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Baselworld 2017 Watch Wish List

An industry in consolidation mode is good news for punters, as watchmakers focus their attentions on their (slightly) more affordable collections

Tudor and Breitling become unlikely bedfellows

It costs a watchmaker millions of pounds to launch a new movement. Hence why many of the brands that survived the quartz crisis of the 1970s grew reliant on calibres from third-party suppliers, most notably from Swatch Group-subsidiary ETA. 

When, in 2002, Swatch chief Nicolas Hayek Jr. announced plans to restrict the flow of movements to watch companies outside his own portfolio, brands were forced to invest in becoming more self-reliant. Thus the sector’s prevailing obsession with the term ‘in-house’. 

Industry consensus is that it costs around £13.5 million to procure the industrial machinery needed to mill the requisite parts of a movement. At trade price, a watchmaker will need to shift a lot of units to make that money back.

Given that a verticalised watch company will be capable of manufacturing more movements than it can possible use itself, one way of speeding up the ROI is to sell calibres to other brands. Perhaps this explains the initially eyebrow-raising partnership between Tudor and Breitling. 

Breitling has granted Tudor access to its B01 base calibre, into which Tudor has incorporated its own rotor and regulating system. The resulting movement, the MT5813, allows Tudor to update its Black Bay collection with a COSC-certified chronograph – at a fraction of the price it would have cost the brand to develop a similar watch by itself. 

Tudor, going the other way, has let Breitling use its three-hand MT5612 movement inside the second-generation Superocean Heritage – essentially an engine upgrade from the previously used ETA 2824. As with the first-edition Superocean Heritage, the second series is available in either 42mm or 46mm, both of which now include a scratch-resistant ceramic bezel.

Given that for the past two years the watch industry has been shrinking, expect to see more mutually-beneficial, cost-saving partnerships between brands in the future.

Sea-Dweller, £8,350, Rolex 

Until saturation diving was developed in the 1960s, the maximum depth to which a diver could descend was around 60 metres. Any deeper, and pressurised gas decompressed in the body could cause air bubbles to block blood vessels. Saturation diving mitigates the risk of a sudden build-up of gas within the body through acclimatisation. Divers live for up to 28 days in pressurised chambers, set to the same pressure as the depth to which they will be working, before they are transported underwater in closed ‘bells’ set at the same pressure. 

In 1966, divers from the Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises (COMEX), the NASA of underwater engineering, reached 160 metres. In 1992, a COMEX diver descended to 701 metres, a record that still stands today. It is considered the maximum depth to which a human body can descend before it implodes. The fact that Rolex’s new Sea-Dweller is waterproof to 1,220 metres, then, is a tad irrelevant. Here’s guessing you’re more likely to pair yours with a business suit than a wetsuit, anyway.

To mark the iconic dive watch’s 50th birthday, Rolex has enlarged the Sea-Dweller to 43mm, equipped it with the latest-generation Calibre 3235 – accurate to −2/+2 seconds a day – and, for the very first time, fitted the timepiece with a Cyclops lens at three o’clock. 

Another design feature likely to excite Rolex devotees is the decision to inscribe the name Sea-Dweller in red, a direct reference to the watch’s 1967 forebear. Red writing on Rolex watches has become extremely valued among collectors. The ‘Double Red’ Sea-Dwellers produced between 1967 and 1977, which have two lines of red text on the dial, typically sell on the pre-owned market for far more than their white-text counterparts. 

Classic Fusion Italia Independent collection, from £12,500, Hublot

A tie-in between horologic exhibitionist Hublot, sartorial superpower Rubinacci and design prima donna Lapo Elkann, grandson of Gianni Agnelli, former Fiat chief and style deity of the 21st-century, was always likely yield something rather dapper.

The result is six 45mm Classic Fusion chronographs – two in ceramic, two in titanium, two in gold – that feature dials and straps made from a selection of prints: houndstooth, squared weaves and Prince of Wales check. Handpicked from the 60,000 square metres of cloth that makes up Rubinacci’s archive, the selected fabrics date back to the seventies.

Aquanaut 5168G, £27,990, Patek Philippe

At Baselworld 1997, Patek Philippe expanded its sports-watch offering by launching the Aquanaut. A commercially savvy way of providing access to Nautilus looks at lower-than-Nautilus prices, the Aquanaut quickly became one of Patek’s best-selling watches. To mark the watch’s 20th anniversary, the brand has launched the Ref. 5168G in 18-carat white gold – the first Aquanaut to be delivered in this precious metal. With a diameter of 42mm, it is the largest model in the Aquanaut family, paying tribute to the original 1976 Nautilus of the same size, a timepiece that continues to go by the nickname ‘Jumbo’ among collectors. 

The watch is water-resistant to a depth of 120 metres, while a Super- LumiNova coating ensures that Arabic numerals are visible in the dark. Inside, the self-winding calibre 324 S C, visible through a sapphire-crystal case back, is just 3.3mm in height, making for a timepiece that is only 8.25mm thick. 

Calibre 113, £4,780, Oris 

By the late 1970s, Oris had clocked up 279 in-house calibres and was one of Switzerland’s largest movement manufacturers, producing as many as 1.2 million watches and clocks a year. Following the quartz crisis, Oris became dependent on ebauches from third-party suppliers, until, in 2014, the watchmaker developed its first fully-fledged movement for almost 40 years. To mark the company’s 110th anniversary, the Calibre 110 boasted a then industry-beating 10-day power reserve. 

Three years later, Oris presents the Calibre 113, updated by way of a calendar that shows the day, date, week and month of the year. Again, the watch will run for 10 days before it requires winding (by hand).