Three Watch Brands That Surprised Us at Baselworld 2015

While nearly every Breitling replica watches brand exhibiting at Baselworld puts forth at least one notable headliner piece each year, those of us who cover the industry often find many of the new offerings to be somewhat on the predictable side. Occasionally, we’ll see something truly unexpected, like Patek Philippe’s Calatrava Travel Time, or Bulgari’s “connected” luxury watch, the Diagono Magnesium, both introduced at this year’s fair. And sometimes, some of the smaller or more under-the-radar brands will come up with something memorable that few would have predicted — mainly because few were probably thinking about them at all.

Hermès introduced a perpetual calendar watch in its new Slim d’Hermès collection.

Despite its recent strides in luxury watchmaking — including its development of a very clever and distinctive complication for its Arceau le Temps Suspendu watch — Hermès is not generally regarded as a purveyor of high- complication timepieces. Which is why the fact that the brand, known more for top-notch leather goods, included a perpetual calendar watch in its newly introduced Slim d’Hermès collection, came as such a surprise. The Slim d’Hermès collection is distinguished by its broad dial opening, right-angled lugs, the original, elegant typography used for the hour markers (designed by La Montre Hermès creative director Philippe Delhotal), and, of course, the exceptional thinness of the cases and the movement inside them. That movement, Hermès Caliber 1950, measures just 2.6 mm thick and is produced by the movement specialists at Vaucher, in which Hermès holds an ownership stake.

The Slim d’Hermès Perpetual Calendar is certainly the show horse of the new family, with a 39.5-mm case made of 5N rose gold and a perpetual calendar movement (the base Caliber 1950 with an added module produced by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and his team at Aghenor, who also worked on the Arceau le Temps Suspendu as well as notable watches from brands such as MB&F. The module adds only a minuscule 1.4 mm to the overall movement). The cheap Breitling replica watch’s opaline silvered dial has a four-year display that indicates months and leap years, subdials for a dual-time/GMT function and date, and a moon-phase indication with a white mother-of-pearl moon disk against an aventurine sky. The baton hands are 4n-gilded or lacquered blue and sandblasted. The movement, which is equipped with a microrotor for automatic winding, beats at 21,600 vph and holds a power reserve of 42 hours. Its haute horlogerie decorations include hand-chamfered bridges and the brand’s Hermes “H” motif. The Slim d’Hermes Perpetual Calendar comes on an alligator strap, in either matte havana (brown) or matte black, with a rose-gold pin buckle. Hermes says it will retail for $38,900.

Hermes Slim d'Hermes Perpetual Calendar - white bkgd

Cuervo y Sobrinos launched a limited-edition chronograph with a vintage 1950s movement discovered in Cuba.

The Cuervo y Sobrinos Historiador Cronógrafo Landeron shows its vintage influence not only on the outside, but on the inside as well. The watch, whose dial design springs from that of one of the brand’s historical models from the 1950s, also contains a movement that dates to that era — a Landeron 248 manual-wind chronograph caliber, made in Switzerland around 1950, which was recently discovered in the vault of the original Cuervo y Sobrinos boutique in the company’s ancestral homeland of Havana, Cuba. Now dubbed Caliber CyS 4008, it measures 31 mm in diameter and 4.3 mm in thickness; it holds a power reserve of 38 hours.

The 18k rose gold case is 41 mm in diameter with a period-accurate domed (though not made of acrylic hesalite) sapphire crystal as well as — naturally — a sapphire window in the back of the case to show off the spectacular vintage movement in all its painstakingly restored glory.

The Montblanc replica watches sale — a limited edition of just 50 pieces due to the extremely small supply of movements — has an enameled white dial with a tachymeter scale and two subdials at 3 o’clock (45-minutes chronograph counter) and 9 o’clock (running seconds). Gold-colored Breguet hands mark the hour and minute, and a similarly colored Cuervo y Sobrinos “CYS” emblem is applied at 12 o’clock. The case boasts the very distinctive lugs of the historically-inspired Historiador collection. Priced at $2,500, the Cuervo y Sobrinos Historiador Cronografo Landeron comes on a Louisiana alligator strap with a rose-gold pin buckle engraved with the CYS logo.

Cuervo y Sobrinos Historiador Cronografo Landeron - front

Manufacture Royale offered up an entirely new take on the double-tourbillon watch.

Manufacture Royale has produced some interesting tourbillon timepieces in recent years, including a few with more than one tourbillon. The new 1770 Micromegas — named for the titular hero of a short story by French writer/philosopher Voltaire, who founded the original Manufacture Royale watch factory in 1770 — takes this horological innovation to a new level of technology. Whereas other brands have produced watches with two tourbillons — you can read about some of them here — this is the first such watch in which the tourbillon cages rotate at different speeds. The cage on the left makes one revolution every six seconds, whereas the one on the right makes the same revolution in 60 seconds (Hence the “Micro,” meaning small, and “Megas,” large). The two tourbillons are connected by a differential that receives energy directly from the barrel. Speaking of the barrel, the power reserve it holds is definitely more “megas” than “micro”: 80 hours when fully wound. The movement, Caliber MR04, even includes automatic winding — not unique, but still rather rare in the world of tourbillon best Breitling fake watches.

The case construction is typical of Manufacture Royale’s 1770 collection, made of titanium (45 mm in diameter) and featuring brancards hugging the central section and flowing out to form the distinctive lugs. A combination of satin and polished finishes adorn the various curved and angled edges. The notched bezel is also made of titanium, as is the dial, which is also coated with a rubber-effect black-lacquer varnish that contrasts strikingly with the blued, openworked hour and minute hands. The caseback features a sapphire window to display the movement. The Manufacture Royale 1770 will retail for $151,000 in its all-titanium version (pictured). The company says it will also offer a version in rose gold and titanium for $163,000 and an all-rose-gold model for $181,500.

Manufacture Royale Micromegas - front

Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Chronograph Ref. 5905P

By melding forward-looking design and sought-after horological complications, Patek Philippe has created a totally new and unusual timepiece: the new Ref. 5905P Annual Calendar Chronograph. The dial, inspired by the 2010 Annual Calendar Ref. 5205, sports an inimitable face with new colors and interesting details. The outer chronograph scale encircles a crisply graduated minute scale. Between 10 and 2 o’Clock, the broad ring with the white-gold hour markers features the three apertures for the day, date, and month indications of the Annual Calendar. A large 60-minute chronograph counter is positioned at 6 o’clock. It has a small round aperture for the day/night indication. This configuration endows the technical aura of the Ref. 5905 with the timeless elegance of a typical Patek Philippe wrist replica Breitling watches. The dial is available in navy blue and black versions.

Both dials harmonize beautifully with the cool gloss of the prominent 42-millimeter platinum case. The contours of the bezel and caseband merge seamlessly with the gracefully curved strap lugs. The outer rounds of the start/stop pusher, the crown, and the reset pusher are perfectly arranged along an arc parallel to the caseband. Here, premeditated design pleases the eye and optimizes user-friendliness. The case accommodates the self-winding caliber CH 28-520 QA 24H movement with a chronograph and the Annual Calendar which only has to be corrected once a year on March 1. This fascinating opus consists of 402 parts crafted with extraordinary precision and finished by hand. In keeping with traditions, the stop Cartier fake watches functions are controlled by a column wheel, while power to the chronograph hand is transmitted by a modern disk clutch. Even though it is flat, the Spiromax® balance spring, made of Silinvar, breathes symmetrically thanks to its patented geometry. The cheap Breitling replica watch is worn on an alligator strap with large square scales, color-matched with the dial and secured with a platinum prong buckle.

Seiko: keep it functional

Grand Seiko, the epitome of advances made in Japanese Breitling replica watchmaking, is fifty-five this year. Last year its Hi-Beat GMT version won the plaudits of the judges at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, one of the highest accolades a watch can achieve.

If a watch really is eternity in a case, as LVMH’s watch guru Jean-Claude Biver claims, it would be no stretch of the imagination to say that Japanese watchmaking is for ever contained inside the Grand Seiko. “When my predecessors imagined the Grand Seiko in 1960, their idea was to produce an accurate, reliable, legible timepiece,” says Shu Yoshino, managing director of the brand’s marketing division, at Baselworld. “How the watch looked was also a matter of importance, with a wide dial opening achieved by the bezel-free construction, a facetted case and our own Zaratsu polishing, but this was not the main concern. As always at Seiko, function took precedence and we have never strayed from this principle.”

A serious rival

Exactly how important functionality was to the Grand Seiko soon became apparent. By 1967, Seiko had fitted its luxury Breitling replica watches with the brand’s first automatic movement, the 62GS. And to make it clear that the Grand Seiko no longer needed hand-winding, the crown was recessed and placed at 4 o’Clock. A year later, in 1968, Seiko took another step forward and equipped the Grand Seiko with a high-frequency movement beating at 36,000 vibrations/hour to measure tenths of a second. Only one Swiss manufacturer, Girard-Perregaux, could match this precision, having introduced the first high-frequency calibre to its Gyromatic range in 1966 (Zenith‘s El Primero, the first chronograph with a 5 Hz frequency, would make its debut in 1969). With a “machine” like this, Seiko could legitimately rival Swiss watchmaking’s finest, even challenging them on home ground in the late 1960s by entering the Grand Seiko in timing trials at the Geneva and Neuchâtel observatories.

These institutions were longstanding references in watchmaking circles, but no longer carried the same impact following the advent of quartz. Electronic precision threatened to send mechanical watchmaking into the filing cabinet of history, and the Grand Seiko with it. “Everything changed with quartz”, as Shu Yoshino recalls. “At Seiko, we carried on making mechanical watches but they no longer corresponded to the high-end positioning symbolised by the Grand Seiko, and by the 1980s we had virtually ceased production. There was no longer any demand. We did try to relaunch it with a quartz movement in 1993, but to no avail.”

Pragmatic and precise

No matter. As Japanese wisdom reminds us, patience is one of life’s treasures. From the first stirrings of a mechanical replica Breitling watches revival, Seiko was ready. In 1998 the company returned centre-stage with a Grand Seiko driven by a completely new, in-house movement. “At first it was a niche product,” notes Shu Yoshino. “There was a community of diehard fans who remembered what the Grand Seiko stood for and who were immediately receptive. But nothing extraordinary. We had to wait another ten years for the product to really take off, when bling-bling watches began to lose their shine and people were turning to timepieces that suggested more substantial values.”

The context was ripe for the Grand Seiko to meet its public. In little time at all, sales in Japan doubled, prompting Seiko management to increase production capacity and launch the Grand Seiko outside its home market, winning a new international audience for this most pragmatic of watches. With the anniversary models, equipped with Calibre 9S65 beating at 28,800 vibrations/hour, and the two new hi-beat versions (Calibre 9S85), Seiko delivers precision of -3 to +5 seconds/day, which is a smaller tolerance than the margin of -4 to +6 seconds imposed by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC). As a brand that manufactures all its components, including strategic parts such as the regulating organ, Seiko is a very “Grand” watchmaker indeed.

The Women’s Section

According to Jean-Claude Biver, President of the LVMH Group’s Watch Division, “Women are the future of Breitling replica watchmaking.”

A few years ago, it was still unimaginable. Display cases turned mothers into seven-year-old girls—back when owning a pink Flik Flak gave life meaning. At Baselworld 2015, women have (at last) been given their own collections. And they cover the full spectrum, from precious to sporty, with complications and mechanical or automatic movements. “I think that women are definitively an important part of the future of mechanical watchmaking,” confirms Aldo Magada, CEO of Zenith. “Yet again this year, we’ve come to Baselworld with new models that meet the needs and desires of our female clientele.”

Zenith, who produced more women’s models than men’s models at one point in its history, is celebrating its 150th anniversary with a Panerai replica watches that combines glamour and fine workmanship: the Star 33 mm. Crafted from 18-karat white gold, its case houses the automatic Elite 681 movement. The dial, meanwhile, features a flower surrounded by blue leaves, whose center is not the customary axis of the hours and minutes hands, but that of the small seconds at 9 o’Clock.

At Chopard, where women’s watch sales account for more than 65% of turnover, the new Happy Sport 30 mm Automatic leads Caroline Scheufele to explain: “We mustn’t forget that men are often the ones buying watches for their wives, and they prefer good mechanics.” It’s clear that Chopard’s Co-President and Artistic Director strongly supports the decision—which dates back to the 2013 36 mm model—to introduce the automatic movement into this iconic collection.

The mechanics of desire

She’s not the only one putting her money on women. With its annual calendar, Patek Philippe’s Reference 4948 is meeting “the demand with the highest potential,” according to CEO Thierry Stern. Rolex has also hit the bullseye with its Oyster Perpetual Lady-Datejust 28 model, which features a mechanical movement (caliber 2236) and a diamond-set bezel. As for Blancpain, its Day Night model offers the originality of two retrograde systems (hours and seconds) that distinctively accompany the minutes hand. As the brand’s CEO Marc A. Hayek explains: “Certain complications don’t exist in any men’s model. So they should satisfy all our female customers, who are increasingly interested in mechanical watchmaking.”

Art and substance

Another equally popular opportunity is the artistic crafts. “While it’s often easier to design women’s watches like pieces of jewelry, we’re looking to attract female customers through our choice of materials, colors and the lightness of our products in particular,” admits Jean-Claude Biver, President of the LVMH Group’s Watch Division. “This is why Hublot launched its jeans Breitling fake watches uk last year and an embroidered watch this year.” Hublot reinterprets the artistic crafts with its Big Bang Broderie model, a tribute to the memory of needlework featuring fine Saint Gall embroidery—a 100% Swiss-made ancestral art—carried out by Bischoff, the most noteworthy Swiss name in the field.

Its technical production required several months and resulted in a highly original timepiece characterized by a rebellious spirit with a skull and crossbones motif, a dial enhanced with eleven diamonds, and arabesques on the bezel and strap. Harry Winston, meanwhile, has succeeded in bringing together lace and mother-of-pearl—two age-old crafts embodying femininity in their own way—in its Premier Lace 31 mm model. As the list of demands grows, wrist sizes are getting smaller, it would seem.