The best watches from Baselworld

Our man at the world’s biggest watch show, Norman Burns, points to the hottest new watches of 2017. 

Each March the quaint, multi-lingual Swiss city of Basel becomes a thriving hotbed of watch enthusiasts, media and industry delegates, executives and sales reps. Close to 160,000 members of the public attend the show (paying around $100 a ticket to do so) to see watches and jewellery worth billions of Euros that are on display — under tight security, of course.

In the main halls, the big hitters of the industry (Rolex, Dior and Omega, among others) vie for the most impressive stand; smaller players (and there are dozens) can be found in the warren-like upper levels. The afterparties are legendary and many brands spare no expense to schmooze and woo potential customers.

Dozens of new models are launched at the show. From “Plain Jane” basic timepieces to complex sports models, sophisticated dress watches and jewel-encrusted bling, there’s pretty much something for everyone.

Picking “the best” from the hundreds of new watches at Baselworld is akin to being asked which of your children you love the most, but here are six timepieces which show how the art of telling the time can be a creative and diverse enterprise indeed.

1. Christophe Claret X-TREM Sting

Timepieces don’t come much crazier than this massive (40.8×56.8mm) tour-de-force from Christophe Claret. For a start, the mechanics include a ground-breaking “mystery hours and minutes” display powered by a magnetic field that is generated by two miniature magnets moved by nanofibre cables — each thinner than a human hair. Then there’s the separate, rotating skull-motive tourbillon (a device to offset the effect of gravity on the mechanical movement, thus ensuring the watch keeps accurate time). Oh, and if you breathe on the sapphire crystal protecting the case, another skull will appear before your eyes. A dazzling, inventive piece of engineering, but you’ll need to get in quick (just eight have been made) and be prepared to shell out close to $370k for the X-TREM Sting.


2. Edox Chronorally Sauber F1 Limited Edition

Big (48mm in diameter), blue, bold and beautiful, the motorsport-themed Chronorally Sauber F1 Limited Edition is a great example of a modern sports watch from boutique, family-owned Swiss company Edox. It has truckloads of functionality (chronograph sub-dials, tachymeter scale for measuring speed) and sports the official colours of the Sauber F1 team. The super-light titanium case and race-pattern carbon fibre dial all add to the pit-lane vibe. Just 555 available worldwide so get in quick.

3. Raymond Weil Freelancer David Bowie

“Time may change me, but I can’t trace time…” So sang the late, great David Bowie, but fans of the iconic rock star can indeed trace time with this rather spiffing tribute piece from Geneva-based Raymond Weil. They’ve opted for a “less-is-more” approach: the jet black dial cleverly imitates a vinyl record, highlighted by the distinctive Bowie trademarks. The 42.5mm watch has an automatic Raymond Weil movement and a sapphire crystal case back featuring an engraved portrait of Bowie. Only 3,000 available worldwide.

4. Tissot T-Touch Expert Solar II

Pursuing tactility as a point of difference has certainly paid off for Tissot, which now has a hugely popular range of “touch sensitive” watches. The T-Touch Expert Solar II comes in a tough but ultralight titanium case with a solar-powered quartz movement (either natural or artificial light will provide energy for the battery). By simply touching the dial with a finger the wearer can fire up a host of impressive functions including compass readings, a perpetual calendar, chronograph, altitude difference meter, alarm and more.

5. Omega Speedmaster

There were plenty of women’s watches with bling at Baselworld 2017, but this gorgeous “Cappuccino” Speedmaster from Omega, for mine, took the cake. Omega’s Speedmaster chronographs are legendary (fun fact: a Speedmaster was the first watch worn on the Moon), but with the new, smaller 38mm releases for this year, Omega gives the range a whole new subtle dynamic. The elliptical sub-dials give this watch a “friendly” face, and who can resist the sweet two-tone dial that is brilliantly framed by a ring of diamonds on the bezel.

6. Certina DS Podium Lap Timer Chronograph Racing Edition

Certina — another brand that is now part of mega Swiss watch company Swatch — has a long and distinguished history dating to 1888, although it may not yet be a household name in Australia. This super-sporty model shows Certina’s design flair off to the max. I love the red/black/yellow colour scheme and, despite packing a shed-load of ultra-precise chronograph functions (including a lap timer, perfect for the motorsport fan), the dial is clear and readable. A standout piece that would complete any racer’s attire.