Baselworld. It may sound like a theme park dedicated to the northwestern Swiss city most famous for hosting Art Basel, but it’s far more exciting than that. At least for people who get giddy over gear trains and leaf-shaped hands.
Yes, Baselworld is where the world’s biggest watch brands launch their new creations every year, with Rolex to Zenith all vying for attention (although it should be noted that Omega, Tissot, Longines and the rest of the Swatch Group quit this time around).
The week-long event is mainly a honeytrap for stockists, potential buyers and rich people looking to add to their overpopulated watch wardrobes. But it’s also for those at home who like looking at pretty things on the internet. Here you’ll find £70,000 solid gold dive watches (thanks, Doxa) and a £620,000 timepiece with an actual rotating planet Earth in the dial (take a bow, Greubel Forsey). Utterly pointless objects that nobody needs but are somehow transfixing nonetheless.
There are also more sensible watches with more sensible (ish) price tags – these are the ones that’ll work with your formal attire for work or casual dress come the weekend. Think classic design and reliable mechanical movements that you’ll only have to sell your car for, not your house. Perfect. These were our favourites at Baselworld 2019.
Tudor Black Bay P01
Yes, nobody requires a watch to be able to descend 200m under water, but it’s reassuring to know it can, in the same way it’s reassuring to know you can overtake anything when driving a supercar. This is even more true of the new Black Bay P01, given that it’s based on a model designed for the U.S. Navy in the 60s. They were real men, and now you can be too.
TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph
TAG Heuer has long been the everyman’s Swiss watch, but, in recent years, collaborations with Cara Delevingne and Cristiano Ronaldo made some do a double-take. This year, however, it’s referencing the best bit about its history: motoring heritage. Forget the Monaco or Carrera, this new Autavia piece is the perfect accessory to a vintage Porsche 911. And if you don’t have one, the watch’s caseback has a steering wheel on it, so you can look at that to remind yourself of what could have been.
Rolex Yacht-Master 42
Black watches are cool. But all-black watches can sometimes look cheap, and you might struggle to tell the time. Thankfully, Rolex know this and have combined the best of both worlds. An all-black bezel, strap and dial meets a white gold case and easy-to-read white hour markers in the new Yacht-Master, which may be the coolest watch Rolex has released in some time.
Zenith El Primero A386 Revival
Watch brands often name their creations like coordinates – that is, long and confusing. Zenith has kept it simple with the new El Primero A386 Revival, which is (surprise) a revival of the El Primero A386, one of the most respected watches in its history. It’s basically an exact replica of the original El Primero chronograph, but rendered in either white, rose or yellow gold and limited to fifty pieces each.
Oris Aquis Clean Ocean
Luxury watches probably aren’t the first thing that come to mind when you think ‘sustainability’. But, Oris has partnered with Pacific Garbage Screening on a watch that highlights the increasing threat of plastic to our world’s oceans. The piece itself is a classic dive watch, with dial and bezel colours reminiscent of the sea; a recycled plastic ‘medallion’ built into the caseback, and a special box made of environmentally friendly algae.
Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959
Here we have another re-make, and just like the Zenith, it’s a very accurate re-edition of an early Breitling from 1959. It’s a watch that Pete “Maverick” Mitchell or Tony Stark’s dad might wear, and the many numbers on its dial allow you to work out the mph of your plane, or your car, or your feet as you walk to Tesco. In other words, it’s probably more intelligent than you.
March L.A.B. Mansart
Scrapping for attention among the big names in Basel are smaller upstarts like March L.A.B., who don’t have the history but are often more interesting. Take the Mansart (named after the French architect), which looks as though it belongs in a black and white film with its sharp lines and dial-within-a-dial. Wear it once and immediately become a whisky drinker.
Nomos Club Sport Neomatik 42
Diving watches are usually obvious things, with chunky cases and loud bezels, if bezels can indeed, be loud. This isn’t Nomos’ way of doing things though – the German brand is all minimal, Bauhaus-inspired design and restrained detailing. True to form then, its new Club Sport is waterproof to 300m, the same as a Rolex Submariner, and still manages to still look dressy. Impressive.
Zodiac Aerospace GMT Chronograph
Here’s a diving watch true to the classic form, although it’s only water resistant to 200m. You can worry about that when you’re wearing it in the bath. Zodiac is known for its aqua-friendly pieces which come in at relatively affordable prices, and this one has a zany blue/grey bezel and contrasting red GMT hand. Funky.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT
If Batman was a watch, this would be it. You can imagine pressing the top right-hand side pusher and a Batarang flying out; push the bottom one and you might hear a sarcastic growl. In reality, it’s the thinnest mechanical chronograph ever made, a record that Bulgari seems to beat with every new release. Wear it and forget about it. Then get angry when you ding it and remember the $17,600 price tag.