Basel, Switzerland — The BaselWorld watch and jewelry fair continues in Basel, Switzerland, with luxury watch designers presenting collections today that suit sport divers, employ titanium to beautiful effect, represent a new level of attention to watch movements, and put an exciting new twist on time.
Dive Watches Thrive
For scuba divers—or anyone who likes the look of a sporty watch with the chops to withstand harsh environments—several new luxury timepieces deserve a good look this year. The 150-year-old brand Vulcain is most famous for two reasons. A surprising number of U.S. presidents have worn the company’s watches, including Eisenhower, Truman, Nixon and Johnson. (A personalized watch has been delivered to President Obama; no word on if he has worn it yet.) And, in 1947, Vulcain invented a mechanical alarm watch that was powerful enough to wake its owner up, and it became known as the “Cricket” for its cadence. This year, Vulcain unveils the Diver X-Treme Automatic sports watch, equipped with a new Cricket movement. The 44-mm watch of titanium with steel, titanium with pink gold, or blackened titanium with steel, has a triple case back that amplifies the cricket alarm, making it audible underwater. Prices start at 7,100 Euros.
Family-run Clerc offered a glimpse of its new line of dive watches late last year, and is now ready to shine a spotlight on them. The Hydroscaph line features a highly complex 50-mm case (composed of 75 parts). Water-resistant to 1,000 meters, the watch has an automatic helium valve, a rotating bezel activated by a secured crown that won’t move out of place while diving, and self-adjusting lugs that allow it to fit snugly over a wet suite or right on the wrist. The timepiece also displays GMT or a second time zone, and is available in a variety of materials such as rose gold, blackened titanium, steel, carbon fiber and diamonds. Prices range from $9,700 to $37,000.
Linde Werdelin has always placed performance first when designing its timepieces, which uniquely consist of a classic sports watch plus a computerized “instrument” that attaches to the watch to display crucial data needed by divers and mountain sportsmen. The base watch is updated this year to form four lines, and our favorite is the SpidoLite. The titanium SpidoLite Skeleton features a case that has been drilled to leave just the minimum of frame required to keep its structure, which complements a skeleton dial and even wide perforations in the strap. Only 44 pieces will be made, each costing $11,280. Attached the “Reef,” or diving instrument, and it becomes a dive computer automatically as soon as it is submerged in a meter of water.
Time for Titanium
Titanium is gaining wide appeal throughout the watch industry, and though it is brittle to machine, it makes for an extremely light-weight watch. Hautlence, which built upon its TV-shaped timepieces last year with the introduction of its first round watches (HLQ), is now offering that new timepiece in all-titanium. It feels like a feather compared to the all-gold version that clocks in at a massive 120 grams of precious metal. The titanium HLQ has a circular date wheel, retrograde minutes, a gray or black dial and straps in poly as well as leather. The starting price is $42,000.
HD3’s most popular model is the Three Minds, a large square watch that features three rotating discs on its dial, one each for hours, minutes and seconds. This year, a fourth circle occupies the dial—a tourbillon. Now, the tourbillon also represents the seconds, while other discs on the open dial display hours, minutes and the power reserve. The blackened titanium watch has light green numbers, and its production will be limited to 33 pieces. The price is 196,000 Swiss francs.
BRM, which captures the sporting style of race cars in its watch designs, is releasing its first hand-crafted movement timepiece—the Bi-Rotor—in all black titanium this year. The rectangular timepiece’s light metal case holds seven sapphire crystal windows that put the movement on display. Among all the dark details are shots of sporty colors that the owner selects, including yellow, orange or red, that are seen as dots on the hands and as small shock absorbers in the movement. For a perfect fit, the watch comes with a tool for adjusting the lugs. The price is $57,000.
Philip Stein incorporates a natural frequency technology in its watches that has won acclaim among wearers (including Oprah) for improving sleep and reducing stress. Now, a new edition of the two time zone watch will be made in titanium for the first time. The masculine timepiece displays distinct dials on top of each other, with the upper dial incorporating chronograph functions and a striking accent of orange. The timepiece will sell for $2,395.
When watch companies are seeking a partner who can create complications, never-before-seen movements, and unthinkable ways to track time on the wrist, they often turn to the Manufacture Christophe Claret, led for the last 20 years by the masterful watch maker of the same name. Finally, a watch will bear the name of Christophe Claret on its dial, rather than behind the scenes of another brand name. This first watch is called DualTow and it houses several inventions including one patented innovation, a single-pusher planetary-gear chronograph with striking mechanism and tourbillon. Hours and minutes are displayed on “belts,” and the owners can choose the color of their background. Only 68 DualTow watches will be made.
The 20-year-old Daniel Roth watch brand is known for housing complicated movements in classically beautiful cases. This year, it presents a high complication in a timepiece that is accessibly priced for the category. The 44-mm Athys V, available in red or white gold with a sapphire case back and open white dial, houses a perpetual calendar and moon phase complication, and its movement is entirely decorated by hand. The refined timepiece will sell for $50,000.
And sister brand Gerald Genta, which is marking its 40th anniversary this year, adds a new, aggressively-priced timepiece to its collection. Available in black or white, with a case option of 39 mm or 42.5 mm, the new Octo Overdrive is a steel timepiece with ceramic bezel that contains such specialized details as a lacquered cloisonné and guilloche dial, onyx cabochon crown, open case back, entirely hand-decorated automatic movement, jumping hours, retrograde minutes and date. All that will sell for $15,000.
Marking another milestone this year is Bulgari, which celebrates its 125th year in business in 2009. As a tribute to its founder, Sotirio Bulgari, the company is dedicating a new line of watches to him. This formal, men’s timepiece features the brand’s manufactured movements and exclusive dial treatments. Among the line’s most complicated models are a platinum tourbillon with perpetual calendar, whose display features double coaxial retrograde hands (limited edition of 30); and an annual calendar with a 225-degree retrograde date, which is limited to 250 pieces in pink gold and 125 in white gold.
The gem watch brand Icelink is well known for the diamonds that decorate its distinctive six-time-zone cases. And this year it enters new territory by innovating the movement inside the watch. In 6Timezone Mechanical, Icelink premiers its first mechanical movement, which is rectangular but uniquely curved to drive the time display on all six dials (five showing hours and minutes, a sixth indicating seconds). Each dial also reveals a day/night indicator, while the seconds zone shows the 50-hour power reserve. The timepiece is made in rose gold, white gold or platinum, with a variety of diamond treatments available. Pricing begins at 78,000 Swiss francs for the rose gold version.
Krieger shifts focus from the inside of its mechanical watches to the top this season. Its Plethora collection of art dials adds a true artist’s vision of beauty to the company’s classic watch lines. Krieger is teaming with a Miami-based artist, who hand-paints eight different dial designs that include a colorful “berries” design to a graphic “lotus” image. Depending on the dial size, pricing begins at $13,000. By complementing the dial with any color combination of watch case, oversized crown, watch strap and diamonds, clients make these timepieces one-of-a-kind creations.
This year Tiret New York unites watch lovers with what is often their other great passion: performance automobiles. Range Rover has tapped Tiret to design a limited edition of its first coupe. The exterior is decked in Tiret’s signature black with green accents, and inside the Tiret touch is seen in the form of diamonds on the dashboard dials, indicator bezels that match those of the timepieces, and a round Tiret chronograph mounted centrally in the car. Available by special order, the Tiret Range Rover will cost 140,000 pounds.
And Vertu, the luxury mobile phone brand whose use of precious metals and gems, limited editions and innovative technology place it in the same spheres as haute horlogerie, is broadening its boundaries both high and low. At the most luxurious level, Vertu’s Signature line of phones sees the addition of white and yellow gold hand sets that are paved with diamonds and incorporate baguette diamonds for keys. The price of the yellow gold edition is $98,000. And a platinum version of the Signature features a .33-carat diamond as its dialpad joystick. It sells for $68,000. More affordable for Vertu is a collection of phone accessories, including a self-charging Bluetooth headset ($730), a USB stick with both regular and mini USB connections ($490), and a sleek pen ($330).