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  • Abid Rahman

Swatch Group’s exit from Baselworld darkens mood but these three watches provide a ray of much-neede


We are deep into February, and usually this would be a busy time for watch columnists as we are in the “pre-Basel” period, that is, the weeks leading up to the world’s biggest annual watch fair, which takes place in Switzerland in March. Ordinarily around this time, brands would be inundating my inbox, teasing new releases and trying to grab my attention with subject lines such as “CLICK FOR SEXY SWISS WATCHES BIG BOY” and “NAUGHTY MOVEMENTS RIGHT HERE”.

Alas, if you didn’t already know, it’s all gone a bit Pete Tong for Baselworld. The fair has been losing brands for years now as the high cost to exhibit and seeming redundancy of a Swiss-based event in a globalised economy have made an impact. The trickle of those leaving is now a gushing river as Swatch Group (owner of 18 top watch brands including Omega, Blancpain, Tissot and Longines) has pulled out. But there are still some clinging on, not least Rolex, Chopard and Patek Philippe. How much longer will Baselworld be a thing? Who knows, but this week I’ll run through “pre-Basel” pieces from brands that successfully tricked me into opening the emails they sent.

OK, big caveat, I haven’t seen this watch in person, but with my trusty eye and deep knowledge, ahem, I’m taken by the new Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Stainless Steel (above). Aside from the great colour scheme – who doesn’t like the cold, metallic look of industrial grey? – this is a unique watch in that the dial is made from a meteorite. That’s right, this watch is literally out of this world.

The meteorite in question was found in 1931 in Henbury, in the Northern Territory of Australia, and is made of octahedrite, which gives it the distinctive shimmer. The 43mm stainless-steel case houses an in-house Calibre 2206 HMS movement with 60 hours of power reserve.

Features are simple with only a small seconds dial. The Prestige HMS Stainless Steel is limited to 10 pieces with prices to come soon.

Despite Swatch Group’s exit, LVMH’s watch division will stick it out at Baselworld and one of the highlights will, undoubtedly, be Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo TB Carbon. I’ve never hidden my love for the Octo line – the silhouette is a design classic, lending itself to elegant simplicity as well as wacky inno­va­tion. You get the latter with the Octo Finissimo TB Carbon, which is a steam­punk dream of exposed cogs, wheels and springs inside a tech-forward 42mm carbon-fibre case, all of which means the watch is hard-wearing but also incredibly light.

The big selling point here is that the timepiece is the world’s thinnest tourbillon. Now, that doesn’t mean as much as it used to, when tourbillons were all the rage, but it is still impressive, plus the watch doesn’t take much space on the wrist. Inside is a BVL 288 movement with 52 hours of power reserve.

The watch is limited to 50 pieces, with prices yet to be confirmed.

Finally, we have a twist on an iconic timepiece from Bell & Ross. The BR line, with rugged, thick straps and square case, has joined the pan­­the­on of watches. It is not for everyone – in fact, if you have weedy wrists like me then this watch is far too big – but what’s undeniable is that it makes its presence known and you can spot one from 10 metres.

For 2019, Bell & Ross is tweaking the classic design with the BR03-92 Bi-Compass, leaning into the aviation theme by mim­ick­ing the dials on planes. The design features large numerals and an extra minute track. Bell & Ross fans will know the tweaks aren’t major, considering what the brand has done in the past, but for me the small changes and the two-track, two-tone scheme is a plus. The matt-black ceramic case is sized 42mm by 42mm, and inside is a BR-CAL.302 move­ment.

The watch is priced at HK$29,900 and is limited to 999 pieces.

Courtesy : South China Morning Post

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