The second day of BaselWorld 2015 is ended, and not only have we heard interesting announcements over the last couple of days – Bulgari’s incredible Diagono Magnesium with NFC technology, TAG Heuer‘s smartwatch collaboration with Google and Intel and Zenith‘s new movement for the 150th anniversary, we’ve also seen some handsome pieces at the fair. (Don’t miss our sneak peek, day 1 and day 3 coverage!)
If there’s one word to describe the fair, it would have to be “unexpected”. Most people expected a dreary mood here, but that’s not been so. Even the weather has been largely charming in its mildness. There have been several unexected surprises as well, from the Patek Philippe reference 5524 Calatrava Pilot Travel Time to Raymond Weil’s Nabucco Cello, a watch with a haute horlogerie complication that demonstrates it has the abiliy to create fine watchmaking. Here are the unexpected hits of the year, from our point of view, today.
It’s Corum’s 60th anniversary and the brand has refurbished its iconic Admiral’s Cup collection, which turns 55 this year. Corum brought back a wealth of notable icons for the year, that includes the creative Bubble watch with its domed crystal and the Heritage 1957, based on the 1957 Grand Precis watch of the past. But what caught our eyes immediately was the AC-One 45 Bois Chronograph with a teak wood dial. Teak, which is frequently used in the decking of sailboats, is a great fit for the watersport-inspired series of watches. The steel case has black PVD-coated titanium inlays, and strips of teak wood on the dial give it that nautical experience. The nautical pennants, which are a core feature of the brand, have reverted to their coloured form, and give it a fresh take. The case is hefty, but its style is just perfect.
As a watchmaker, Claret is renowned for his minute repeaters. He’s constantly looking to improve them, however, and this year cooked up the Allegro, a waterproof minute repeater with second time zone function. It was first presented to the press in a water tank, having been left there for some time, and when we tested the exact same model today, it was still functioning well. The minute repeater cannot be activated underwater, however. Using cathedral gongs, Claret managed to generate a rather audible repeater, regulated by a flying governor.
Impressive to say the least, but the real surprise lay in the Aventicum, which was inspired by Marcus Aurelius. Two years ago, during Claret’s sponsorship of the video documentary for the Avenches historical dig, they discovered a bust of Marcus Aurelius, which he’s micro-engraved and scupted out of gold, and placed it within the watch. A domed sapphire, emphasises and protects the figurine, and the time is indicated by two rotating discs on the dial. Emblematic Roman designs are found on the watch, along with chariot-racing details on the case back.
The Project Z9 is a handsome looking piece with a great flyback chronograph and unusually styled chrono counters for totalisers. But the Histoire de Tourbillon 6, the latest iteration of the series, is what blew us away. Within the watch is two separate movements that deliver a timekeeping function along with asecondary purpose, as a chronograph or second time zone display. Because of this, the watch is rather large. But what’s astounding in the piece is the sheer technicality of the watch. A tri-axial tourbillon with three cages that rotate at 45, 75 and 300 seconds provides the timekeeping aspect, while a carrousel delivers the regulation for the second movement in the watch. Animated by four barrels, this is a demonstration of skill in a watch that’s pretty large.
In terms of sex appeal, however, Raymond Weil is probably the winner of the day. A partnership with famed guitar makers Gibson is presented in the nabucco collection. The nabucco Gibson limited edition bears hints of the guitar’s presence, on a black dial with six grooves that represent the strings of the instrument. The emblem of the brand is on the dial at 12 and also on the sapphire caseback. The watch is presented with a case that holds a miniature Gibson guitar and a lucky draw opportunity, for four out of the 200 will receive an actual Les Paul along with the piece. Good luck to the winners. More excitingly, Raymond Weil demonstrated that it was more than capable of fine watchmaking with a one-off nabucco cello, a tourbillon timepiece that is strictly limited and bears hints of the cello, which is also Elie Bernheim’s preferred instrument of performance. Skeletonised and clad in a nabucco titanium case, it’s a sexy beauty. But more of that later.