x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Even the latest luxury watches are timeless

The 40th anniversary of the watch and jewellery show Baselworld featured a love affair with all things vintage and retro. Here are six of the best.

Bell & Ross WWI Heure Sautante. Courtesy Bell & Ross
Bell & Ross WWI Heure Sautante. Courtesy Bell & Ross

Each spring, over 100,000 industry professionals descend upon the sleepy Swiss city of Basel for the Baselworld watch and jewellery fair - an eight-day jamboree of luxury goods on an epic scale, set in a city of gleaming multi-storey exhibition stands with industry titans Rolex and Patek Philippe serving as towering gate guards.

This year's edition of Baselworld, celebrating its 40th anniversary, was marked by a distinct air of optimism. For despite the economic downturn, the Swiss watch industry is in ruder health than ever, with 2011 exports up 19.2 per cent to nearly CHF 19.3 billion - a state of affairs reflected by the watches themselves.

The trend for simple, pared-down pieces that so characterised 2009 and 2010 has yielded to more daring functionality (worldtimers are rife this year), technical innovation (high-tech case materials as well as new interpretations of the inner mechanics) and design (both colour and dial layout), as well as an unflagging love affair with all things vintage and retro. Here's six of the best in show.

 

1. Breitling Transocean Chronograph Unitime

This 'universal time' watch from the popular aviator brand harks back to the golden age of air travel. Developed and produced entirely in-house at Breitling, the worldtimer function allows you to instantly tell the time in any of the world's 24 timezones, simply by twiddling the crown.

 

2. Patek Philippe ref. 7140 Ladies First Perpetual Calendar

Switzerland's most revered watchmaker has always paid due attention to the burgeoning female interest in "proper" mechanical watches, avoiding the Swiss habit of merely downsizing men's models and making them pink. This dainty number is arguably the industry's first ever perpetual calendar to be purpose-built for ladies - a remarkable piece whose date only needs correcting in 2100, when we skip a leap year.

 

3. Chanel Première Flying Tourbillon

It's 25 years since Chanel launched its Première, whose shape was inspired by the octagonal geometry of Paris' Place Vendôme and echoed in the N°5 perfume bottle stopper. Reflecting women's growing appreciation for mechanical timepieces, the anniversary piece boasts a flying tourbillon complication - a mesmerizing merry-go-round sat proud of the dial, in the form of a camellia, Mademoiselle Chanel's favourite flower.

 

4. Chopard LUC 8HF

An unusually techy watch from Chopard's vaunted LUC factory, the titanium-cased 8HF is the first watch to house a high-frequency (8Hz or 57,600 vibrations per hour) mechanical movement that has passed the rigorous 'chronometer' precision test, conducted by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).

 

5. Bulgari Serpenti

Immortalised by lifelong Bulgari devotee Elizabeth Taylor, the coiled Serpenti bracelet watch is one of the Roman jeweller's most iconic pieces. This new model in pink gold and black enamel could easily look the part on the wrist of Cleopatra herself.

 

6. Bell & Ross WWI Heure Sautante

A refreshing antidote to the French brand's uncompromising 'Instruments', this jumping-hour watch is a lesson in reserve and elegance. It joins the retro 'WWI' collection, typified by the wire lugs found on early "trench" watches.