April 15, 2004
BaselWorld Watch Debuts Combine Tech and Design
As BaselWorld 2004 opens today, visitors will see a more technical group of watch debuts than was hinted by the brands only a month ago. Alongside the expected (and still hot) diamond bezels and colorful straps on the fashionable end of the spectrum, look for wider sources for customers with a yen for high-end mechanical timepieces that include tourbillons, regulators, vintage movements and specially modified limited editions.
For example, brands such as Harry Winston, Hublot and Chopard this year reaffirm their standing as brands with both high fashion and high horology. Chopard does so with its Quattro Regulateur. Hublot also shows a new RZgulateur and Winston displays a new jumping hour model. Patek Philippe will unveil a refined and new movement that powers a new annual calendar.
Remaining at the high end, first-time tourbillons can be seen at Zenith and Daniel Roth. For Zenith, it's the brand's first ever, made in-house and placed into a very contemporary design. Roth combines a musical minute repeater with its tourbillon. Not to be outdone, Jorg Hysek shows a dual tourbillon model, called XX-Ray, which places a high-tech tourbillon into a watch divided into two bezels in a manner akin to many dual-time models. Only 10 will be made.
DeWitt and Gerald Genta show new retrograde models and Blancpain shows a new complication that utilizes two separate minute hands one for current time and the other for solar time. Martin Braun will unveil a watch that displays an elliptical orbit on the dial showing the current location of the earth relative to the sun. The current Zodiac sign will also be displayed on the same watch, called WPS. Look for continued use of tonneau and cushion shapes from many brands, as well as dial and display designs that show a bit more eclectic use of color and motion. Stretched numerals and elongated lugs mark many debuts thus far. Also look for new digital technology to appear on more timepieces than in the past and expect firms to expand their offerings with manual and automatic movements.
While prices are likely to generate concern from U.S. dealers here who must contend with a strong franc and a weak dollar, U.S. watch sales during the first three months in the year were promising, say dealers. This anecdotal evidence is backed by brighter first quarter sales figures from the Swiss Federation and by somewhat optimistic reports from several watch manufacturers.
by Michael Thompson