Baselworld 2016: Where Time Keeps Ticking

 

That luxurious strap, however, found its rival in Hublot’s quintessential elegant watch for men which was produced in collaboration with shoemaker extraordinaire Berluti. The Hublot Classic Fusion Berluti timepieces—both of the models on offer—blazed a new trail for the use of leather as a dial base.

A master of material fusion, Hublot has exercised their incomparable craftsmanship that pioneered so many new creative solutions. Take, for instance, the Big Bang Tutti Frutti Linen. What on earth spurred a watchmaker to ever dream up a watchcase made out of linen? These ladies’ watches are also equipped with a plug-and-pull strap mechanism that allows effortless changing of the watchband. Then, there was also a completely new watch designed in collaboration with tattooist Maxime Buchi from Sang Bleu. The design is simply phenomenal, a geometrically rich masterpiece that, for some, calls to mind the works of the late Gérald Genta.

A beautiful booth showcasing a ladies’ watch

Although Hublot’s major theme this year fell in line with the tenth anniversary of the All Black concept (which has now been replicated by many other brands for their own collections), the pièce de résistance at Baselworld this year was the Big Bang Unico Sapphire timepieces. Conceptually similar to Bell & Ross’ sapphire watch, Hublot’s versions came in two opposing colors: black and white. Each was made thoroughly see-through, down to the strap and the movement elements. To wear one on the hand—as I had the privilege to try—felt magical.

As if all of those were not enough, Hublot ingeniously devised an eye-catching choreography for their watch displays at their booth. The giant LED screen on top played a short clip several times a day, featuring a robot that performed a dance, which the watch displayed below sort of joined in by dipping in and out according to the beat. You may think you can touch the watch, but the mechanism will immediately hide the watch in a split second whenever a sensor detected an object or hand approaching. When other brands were busy polishing their services to exude a finer sense of luxury, Hublot topped that luxe appeal with a little bit of humor and play.

Monsieur de Chanel’s front dial and case-back

Unoriginal Scene

On the second floor of Hall 1, La Montre Hermès, a high-end brand that’s often associated with a sense of play, was rather serious this year with anything tiger-themed. The favorite Slim d’Hermès timepiece remained as the center of attention, but the French maison was paying tribute to the late artisan Robert Dallet, who lent his wonderful drawings and sketches of tigers to the brand’s scarves and, now, watches. Hermès’ insistency on offering pocket watches was rather intriguing, and it might seem to be a point of difference that separates the house from other luxury watchmakers with a non-watchmaking background.
That distinction should not be a reason to take those luxury brands half-heartedly. Case in point: Bulgari. Year after year, they never rest on their laurels, even after breaking the record for the thinnest tourbillon watch back in 2014. The seminal Octo collection just cemented that achievement with yet another incredible feat: the world’s thinnest minute repeater. The Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater is, in fact, really, really thin. And more impressively, it doesn’t look like a “gadget” when worn on the wrist. In short, there was no longer any reason to see Bulgari as a second-class player on the field of horology.

A major surprise that really changed the whole game, however, came from Chanel. Notably strong with their ladies’ watches, the French brand officially announced their first watch dedicated to men. The aptly named Monsieur de Chanel appeared fresh, sporting a unique front dial proposition with a 240-degree retrograde minute and a large hour digit display.

Sparkling decorations at the Citizen booth

The thing is, the Monsieur de Chanel is not just Chanel’s first men’s watch. It’s also the first that embodies the brand’s in-house movement, which was designed by the house and produced by Romain Gauthier, a talented independent watchmaker that is partly owned by Chanel. The watch’s case-back shows off the full glory of this new creation. The DLC-coated Calibre 1 movement oozes strong masculine vibes owing to its black tone and sunburst pattern, and yet one could easily spot the signature marks of Chanel. Released in white and beige gold—the latter is an alloy exclusive to the brand—this men’s watch fetches an astronomical price of at least US$34,500 per piece. Chanel surely seems ready to contend with Switzerland’s finest.

Given the current economic situation, it might appear rather untimely for such luxurious timepieces. Then again, it doesn’t mean that people would love watches any less, especially looking at how attractive and creative the new pieces are. Boy, aren’t we all tempted to splurge a little?

 

PAGE 1 | 2 | 3