520 brands were showing in Basel in 2019. That's a lot to process. Here are some of the timepieces that stood out for us.
Here’s how the Baselworld hype machine works: There is pre-show buzz about anticipated models. Then there are the pieces that fans and collectors become obsessed with during the fair — you know, fascinating complications or amazing re-releases.
And then there are the watches that still haunt our dreams days, weeks, and even months after the fair. There are many reasons the following timepieces turn us on – some feature sophisticated calibers, while others make innovative use of high tech materials. And others just look elegant and/or interesting. Here are ten of the best of Baselworld.
Alpina Startimer Pilot Automatic
There's a reason that pilot watches are so covetable – with their connection to the romance of aviation, plus giving the wearer extra swagger. But this professional pilot also offers useful functions. Alpina’s Startimer line, introduced in 2011, is mostly equipped with an anti-magnetic case, highly contrasting dials with oversized luminous numerals and luminous hands for instant readability.
Alpina’s most recent introduction is the Startimer Pilot Automatic, which ups the luxe factor of this accessible collection. The rose gold, 44 mm case contrasts nicely with a matte navy dial. The oversized luminous, hand-applied indexes and hands and a date window at 3 o'clock make it instantly recognizable as an aviation watch. The iconic red triangle featured at 12 o'clock, and seconds hand identifies it as an Alpina. As elegant as it looks, it is still handy. The AL-525 automatic movement boasts a 38-hour power reserve and the timepiece is water-resistant up to 10 ATM/ 100m/ 330ft, finished on a black genuine leather strap.
Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1
Green was a big theme at Baselworld 2019. And the Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1 captures this khaki mood perfectly. Inspired by the classic US Air Force MA-1 Flight Jacket, this 42 mm watch comes in khaki ceramic with a dial stenciled that reveals orange luminescent markers and reversible khaki/orange calfskin strap (a tip of the hat to the iconic jacket’s lining).
This limited edition of 999 pieces is powered by the caliber BR-CAL.302
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT
Bulgari continues its winning streak with another beautiful, record-breaking watch. This time the company has produced the world's slimmest self-winding watch. To make this feat even more impressive, it also comes with chronograph and GMT features. Plus, it just plain looks sexy!
Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition
It turns out that reissuing a classic watch involves more than just going back to the vaults. Breitling did an exhausting amount of research to produce the Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition even consulting Breitling collector Fred Mandelbaum to ensure that the bezel had the same number of beads that the 1959 Navitimer had. This chronograph also has the same sized case, all-black dial with tone-on-tone small second, and highly-domed acrylic crystal as the original.
But there are modern touches as well: water resistance has been bumped up to 3 bar (30 meters), and non-radioactive Super-LumiNova has been used on the hour markers.
Carl F. Bucherer Heritage BiCompax Annual
This Baselworld, Carl F. Bucherer impressed with a pair of annual calendar chronographs. Housed in a 41mm case, the Heritage BiCompax Annual takes its inspiration from mid-century models from the Bucherer archives, but the Swiss brand also has a bit of a Germanic feel with its clean dial display and big date display.
There are two versions of the Heritage BiCompax Annual, one in stainless steel with a silver and black panda dial and one in two-tone steel and rose gold with champagne and rose dial. Even though there's a 1950s feel to the design (stylized Arabic numbers, elongated pushers, and lugs, syringe-style hands), the stainless steel has a 21st-century vibe with a textured black rubber strap (the rose gold version comes on a dressy leather strap).
Each variation is limited to 888 pieces, a reference to CFB's founding date of 1888.
Grand Seiko Caliber 9S 20th Anniversary Hi-Beat 36000 Caliber 9S85
Slim is in. And there’s no doubt that the three watches in Grand Seiko’s Caliber 9S 20th Anniversary collection have an elegant silhouette. They are also a carefully crafted tribute to designer Nobuhiro Kosugi’s classic 1998 Caliber 9S model. Our pick from this trio of timepieces is the blue-dialed, stainless steel Hi-Beat 36000 Caliber 9S85.
Grand Seiko's 9S caliber has evolved using new SPRON alloys for the main and balance springs, and the application of MEMS engineering, a technique that allows key components to be manufactured to tolerances as small as one-thousandth of a millimeter. To top that all off, the Hi-Beat 36000 Caliber 9S85's 10 beat movement boasts an accuracy of +5 to –3 seconds a day and a power reserve of 55 hours.
Hublot Classic Fusion Ferrari GT
This year, Hublot has really been exploring and exploding its design codes through its collaborations with tattoo studio Sang Bleu and artist Richard Orlinski. But this year, the brand's partnership with Ferrari stood out. This watch feels like a real fusion between the aerodynamic lines of a fast car and the mind-melting mechanics of Swiss watchmaking — the Classic Fusion Ferrari GT is powered by Hublot’s classic UNICO chronograph caliber.
This year’s models come in Carbon, King Gold, and Titanium versions.
Zenith El Primero A386 Revival
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most famous watch movements ever— the Zenith El Primero. To mark the occasion, the brand brought out a box set of versions of three classic El Primeros, but the case had space for a fourth watch.
The brand, it seems, was saving room for Baselworld and the Zenith El Primero A386 Revival. This timepiece is a recreation of the stainless steel watch that started it all, but this time produced in a trio of precious metals (white, rose, and yellow gold). Collectors take note: Each version is limited to 50 pieces and will be sold individually, not as a three-piece set.
Urwerk UR-T8 Colibri
Folks who love to chronicle their everyday carry action went crazy for this collaboration between avant-grade Swiss watchmakers Urwerk and Italian art knife maker Emmanuel Esposito.
The watch and knife set play with the avian-inspired design. The UR-T8 Colibri (which means hummingbird in Spanish) is decorated with feather-like mother of pearl mosaic inlays. This stainless steel blade folds, thanks to ceramic ball bearings, smoothly. And in a tribute to the timekeeper, it has sapphire glass window to display this mechanism.
Tag Heuer Autavia Isograph
This year at the fair, TAG Heuer focused on the future by reinventing the past. The Carrera Autavia Isograph collection took the design codes of the vintage 1960s chronograph (as well as Heuer automotive and aviation dashboard clocks from the 1920s) and reinvented it as a time and date only timepiece.
And because the TAG part of TAG Heuer stands for Techniques d’Avant Garde, this new Autavia family fast forwards the technology with the COSC-certified Isograph carbon composite (as opposed to silicon or metal) hairspring. There are seven new 42mm references in this collection, but the bronze models are our picks.