Size, steel and simplicity: The key trends at Baselworld 2016
This is part of a series dedicated to Baselworld 2016. Arthur Touchot is the European editor of watch website HODINKEE.
Watches aren't made overnight. They may take months, and in some cases years, to put together.
With that in mind, the watches presented during Baselworld 2016 should not be viewed as the year's latest fads, but as a confirmation of trends that have slowly been developing over the past 24 months.
This year definitely felt calmer than previous editions, both in terms of attendance and in watch designs.
The big names in the industry went for the unspectacular but special, presenting collections which felt more focused and in-tune with the current demand for smaller, more affordable watches based on pure design.
Bigger Is (No Longer) Better
For years we've seen watches conquer our wrists, one inch after the next, slowly making their way onto our forearms.
But it seems the days of the 42-45 mm watches are coming to an end, as the attraction to smaller timepieces, driven by the popularity of vintage, continues to grow.
This week's most exciting pieces were definitely those which fit under the cuff. It just feels a lot more satisfying to catch a glimpse of a purely made watch, instead of feeling invaded by it.
This week's most exciting pieces were definitely those which fit under the cuff.
Men and women were unanimous in their approval of the new Tudor Black Bay 36 mm and its cousin at Rolex, the slightly larger 39 mm Explorer.
Hermès and Omega also appealed to both sides of the market. The Slim d'Hermès, which made a good first impression on us when it was released in 2015, returned in a limited edition of 100 pieces with a superb enamel dial.
And Omega seemed to be following the exact same strategy with it's new Seamaster, which has found a nice compromise at 39.5 mm between the 37.5 mm and 42 mm models currently in production.
One of the smallest watches of the fair, the 33 mm NOMOS Tetra Nematik, was also an early favorite. Unusually it is actually much larger than the previous edition, which at 27 mm felt much too small, proving limitations on size go both ways.
"Steel remains fashionable." François-Paul Journe, speaking during the F.P. Journe Young Talent Competition ceremony, seemed hurt by his own admission.
The independent watchmaker, who is based in Geneva, has advocated the use of precious materials his entire career.
But on the first day of the fair, as the monumental news of Rolex's new stainless steel Daytona started spreading around the halls, even he recognized the everlasting appeal of steel.
In fact, several brands are turning towards it to push complicated timepieces that have so far interested but failed to convince larger audiences.
Two years after the release of a user-friendly red gold Dual Time, Girard-Perregaux debuted a cost-friendly version in stainless steel, with a really attractive white dial and elegant feuille hands.
Also presented in a 40 mm stainless steel for the first time, (also) with a white dial and feuille hands, is the Villeret Quantième Annuel GMT from Blancpain.
On top of having a second time zone indicator, it features an elegant annual calendar, which is an original combination of complications. Blancpain introduced it a few years ago in red and white gold, but this stainless steel version has the looks of the old for a fraction of the price.
Completing our podium of complicated watches in steel is the king of complications. Frédérique Constant simply blew us away when they unveiled a mechanical perpetual calendar, supposedly made in-house, which they've been able to price down to under $10,000. That's almost half the price of the next most affordable perpetual calendar.
Classic Three-Handed Watch
A timeless design, the three-hander is definitely making a comeback. That's right, watches that indicate only the hours, minutes, and seconds can be really exciting when they're well made, and we saw some great executions this week.
Coming all the way from Japan is Seiko's new Spring Drive 8 Day Power Reserve. Costing $55,000, you might be wondering why someone would pay that much for a classic dress watch. It's a special piece, with an absolutely stunning artisanal dial created by Seiko's Micro Artist Studio, and a long-lasting manufacture movement.
The German-made Senator Excellence by Glashütte Original, is another very attractive option under $10,000 (official pricing is €8,500). It too features a very interesting, single-barrel in-house movement capable of powering the watch for 100 hours.
And because Baselworld would not exist without the Swiss, we feel compelled to share the new Longines Railroad. Inspired by "railroad grade" pocket watches, it shows the time in a 24-hour format that's intuitive to use and pretty to look at. It's still a tool watch, but the dauphine hands and polished case add an elegant touch.
1/11 – Watch expert Josh Sims uncovers how metiers d'arts are dominating the luxury watch industry