Manufacture Royale ADN
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Best of the Indies: 10 treasures from Independent and smaller watch brands

Manufacture Royale ADN

Manufacture Royale ADN

The big brands aren’t the only ones introducing interesting watches in and around Basel during the watch fair. The unique creations of independent watchmakers are the main reason many aficionados make the pilgrimage to Basel every spring. They all have one thing in common: they combine traditional techniques with contemporary design and inventive watchmaking. They are also all about outstanding workmanship, and because they are made in very limited quantities, they are inherently rare, so getting your hands on one is a rare opportunity. Here are 10 timepieces not exhibited in Hall 1.0 at Baselworld 2017.

Romain Jerome Engraved

Romain Jerome Engraved

Romain Jerome Engraved

The Steampunk Auto model from Romain Jerome’s Engraved collection celebrates the industrial revolution. Zeppelins, steamboats, locomotives and submarines are engraved in red gold over the PVD-coated steel case. Notable details include the pistons at the 2, 4, 8 and 10 o’clock positions; hands shaped like the anchors of transatlantic steamships; rough-finished Roman numerals; and a propeller-shaped small seconds wheel.

Christophe Claret X-TREM-1 StingHD

Christophe Claret X-TREM-1 StingHD

Christophe Claret X-TREM-1 StingHD

Christophe Claret has embraced the Memento Mori trend in timepieces with this variation of the X-TREM-l, known for its innovative magnet-driven minute scale. The skull is subtly placed on the carriage of the flying tourbillon. Also, if you breathe on the sapphire crystal, a skull appears. It comes with two straps as well as a bracelet made by StingHD, adorned with a black diamond encrusted skull with ruby eyes. The case is titanium with black PVD.

MB&F Destination Moon

MB&F Destination Moon

MB&F Destination Moon

MB&F is unique in the world of watchmaking for its spaceship meets high-watchmaking aesthetic and its policy of partnering with unique talent. This is the brand’s sixth collaboration with Swiss clock maker L’Epee 1839. Destination Moon is a clock shaped like a rocket, with a vertically structured open-worked movement. Two aluminum disks indicate hours and minutes. The frame is made of stainless steel, with PVD coated landing pods that ground the clock.

Arnold & Son Instrument DSTB

Arnold & Son Instrument DSTB

Arnold & Son Instrument DSTB

This is a new steel version of the DSTB (Dial Side True Beat), with the true beat mechanism shown on the dial. Seconds are the focus here, and are indicated on a large subdial at 11 o’clock. Hours and minutes are shown on a lacquered dial at 4 o’clock, with a blue dial plate as background. The 43.5mm case is steel and looks bigger than it is.

Greubel Forsey Balancier

Greubel Forsey Balancier

Greubel Forsey Balancier

Greubel Forsey is known for its tourbillons, but the Balancier is a time-only watch with scrupulous finishing and the marque’s signature asymmetrical case. The focus is th large (12.60mm) adjustable balance, made in-house, and place in a diagonally inclined position. The base plate is made of German silver that is scrupulously finished. The words engraved on the caseback – including “exclusive,” “inventive,” “original,” and “architectural” – reflect the company’s mission statement. It is limited to 33 pieces.

MCT Sequential One S110 Evo Vantablack

MCT Sequential One S110 Evo Vantablack

MCT Sequential One S110 Evo Vantablack

Vantablack (Vertically Alligned NanoTube Arrays) is a new wonder material that at least two other brands are using this year. It is composed of carbon nanotubes that trap light, so it has a 99.965% absorption rate. The point? It makes things seem to disappear into an abyss: the skeletonized movement appears to be suspended in space against the vantablack dial plate. The hours are indicated by five prisms in four positions that flip.

Hautlence Labyrinth

Hautlence Labyrinth

Hautlence Labyrinth

To call this a timepiece is a stretch since it doesn’t actually tell time. It is, as its name suggests, a labyrinth, the child’s game of jiggling a ball through a maze. Worn as a wristwatch and set with diamonds, it is more like a bracelet for men. The dial is carved out of gold and the ball is platinum. The case is titanium.

Hautlence Vortex Bronze

Hautlence Vortex Bronze

Hautlence Bronze

Okay, this one tells time. The case is bronze, with a titanium crown, place at the top of the case instead of the side. The three-dimensional sapphire crystal displays the bridge-shaped caliber from both front and back. This is a big watch (52 x 50 x 17.8), with two barrels. Hours are displayed by a 12-link chain, hinged on a pallet system. It is limited to eight pieces.

Manufacture Royale ADN

Manufacture Royale ADN

Manufacture Royale ADN

This is a big watch (46mm) but the hinged horns (composed of more than 67 components) pivot to hug the wrist, which makes it wear much smaller and fit comfortably. The rubber strap also helps with fit. The skeletonized manually wound Caliber MR09 is a flying tourbillon with two time zones, including a jump hour for local time. The case is either steel, steel-DLC and forged carbon or pink gold and forged carbon.

H. Moser & Cie Heritage Perpetual Moon

H. Moser & Cie Heritage Perpetual Moon

Moser & Cie Heritage Perpetual Moon

Normally, a flinqué enamel finish on a timepiece is displayed on the dial or on portions of the dial. H. Moser breaks the rules with this stunning case-side application. Traditional elements include a luscious white grand feu dial, hand-painted Roman numerals, classic moonphase indicator, tubular lugs and lavish swallow-tail hands. This a 30-piece limited edition.

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Best of Baselworld 2017: New Watches From Blancpain, Patek Philippe, Rolex, Bulgari and more

Baselworld 2017 opening day.

New introductions at Baselworld this year tended to fit one of two categories. 1. Trends that reflect the times – and by “times” I mean an industry that is entering its third straight year of decline (see my story on that here) – with watches that are smaller, less complicated and more realistically designed and priced. And 2. Watches that reflect the fact that Baselworld is also about showmanship and haute horology, with high complications (like the Breguet Equation of Time) and metiers masterpieces (like the Dior VIII Grand Bal). Here are my top five men’s and top five ladies’ introductions for Baselworld 2017. Click on each link to find more pictures and detailed descriptions. Read more

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.