In only a few weeks from now, the Fratello Watches team will be visiting Basel for the annual BaselWorld exhibition. Although it is a lot of fun to be there, it is also hard work. A full week of back-to-back appointments with watch brands with the five Fratelli to bring you all the big news from Basel to your screen. From all the exhibitors (last year there were about 1500 of them), we only get to see a fraction of course, but we will make sure to bring you the novelties from the most important ones.
Before we do so, let’s give you a quick run down on what I liked best of BaselWorld 2014 and what I expect to see from these same brands this year.
1. Omega Seamaster 300
Like every year, our first official meeting at 9:00 on the first day of BaselWorld is with Omega. Last year, they had some very interesting releases and it took me quite a while to select one that I like best. I love the Grey Side of the Moon (wfka Lunar Dust) and the new X-33 a lot, but my pick is the Omega Seamaster 300. In order to prevent Omega from dominating the Top 5, I picked only this one. It might sound easy to just grab a watch from the archives/museum and rebuild it up to modern standards, but a lot can go wrong and you can easily do more harm than good. The impressive thing about Omega is that it knows how to please people looking for new watches as well as the (more difficult) people who focus on vintage Omega watches.
The new Seamaster 300 is based on the original Seamaster 300 CK2913 from 1957 and uses a lot of ingredients from that very first model: broad-arrow hands, straight-lug case, creamish hour markers and lume in the hands, and so on. Although some criticized the bracelet’s polished center links, they should remember that the original bracelet of the 1957 also had this feature. You can always wear it on a nice vintage looking strap, of course, or on one of the NATOs Omega is selling as spare straps from now on. The movement is Caliber 8400 with the co-axial escapement and protected to magnetic fields up to 15,000 gauss.
For this coming BaselWorld, I wrote my expectation about a new Speedmaster Professional limited edition here already, but I also guess that there will be a new version of the Seamaster 300. A Seamaster 300 Chronograph. Then, my hopes are that one day Omega will do a re-introduction of the Constellation pie-pan. Not in a ‘Manhattan’ or Constellation’95 style case, but in a more classic shape. But I am pretty sure 2015 is not the year of such a release.
2. Tudor Heritage Black Bay
After just a few years, Tudor seems to have found a prominent place on the list of most popular big brands. Sales are going crazy, and I feel that Tudor, like Omega, is really putting effort into coming up with great products for both fans of modern watches only as well as collectors of vintage watches. Although Rolex is still the brand that most people run to as soon as the doors of Baselworld open, Tudor is just one booth further down the aisle, and gets a lot of attention as well. Well-deserved attention, I might add.
This year, besides the new Ranger collection, Tudor introduced a Heritage Black Bay model with a blue bezel and black dial. The Heritage Black Bay is a combination of historical Tudor Submariners from the period when they were first introduced (1954’s reference 7922) and the later Tudor Submariners from 1969 and onward. For these Heritage Black Bay watches, Tudor combined characteristics, such as the dial and bezel, from the first series with the typical “Snowflake” hands from the second generation (which we covered in this in-depth article). The new Tudor Heritage Black Bay comes on either a stainless steel bracelet or a leather strap, but both come with a blue NATO strap as well. Although I am aware of the fact that this is technically the same watch the brand released a while ago, with the burgundy bezel and patina-ish hour markers, I actually like this one better.
For this year, I expect some more from Tudor actually. Perhaps a new version of a Tudor (Submariner) Big Crown or a spin-off of the Tudor Big Block chronograph.
3. Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000
Remember when Rolex decided to stop the production of the Rolex Sea-Dweller in 2008 and replaced it with the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller? For some, the latter was a welcome novelty with its larger case (43 mm) and tougher appearance, but the Sea-Dweller purists threw up a little in their mouths when they heard that this would be the Sea-Dweller from now on. Although Rolex fans really wanted a new GMT-Master II with a pepsi bezel, which they got (albeit in white gold), it seems that the most welcome surprise was the new Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000. This new model is the true successor of the Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 that was discontinued in 2008.
I am just wondering whether the release of this new Sea-Dweller 4000 is some sort of admittance that Rolex was wrong with the Deepsea Sea-Dweller or that these two models will be in the collection together for the years (decades?) to come. In any case, the Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 is a beautiful divers’ watch that comes very close to perfection, at least according to the responses on our blog and on various social media channels. Some commented that the minute markers on the bezel might be a bit “too much,” but that’s about the only negative comment I’ve seen on this new Sea-Dweller (Reference 116600).
We did an in-depth article on this Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 reference 116600 here.
I am hoping for a stainless steel GMT-Master II with a ‘Pepsi’ or ‘Coke’ bezel but one never knows for sure what they will do. Fingers crossed.
4. Ressence Type 1
This small, independent watch company, founded by Benoit Mintiens of Belgium, introduced this beautiful timepiece in Basel. It is a watch that has basically no hands or crown but still indicates time (of course). It uses rotating disks to indicate hours, minutes, seconds and day, by means of a special module consisting of 18 gears and 28 jewels on top of the base movement. The movement consists of 208 components in total, of which the module with the rotating disks represents 107.
The whole system of displaying time with the rotating disks make the watch appear to be constantly in motion and changing its appearance. You can observe its motion yourself by watching the video on the official Ressence website.
The watch has a very futuristic design, because of the use of disks instead of hands and the lack of a crown. It almost resembles a pebble with an almost cartoonish two-dimensional dial.
Setting and winding the Ressence Type 1 is done by turning the sapphire caseback. Turning the caseback in both directions sets the time.
I am pretty sure Ressence will have something new for us in store this year, probably in the same line as their innovative Type 1 and Type 3 watches. Let’s wait and see!
5. Girard-Perregaux Tri-Axial Tourbillon
I have a weak spot for Girard-Perregaux. Not only because they make incredible nice watches and have a wonderful team of enthusiastic and friendly people, also because the brand remains to be a bit of an understatement watch manufacture. It is probably not what they are after, but I like Girard-Perregaux for creating watches with in-house movements and being able to offer them for – especially nowadays – interesting prices. Then there is the Girard-Perregaux top of the bill collection of watches, created in their atelier especially for high-end and complicated timepieces. Their Tri-Axial Tourbillon is from that special atelier in La Chaux-de-Fonds. (click here for our Girard-Perregaux visit report)
Before I’d seen this Girard-Perregaux Tri-Axial Tourbillon piece, I would have said “meh” to all watches with a tourbillon. Not because I don’t respect the watchmaking craftsmanship or underestimate the complexity of making the tourbillon, but simply because the market is overwhelmed with this type of watch, and they exist mainly to meet the demand for them by the rich and famous, most of whom can barely spell the word “tourbillon” and only want one for the sake of having one. This Girard-Perregaux Tri-Axial Tourbillon is different, though. The tri-axial tourbillon is visible through a large aperture on the dial, which has its own domed sapphire crystal on top of the main one to give enough room for the tourbillon to move. The wonderful, decentralized subdial at 1:30, with a Clous de Paris motif, indicating hours and minutes, and the round power reserve indicator make this watch both an aesthetic masterpiece as well as a technical one.
The use of rose gold for the tourbillon construction, hour and minute hands, GP logo at 11 o’clock, and power reserve indicator all perfectly match the 48-mm rose-gold case of the Girard-Perregaux Tri-Axial Tourbillon. There is a lot to see on this dial, yet it never becomes cluttered. Perhaps the use of the wonderful grain in the dial’s open space secures the serenity of the watch.
The back of the Tri-Axial Tourbillon is just as impressive, though, allowing a view of the famous Three Bridges shaped arrows used for some of the bridges and other parts in the movement. The mirror-polished surfaces and perfect chamfering is all finished by hand, as it should be on a haute horlogerie piece like this. This exceptional finished movement consists of 317 components. Only 10 pieces will be made of the Girard-Perregaux Tri-Axial Tourbillon.
For this year, I hope Girard-Perregaux will being something like they did with their 1966 line-up of watches (see our GP 1966 review here). There is always a demand for beautiful classic watches so I hope they have something in store in that area. Another interesting line-up is their Sea-Hawk of course, although the bit more toned-down Laureato models were a bit more my personal taste. Perhaps a toned-down Sea-Hawk would do the trick for me.
These were my personal top 5 favorites of BaselWorld 2014. Let’s wait and see what BaselWorld 2015 has in store for us. We will be visiting a lot of brands during the week we’re there, from the big (hall 1) brands to the small and independent watchmakers that will show their skills. My personal mission will be to find interesting watches that are still affordable. Where the Swiss watch industry lost a bit of common sense in some cases when it comes down to pricing, there are still a couple of brands that are able to deliver interesting watches at affordable prices. Relatively speaking of course, as most people still need to save up for a decent watch. I came across this cartoon recently, that I would like to share with you: