Credit: Jean-Daniel Meyer/©Patek Philippe
Baselworld 2018: 5 trends at the world's biggest watch fair
Elizabeth Doerr is the editor-in-chief of online specialist watch magazine Quill & Pad.
With nearly 700 exhibitors and more than 100,000 visitors, Baselworld is by far the world's largest offline platform for introducing new timepieces. Over the next six days, the Swiss city of Basel will play host some to some of the watch industry's most famous brands.
Along with the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Genève, which takes place in Geneva each January, Baselworld is the most important indicator of what's happening in the watchmaking world. Here we take a look at the most notable trends from the 2018 program.
Vintage-inspired timepieces continue to dominate, driven chiefly by brand anniversaries and bestsellers from the past. This appetite for nostalgia may be inspired by the recent strength of the second-hand and vintage watch markets. But the trend may also reflect a decision by watchmakers to tone down their pricing, with recent financial crises demonstrating that expensive innovation can only go so far in keeping a brand afloat.
A great example is the Longines Legend Diver ($2,150-$2,600), which revisits a 1960s diving watch by combining retro style codes and modern technology to offer practicality and beauty.
But this trend does not necessarily mean that brands are sacrificing innovation to appease current tastes. Omega, for instance, has done a wonderful job with its Speedmaster Moonwatch Dark Side of the Moon. Rooted in 1969's Moonwatch, the timepiece was daringly reissued in a ceramic case in 2013, and has since arrived in new colors and executions. Baselworld 2018 sees the launch of another ceramic edition, the Apollo 8 ($9,500), which is the first watch in the series powered by a skeletonized movement.
1/11 – Chopard L.U.C All-in-One
In the same vein, Rolex releases a new version of its classic GMT-Master II, which debuted in 1954 and then reappeared as the "II" edition in 2007. The new design comes with a revamped high-energy automatic movement that improves both accuracy and power reserve. It is now available in a variety of metals (from $9,250) and two different styles of bracelet.
Green is the new blue
Blue dials have grown in popularity over the last two to three years, challenging the staple black and white hues. But while this looks set to continue, we might now be seeing a parallel move toward green dials (prophesied, perhaps, by the Pantone Color Institute naming Arcadia as an It-color for spring 2018, describing its greenish tone as "hinting at retro yet at the same time modern.")
Combining the year's two biggest trends, Breitling's 2018 talking piece, the overly large Navitimer Super 8, is both green-faced and retro-inspired. Other notable examples include Glashütte's Original Sixties, Rado'sTrue Thinline, H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar Purity Cosmic Green.
Connecting with millennials
Attracting millennials is one of the biggest challenges facing the watch industry today -- and smartwatches are proving to be one of the more noticeable ways of capturing their attention.
Hublot dips a toe into the world of connected watches with its Big Bang Referee 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia ($5,170). Targeted at soccer fans, the smartwatch runs on Google's Wear OS and will, among other functions, vibrate every time a goal is scored at this summer's World Cup.
This move is perhaps no surprise, given that Hublot's sister brand TAG Heuer has been in this arena for several years already. The latter is using Baselworld to introduce a new version of its Intel-powered timepiece -- the TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45 Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Special Edition ($1,850) -- to celebrate its latest partnership.
Complexity meets femininity
It's only recently that the high-end luxury watch industry started targeting the female wrist, and this year has seen models of hitherto unseen mechanical complexity. Geneva's Patek Philippe's diamond-encrusted Reference 7150/250R-001 chronograph ($83,900) is a particular stand-out. Coming in a pink gold case, the timepiece oozes vintage charm while remaining technical and wearable.
Meanwhile, Chanel has unveiled a light and airy skeletonized mechanical movement, called Calibre 3, for the latest iteration of its successful Boy.Friend range ($40,600-$51,400). The fashion house's new watch combines Parisian chic with elegant and demanding mechanics.
1/26 – A is for Accuracy
High-complication wristwatches can also be found in abundance at this year's Baselworld. Among them, Zenith introduces its new Defy Zero G ($100,800) and Chopard announces the L.U.C All-in-One ($423,000) with 14 indications on two dials.
But most of the complicated creativity will be found in Baselworld's "Les Ateliers" section, which hosts the independent watchmakers who craft individual timepieces and small limited-edition series (at correspondingly high prices). These wristwatches are often made by industry mavericks using ingenious mechanics -- like the 12-piece Louis Moinet Spacewalker ($189,960), which features the world's first "satellite tourbillon."