Baselworld 2014: Trends to watch

Posted online: Sunday, Apr 13, 2014 at 0000 hrs
The best place to tell time, which means checking out the latest in watches, is Basel in Switzerland, where each year, the annual Baselworld expo, the biggest and most prestigious in the horological world, showcases the latest in wristwear and technology, as well as indicates trends and emerging fashions. Baselworld 2014 has just ended and given us some idea of what to expect by way of technology and related trends. Smartphones, tablets, iPads and wearable gadgets may have made us less dependent on wristwatches to check what time it is, but that does not mean that watches are going out of fashion. Indeed, unlike clothes, watch trends do not appear and disappear over a season. Baselworld 2014 did, however, offer some clues on the types of timepieces that will be fashionable over the coming months.

One of the most discernible trends was the retro look, a throwback to watches we wore in the swinging sixties. Omega, a recognised trend-setter, displayed its new Speedmaster Mark II, a sportier version of the one originally introduced in 1969, with trendy orange accents. Its close rival, Rolex, went for class with a classic dress watch, the redesigned Cellini now featuring a Date and Dual Time. Rolex also covered a broader base with Tudor, the company’s more affordable subsidiary, bringing out the Heritage Ranger based on a design from the sixties. There was also Ulysse Nardin’s new Black Sea with flashes of green on the numerals and hands. The real retro look was won by TAG Heuer, which has come out with the asymmetrically-cased Carrera Calibre 1887 Jack Heuer Edition, designed and named to honour its founder.

Apart from throwbacks, easily the biggest trend at Baselworld 2014 was chronographs. Every watchmaker produces chronographs, but this year, they ruled the show. Breitling is one of the greatest chronograph-makers, and its new Calibre B06, made for Bentley, comes with a novel 30-second chronograph—the central seconds hand makes a full round of the dial in 30 seconds. TAG Heuer and Rolex were both big on chronographs at this year’s fair, but even designer watches were going with the trend. British luxury brand Burberry unveiled its first mechanical chronograph, using material the brand pioneered—Trench Gold, crafted to evoke the colour of Burberry’s famous trench coat design. This is a collector’s item since only 50 timepieces will be made. Hermes brought out the Dressage Manufacture Chronograph, while Lacroix’s Pontos Chronographe was quite stunning, as was Chanel’s masculine-looking J12 Matte Black Superleggera. Bell & Ross are mainly chronograph-makers, but this year, they produced a limited edition to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Falcon business jet. The one to watch, quite literally, was Patek Philippe’s new-generation Nautilus chronograph. It has a travel time function, enabling the wearer to see the time in two different time zones at once.

As for technology, the clear trend was titanium. It was the metal of choice for most watchmakers. It was visible on expanded ranges for existing titanium watch lines like Raymond Weil’s three new dark-faced versions of its Nabucco Rivoluzione II line. Burberry Britain Dual Time also used titanium on the case, making it super-light, as was the Victorinox Dive Master 500 Titanium Limited Edition. Titanium is a watchmaker’s dream, being both ultra-light and one of the hardest metals around. Chopard’s Monaco Historique Collection 2014 combined all the trends, gorgeous retro looks, a chronograph and encased in titanium.

The star of the show was an unlikely brand: Tissot, the entry-level brand of the Swatch Group. It unveiled a collection that had elements of glamorous, sport, tradition and technology, with mechanical, quartz and solar-powered watches. The collection included the T-Race MotoGP Automatic Chronograph Limited Edition 2014. The composition of the dial gives it the aspect of a chequered flag that marks the start of the race with starting grids on the indices of the counters and around the minute track. It comes in a helmet box that is just as sophisticated as the watch. Then there is the famed T-Complication chronometer, which won the Grand Prix de Chronometrie last December. It attests to the exceptional and extremely precise mechanical movements Tissot produces. Finally, in time for the World Cup in Brazil, Tissot introduced the Quickster Football, a movement specifically designed to time football matches, with half-times and overtime. Its wearer will be able to really get involved in the match as a spectator and as timekeeper.