Baselworld 2014 is a wrap, and if anyone thinks the rising cost of living has slowed the pursuit of life’s little luxuries, you’ll be surprised. This year, the world’s most important showcase of fine watches, jewellery, gemstones and related items drew an impressive 1 500 exhibitors and 150 000 visitors from over 40 countries.
It’s a serious business for Switzerland’s watch industry in particular, which exported products worth 21,8 billion Swiss francs last year and currently employs more than 13 000 people. Here’s our selection of a few eye-catching exhibits from the show, some more significant (and it has to be said, distinctly classier) than others…
Breitling Chronomat 44 Airborne
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of its famous Chronomat, initially developed for the Frecce Tricolori, the Italian air force aerobatics team, Breitling has launched a special series that revives the design and spirit of the original chronograph.
It features a 47-jewel, chronometer- certified automatic movement, a 70-hour power reserve, a sapphire crystal face and water resistance to 500 metres. The back of the case is engraved with the inscription “Edition Spéciale 30e Anniversaire” as well as the silhouette of an Aermacchi, one of the 10 planes ‑ own by the Italian squadron. Chocks away?
Cool factor: * * * *
Tissot T-Touch Expert Solar
Credited with the creation of “tactile” watches back in 1999, Tissot has now come up with the rst tactile watch to be powered by solar energy. The rays of light that strike the dial not only enable the Super-LumiNova hour-markers and hands to glow at night, but they also charge the watch. It comes with a whole bunch of useful functions, including a perpetual calendar, alarm, second time zone, barometer, altimeter, chronograph, logbook, compass, regatta countdown, and a backlight.
Other cool features? Aside from the renewable energy thing (hey, we must all play our part, no matter how small), you get a charge indicator, a scratchproof tactile sapphire crystal face, and water resistance to a depth of 100 metres. You can choose between a rubber strap and a titanium bracelet.
Cool factor: **
Victorinox Swiss Army Dive Master 500
To mark the 25th anniversary of its watchmaking activities, Victorinox Swiss Army is issuing a numbered series of its famous diver’s watch. The exclusive titanium model, issued in a 500-piece limited edition, houses a mechanical automatic chronograph movement and is water-resistant to 500 metres.
To ensure good visibility under water, it features luminescent indications not only on the hands and hour-markers, but also on the chronograph counter rings and in the 20-minute dial zone. The latter is echoed on the bezel bearing original marking, with a luminescent coating that turns blue in the dark. The case is made from Grade 2 titanium, sandblasted matt grey.
You know you want one.
Cool factor: ***
Omega Speedmaster Professional Apollo 11 45th Anniversary Limited Edition
In July 1969, Nasa astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the surface of a celestial body (don’t be silly… we’re talking about the Moon here). The feat has been described as one of mankind’s crowning technological achievements – and Omega was literally on hand at this historic occasion, in the form of a Speedmaster Professional chronograph worn by Aldrin (we’re told that Armstrong left his own Speedmaster aboard the Lunar Landing Module as a backup to the electronic timekeeping system).
Now meet the Omega Speedmaster Professional Apollo 11 45th Anniversary Limited Edition wristwatch, which commemorates that momentous achievement. You get a scratch resistant sapphire crystal, a 42 mm titanium case with a touch of gold, a black dial with 30-minute and 12-hour recorders, and a small seconds sub-dial.
The indexes and hour, minute, seconds and sub-dial hands are crafted from 18-carat red gold and the central chronograph hand is red gold-plated. The watch comes in a limited edition of 1 969 pieces. It’s water resistant to 50 metres.
Cool factor: ****
Tag Heuer Carrera Calibre 17 Chronograph Jack Heuer birthday
Okay, so the name is a mouthful, but there’s something awfully compelling about a time-piece with these solid credentials. Jack Heuer, one of the pioneers of sports timing, developed a chronograph specifically for professional racing drivers, and apparently he knew precisely what he wanted – a large, easy-to-read dial and a water-resistant case that would stand up to the knocks of motor racing.
As the story goes, the inspiration was right before his eyes: the legendary road race of the 1950s called Carrera Panamericana, in which drivers would compete over five days and 3 200 km across Mexico. Now that the Carrera is a legend of its own, TAG Heuer is launching a limited series – inspired by the original model – in celebration of Jack Heuer’s 81st birthday.
It comes with a 37-jewel automatic movement in a steel case and features include an anthracite dial, sapphire crystal and tachymeter, and indications for hours, minutes, seconds and date.
Cool factor: ****
Rebellion T-1000 Gotham
Like a modern-day superhero with the requisite attitude, the T-1000 Gotham brings an air of rebellion to town. As it creators tell us, this limited-edition watch has an “adrenaline-packed” case enclosing a three-dimensional mechanical movement (er… is there any other kind?). They call it an out-and-out war machine, citing a record-setting power reserve of 40 days.
The manufacturer continues: “All muscle and power, the hours and minutes file past on two vertical rollers in a scene that would not be out of place in one of America’s biggest blockbusters.” Titanic, maybe? Or possibly Wizard of Oz?
Cool factor: **
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller
Up, up and away
This classically attractive watch, designed for global travellers, offers such useful functions as dual time zones, an annual calendar that automatically differentiates between 30- and 31-day months, and a simplified interface to set the watch’s functions via a rotatable bezel.
Although it’s certainly multifunctional, there’s no complexity for complexity’s sake: changing the time for a new time zone is easy, thanks to the independently adjustable hour hand, and the annual calendar need be adjusted only once a year.
Travellers can read the reference time via a rotating off-centre disc visible on the dial, its display allowing them to clearly distinguish daytime hours from night-time hours in the distant time zone, so at any moment and in any location, they’ll know if it is an appropriate time to contact someone on the other side of the world (this feature alone could have saved me several embarrassing conversations).
And, of course, it’s a Rolex.
Cool factor: *****