As BaselWorld 2014 comes to a close, a few observations:
De Bethune can do no wrong – you wait ages for a five-handed chronograph, and then three come along in a matter of years. First it was Peter Roberts’ classic Grand Complication 5, and now De Bethune’s masterful DB29 and DB28 Maxichronos. The former watch encompasses not only a monopusher-operated chronograph, cleverly recorded on concentric dials, but also (as the name suggests) a 30 second tourbillon. It’s not often that words fail me – as those of you who follow me on Twitter will know – but in this instance, I really am at a loss to describe it adequately. The DB29MT may not be the most attractive of watches (the lugs, in particular, seem to divide opinion), but it is one of the most striking. It manages to capture some of the otherworldliness that was so beautifully expressed in the DB25 IX Maya, but without the b’ak’tun bonkersness.
All the world loves a reissue – from Eberhard & Co’s terrific Tribute to Contograf**, to Omega’s Speedmaster Mark II and Seamaster 300 Master Coaxial, Basel’s visitors appeared to go gaga for the oldies. My Instagram feed was inundated with photos of the new (blue) Tudor Black Bay, as well as newcomer to the Heritage line, the Ranger (the latter being a rather clever reboot of a much-faked, possibly mythical timepiece). To round it all off, TAG Heuer finally released a decent Carrera (seemingly based on the 2447 NST), with a proper 3-6-9 configuration, a “panda” dial, and an almost indecently long 80hr power reserve. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Probably.
Independents have the best ideas – take Ressence, for example; shortly after announcing the staggeringly innovative Type 3, Benoit Mintiens has taken his crownless mechanism and retrofitted it to the Type 1. Or perhaps MB&F, who took a simple table clock and turned it into a Deep Space Nine-inspired Starfleet Machine, complete with mini “laser canons”. Then there is the new Master dive watch from Squale, incorporating the dreaded magnifying cyclops into the dial, rather than tacking it onto the crystal / glass.
The Silicon Age is here (and it’s not what you think) – I had assumed that 2014 would be all about the #smartwatch. However, it appears that these are more likely to be announced at Wearables Conferences, or on Kickstarter, than BaselWorld. Instead, squirrelled away in the Datejust Pearlmaster 34 (giving a watch a cool name really does make it more attractive to potential buyers) is a Syloxi hairspring in silicon with “patented geometry.” I’d like to be able to tell you more, but, this being Rolex, no information at all is available on their website. Instead, I’ll have to point you to Quill and Pad, where Liz Doerr has a bit more information. This does highlight one, immeasurable downside of not visiting BaselWorld – it’s all well and good being able to see photos of the watches and read the press releases remotely, but it cannot replace actually talking to the manufactures.
There may be such a thing as too many watch ‘bloggers – I’m probably just getting old, but it appears that *everybody* went to Basel, armed with a catchy URL and a smartphone. At times, I was reminded of the Sisters of Mercy’s compilation. Luckily, Quill and Pad were the perfect antidote, arriving shod in matching Converse, and a wonderfully irreverent round-up.
Oh. And before I go, congratulations to Revolution – excellent first UK Edition.
Your friendly, neighbourhood #watchnerd.
**One of my favourite watches of BaselWorld 2014, riffing on the Eberhard & Co chronographs from the 60s, including an incredibly anachronistic red ’50’ tachy marker. I also liked the Grönefeld Parallax and the H Moser & Cie Venturer.