Professional Jeweler Archive: Tech Choices Are Tops at Basel

June 2004

Timepieces/News


Tech Choices Are Tops at Basel

More color and unusual dial shapes also in store for 2004


Retailers were in a good mood at this year’s BaselWorld, where they gather annually to peruse the watches that will grace their showcases later this year. Those who made the trip arrived on the heels of a stronger quarter than most have experienced in several years and healthy Swiss watch exports for the first three months of 2004.

Stylistic trends primarily echoed last year’s. But retailers with technically minded customers found more diverse choices than in 2003. Inventive dial displays, numerous high-tech touches and genuine breakthroughs garnered attention amid still-hot diamond bezels, large cases and colorful straps.

Tech Touches

For retailers with watch-enthusiast customers, there’s a marked increase in tourbillons, minute repeaters, retrograde displays and genuinely new movements. Of the latter, Frederique Constant showed its new FC 910 hand-wound movement, used in its Heartbeat open-dial models. Revue Thommen continues to use in-house movements as it expands manufacturing – five reissued calibers are part of its production and account for 30% of its finished watches this year. Jacques Etoile debuted a new automatic movement from a new Swiss movement company, STT.

At the luxury end, Glashütte Original, Blancpain, Patek Philippe, Harry Winston and Chopard added models with new company-made movements. Bulgari and Zenith introduced their first in-house tourbillons, while many other brands added tourbillons to their lineups. Movado showed a one-only model with a tourbillon in its Museum line. New or exclusive tourbillons are available also from Gerard Charles, Jorg Hysek (double-tourbillon watch), De Bethune and U.S.-based RGM.

Several independent watchmakers this year showed multiaxis tourbillons for connoisseurs.

Certain models were the focus of show-wide discussion: TAG-Heuer’s concept movement (photo below), Patek Philippe’s new annual Perpetual calendar and Harry Winston debuts, including the limited-edition platinum Opus 4 dual-faced tourbillon minute repeater (working with Christopher Claret) and Project Z, which uses an aerospace alloy called zantium and is the first automatic chronograph with three retrograde indications.

Wider & Wilder

The case size of watches is now more standardized but still large. The growth spurt of the past few years seems settled near the 40mm diameter mark. However, many brands that made large models exclusively now offer a smaller version. In addition, dials on the larger sizes have given designers a wider palette. Companies showed imaginative dial layouts – even the conservative Rolex brand this year debuted colorful hand and dial highlights on several models.

Large Art Deco-style numerals remain popular but show increased variety among the stretched figures. Many added a power reserve indicator or opened the dial to show the movement from the front, as seen at Frederique Constant. Several companies, including Corum and Concord, offered new skeleton models.

The spate of Deco-inspired looks expanded to include more dials inspired by past decades. Concord reintroduced its Delirium collection, which made headlines in the 1970s as the thinnest watch. Longines, Omega, Revue Thommen, Cyma and Tissot showed heritage-inspired models. Movado’s Museum watch, which debuted an automatic movement last year, is the subject of numerous treatments this year, including a 42mm case, a women’s automatic version and a cushion-cased edition.

Other notable trends:

  • More dive models.
  • Greater customization possibilities. Rodolphe and Movado are starting in-store boutiques with this goal, Sattler offers a kit version of one of its high-end clocks, and many brands now offer easily changed straps, bracelets and bezels.
  • East-West (wide-screen) case orientation.
  • Rubber and sting ray straps, often in colors that accent dials.
  • Eight-day power reserves among many luxury brands.

– by Michael Thompson

Designed for world travelers, the Chopard Dual Tec indicates two times and uses two techniques – one automatic and the other quartz. Both are placed in a large Art Deco-style case. Chopard, New York, City; (212) 218-7218, www.chopard.com.
Corum’s Bubble Skeleton is finished in black PVD and magnified by the sapphire crystal that gives it its name. A transparent case back shows the skeletonized automatic movement. Corum USA, Irvine, CA; (949) 458-4220, www.corum.ch.
The Ambassador Automatic from Swiss Army (standing) is a 41mm day/date model and the Ambassador Manual-Wind is a 45mm strap model with a Unitas movement visible through the sapphire case back. Swiss Army, Shelton, CT; (800) 442-2706, www.swissarmy.com.
Cyma’s 1940s look has been retooled for 2004 as a COSC-certified chronometer made of steel and 18k gold. Cyma, New York City; (212) 695-4270, www.cymawatch.com.
A new movement by TAG Heuer called the Monaco V4 Concept replaces pinions with 13 high-tech polymer belts, said to be more efficient. The rotor is instead a sliding platinum ingot. Production begins next year. TAG Heuer, Springfield, NJ; (800) 321-4832, www.tagheuer.com.
H. Stern’s colorful new Sfera Temptations models are available with emeralds, rubies, sapphires or black or white diamonds. Options include crocodile or rubber straps. H. Stern, New York City; (212) 655-3930, www.hstern.net.
Hamilton’s new Khaki Navy GMT features a screw-down crown at 2 o’clock to operate the setting of the first and second time zones plus winding. A second crown at 4 o’clock activates an internal rotating bezel. The third crown locates the city required for checking Greenwich Mean Time. Hamilton, Weehawken, NJ; (201) 271-4706, www.hamiltonwatch.com.
Aquanautic, a Swiss company new to the U.S., offers choices of diamond bezels the user can change at home. The user also can change straps, and diamond cage “masks” are available. Aquanautic, TimeCentral, Austin, TX; (512) 499-0123, www.aquanautic.com.
Frederique Constant joins the rarefied ranks of manufacturers with a fully in-house movement, the mechanical FC-910, in its signature Heartbeat model. Frederique Constant, Boca Raton, FL; (561) 241-3509, www.frederiqueconstant.com.
The Fendi Secret, with white interchangeable strap and full diamond dial, features a sliding cover that allows the user to choose which dial to divulge. A dual time model is available. Fendi, Spring Lake, NJ; (732) 282-0300.
Revue Thommen reissues the Sport 50s with original GT-55 movement, which the company makes in-house. Revue Thommen, Exclusive Time, Flemington, NJ; (908) 788-0029, www.revue-thommen.ch.
Maurice Lacroix’s Masterpiece Retrograde Tonneau places an easily changed date and day mechanism inside its customized version of the classic case shape. An unusual feature allows the user to move the hands in either direction with no damage to the movement. Maurice Lacroix, Encino, CA; (800) 794-7736, www.mauricelacroixusa.com.

Copyright © 2004 by Bond Communications