Disappointing, nothing exciting, quiet, more of the same, just a few comments that were heard during the BaselWorld 2016 exhibition. More or less the same was heard during the SIHH last January.
Most watch brands played safe this year, no risks taken. Line extensions mainly, where different colors or materials were used to create more options for consumers. Some brands even lowered their prices or at least are offering something in their lower price categories. Some colleague journalists and editors complained a bit, shrug their shoulders and said it was all a bit quiet this year.
But is it? Perhaps, for journalists, it is more fun to write about a super exciting new collection or complex complication that a brand came up with than to write about four new dial colors and a black PVD case. True. But for customers this might be an excellent year! With new additions to existing collections, showing more colors and different materials, customers have more to choose from. Some brands also decided to reposition themselves a bit, offering more value for money.
Let’s zoom in on some of the novelties that were presented during BaselWorld 2016.
Oris happily surprised us last year with their Divers Sixty-Five model, based on one of their divers watches from the 1960s. This year, they further developed this collection with 42mm versions of that watch, an Oyster-like riveted bracelet and a bronze version of that timepiece. Tudor also introduced a bronze version of their Heritage Black Bay this year, with in-house movement for just under 4000 Swiss Francs. The Oris Divers Sixty-Five in bronze is priced around 2600 Swiss Francs. It is an interesting development in the sub-5000 USD/Swiss Francs category.
Speaking of Tudor, they not only enriched their Heritage Black Bay collection with a PVD version and a bronze version, they also upgraded the existing Black Bay models with in-house developed movements and new (riveted) bracelets. Another interesting addition to the Tudor collection is their Heritage Black Bay 36. It is a 36mm watch that has a strong resemblance with the Rolex Explorer reference 114270 36mm. Inside this Tudor Heritage Black Bay 36 is an ETA caliber 2824 based movement. The version on a stainless steel bracelet is priced at 2700 Swiss Francs and the version on a leather strap at 2400 Swiss Francs. The question is whether one would go for an all new Tudor Heritage Black Bay 36 or going on-line to Chrono24 or eBay and look for a pre-owned Rolex Explorer in 36mm that features an in-house movement. Whatever your choice might be, Tudor comes strong on the sub-5000 USD/CHF market since a couple of years and is a serious threat to other brands in this price range like TAG Heuer, Longines, Baume & Mercier etc.
In 2015 we showed a lot of love for Seiko, both vintage watches and their current collection. We will continue to do so in 2016, as Seiko deserves to be in the spot-light and they keep amaze us with their competitive prices and value for money propositions. I do have to admit that I think their 2015 portfolio was a bit more impressive, with a number of Grand Seiko and Prospex (Marinemaster) novelties, but this year also Seiko aims at a more affordable price segment with their new Presage collection. Eye-catcher is the Seiko Presage chronograph with column-wheel movement (caliber 8R48) that is being offered for approx. 2500 Euro, limited to 1000 pieces only. Another great couple that Seiko showed us were the official PADI watches, with Kinetic and automatic movement. The Kinetic version will retail for 630 Euro and the automatic version will be priced at 430 Euro. Seiko also showed a Grand Seiko limited edition in platinum with diamond dust dial, priced at around 65.000 Euro.
Where Omega surprised all of us with a new collection last year, the Globemaster (as part of the Constellation collection), this year they showed us new versions of existing models. New materials, new complications (annual calendar Globemaster, Speedmaster Moonphase) and further roll-out of their METAS certified movements. Perhaps less exciting than in 2015, but maturing their existing collections with their in-house developed and METAS certified movements. Good for the consumer. For the Speedmaster fans Omega came up with a limited edition CK2998 model that was inspired by that reference from the late 1950s, early 1960s. Commercially very clever, but I believe that purists will neglect it and go for a real vintage reference instead. My favorite Speedmaster this year is the Grey Side of the Moon Meteorite. A stellar combination. The new Moonphase model is also stunning.
Talking about maturing existing collections, Rolex did so last year with their new Day-Date models that ran within -2/+2 seconds per day average (guaranteed) and resized it to a modern 40mm. This year, Rolex introduced the new Daytona in stainless steel. Perhaps not the big change everyone was waiting for, but keeping it close to their successful reference 116520 and maintain the 40mm case and caliber 4130 movement. They replaced the stainless steel tachymeter bezel with a ceramic bezel and made some changes to the dial, making it look like the former Zenith-powered Daytonas that were in the collection between 1988 and 2000. Rolex only adds a few hundred Swiss Francs for this upgrade, compared to the current 116520. The new 116500LN has a 11.800 Swiss Francs price tag. The main surprise for me was their Rolex Explorer 214270 in 39mm. They basically fixed it, giving it longer hands and a new dial (with proper lumed Arabic numerals). The new Explorer 39mm will retail for 6200 Swiss Francs and available this coming Summer. Sign me up for one, although I am afraid the waiting list will be so long that at the time I can buy one, they’ve seen an annual price increase already.
Not one of the big brands compared to the others, but I have been following Chronoswiss for a long time now and have a Chronoswiss Regulateur myself since 1999 or so. Chronoswiss is the perfect example of brands doing a proper new baseline for their collection. The Regulateur (now called Regulator) is their iconic model that was introduced in 1987 as the first real watch under the Chronoswiss brand. Before, founder Gerd R. Lang did a couple of watches but under different names. For BaselWorld 2016, Chronoswiss re-invented their backbone of the collection and comes with a number of variations of this classic. A model that retails below 4000 Swiss Francs with a beautiful dial, a ‘standard’ version of the Regulator and a new model with fancy guilloche dial and the original Enicar based caliber 122 movement inside. Gerd R. Lang bought a lot of these Enicar movements back in the day, and for this special version they are using them again in this 40mm model (starting at 6810 Swiss Francs, also the nicest model imho). Where Chronoswiss went all over the place in recent years with sports watches and so on, their focus is now on the Regulator in various executions. I truly believe in this ‘back to the core’ strategy.
TAG Heuer announced a ‘Connected watch’ last year together with Intel and Google but actually had nothing to show. The Connected Watch was introduced later on that year and it seems to be doing well for them. During BaselWorld 2016 TAG Heuer also showed the mechanical Carrera watch to us that will be made available for those who bought the Connected Watch and want to upgrade it after 2 years of ownership (paying an additional 1350 Euros). This Carrera will be made exclusively for those people who want to do an upgrade and it will not be offered for sale separately.
TAG Heur had two real novelties this year that were talked about in the corridors of BaselWorld 2016. The new Carrera Tourbillon and the new Monza in PVD. The tourbillon was much discussed because it is a 15K tourbillon timepiece, a very affordable watch with this complication. I am not sure if people who are after a tourbillon want it to be cheap, or that these people prefer it to be exclusive and cased in precious metal and with superb finishing on the movement. But I am no marketeer, so I can’t answer that question. The Monza in titanium with PVD coating is a beautiful sports watch based on the classic Monza collection. The Monza has a 42mm diameter case and has caliber 17 inside. It will be priced at 5150 Swiss Francs and available from June 2016 onwards.
This year there was little attention for all the ambassadors they had last year that should address a younger public.
The influences of JC Biver don’t stop at LVMH’s Hublot and TAG Heuer, it has become very clear during BaselWorld 2016 that he is also on top of Zenith as well. Although I still like to believe that Zenith is that typical brand that should be ‘independent’ and aiming at chronograph purists, I also know that brands need to make money and have their bread and butter pieces. The El Primero collection is being expanded with more ‘open’ and ‘closed’ models (referring to the dials), where the closed models retail for 6900 Euro and the open dial models for 8900 Euro. All models will be available in 42mm and 45mm. The Classic Cars edition (6900 Euro) with engine brushed pattern dial is definitely my personal favorite. Another cool addition was the Zenith ‘Pilot’ Cafe Racer watch with El Primero chronograph movement in 45mm (7500 Euro).
These are just a few brands to mention here, keep an eye on our regular publications to read more about the novelties presented during BaselWorld 2016.
Although I found some of the aforementioned models quite exciting to be honest, most of them are updates of existing (bread and butter) models or the result of responding to the market, be it with pricing or by giving attention to the baseline of the collections. Nothing crazy in the end, nothing risky. However, I am excited about the responses from the market on the newly presented watches. I hope that it will be positive and that it gives the brands a solid basis for 2016 and 2017.
But if the above models aren’t really exciting to you, you might want to keep an eye out for our coverage on the independent watchmakers. They could be found in the outskirts of the BaselWorld 2016 premises like “The Palace” where these independent brands show their watchmaking skills to purists and (mainly) the consumers who are fortunate enough to have the budget for such a timepiece.