These two different directions—one toward interconnectedness and the other toward innovation in traditional watchmaking—were also present in the most recent ventures by Breitling. Standing tall with a hotel-like booth and a humongous aquarium at the front, this independent brand has successfully launched the Exospace B55 Connected, a fancy and fully-functional connected watch. At the exhibition, however, Breitling reserved their biggest song and dance for their latest and newest breakthrough, the Superocean Heritage Chronoworks.
The Rolex booth
While the watch looked rather unassuming at a glance, it served as a strong reminder of how dedicated the company is in pursuing the best movement for chronographs. It was also the first creation of the Chronoworks team, founded two years ago under Breitling to tinker with their in-house movements. This kind of message would, to the eyes of a potential client, become another enticing factor to see Breitling as a brand that is still number one for aviation-inspired timepieces.
Alan Shearer, Jérome Boateng, Ricardo Guadalupe and David Trezeguet
Speaking of aviation, Bell & Ross is another equally aspiring contender. Bruno Belamich, co-founder and designer for the brand, has been branching out to other fields in recent years, and has thus taken in more and more references beyond airplane cockpits or jet engines. The supercar theme marked a point of departure for BR’s direction with its new pieces, namely the BR 03-94 AeroGT and the BR 03-92 AeroGT. To take things up a notch, Bell & Ross even shared the specifications of the AeroGT, a re-imagined sports car inspiring those watches.
Those two weren’t the only masterpieces on display, mind you. The brand’s tour de force this year was the BR-X1 Tourbillon Sapphire. With an all-sapphire case, the inner beauty of the timekeeping instrument was completely revealed, literally. It exemplified the maturity of craftsmanship, which the brand had already begun to experiment with since years before, quite notably with the BR 01 Skull Bronze released in 2015, although the trend of bronze watches was still at its infancy at that time.
In a Material World
In 2016, however, bronze shone bright. Tudor, which had been churning out vintage designs for their bestselling Heritage collection, came up with quite an unexpected novelty. The Heritage Black Bay Bronze packed in extra oomph with a bronze case that appears slightly golden under the light. Unlike how Bell & Ross showcased a bronze timepiece the year before, Tudor did not include a “patinated” specimen. Vintage is one thing, but old and transformed is quite another.
From the Swatch group, the sense of material reinvention spruced up the collections of Rado and Omega. Always big on ceramic cases, Rado made a smart exception with the square-ish novelty titled HyperChrome 1616. The silver-toned hardened titanium model looked nothing like Rado’s regular offerings, and it was definitely a sight for sore eyes after countless round timepieces.
Visitors at the Vulcain booth
Omega did many new things, too. From watches with rubber injected into the bezel—as featured in the new Seamaster models—to premiering more and more watches with the newly celebrated Master Chronometer movement, the collections shown remained very much in line with what the brand is known for. There were no big exceptions, and all designs featured round cases only. Then again, the level of detailing only sunk in after observing these pieces for a time—and when it did, it certainly made a strong impression. For instance, how can one not feel awestruck looking at the exquisite interpretation of the rich burgundy and classy Chesterfield sofa that was applied to the leather strap of the platinum Globemaster Annual Calendar limited edition?
Ribbon cutting at Baselworld