Tidlrs Live Luxury Editorial Journal Baselworld 2019 4
By Celine Simon | 05 April 2019

A Recap of Baselworld 2019’s Biggest Trends, Most Talked About Watches, And The Future

For five days in March, the Messeplatz exhibition space in Basel, Switzerland hosted Baselworld, the watch industry’s biggest annual fair. While there was plenty of trepidation leading up to this year’s edition following Swatch Group’s surprising announcement that it would be pulling its dozen or so famous watch brands from the show, the fair’s management kept calm and carried on—albeit on a much smaller scale.

In fact, the loss of Baselworld anchor brands like Omega, Longines, Blancpain, Breguet, and Tissot, is a continuation of the mass exodus of participants the show has witnessed over recent years. Baselworld 2019 had just over 500 exhibitors, which pales in comparison to the 2,000 companies that participated less than a decade ago.

Despite the slowdown, Baselworld is still ticking along thanks in large part to the loyalty of top brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, and LVMH. What’s more, with so many absentees, smaller brands and independent watchmakers benefitted from more attention from both visitors and the media. So with that, here is our recap of Baselworld 2019’s biggest trends and most talked about watch releases.

**All images featured are copyright & courtesy of the respective brands**

Tidlrs Live Luxury Editorial Journal Baselworld 2019 1

A Bevy of Bejeweled Beauties

Gem-set watches, particularly those with colorful precious stones, have been trending in recent years. Once exclusive to a niche portion of the market, dazzling diamond watches and vibrant jewelry timepieces are now going mainstream. And for 2019, we were treated to a whole host of opulent watches that sparkled with blankets of gems.

Graff, the house of extraordinary diamonds, unveiled an entire collection of new high jewelry watches including the incredible Oval Fancy Vivid Yellow diamond watch. Those familiar with diamonds understand that the hardest to find are vivid yellow ones; simply sourcing the 59 carats used on this one-of-a-kind Graff timepiece took years.

Rather than sticking to just one color, both Rolex and Hublot rode the rainbow wave again this year. Rolex presented a new diamond pavé Day-Date watch in white gold featuring ten rainbow-colored baguette-cut sapphire hour markers. Hublot offered up an even bigger kaleidoscope of colors with the new rose gold Big Bang One Click Rainbow with 48 baguette-cut colored gemstones on the bezel and 307 colored gemstones on the dial.

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Tidlrs Live Luxury Editorial Journal Baselworld 2019 23

MB&F delighted the watch community this year with the brand’s very first ladies’ watch. Indicative of the independent watchmaker’s creativity, the MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT combined a flying tourbillon mechanism on the dial, a tilted time display disk positioned so that only the wearer can see it, and a generous dash of diamonds on the white gold case and dial.

Bulgari introduced yet another iteration of their snake-inspired watch line with the new Serpenti Seduttori lineup, complete with scales on the bracelets and serpent head-shaped cases. As expected from the Italian house of magnificent jewels, there a wide range of diamond embellished versions to choose from.

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Tidlrs Live Luxury Editorial Journal Baselworld 2019 25

Watches Going Green

Similar to what we saw at SIHH earlier this year, green was a big color trend at Baselworld 2019. Patek Philippe released a green version of the popular Aquanaut sports watch. The white gold case of the Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5168G houses an olive toned dial and is fitted with a matching olive rubber strap.

The Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Adventure watches by Zenith certainly make a statement on the wrist with massive 45 mm bronze cases, grained khaki green dials, and oversized onion-style winding crowns. Bronze has been an especially popular material in luxury watchmaking recently, prized for the way it develops a unique patina over time.

Given that green is Rolex’s corporate color, there’s no shortage of Rolex watches with green details in the company’s catalog. A particularly striking version is the new 18k yellow gold Day-Date watch, fitted with a green to black gradient dial, which Rolex calls “Green Ombré.”

Even makers of more affordable luxury watches, such as German watch brand Sinn and Swiss watch brand Oris got in on the green action. The new limited-edition Sinn classic pilot’s watch flaunts a shimmering metallic-green dial that pairs nicely with the steel case and leather bracelet. Oris on the other hand, revealed a version of their popular Aquis Date 39.5 dive watch with a vibrant green dial and bezel configuration.

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Tidlrs Live Luxury Editorial Journal Baselworld 2019 27

The Most Talked About Watches of the Week

Although there was a general sense of brands playing it safe this year with their novelties, there were indeed a handful of new watches that turned heads and inspired plenty of chatter—some good and some not so great. An example of the latter was the Tudor Black Bay P01, based on a 1960’s prototype made for the US Navy. Since the watch never made it past the prototype stage over five decades ago, many onlookers were left wondering why Tudor decided to make the quirky looking watch today.

Conversely, a new Bulgari chronograph received a healthy dose of attention for all the right reasons. Bulgari broke yet another record this year in the slim watch arena with the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT, which is now the world’s thinnest automatic chronograph measuring a mere 6.9 mm thick. Donning full titanium construction from case to dial to bracelet, the modern style of the Bulgari Octo chronograph is a sleek and contemporary take on luxury watch design.

Fans of vintage Breitling watches highly appreciated the release of the Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition at Baselworld this year. The watch is not just inspired by an important reference from Breitling’s archives but rather, it is an almost identical version (except for a few modern touches including an improved movement, boosted water resistance, and enhanced luminescence) of the vintage Navi 806 made 60 years ago.

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Tidlrs Live Luxury Editorial Journal Baselworld 2019 28

Patek Philippe also intrigued the Baselworld crowd with the new Calatrava Weekly Calendar watch. As its name implies, this Patek Philippe timepiece displays a weekly calendar—along with the time, date, month, and day—on the dial. Not only is this an uncommon function in modern luxury watches, but the timepiece is also made in stainless steel instead of the precious metals characteristic to Patek Philippe Calatrava collection. Adding to the watch’s interesting design is the font on the face, based on the watch designer’s very own handwriting.

A perennial fan favorite, the exterior design of the iconic monochromatic ceramic Chanel J12 did not undergo any drastic changes, but what happened inside the case is a whole different story. The famous fashion label recently purchased a 20% stake in the Kenissi movement manufacture; as a result, the new Chanel J12 watches are now equipped with Kenissi-made Caliber 12.1 automatic movements with improved performance and functionality. In-house made movements carry a certain cachet within watch collecting circles and this move in an important one for the future of Chanel watchmaking.

Rolex turned kept things relatively quiet this year by relying on some material and movement updates to familiar favorites. But there was the new Yacht-Master 42 that stood out from the 2019 Rolex releases. This particular model is the first Yacht-Master to sport a larger 42 mm case (previously, 40 mm was the biggest offering), the first Yacht-Master in 18k white gold, and the first Yacht-Master to run on Rolex’s newest generation of automatic movements with an amped up 70-hour power reserve. Other details such as the black ceramic bezel, black rubber-clad bracelet, and black dial remained the same.

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The Future of Watch Fairs

It is no secret that the luxury watch world is slow to react to change. As an industry that celebrates tradition and heritage, the big players are often accused of spending too much time playing up the glory days of yesteryear rather than looking to the future. And institutions such as Baselworld and other large-scale watch fairs have certainly been guilty of that.

Just a few short years ago it was simply implausible to question the significance of a behemoth like Baselworld. Yet now, there are more and more insiders asking themselves if an old school trade exhibition is even relevant in today’s market when social media platforms offer access to a global audience at a much faster pace—and often with immediate results.

Baselworld has finally taken steps to change its ways by primarily hiring a new management team. While the team’s focus this year was predominantly on managing expectations and trying to keep the doors open, they promise that next year will be the beginning of a new era for Switzerland’s watch fairs. For instance, SIHH and Baselworld coordinated their 2020 dates so that they will take place right after each other over a two-week period rather than the three-month gap that has traditionally separated them. This means that retailers and press from around the world will only have to travel once to Switzerland to attend both exhibitions.

Aside from that, Baselworld also outlined a strategy to provide better hospitality, communication channels, and value for next year’s exhibitors. If these plans are sufficient to keep the industry interested in Baselworld or if it is simply too little too late, remains to be seen. In the meantime, until we know what the future holds for Baselworld, there are more than enough new high-end watch releases to indulge in right now.

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