Another four thoughts from Basel

EditorsApr 02, 2015

Another four thoughts from Basel

Every year, I return from Baselworld with a pile of USBs and a long list of stories to be told, both now and in the weeks to come.

But, there are always those few appointments that stick out in your mind, because the product was particularly appealing, the people were interesting or a combination of both.

As I did following the show last year, I give you four of my highlights from Baselworld below.

1. TAG Heuer: One step forward, two steps back.
This is a popular watch brand that’s been struggling to find itself for the last couple of years. The Link Lady collection they launched a few years ago never really took off, and it seems like all the highly complicated, and more expensive, models they’ve been introducing over the past few years weren’t resonating with the brand’s core customers either.

In December, it was out with CEO Stéphane Linder and watch industry veteran Jean-Claude Biver took over the brand, proclaiming that TAG needs to get back to the business of selling watches in the $1,000 to $5,000 range.

So, what do they do at Baselworld? In what I would consider the smartwatch announcement of the show, TAG Heuer revealed that it’s teaming up with Google and Intel for a luxury smartwatch. At the same time, the brand introduced two beautiful men’s throwback models and ladies’ watches that were fresh, young and edgy instead of old, dainty and boring.

This year I would have to say my meeting with TAG Heuer was one of my favorite appointments in Baselworld in terms of the watches, not to mention the endless smorgasbord of food and drinks they circulate in the lounge downstairs while you wait.

Now, when I say one of my favorite appointments, it comes with a caveat: My favorites are not necessarily all about the complications, though I do love a good minute repeater.

I look for watches that I find aesthetically pleasing and that I could see doing well at retail. Behold, these three models from TAG Heuer.

On the left is the new 39 mm Carrera Calibre 6 COSC certified ($3,200) with a 44-hour power reserve while on the right is the new Carrera Calibre 18 automatic chronograph ($6,300).

Both are based on Carrera models from the 1960s and will be available for retailers in September.

Six new 41 mm ladies’ models, one of which is shown above, were made with brand ambassador Cara Delevingne in mind--they are young, edgy and made for a “tomboy,” the brand said.

They range in price
from $2,500 to $5,100 and also will be available in September.

2. Patek Philippe. Classic love.
If money were no object and I had my choice of watches, I would pick a Patek Philippe. There’s something so enticing about a company that focuses on doing one thing and just does it exceptionally well. It’s like eating at a restaurant with only a handful of items on the menu--you know any dish you pick is going to be delicious.

While the big news coming out of the brand’s booth this year was Patek’s first pilot watch in decades, which I did not love, my personal favorite was the black and 18-karat rose gold version of the Ref. 6102 Celestial. This astronomical wristwatch has a map of the stars on its face that actually moves, reproducing the movement of the stars in the sky as well as the positions and phases of the moon.

The new black and rose gold Ref. 6102 as shown in the brand’s booth at Baselworld.

The new Ref. 6102, which is one of the brand’s Grand Complication models, can be mine for only $283,200.

3. Edox. The ice man cometh. The brand returneth.
Two people I always look forward to seeing in Basel are Sarah Wasserman and her dad, Mark, the father-and-daughter team distributing Claude Bernard watches in the United States and now, bringing back Edox to the market.

Making my appointment even more interesting this year was getting introduced to Christian Redl, a world champion free-diver from Austria who soon will attempt the first free-dive under the Arctic ice cap.

Free-diving, I learned through talking to Christian at the Edox/Claude Bernard booth, is diving without any kind of scuba equipment, relying entirely on the diver’s ability to hold his or her breath. Christian can go many minutes at a time without needing to resurface and, he assured me, it’s a skill that can be taught. Like any other sport, it’s all about practicing and, in the case of holding one’s breath underwater, not panicking.

Redl in mid-dive (left) and the 50th anniversary limited-edition automatic Edox Hydro Sub diving watch, powered by the Edox 80 movement ($2,395)

Next week, Redl and another man, along with two huskies brought along to fend off polar bears, will make the trek to the North Pole where he’ll dive into the icy waters wearing the Edox Hydro-Sub Limited Edition. His mission, besides doing something that’s never been done before, is to draw attention to global warming and the plight of the Pole’s polar bears, whose habitat is shrinking.

I wish him the best of luck. You can learn more about Redl and his expedition on his Facebook page.

4. Tissot. Hot pink.
One of the trends I spotted in Basel, in both watches and jewelry, was changeability. There are a lot of pieces being made today that can be worn in multiple ways, i.e., earrings with detachable jackets that turn into studs, necklaces that can be worn as bracelets, etc.

In the watch world, one of my favorites from the show was Tissot’s new Quickster watches. Launched last year with a special model for the World Cup, the Quickster is a simple quartz watch. No bells and whistles, just a clean dial that makes it easy to tell the time and, which I was told, has been very popular.

The new Quickster models come with two or three straps and I particularly liked the pink model above, which retails for $425. As I mentioned above, nothing super-complicated: just a nice-looking watch that I could see doing well at retail.

I know attendance was down again at Baselworld this year but for any retailers who did attend, I’d love to hear about some of the watches you liked. In the meantime, have a great weekend everyone, and happy Easter and Passover to all who celebrate.
Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

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