Baselworld 2010 Review
The doors to Baselworld 2010, the 38th successive Basel watch fair, opened to the public on Thursday 18th of March. With the first signs of a reversal in the economic downturn appearing in November 2009, and a 2.7% reported increase in the value of Swiss watch exports in January 2010, this year’s fair would be a key indicator of the sector’s recovery after 15 months of recession.
  And from the perspective of most exhibitors and retailers, the signs of recovery were confirmed at the exhibition, with a notable expansion in the American market. At the end of the fair Jacques J. Duchêne, President of the Exhibitors’ Committee, concluded: “We are delighted with this year’s Baselworld. Without being euphoric, we can optimistically look ahead this year. The show is and remains the place to meet for the watch and jewellery industry.” Baselworld 2010 welcomed around 7000 more visitors than the previous year’s fair and although the number of exhibitors dropped once again, it seems as though the worst has passed.
Two of the most notable trends at Baselworld 2010 were the proliferation of smaller, classically proportioned models, and the introduction or at least bolstering of uncomplicated entry level lines. There were, as always, some real horological marvels on show (especially with AHCI and other independents) but for many brands the focus was on consolidating existing lines and strengthening their low to mid range pieces.
Perrelet released a new entry level watch to complement its fine collection, Eterna developed the Soleure line and Chronoswiss introduced its Pacific; a no-frills, entry level piece that despite the collection's links with the past, exhibits little of the company’s DNA.
The focus on simplicity was nowhere more evident than at Zenith. With Jean-Frederic Dufour now at the helm, the brand has turned its attention from the ambivalently received Defy Extreme collection to the stunning Elite Ultra Thin range, which really is the last word on elegance. This year will see the Le Locle based brand refresh its entire collection in favour of classically styled novelties, at the expense of many of its more avant-garde designs.
The Highlights
Among the most interesting novelties at this year’s fair were the Ulysse Nardin El Toro, a dazzling GMT with perpetual calendar model that houses one of the most sophisticated yet user-friendly date alteration systems; and Breitling’s latest Avenger Seawolf Chrono which utilizes the brand's innovative magnetic pushpiece system, allowing the chronograph to be activated without any direct mechanical contact.
But perhaps the most mesmerizing curio to be found was the latest offering from Maurice Lacroix. The astonishing Masterpiece Regulateur Roue Carree combines another flawless design and manufacture movement, allowing for the hours to be read through the
interaction between fully functional square and clover shaped wheels on the dial. The brand seems set to surpass the heights set by the magnificent Decentrique.
At Patek Philippe, 2010 is the year of the chronograph and Baselworld 2010 saw the kingly manufacture present no less than five chronograph models, three of which are manually wound and two of which are automatic. While the theme is classical with the manual wind models (which hark back to the 1940’s Patek chronographs), the Nautilus and Annual Calendar automatic chronographs have a decidedly modern aesthetic.
The fashion brands also continue to compete and continue to be innovative. Chanel was once again drawing considerable attention, this time for its additions to the impressive J12 line, particularly the mystical J12 Retrograde Mysterieuse.
Nor did the anniversary brands disappoint this year; Tag Heuer, celebrating its 150th anniversary, released its awesome Pendulum concept watch. The first mechanical wristwatch without a hairspring, the manually wound, highly conceptual movement utilises magnetic fields to control the oscillations of the balance wheel. However, despite the presence of an example on the wrist of CEO Jean-Christophe Babin, as with the V4, which became commercially available 5 years after its debut at Baselworld 2004, it may be some time before the Pendulum becomes a commercial reality. Also noteworthy was the presentation of the stylish Carrera 1887, featuring the marque’s new in-house (Seiko TC78 based) caliber.
At the other end of the hall, Corum marked the 50th anniversary of its widely acclaimed Admiral’s Cup line with the Admiral’s Cup Deep Hull; with a water resistance of 1000m justifying the appendage of the word “deep”. But even more spectacular are the latest additions to the Bridge collection, with Corum unveiling not one, but two new tourbillon models to mark the 30th anniversary of the eponymous collection. The first, the Golden Bridge Tourbillon features a gorgeous meteorite composite dial with appliqué dagger hour indices pointing to the miniature baguette movement and as a special touch; the upper bridge of the tourbillion cage takes on the shape of the brand’s insignia. The second and equally impressive, the Ti-Bridge Tourbillon; offering a contemporary take on the collection, the ultra-modern design features two 'cross bars' that suspend the movement in the centre of the case.
And the award for the best individual exhibition? The prize this year surely goes to Bvlgari, who despite having shamelessly dissolved the Daniel Roth and Gerald Genta brands, exhibited its collection superbly, with a wonderfully comprehensive display of movements alongside live demonstrations of engraving and movement finishing. An honourable mention also goes to Cuervo Y Sobrinos for bringing a taste of Cuban architecture to Basel, if only for a few days.
All in all, Baselworld 2010 has once again been an undeniable success for the industry. A great number of exciting new models have made their debuts, among which are at least a handful of real gems. And despite Frank Muller’s unveiled attempt to gatecrash this year’s exhibition, the mantra “the bigger the better” on everyone’s lips two years ago, is slowly, but thankfully, fading.
Shae Spreafico (Mar 2010)
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Images: Baselworld, Zenith, Maurice Lacroix, TAG Heuer, Corum
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