Keeping with the times at Baselworld 2014

The 20 men's watches displayed at Baselworld 2014 that will stand the test of time.
The Oris Calibre 110. Courtesy: Oris SA
The Oris Calibre 110. Courtesy: Oris SA

This year, a record 150,000 people visited the rather unimaginatively named Baselworld – in Basel, Switzerland – to see several thousand examples of the watch industry’s latest offerings. It is a sign, perhaps, that the industry is in good health, or that men have yet to find a more acceptable way to wear jewellery. Regulars might have been torn by what was on show – a proliferation of updates and tweaks to established models, culminating in a rash of “new-vintage” pieces, which, while now an established trend, continues to result in some of the most unarguably desirable men’s watches around. They also brought with them some of the more obvious retro trends: premium canvas and Milanese straps, painted markers, black dials, tonneau or cushion cases, smaller dials and the like.

And if independent brands have long been years ahead in terms of pioneering new movements and materials, now, more mainstream brands are increasingly quick to adopt these, too: witness, for example, the prevalence of the ceramic bezel, the now widespread use of titanium cases or simply the increased use of in-house movements. Matters of style are becoming more distinctive, too – the watch world might not, thankfully, move as fast as fashion in its turnover of fresh ideas, but, in an industry that typically prefers to play it safe, who might have expected the addition of bold green or slate grey dials to the season’s new colours? Here are 20 of our favourite models for men presented this year.

1. Tudor Heritage Ranger

Rolex’s little-brother brand, Tudor, has, over recent years, stepped out of the shadows and positioned itself as a serious proposition in its own right – rather than a “poor man’s alternative”. The historic company has, admittedly, done this chiefly by reminding us of the classics it has produced over its years. But it works. Now, after the Monte Carlo and Black Bay, comes the Tudor Heritage Ranger. A military-style field watch, this is simplicity itself, with authentic nods to the past through the likes of painted numerals, a domed crystal, pierced lugs and a bracelet sans end links. To up the military quotient, it even comes with a spare canvas strap – in camouflage.

2. Shinola Runwell Chronograph

Fledgling company Shinola is to be congratulated for many things. Based in Detroit, it creates some of the few American-built watches now on the market (Hamilton being the more obvious example); its latest model, a quartz-powered chronograph with retro styling, has, in the Runwell, the best model name out of Baselworld 2014. And, more impressively, Shinola is now giving all of its watches a lifetime guarantee (batteries and straps aside). There are, admittedly, fewer things to go wrong with a quartz movement, but, all the same, this is a manufacturer’s promise that much bigger brands could learn from.

3. Hermès Dressage L’Heure Masquée

At first glance, something is wrong with this new watch: it has no hour hand. Actually, the rather playful design only reveals the hour hand when the button in the crown is pressed, and then hides it behind the minute hand again when the button is released. The dual time reading – in the box at six o’clock – does the same dance in and out of view. For some, the anti-functionality of the patented mechanism would simply prove annoying, but for others it brings a welcome new level of interaction with a watch, and perhaps, in a time-pressed world, encourages us to look at the time less, rather than more.

4. ZENITH EL PRIMERO SYNOPSIS

Zenith’s El Primero is a movement of such prestige, it has often come close to eclipsing its mother brand Zenith – much like, say, Carrera somehow stands apart from Porsche. Aiming perhaps to give in gracefully to this situation, Zenith’s latest watch aims to show it off, with the dial of this otherwise classic gold dress piece opening up its heart for all to see. Well, if you’ve got it, flaunt it.

5. Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph

The first watch to feature Blancpain’s F385 calibre movement – running at 5 hertz rather than the more typical 4hz, and proposed as a new benchmark in chronograph movements – the Bathyscaphe’s push-buttons also reach new heights, or depths, being operable at 300 metres beneath the waves. Stylistically, the steel and ceramic style is exemplary of a growing trend for super-matte, seemingly washed-out colour: it’s out with shiny black and in with chalky grey. The model is available on a canvas strap, too – top-flight watches on semi-disposable straps being another trend of the moment.

6. Oris 110

Oris’s reputation as a maker of value-for-money watches – which it has achieved in part by sourcing parts from other manufacturers – gets an upgrade, 110 years after the company’s launch, with this model, the first from the company (in modern times, at least) with its own in-house movement. In part, this is strategic – movements are increasingly hard to buy from the few major suppliers – but it is also, more straightforwardly, celebratory. Most distinctive is the 110’s non-linear power reserve – the hand on its dial moves faster the less power there is in reserve.

7. Longines Heritage 1935

If, with its unusual, squared cushion-case shape and fluted bezel, there is something appealingly old-fashioned about the latest model in Longines’s Heritage line, that will be because it takes its cues from a watch made specifically for the Czechoslovakian air force during the 1930s. The new model is 1 millimetre larger across – these things matter to some horolophiles – and, with its sharp edges and polished case, might be said to create a new category: the military dress watch.

8. Seiko Grand Seiko 9F

If the elite mechanical watch industry has long sought to relegate quartz to the status of second-class citizen, might the 9F be a sign of a fight back? Priced akin to a mechanical watch, it houses a 9F82 High Precision Quartz technology hailed as being, without tongue in cheek, arguably the finest quartz movement in the world. This is because while the typical mechanical watch may be accurate to +/- 10 seconds over a day, the 9F is accurate to that variation over a year.

9. Casio G-Shock GPW-1000

Those in the watch industry will oft point out how redundant the mechanical watch is for timekeeping given the ubiquity and superior accuracy of the smartphone. G-Shock’s new model, co-designed with Sony, is, some reply, almost providing a little relief for makers of mechanical watches. A first of its kind, the watch synchronises with pulses received from both atomic clock radio signals and the GPS satellite system – a belt-and-braces approach that means it has pinpoint accuracy anywhere on the planet. As for the battery – there is none. The movement is powered by light.

10. Hublot King Power Special One

Hublot is providing the official watch of the forthcoming Fifa World Cup, but this model is made in honour of coach José Mourinho, aka “the special one”. The watch is rather special, too, not least for the use on the bezel of a blue carbon-fibre material – the product of a process developed by Hublot that means colour can be integrated in the fibres when set in a mould and pressurised. Some of the watch’s 330 parts are even “grown” using LIGA X-ray technology, which not only allows the design of parts that could not otherwise be made, but also provides a precision down to the micron.

Published: May 1, 2014 04:00 AM

SHARE

Editor's Picks
NEWSLETTERS
Sign up to:

* Please select one