Baselworld 2019... My best and worst...
This year has been a very interesting year for watches. This turbulence has culminated in a Baselworld fair that is not like any of the years we have seen previously. We have seen brands cement themselves as favourites amongst fans and collectors, as well as some of the old reliables let us down, with some questionable, and just awful releases. So without further a do, let’s take a look at my top pics, and disappointments from this years show…
Oris Big Crown Pointer Date in Burgundy
Those of you who follow us, or know me, will know I am a big fan of this watch. I have even said that the blue/grey dial will be my next watch. This was until Oris went and through a spanner in the works at Basel. They have introduced the watch again, but this time in a gorgeous deep burgundy dial colour. I think it is really brilliant what Oris are doing here. We very rarely see watch brands really experimenting with dial colours. Oris in this line have released the watch in green, blue, black and now burgundy. This watch is absolutely stunning, and I cannot wait to see it in the flesh.
Breitling Navitimer 806 1959 re-edition
Now, I have to preface this by saying I am not really a fan of modern Navitimers, or modern Breitling if I am completely honest. However, Breitlings newest Limited Edition Navitimer; the reference 806 1959 Re-Edition, is an exception to both of those rules. I have always been a fan of the 806 references from years gone by. The original Navitimers were from an era before Breitling went blingy. They were made as genuine, no nonsense tools. Designed for a purpose, and nothing else. What I love about this release from Breitling is that it is not a faithful reinterpretation, or even a modern spin on a classic design. It is basically a carbon copy design of the original 806. It has the iconic wings logo, gorgeous fat syringe hands, and lovely 'fauxtina' on the numerals. Now, unfortunately for me, but completely understandably; this watch is big. It comes in at 41mm, which, whilst a very faithful size for a pilots watch, is 3mm larger than I would like it. Despite this, this watch is still stunning, so well done Breitling.
This is a pretty big release for Patek. One that people might not have fully appreciated. The stunning 5172G is the replacement for the entirety of the 5170 line. I think when you put the 5172G next to the 5170G, this for me is a shame. Whilst I love the new iteration, with its white gold case and manual winding chronograph movement, the 5170G is not only my favourite chronograph of all time (probably), but also one of my favourites watches period. Really there is no need for me to be that upset, as I will probably never own either of these stunning modern chronographs, despite having such a hankering for a 5170G.
GS Spring drive 20th anniversary
Grand Seiko are one of my favourite brands of all time. The fact that they pack supreme quality of construction and technology into their watches at £100 all the way up to £100,000 makes them one of, if not the biggest value prop in the watch game. This year they did not disappoint. There is one release that they made pre-Basel, which I would love to talk about. However, to be in keeping with my own rules, I will instead talk about their truly awesome Baselworld release to commemorate 20 years of their infamous Spring Drive technology. It comes in the Elegance line, and I think the pictures speak for themselves when I say it very much does what it says on the tin. This watch is completely cased in platinum, with the same Snowflake effect on the case and dial. This gives the look of the dial seamlessly merging with the case. This watch is a limited edition (unfortunately) and an equally unfortunate price tag of £58,000 which some may say is quite a lot for a watch with a quartz crystal in, but I would happily pay that sum of money for a piece of truly legendary piece of watchmaking history.
Seiko Prospex Divers Re-Creation LE SLA033
Sticking with the same family, but stepping down a run on the price ladder, is the next watch that I loved from Basel. Quite often the more approachable brands at the big watch fairs get overshadowed by the big guys; the likes of Patek and Rolex for example. One of the biggest cult watches amongst collectors is the ‘turtle’. This year, Seiko have yet again smashed it out of the park. This time with the re-issue of their legendary 6105. This is one hell of a sensitive reissue, it is really hard to tell this apart from an original from the 60’s. One of the benefits here, however, is the updated specs. This watch now has a 50 hour power reserve, and is 200m water resistant. Unlike the vintage iterations, this one could actually be dived with, which considering it looks faithfully similar to the vintage models, makes this a pretty killer offering.
Now, for a number of reasons, not least the drop from 1500 to 500 brands, Baselworld has not quite hit the spot like it has done in previous years. This can be seen further by some of the truly awful and ‘meh’ in my opinion, releases from the show. So as well as shedding some light on a few of my favourite models from the show, I also felt it fitting to talk about some of my dislikes from the show.
This watch, like a few of the other releases from Tudor and Rolex, was unfortunately leaked before the show even started. However, this watch is slightly different. This watch has been floating around the watch world for some years now. There was a prototype that was made in the 60’s, apparently intended to be issued to the American Military. Only one was made, as Bulova ended up winning the contract. People then assumed that the watch was fake for many years, until now. Tudor have released this watch, with its admittedly quite clever bezel lock system, as a non LE production model. The only slight problem is this watch is a true ugly duckling. It also comes in a very tool watch size. Needless to say, at 42mm with 20mm lug width, it is not a dissimilar case profile to black bay. This however is real oddity, this is not an everyday watch. Needless to say the design for me is just far too polarising. I get that it is unusual, and it is nice to see another offering from the brand that isn’t another Black Bay. But until I get a chance to see it in flesh, this is a big ol’ shit sandwich for me.
Rolex Sea Dweller two-tone
Next up is a watch that takes the word ‘futile’ to a whole different level. Now I am fully aware that Rolex has taken a different turn in the past few years. They have gone from making no nonsense, no frills tool watches, and have decided to make them ‘luxury’. To an extent, I am fine with this. I own a modern sub. Yes it is a more luxury version of the originals, but I could still take it to the bottom of the ocean, and beat it up, and still know it will work. However, the line for me stops when Rolex make true tool watches, like the Sea-Dweller. The Sea-Dweller has always been the even more ‘tooly’ submariner. So why on earth make it in two-tone?? This just seems like an unnecessary way to get Rolex fans to by a watch that has never been the most popular Rolex sports model… they could have done a faithful reissue of a 60’s model, and Rolex fans would have lapped it up. They instead decided to just slap some gold on and wheel it out, which to me just makes no sense.
Ok, rant over. It might surprise you to hear that arguably the most important watch brand of all time has made this list, and it surprised me too. However, I do not hate this watch in general, far from it. The reason this watch has made the list is because of one feature of it. Not even a feature, but one aspect of the dial that for the life of me I can’t understand. And it is this. The very cool weekly calendar complication in the centre of the dial has the days of the weeks on it, which of course makes complete sense. The problem I have with it is that the font has been done in a sort of amateur, hand written execution. What I can’t for the life of me understand is this. Why would Patek Phillipe of all brands, put hand written text, that frankly just looks sloppy, on the watch that people are calling the alternative to the Nautilus. In an age where companies are trying to find ways to get young people into watches, people thought that for Patek, this might be the way they are doing it. This is a contemporary watch, in a steel case, on a leather band, with a functional, but not extravagant complication. It has all the makings of a watch that really could, and still might, get young people into haute horology. But for me, this seemingly insignificant detail, really ruins the watch for me. If they had done it in normal font, it would have blended into the rest of the dial. Patek are known for incredibly complex and beautiful watches, and this just seems like too much of a departure from what Patek are famous for.
I hope you have enjoyed my round up of favourite, and definitely not so favourite releases from Baselworld 2019. I am sure a lot of you will agree and disagree with the choices I have made, but taste is what makes this hobby so brilliant. So whatever your choices might be, we would love to hear what they are! So drop us an email or message us on Instagram, and let’s discuss this definitely interesting year from Baselworld 2019.
Editor & Co-Founder