THE WAIT IS OVER – BASELWORLD OPENS ITS DOORS TODAY. EARLY SIGNS ARE THIS YEAR’S EDITION OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST REPLICA WATCH FAIR WILL USHER IN A NEW ERA FOR THE SWISS REPLICA WATCHES INDUSTRY, SAYS CALIBRE EDITOR ROBIN SWITHINBANK
Every Baselworld is important. The show sets the agenda for the watch year, as brands such as Patek Philippe, Rolex, Omega and TAG Heuer launch the products they hope will grab the world’s attention. But this year feels more important than most. After a period of rapid growth, watch industry exports have come to a standstill over the past couple of years, and with the Apple Watch now part of the story, brands exhibiting at Baselworld have a job on their hands to make watch customers sit up and pay attention.
Tales of the unexpected
Make no mistake; this is the year of the smart replica watches. The traditional Swiss watch industry can’t hide from that – and isn’t, but we’ll come to that. In a bid to stop smartwatches hogging the limelight, we can expect brands to throw a few disruptive products into the mix.
Take Patek’s new Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Ref 5524, a white gold pilot’s watch set to retail for around £35,000. Patek isn’t known for its pilot’s watches, although it does have a couple of pieces in its museum collection that fit the type. Added to that, white gold pilot’s watches are rare as hen’s teeth. Stirring things up? Quite possibly.
Whatever the thinking behind it, there’s no denying its vintage pilot’s replica watches look, with its oversized Arabic numerals, blued hands and simple minute track, and the dark blue varnished dial is a nice aesthetic touch that’s also unusual.
Its engine is Patek’s Calibre 324 S C FUS, a movement that features the same ingenious dual time function we saw on last year’s Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph. It can be bounced forwards and backwards in one-hour jumps using the pushbuttons on the left side of the case, and both time zones have day/night indicators. The sub-dial at 6 o’clock shows the date.
Just as unexpected is that Tudor has announced its debut manufacture movement. Tudor has historically relied on third-party suppliers to keep costs low, but it says that’s about to change. The North Flag recalls the Tudor replica watches uk taken on the British North Greenland Expedition in the early 1950s, and is a good-looking piece, but it’ll be flagged up by commentators because of its in-house, chronometer-certified, 70-hour power reserve movement. A significant step for a brand that’s already taken great strides since its UK relaunch last September.
The smartwatch revolution
So, smartwatches, or, as some Swiss brands prefer, connected watches. In previous years – and still to a degree this year – the business of unveiling smartwatches was left to tech firms and start-ups, but now the Swiss watch industry is getting in on the act too, a development that seemed unlikely before Apple’s intentions became clear.
Breitling has announced the B55 Connected Chronograph, a fake watches that flips the role of smartphone and watch so the watch is the mothership, backed up by the phone. The watch gathers all the data, such as flight times, which is then accessible via an app from where it can be analysed in more detail and shared. Its Calibre B55 adds to Breitling’s growing list of in-house movements.
TAG Heuer hasn’t unveiled a smartwatch per se, but its new Haute Technologies division will be working with Silicon Valley to build avant-garde smartwatches that we can expect to see filtering through into the collection in the months ahead.
One of the big stumbling blocks with smartwatches so far has been battery life – Apple has said rather limply that theirs will have up to 18 hours of power, a woeful figure that compares poorly with Breitling’s 1-2 months and the two years being offered by brands taking the sleep and activity-tracking MotionX software, a list that so far includes Swiss brands Frederique Constant, Alpina and Mondaine.
Coming over to the white side
It’s not all change, though. Fake Omega watches has announced the White Side of the Moon, the third and, by the sounds of things, last in its series of hugely successful ceramic Speedmasters, following the Dark and Grey Sides of the Moon launched last year and in 2013 respectively. The magic is in its case, which is made from a single block of solid white ceramic. Here’s a quick taster: