Black Bay 36 next year like they did with the Pelagos and other Black Bay models? I know I wouldn’t take kindly to buying a watch, only to have an in-house version of it hit the market a year later.

Jon Gaffney

Picking my favorite watch from Basel World 2016 came down to two choices for me, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay 36mm and the Doxa Sub Anniversary Limited Edition. Both were spot on beautifully executed “heritage” models, but with very different looks and historical pedigree. In the end I have to choose the Tudor Heritage Black Bay 36mm as my favorite though. While it didn’t inherit the in-house movement that the rest of the Black Bay line did at Basel this year, I think the 36mm still outshined them all. The whole package is pretty perfect. While some might say that 36mm is too small, I think with the lack of rotating bezel and maxi indices that it will wear larger that its dimensions. For many people this could fulfill that mythical “one watch” role with 150m water resistance and looks to pair easily with a suit or hiking equipment. It’s refreshing to see a brand taking risks in restraint versus a splash.

ZENITH_PILOT_CAFE-RACERFor my least favorite watch, the Zenith Pilot Café Racer is an easy pick. I really didn’t find it to work on any level to my eye. It seems like a watch confused as to what it wants to do. While large, big crowned pilot’s watches have storied history, mashed up with the steampunk aesthetic is seems overly busy and kitschy. Functionally at 45mm and with a massive crown, I think it would be unwieldy to wear while riding the café racers that inspired it. Zenith has had plenty of wins in their history, but you can never win them all and the Pilot Café Racer is a clear loss in my book.

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