graff princess butterfly

Best of Basel 2016: Top Ten Watches from the world’s Top Watch Fair

It’s hard to pick a top 10 from a fair that launches thousands of wonderful new watches, but here are my picks. The ten watches I wish I owned from 2016 Basel.

Fabergé Lady Compliquée Peacock

The Peacock was introduced last year in a neon blaze of Paraiba tourmalines and tsavorite garnets. This year’s black sapphire and diamond version is in my view the perfect ladies’ luxury watch, with an innovative complicated movement and exceptional jeweling. The caliber was created by Jean-Marc Weidderecht of Swiss firm Agenhor. A jumping retrograde minute function employs the feathers of a peacock to indicate the minutes. They unfurl across the retrograde scale, jumping in unison back to zero when the lead feather reaches 60. The case is platinum and set with 54 diamonds.

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona










The new Daytona was the hit of Basel, with its Cerachrom bezel and Rolex’s proprietary ceramic PVD platinum numerals. The black bezel is reminiscent of the 1965 model (made of Plexiglas). The tachymeter scale differs from previous (now discontinued) models in that the numerals are flush with the markers rather than horizontal. It has a white lacquered dial and black subdials. At 40mm width, it is neither too big for a woman to wear or too small for a man, so in other words, perfect. The movement is the Rolex-made Caliber 4130, precise to within -1/+2 seconds a day, with a 72-hour power reserve.

Patek Philippe World Time Chronograph Ref. 5930

The Ref. 5930 measures only 39.5mm wide, but the dial packs in both chronograph and 24-city world-timer functions, which traditionally take up major space on a dial, with space left over for a beautifully guilloched center. It contains the automatic chronograph Caliber 5960P, with a running seconds hand that doubles as the chronograph seconds hand. The last time Patek combined these functions was in 1940 in a watch that now resides in the company’s private museum collection.

Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon

This radically imaginative dial recreates the deck of a classic racing yacht, with inlaid wood resembling the deck boards, and a blued aluminum minutes hand representing the boom. It sweeps down from the 12 o’clock position across a retrograde scale to indicate minutes. The boom is pulled by strong high-tech fibers that wrap around “rigging screws” and pinions that function like winches on the deck of a racing yacht. The hour is displayed as a jumping hour in a double window. The mechanism is linked to a flying tourbillon escapement. It was designed in collaboration with Christophe Claret.

Bell & Ross BR S Diamond Eagle

Bell & Ross rarely introduces ladies’ watches so this one is a treat. The midnight blue dial is set with seven diamonds assembled to depict the Aquila constellation. The bezel is set with 66 diamonds. The case is satin-polished steel and it is water resistant to 100 meters. The strap is midnight blue alligator.

Hermès Arceau Pocket Promenade de Platon

The Arceau Pocket Promenade de Platon is a collection of three pocket watches inspired by a silk scarf of the same name created for Hermès by artist Annie Faivre. In the scarf, horses are depicted strolling through the Greek gardens of Academus, where Plato is said to have lectured. The hinged front cases on the pocket watches are decorated using the combined metiers d’art of micro-sculpture, miniature painting and grand feu enamel, each depicting a separate scene from the scarf.

Seiko Credor Fugaku Tourbillon

In its 135-year history, which includes a long tradition of creating mechanical movements, Seiko has never made a tourbillon watch, until this year. The new Credor Fugaku contains the new movement for the watch, Caliber 6830, based on the ultra-thin Caliber 68. Seiko says that, at less than 4 mm thick, it is the world’s thinnest tourbillon. The case is 8.8 mm thick. The motif was inspired by the art of Katsushika Hokusai, particularly his “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji,” including the famous painting “The Great Wave of Kanagawa.” The 43-mm case is made of platinum and the bezel is set with 48 blue sapphires totaling 3.22 carats.

Hublot Big Bang Meca-10

Hublot has introduced a dramatic new movement, the manual-wound HUB 1201, with a 10-day power reserve and a machine-like aesthetic inspired by the Meccano game of modular components. The open dial shows the movement’s bridges, gears, pinions and wheels, cut out to resemble the architectural, building-block components used in the toy set. The 223-component movement has two parallel barrels, for a 10-day power reserve. The case is 45 mm wide, with the collection’s signature six screws on the bezel, and the ribbed black rubber strap has a one-click function. The movement was five years in development.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon

Girard-Perregaux celebrates its 225th anniversary this year with several new watches, the star of which is La Esmeralda Tourbillon, based on an archival pocket watch with a chronometer-rated Three Bridges tourbillon movement. The original La Esmeralda, with pivoted detent, tourbillon escapement and three gold bridges, won a gold medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1889. Like its historical predecessor, the new piece has five screws on each bridge, whereas more contemporary three-bridge tourbillons contain only one. Girard-Perregaux’s Tourbillon with Three Bridges caliber is the oldest watch movement still in production, since its overall layout has remained unchanged since its introduction in 1860.

Graff Princess Butterfly

The butterfly is an important motif for Graff, the world’s largest diamond company, and looks especially enchanting in gem-set format. This year it appears on the Princess Butterfly, one of several new secret watches from a brand that knows its way around a jewelry bench. The sculpted wings are outlined with invisibly set baguette gems, with a surface covered in pavé gems, in three versions: sapphires, yellow diamonds or white diamonds. Pressing the upper and lower diamonds together in the center pops the wings open to reveal a dial surrounded by baguette diamonds.