After Xavier’s and Frank’s Top 10 watches of Baselworld 2017, after our list of the 10 most read articles of the fair (just to give us an indication of what collectors loved), it is time for your humble editor to come with his 10 favorite watches of Baselworld 2017. First all, before going into further details, this ranking is not about the 10 best watches of the show but it is based on my personal tastes – and as collecting dive and sports watches myself, you’ll see it is a little biased. From a super-friendly priced Oris to a complex Patek, here are my 10 favorite watches of 2017 (and yes, all of them are on my wish-list).
First of all, without going again into the details of the atmosphere at Baselworld 2017, you’ll see that our selections, whether Xavier’s, Frank’s or mine, are slightly overlapping. In this, you can see two explanations. First, as Frank and I tried to build up a homogeneous team, these selections reflect a certain coherence, added to the fact that the watches you can see in our selections are obviously no-brainers. They are all extremely good offers. Secondly, it can also reflect the difficulty for us to choose, showing how narrow the offer at Baselworld 2017 was.
The industry is in a crisis, not only in terms of sales, but maybe also in terms of identity. Innovation: not much. Risks: zero. Brands are using known codes, by introducing evolutions on existing collections rather than renewing. They also play a lot on vintage. Heritage has been a main trend… for over 10 years already! It might be time for something different. Creativity, adaptability to new selling channels and to new contact channels with collectors or regular clients, innovation… These 3 topics will be salvation for the industry. Otherwise, we might reach the point of no-return. But enough complaints, Baselworld 2017 was not that bad and there were some watches that, on a personal basis, I’d love to (and for some, I will) own. Ps. this Top 10 is in alphabetical order.
Armin Strom Watch Configurator
This is some real fresh air. A proper innovative way to create and sell watches. Finally, someone here dared to do what the car industry has done for the past 20 years: a configurator. The idea of the cosy but rather austere watch shop is dying. The idea of choosing a watch in a display without being able to make it accordingly to our personality is so 1990s. For luxury items, uniqueness and customization are now key. Luxury is now accessible even to us, mere mortals. Because of that, high-end (in opposition to luxury) has to offer more. And that’s were Armin Strom makes a huge step: Imagine / Choose / Create.
The idea of the Armin Strom Watch Configurator is simple: a dedicated website allows to configure every aspect of the watch, and not just the color of the dial and of the strap. Model of watch, movement type, case shape, case material, case coating, bridges and mainplate coating (with 7 possible colors), shape of the gear train, coating of the barrels and wheels, material and color of the dial, color of the hands, personalized engravings, strap leathers and stitchings… And this configurator will be available at retailers, for those who need a “touch and feel” experience. The best: you can do a one-off watch, for the same retail price as a regular model of the collection. That’s the strength of a real integrated brand. More details here: configurator.arminstrom.com. And see our video here about this great achievement.
Bell & Ross BR03-92 Diver
When, prior to Baselworld, I received the news of a Bell & Ross dive watch with a square case, I was highly skeptical (to say the least). Because of the ISO standards behind the name “dive watch”, creativity and originality in this field of watchmaking is low, very low. This is why most dive watches are round and with the same kind of dials. Yet, when I had my hands on the Bell & Ross BR03-92 Diver during Baselworld 2017, I immediately changed my mind. Yes, a square dive watch works, and it works very well.
Bell & Ross achieved to combine the iconic instrument-like square case with the indispensable 60-minute rotatable bezel of a dive watch. It is toolish, it is different, it talks to me because it is a real diver (300m, all the ISO6425 features, a nice contrast between the hands, the markers and the dial) and it has that B&R flair that, as a Frenchie, I kind of love. More details here.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic
And another record-breaking watch from Bulgari… After the thinnest tourbillon movement (1.95mm) and the thinnest minute repeater (3.12mm for the movement, 6.85mm for the watch), Bulgari now comes on the market with the thinnest automatic movement available, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic. With the help of a micro-rotor (of course, as a centrally-mounted rotor will irremediably increase the thickness), the brand achieved (in-house) to make a movement measuring 2.23mm thick. the previous record, without considering possible prototypes, was Piaget and the 2.35 mm calibre 1208P.
Besides the achievement, my love for this watch is more about the design, the overall thinness (5.15mm) combined with a bold and unique shape. The fully sandblasted titanium case, combined to a titanium bracelet or a leather strap, the dial in that same finish, the slight twist of the 7 o’clock positioned small second, the Avantgarde look with striking shapes. This watch is nothing existing on the market and is simply stunning. More details on www.bulgari.com.
Frédérique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture
Figure this in your mind: in-house, automatic chronograph with flyback function, in an elegant, luxurious watch. What would be the price of such a watch? CHF 10,000 probably. Well, you’d be wrong, as Frederique Constant once again set the bar very high. After having launch on the market the most affordable perpetual calendar, the “accessible luxury” brand now comes with its own vision of the chronograph, and produces the movement in-house. And all of that for a price way below CHF 4,000. Now, it becomes quite interesting.
Like we explained to you in the video here, Frederique Constant respects its usual strategy to offer a lot for a little money – but without a low quality, believe us. The movement is based on the automatic calibre of the brand, on top of which a simplified but efficient chronograph module is attached (with star-shaped wheel to control the chronograph operations, an innovative clutch system and flyback function). The watch is also introducing a new design for the brand, more modern but still very elegant on the wrist. One of the best value for money offers of Baselworld 2017. More details here.
Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Railmaster Master Chronometer
As we told you in our “first look” article, Omega goes back to its roots with this watch, which I dare to call “The Essence of Omega”. As nice the 1957 Trilogy Reedition can be (well, I can’t help myself…), this new Seamaster Aqua Terra Railmaster simply is hyper-coherent and offers so much for the money. In the tradition of the Railmaster, the watch is antimagnetic… but not with a faraday cage, but because it features one of the greatest standard movement of the current production, the 15,000 Gauss Master Chronometer.
In addition to that, there’s the look. A tool-like steel case, fully brushed, with iconic lyre-lugs, a nice steel bracelet (or cool fabric strap) and a dial to die for. It is steel, it is vertically brushed, it features signature pointy indexes, it has some faux-patina but it befits the model, it combines with great balance some numerals, a railroad track and a crosshair in the center of the dial. Clearly, one of the coolest Omega watches since a few years, with a very decent price tag of CHF 4,500. www.omegawatches.com.
Oris Aquis Date 43.5mm
I always loved the Oris Aquis. To me, it has always been one of the best combinations of efficiency, cool design and affordability. In terms of accessible automatic dive watch, coming from a brand with pedigree, you can hardly do better. With one little issue though: the hands and the case were not the best ones. Until Baselworld 2017 and the new versions of the Aquis Date, with a 43.5mm case (but which wears reasonable), redesigned and thinner, and new hands and indexes.
It might not be the revolution of the year, but all these updates make the watch even better. More refined, more elegantly shaped but still very tool-oriented, with hands and indexes that now look like they were designed jointly with the rest of the watch. What remains is a superb quality of execution, a ceramic bezel, great diving capacities and a Swiss-Made automatic movement, with a super-well-positioned price of EUR 1,600 (EUR 1,800 on steel bracelet). www.oris.ch.
Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar “Pilot” 5320g
To all, no Patek Philippe is not overrated and yes, they do have an incredible savior-faire, both in terms of mechanics but also in terms of design. And when the old-lady experiences the idea of vintage-inspired, it brings a watch with certainly the most beautiful case of Baselworld 2017. It is thin, it is perfectly proportioned, it is elegant and those lugs, with 3 steps, are just stunning (and they are a nightmare for polishers). The Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar “Pilot” 5320g has a charm and an elegance that few could have design.
For this watch, PP also plays on vintage with a dial inspired by antique pilot watches of the brand (they made a few, not much). Arabic numerals, applied and filled with luminous paint, syringe hands and creamy color, all of that mixed with usual haute-horlogerie features of the manufacture, as the 5320g has a perpetual calendar (with an also vintage and very Patek-like display). If only… patek.com.
Rolex Daytona Ceramic Bezel / Yellow Gold / OysterFlex 116518LN
To be honest, I never liked the modern Daytonas. Since the 1989 versions, I lost interest in this model. It changed with the 2016 steel version, which incredibly gained in sex-appeal, thanks to its black ceramic bezel, giving the watch more contrast, less shine and a sort of vintage feel. The final argument to reconcile me with the Daytona came in 2017, with the gold / ceramic version, panda dial and Oysterflex bracelet. Once again, I know I hate the screwed pushers, I don’t like the weird position of the sub-counters, but I can’t help myself.
For Baselworld 2017, the precious versions of the Daytona underwent a small but very convincing facelift – new dial, new bracelet, new bezel – which in the end greatly change the perception of the watch. And the worst… I usually don’t like gold, and especially gold Rolexes. But that 116518LN Yellow gold has so much appeal. The EUR 25,250 price tag is kind of a cold shower though. www.rolex.com.
Seiko Prospex Diver SLA017 Recreation of the 62Mas
If Seiko had to do one vintage reedition, it had to be this one; the iconic 62Mas, the grand-mother of all the Propex dive watches. This watch is amongst legends, as the first professional dive watches of Seiko (and we all know about the pedigree of Seiko in this specific field of action). For Baselworld 2017, the Japanese brand came with a superb recreation of the 62Mas, under the reference SLA017. Few concessions to modernity, a very low limitation and a price tag that some didn’t understand, but overall, a truly desirable edition.
The SLA017 keeps things simple, with a reasonable 39.9mm case, sharing the same utilitarian look as the ancestor. The dial is just cool, so are the hands and the rubber strap. Everything has been faithfully reedited. However, it required EUR 3,800 and only 2,000 pieces will be produced. Meaning that it will certainly be a future collector. www.seikowatches.com.
Tudor Black Bay Steel and Gold 79733N
At first, when seeing the watch on a screen, I said “why????” Why Tudor is making the Black Bay, a rather utilitarian vintage-oriented dive watch, in a steel and gold combination? It just simply doesn’t fit the concept. And then, I strapped it on the wrist and that was over. Yes, the Steel and Gold Tudor Black Bay is simply cool. Yes, the combination works great. Even the date, a feature I was skeptical about, is right its place in this context.
The Tudor Black Bay Steel and Gold 79733N still relies on the traditional (and very well manufactured) 41mm of the model, with a riveted bracelet that fits the whole idea. For this two-tone version, the bezel and the first link of the bracelet are crafted in solid 18k yellow gold, while the crown and the center links of the bracelet are gold capped (not plated), meaning that it even has the good idea to remain accessible, as priced at EUR 4,690 (and even EUR 3,550 on leather). I hate to say it, but I love this new edition. tudorwatch.com.