Every time the watchmaking world hits a bit of a slump, the market turns to the large groups first and foremost for an answer. And some answers aren’t just that positive. The Swatch Group has consistently reported a relative slowing down of its profits over last year but after the third day of Baselworld 2017, it’s safe to predict a bump up in sales this year, courtesy of the Group’s lower-priced segment.
The level of competition being brought by these individual brands is massively under-appreciated. As you well may know, Swatch Group owns movement maker ETA and has been using it to supply plenty of its subsidiary brands. Many purists argue that having your movements made en masse detracts from the value of a mechanical watch. Put yourself in the shoes however, of perhaps a young person starting work that wants a mechanical watch. A movement by ETA, because it is made for the masses, costs less to produce and maintains some of the best reliability when it comes to servicing. The workhorse movements by ETA become a stepping stone into the (as we definitely know) addictive world of mechanical watches, and something that benefits the luxury watch world in the long term.
Bearing in mind that many of the Swatch Group brands use the same calibre, what differentiates each brand from another is the heritage that they each own as well as a need to have interesting designs. This year, we feel that the brands really put out their A-game to capture a younger audience that is more willing to spend.
Longines Heritage 1945
If you’re keeping up with the news from Baselworld, you’re bound to notice the trend of “heritage” pieces, with many watch brands diving into their archives to re-produce a piece from the past. If there’s one brand you should thank for that, it’d have to be Longines. Its strongest line in our opinion has been its Heritage range for the sheer fact that Longines barely makes changes to the aesthetics of the vintage pieces, choosing rather to just modern-ise them with new materials or an increased case size.
This year, Longines turns its sights on a watch from 1945 that it never actually had in its archives. As chance would have it, a representative of the brand chanced upon an Instagram post by Benjamin Clymer of Hodinkee fame. Seeking permission to borrow the piece, the brand reproduced the same watch with an enlarged case and a new movement, adding a personal touch with the strap that Clymer usually uses.
We’re in love with how simple the watch is, accentuated with the expanse of the brushed copper dial. At 40mm, the watch wears perfectly well on the wrist. It’s precisely this sort of design and willingness to create that makes the fact that it’s powered by an ETA movement completely irrelevant. We can see the piece being a perfectly good way to start getting into the history of the wristwatch.
And we all know what sort of rabbit hole that could lead to.
Mido Baroncelli Heritage
And there’s the word again. Heritage doesn’t play as big a role in this piece, with the term being used for inspiration in this classical piece. We’re considering the Mido Baroncelli Heritage a great value timepiece because of the level of thought that has gone into its design. The dial has a textured finish that contrasts ridiculously subtly with the fine indices but really, it’s the hands that folks should be paying attention to here.
The dauphine hands have two separate finishes for either side of the blade, diamond polish on one side and sandblasted on the other, that lends an air of sophistication that you’re not going to see in any other timepiece at this price level. The Baroncelli Heritage isn’t exactly new of course, but this year’s piece is a refinement from the ones across the years and we’re hoping to see more from Mido across the year.
Rado Ceramica Automatic
We remember seeing the Ceramica last year and feeling a tad bit jealous that it was marketed at women before men but Rado has since quelled our green eyes with this year’s Ceramica. Designed by Konstantin Grcic, the new series of Ceramica has, as Rado put it, “more watch and less bracelet.” The case of the watch has been increased in size to lessen the “accessory” feeling of the Ceramica. Also, the increased case size allows for the automatic movement to be integrated into the piece.
When it comes to design, Rado’s timepieces are a notch above others in its price point. The Ceramica is a great example of how the watch industry need not confine itself to watch designers to create beautiful timepieces. Unfortunately, that willingness to open boundaries for external folk to work on a timepiece will only be found at a sub-$10k level which makes it better for gents looking for something different.
Hamilton ODC X-03
While the ODC X-03 isn’t exactly new (the watch was announced earlier this year), we had to bring it to people’s attention after seeing it today. Hamilton has had a long history in creating timepieces for films (The Martian, Interstellar, Men in Black) but this year’s movie watch is something a little different. Working with Nathan Crowley, a production designer and propmaster, the brand has unveiled a new watch that could easily be featured in the next sci-fi hit.
What you’re looking at is a timepiece with three separate time zones against the backdrop of a 3D-printed Jupiter. The two smaller subdials at 10 o’clock and eight are actually smaller quartz movements that only show the hours, while connected to the large main dial at three o’clock that has the local time with minutes and hours. Hamilton has also engineered an easy way to change the time with one single adjustor that’s hidden at the side of the case.
The time-telling subdials are meant to look like satellites orbiting the planet Jupiter and we’ve to admit that that looks about right. Hamilton is no stranger to using more than one movement in a watch but the ODC X-03 takes the cake for us because of how simple in a sense time-reading becomes when you’re travelling.
Jaquet Droz Petite Heuer Minute Lion
We recently visited Jaquet Droz’s manufacture after SIHH earlier this year and got schooled on exactly how hard miniature painting is so seeing the brand’s latest metiers d’art piece today sent us into a little PTSD phase. Simply put, the man hours that goes into a miniature painting like this (especially since it’s on a grand feu enamel dial) is something not to be taken lightly. The lion was chosen by Jaquet Droz for its representation of virility and strength, a motif that’s different from the usual feminine touch that enameled pieces tend to have.
Breitling Navitimer Rattaprante
The Navitimer from Breitling is a well-loved timepiece for many reasons. Its slide rule bezel is a unique offering that can be identified from metres away and it’s generally a handsome watch. This year, the brand has released an extension to the line in the Navitimer Rattaprante, a split-seconds chronograph that isn’t quite like others. First off, the pusher to activate the second chronograph hand lies on the crown itself, and not on another pusher as with many other split-seconds chronographs.
It’s also a fully in-house made chronograph, finally filling the previously unused B03 calibre designation. We’re loving small design touches like the Breitling logo (a B with the anchor below it) being split when the pusher is activated. We’re thrilled that in addition to the red gold version that you’ve probably seen on other sites, Breitling will offer the new Navitimer Rattaprante in stainless steel with a full bracelet as a variant. The steel version is almost a third of the price of the red gold one – making it more accessible to the younger collectors looking to bridge into a split-seconds chrono.