Baselworld, the biggest watch event of the year, is happening now in Basel, Switzerland. Our writers are on the ground to bring you the most exciting releases and news. Follow our coverage on Instagram for live updates.
Baselworld 2019 officially opened on Wednesday on a significantly smaller scale than previous years, following the exit of several brands as the century-old watch and jewellery trade show experiences its biggest shake-up yet. Furious at unjustified high participation costs and the arrogance of an organiser deaf to complaints over the years, Swatch Group, the fair’s largest exhibitor, had famously pulled out to stage its own show, pointedly named Time to Move. Similar grievances nudged the likes of Hermes and Ulysse Nardin to migrate to the Salon de la Haute Horlogerie held in Geneva in January, resulting in fewer exhibitors and visitors to exhibition hall Messe Basel this year.
The fair’s new management appears contrite and ready to meet its stakeholders halfway (René Kamm, former CEO of Baselworld parent MCH Group, resigned following the Swatch Group’s exit and was replaced by Bernd Stadlwieser just weeks before the fair). Space allocation and facilities are far more generous this time around, including a central dedicated press lounge and WiFi that actually works.
Never mind the drama behind the scenes — what about the watches, you ask. And well you might, for there are some standout pieces this year. Hublot forges artistic alliances in collaborations with tattooist Maxime Buchi and an abstract narrative artist, resulting in the striking Big Bang Sang Bleu II and Big Bang One Click Marc Ferrero respectively.
Rolex leverages on the cult following of the red-and-blue Pepsi iteration from last year with ‘Batman,’ updating the GMT-Master II with a black and blue bezel.
TAG Heuer reintroduces Autavia as a standalone collection that exemplifies the versatility, ruggedness and reliability of its 1960s origin piece while Bulgari breaks the world record for thinness for the fifth time with the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic. Over at the independent labels, MB&F made the news for the Legacy Machine Flying T, its first timepiece designed for women in elegant proportions never imagined of a brand whose aesthetics have been hitherto firmly rooted in the large and chunky.
Meanwhile, Hautlence puts forth the HL Sphere with a spherical hour display as a three-dimensional evolution of its jumping hours and sister company H. Moser successfully debuts the Venturer Concept Vantablack, featuring the eponymous Vantablack dial whose nanotube-based material absorbs 99% of all visible light.
There were plenty of celebrities in the house too. Bulgari marked the launch of the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic and Serpenti Seduttori with some of its ambassadors, including actresses Shu Qi and Olivia Wilde, and artist David Alexander Finn. David Beckham and Jay Chou checked in at Tudor while Zenith got the party started with Eve and DJ Swizz Beatz.
That’s a fair bit — sorry, we couldn’t resist the pun — to get through, and we’re only halfway through the show. While the mood leading up to the event was sombre, and uncertainties and rumours still abound regarding the future of the fair, the creative minds behind the brands power on and do what they do best: imagine, innovate and bring people together in celebration of artistry and engineering.
Look out for our full Baselworld coverage soon.