Basel, Switzerland — At BaselWorld, the annual gathering of top timepiece manufacturers and their global retailers, the watch models that debut today will compel connoisseurs to shop tomorrow. The introductions displayed on Sunday that show the most potential to attract a crowd are watches with remarkable new dials, limited editions that celebrate a brand’s anniversary, and luxurious cases crafted from titanium.
Maurice Lacroix’s collection consists of two pillars: its Masterpiece series utilizing the brand’s own manufactured movements; and the Pontos series that also incorporates mechanical movements but at more accessible prices. The most exciting addition to the Masterpiece series this year is the Chronograph Squelette, a skeletonized chronograph that will be limited to just 250 pieces. The 45-mm round watch has a somewhat industrial style, with a brushed steel case, blackened gold movement wheels and hand-finished decorative touches to the ML106 movement. The dial is see-through thanks to the use of three sapphire crystals: one for the top, one for the caseback, and one in between to serve as the dial and display the indexes. The price will be $20,000.
Wyler is also creating visual interest by skeletonizing a complicated timepiece. Its new tourbillon, housed in the Code R case that is famous for its shock absorbing internal structure, gets the skeleton treatment and it reveals the otherworldly glow of its silicium and carbon bridges. The timepiece is available in black ceramic for 121,000 Swiss francs, or white gold for 127,000 Swiss francs.
Bell & Ross features a skeleton of a completely different sort. Its popular BR 01 model, recognized for its 46-mm square case, is the foundation for the limited edition Airborne. The timepiece is an anthem to military paratroopers, particularly the U.S. Airborne divisions, whose motto was “Death from Above” and symbolized by a skull displayed on uniforms and fighter planes. The watch’s dial is not only shaped in the outline of a skull, but its face bears the image of one too that appears dark under its crystal in the daytime, and glows green at night. The steel case is blackened with carbon, and it comes on a rubber, leather or synthetic strap. Limited to 500 pieces, the watch will sell for 3,900 Euros.
Ebel is giving the crystal and dial of its 1911 Tekton extra prominence by removing a bezel altogether. In its place, six discreet screws secure the sapphire crystal to the watch case, making its thickness visible from the sides. This sporty chronograph, housed in a 48.5-mm brushed steel case, features a football-shaped rotor visible through its case back (it was dedicated to the Real Madrid team), and it is limited to a production of 500 pieces. It comes on an alligator strap and will sell for $13,900.
How is DeWitt able to improve on the remarkable dial of its complicated new timepiece? By adding a second dial of course. The Repetition Minutes Tourbillon GMT Antipode is equipped with a movement that consists of a tourbillon, a minute repeater and a GMT function that can be viewed on both sides of this timepiece. Simply swivel the case by pushing its lugs to switch your view from the tourbillon side to the GMT. The minute repeater of this titanium and white gold watch can be activated on either side, and its chime will always correspond to local time. There will be 25 watches made, and each will cost $420,000.
Dior, in partnership with engineers at Quinting, developed a new movement (quartz powered for now) that sits vertically inside a case so that it can hide underneath a watch’s bezel. The reason is driven by design. By hiding the movement, Dior is able to create a watch that is completely see-through, from front to back, without a movement to be detected. In the Dior Christal Mysteriuse, a stack of sapphire crystal discs hold decorative elements (such as mother of pearl or diamonds) that rotate individually to reveal hours, minutes, seconds, or day of the month. The watch’s steel case measures 39 mm or 44 mm, and depending on the diamond treatment and other precious decorations, its price will range from $17,000 to $50,000.
Sarcar is tapping the exquisite marquetry skills of artists in Geneva to produce the customized dials of its round timepieces. A tiger dial, for example, appears to be a painted likeness using dozens of different shades, but it is crafted entirely from minute slivers of various woods. The watch also holds two half-carat diamonds on its dial, and is housed in a rose gold case. It sells for $120,000.
Breitling celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2009, and marks the occasion with limited editions of its Navitimer aviation timepieces. A 2,009-piece steel edition features alternating satin-brushed and polished surfaces, a rigid Air Racer bracelet (with maximum perforations), Breitling’s Caliber 26 chronograph movement, and a 60-minute totalizer in the center of the dial. It will sell for $6,840. Additionally, 125 red gold versions will be made, and they will cost $29,340.
It’s been 40 years since Jack Heuer, now honorary chairman of Tag Heuer, designed the Monaco watch, and the square timepiece remains the most recognized timepiece in the collection today. In time for the anniversary this year, Tag Heuer is relaunching the Monaco in an edition that nearly duplicates the archival original. The only differences are its crystal (now made of sapphire crystal instead of Plexiglas), and its movement. The 38-mm steel chronograph is delivered with a Steve McQueen book, and is limited to 1,000 pieces. It will sell for $7,900.
Zenith introduced the first integrated automatic chronograph movement capable of measuring short periods of time with one-tenth of a second accuracy in 1969, and named it El Primero. Today the movement comes in 23 versions, and this workhorse of the Zenith collection marks its 40th birthday with a special anniversary series of watches. All of the dials in this anniversary series bear an off-center strip, which is etched with all of the historical guilloches of the Zenith collections: Grain d’Orge, Clou de Paris, Draughtboard and Grand Clou de Paris.
The extra lightweight metal titanium continues its ascent in the watch-making world this year, and debuts in even more collections. Corum’s nautical watch, Admiral’s Cup, is updated in a new 50-mm titanium case, making it the largest case in this series so far. Previously recognized for its colorful maritime flags serving as indexes around the dial, in this version, all elements are either black or white. The stark contrast makes for a bold watch, which also features a black rubber bezel, dial, pushers and strap. This watch is designed to be worn on the left arm—with chronograph pushers on the left side of the case—as the wearer’s right thumb is the strongest finger to operate the pushers. It is limited to 888 pieces in titanium and sells for $8,500. The watch will also be made in red gold and platinum.
Porsche Design’s Rattrapante Indicator was an instant success when it debuted in 2004, so the company is basing its new Rattrapante Chronograph on the original’s design. The 45-mm watch’s split-second mechanism allows it to measure intermediate times. Its case, titanium coated in black PVD, complements a black bezel, pushers, strap and clasp. A bi-directional rotor is visible through the open case back. Limited to 200 pieces in titanium, it will sell for 19,230 Euros. This watch will also be manufactured in rose gold.
Chronographe Suisse is issuing its first watch in titanium this year. The metal forms the brand’s classic 54-mm tonneau-shaped case, the Mangusta Supermeccanica, which houses a chronograph timepiece. The edition with two counters will sell for $13,000 and the three-counter version will cost $14,500.