“It’s going to be quiet this year,” they said; “Brands are going to be ultra conservative,” they said. Well, Baselworld 2016 just came to a close last week and I’ve got to say, it looks like the watch industry is already well on its way to recovery from a tough 2015. The words ‘challenging year’ were often followed by ‘innovation’ as various CEOs outlined their plans for 2016. While some brands chose conservative routes, others went all out, stepping confidently out of their comfort zones to offer stunning new novelties. As we made our way through the 304 brands brave enough to tout the ‘Swiss made’ promise, we present to you but a small fraction of the new novelties that caught our attention.
Last year they celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the Big Bang and this year Hublot celebrates yet another anniversary of theirs – the birth of the ‘All Black’ concept. However the piece that caught our eye when we visited their booth in Basel was one that touted a new movement from the brand, the Big Bang MECA-10. Inspired by the classic Meccano toy this new timepiece makes the plates, axes, wheels, gears of the movement visible both from the front and from the case back. Taking two years to develop, this new manufacture movement still boasts around 10 days of power reserve.
In 2014 Bulgari set the record for the thinnest tourbillon in the world and this year, not content with resting on the coattails of that record, this year, they introduced the Octo Finissimo Repetition Minute – the thinnest minute repeater to date. At 6.85 mm thin, this timepiece is simply stunning. Naturally, thanks to its acoustic properties, titanium was the chosen material for the case and the watchmakers at the Bulgari manufacture even cut out the indices to allow for better aural performance.
Taking a page right out of their extensive history book, this year Tudor celebrates their past by adding new watches to their Heritage Black Bay collection. With a more daring approach to material selection, Tudor unveils a new bronze version of the watch with a case that is cast with a bronze-aluminium alloy. What makes the watch special is that the case takes on the properties of bronze giving it an appealing patina over time as the metal naturally oxidises.
I suppose the big news coming out of TAG Heuer this year is the new Heuer 02 movement that features a tourbillon! However, being a sucker for backstories, I’d have to pick the Heuer Monza Chronograph as my favourite novelty to come out of TAG. Modelled after the iconic watch created in 1976 to celebrate Niki Lauda’s first world championship title with Ferrari, this watch comes in the very same cousin (cushion) case as the original but this time it is made with grade 5 titanium as opposed to steel.
Another watch manufacturer to dig into their extensive history this year is Zenith, celebrating the automatic El Primero movements. A new addition to their Pilot collection, the Heritage Pilot Café Racer Spirit comes with a broad 45mm aged steel case and an oily nubuck rubber-lined wristband to complete the look. A cool little fact is that Zenith holds a patent for being able to display the word ‘pilot’ on its dial.