Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

No Baselworld watch trade show is complete without an in-depth aBlogtoWatch team discussion about what timepieces should make our list of the top 10 watches. Last year, in 2016, we actually had so many good options that we made two lists, one being the top 10 totally new watches of 2016 and the other represented the top 10 updates for existing watches released at Baselworld 2016. For 2017 we didn’t have this problem... The discussions the aBlogtoWatch team and friendly colleagues have about what timepieces merit presence on the list inevitably include an analysis of product trends, the activity of the bigger brands, and the overall business environment of both the watch industry and the Baselworld trade show itself. In short, things aren’t looking that pretty behind the scenes, even though there are darn pretty looking watches – many of which we genuinely want to buy.

I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record – repeating the same words year after year about the deep-rooted systemic issues the watch industry has and the challenges it must overcome. As I involve myself more and more with the watch industry, I not only see the nuances of business problems that mar the industry, I also appreciate the (both understandable and sometimes embarrassing) reasons that change is difficult. The watch industry is, after all, deeply rooted in tradition and extremely conservative. With those (sometimes positive) attributes also come snail-like speeds and rigidity when it comes to change. With that said, I do feel that there are a range of reachable solutions to most of the problems the industry faces.

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists
Team ABTW teamwork

To summarize the business problems the watch industry has, I will once again mention that they relate to a reliance on archaic distribution and sales models (brick and mortar) while often ignoring the global marketplace; substantial overproduction of product that leads to an unsustainable saturation of inventory in the marketplace above and beyond what consumers will ever buy; and a systemic misunderstanding of appropriate marketing and advertising practices. To say it another way, there are too many watches being made that no one really wants to buy, sold in ways that are unfriendly to the consumer, by companies that experience various degrees of mismanagement or internal incompetence.

It sounds harsh, but I’m not exaggerating. There are some fantastically talented people in the watch industry because of the allure of watches themselves and the compelling allure of producing good ones. These people are why I stick around, and it is the fruit of their efforts that I enjoy the most. With that said, until I see the watch industry that we at aBlogtoWatch are solidly a part of start to shift direction as a whole, I will not step down from my soap box and cease to report on the problems that the industry has.

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

How is this relevant to Baselworld 2017? The weakness of the watch industry has finally hit its major trade show in a substantial way. Attendance for 2017 at Baselworld was down again. I estimate it was about 30% down in 2016, and for 2017 I noticed what were likely similar declines in attendance. Moreover, there were reportedly over 200 brands that did not return to Baselworld from the year before. The show itself is not only experiencing fewer commercial visitors (retailers, distributors, and like), but as a result, fewer brands are choosing to exhibit there. The show was originally designed as a means to connect brands with potential wholesale buyers such as retail stores and regional distributors. These days, the purpose of the show is changing, and I am not sure the organizers know how to pivot properly.

Internet sales and globalization overall have reduced the importance of the traditional brick-and-mortar watch retailer and regional distribution. People are often buying things online from further away places more than in the traditional way (from stores). Also, the internet allows retailers to connect with brands they are interested in without having to attend a trade show event. Thus the importance of Baselworld as a show to connect watch maker and wholesale buyer is diminishing – since the two can connect in other ways.

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

At the same time, retailers are looking to carry brands with existing consumer demand. Rather than discover new products that they feel their customers want, retailers are mostly interested in watches their customers already have demand for. This is where advertising and marketing come in, and why the big boys like Rolex, TAG Heuer, and Omega do so well – because their marketing practices create demand prior to when the customer enters a store. Thus, watch retailers actively seek out products they feel are already in demand so that they can fulfill that demand versus having to create it in the first place.

Enter the press and marketing angle of Baselworld, which is possibly its most important contemporary role. When media like aBlogtoWatch visits the show and shares stories of the new products we discover, it can create consumer demand when people learn about compelling new products. This consumer demand becomes a form of currency brands can use to either attract retail partners or sell their product directly to consumers.

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

This means that the actual value of Baselworld is increasingly about media and its tangential players that share information about new products for consumers who don’t attend the show so that they can be aware of what is new and worth buying. Despite the fact that this is what Baselworld is actually most valuable for, many will argue the show isn’t properly set up for that. Of course, Baselworld welcomes press and media of all types (aBlogtoWatch included), but there are numerous practical, organizational, and economic things the show should do in order to emphasize its greatest value to the watch and jewelry industry. Such changes should have the effect of helping the relevant media to visit brands they are interested in and share information about what they feel is newsworthy. Barring positive changes that will help refine the value of the Baselworld trade show, many attendees and exhibitors to the show in 2017 greatly worry about the actual longevity of the show itself as an annual event.

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

And now, on to the watches, beginning with some trends. Starting with the low-end, we are seeing some very important changes in quartz timepieces. For a long time, the bread and butter of the watch industry was the sale of inexpensive “fashion” watches that were produced in high numbers in a dizzying array of styles. This part of the industry will have to change the most and the fastest (from a product perspective). There are a few issues here.

First is the fact that quartz timepieces were vastly overproduced. Factories in Asia pumped out product that no one was buying, and that era is finally ending. Second is the fact that smart, connected watches will soon make traditional non-connected quartz watches almost entirely irrelevant. The idea being that consumers who used to wear these watches will soon prefer to wear some manner of smartwatch, whether it has a full digital display or is a hybrid with a traditional analog display and connectivity features.

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

I’ll write about this more in future articles, but I am very happy that both big groups and small companies are deeply investing in the future of the analog hybrid smartwatch. These are watches that appear to be traditional, often with decent designs, but have a Bluetooth connection to one’s smartphone. Typically more simple in technology than a full-on smartwatch, these devices have grown from being about missed call notifications and are maturing to represent more what consumers want. That seems to be a traditional wearing experience with the benefit of being connected to your phone for things like ensuring that the time is always right, no matter where you are.

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

This might seem like a nuance versus a product revolution, but in my opinion, it is a mass market game-changer, and it will totally transform the “cheap watch” industry. Groups like Fossil are putting enormous investment behind this strategy, and in short time most of their watches will either be touchscreen smartwatches or analog hybrid watches with traditional looks and Bluetooth connectivity. Even companies like Casio seem to be slowly following suit – and I think this is a very positive sign for the health of the mass-market timepiece.

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

Going up the ladder we are, for the most part, seeing the big groups dominating in the $1,000 - $3,000 price point when it comes to overall product quality. It just seems to be too difficult from a cost perspective without an economy of scale for small brands to consistently offer excellent choices in these prices. The Swatch Group, as well as LVMH brands like TAG Heuer, have some really nice stuff in this range.

With that said, too many of these watches seem to be rushed and have designs which render them illegible or confused looking. I will also add that, at this price range and above, I saw a dismaying number of watches at Baseworld 2017 with easily avoidable design mistakes like poor AR-coating or sinfully poor hand designs. Please stop making shiny hands on shiny dials. If I see another watch with hands that seem to melt into the dial, I’m going to throw it into the waste bin where it belongs.

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

2017 was certainly not about novelty, but rather refinement and product family expansion. We saw a lot of better watches but scant few actually new watches – especially among “volume” price ranges in the $3,000 - $10,000 category which is the sweet spot for the majority of luxury watch consumers. Given market uncertainty, this lack of taking design risks is perhaps understandable, but it does mean that collectors arguably have more of the same to look forward to, without the necessary freshness a lot of watch buyers need in order to stay engaged with their hobby.

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

This is also the first year since I’ve been covering Baselworld that we did not include the mighty Rolex on our list of the top 10 watches of the Baselworld show. This isn’t a remark on Rolex watch quality or our perception of anticipated sales. The sleeper hit of Rolex is actually the Rolex Sky-Dweller with its new most accessibly priced Rolesor models (hands-on here) in the $13,000 - $16,000 range – and I think it will do quite well. Rather, no one on the team walked away with a specific Rolex watch on their mind that felt fresh and that they really wanted to get.

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

The two really new models were the Rolex Sea-Dweller (hands-on here) and the Rolex Cellini Moonphase. Each is going to sell well, but they are both extremely atypical Rolexes. The former is a direct attempt to appeal to vintage Rolex collectors (the red-colored text) while at the same time fixing a product that was not a sales success (the Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000). We all liked it, but I’m not sure we liked it as much as we could have if Rolex did away with little things like the red text that no one on the aBlogtoWatch team seemed to appreciate. All that said, I think this is a model that will experience excellent sales.

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

Then, you had the Rolex Cellini Moonphase (hands-on here). According to a conversation I had with Rolex, this was them being more playful and “expressing themselves” versus producing something totally practical. The moon phase indicator complication is all about emotion (and not utility), which is something Rolex buyers are, for the most part, not entirely familiar with. This will no doubt be an important collectors' item but feels like something Rolex made that any number of more niche traditional brands should really be selling. Rolex, of course, has dozens of products in the pipeline it can produce at any time and chooses just a few new ones each year. I think the Rolex Datejust 41 in all steel will do very well. Again, Rolex had some very viable options for 2017, but nothing new that we felt really needed to have a place on our top 10 list.

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

Omega, on the other hand, had a very large number of compelling new watches, even though the overlap in their collection is appreciable. By that, I mean the brand has way too many similar offerings at similar price levels to allow consumers to easily choose the product that is right for them. Moreover, they come out with new versions of their watches on such a regular basis that some Omega lovers complain about not being able to make a purchase decision because they feel something just a little bit better is just around the corner.

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

Omega further mixes and matches novel technology and creative production techniques with vintage-inspired design aesthetics so often that the resulting products are those that only serious brand and horological experts can really wrap their mind around. Rolex has always been better than Omega at allowing consumers to choose the right watch, while Omega out-blitzes Rolex when it comes to sheer variety and product segmentation.

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

As a group, I think that LVMH was perhaps the strongest. Bulgari is really finding its groove with the beautiful and technically interesting new Octo Finissimo watches – that are becoming icons in their own right. Then you have Jean-Claude Biver who continues to have a connection to Hublot and is the current CEO of both Zenith and TAG Heuer. Each of these brands seems to know their consumer rather well (though Zenith is still in the process of building itself back up) and has released a slew of market-friendly products at comparatively fair prices with modern designs the market is known to appreciate.

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

Before we get to the top 10 watches themselves, I want to mention Seiko, who offered some interesting news at Baselworld 2017 - that Grand Seiko would break off as a separate brand. In their words, this was akin to formally making Grand Seiko into Seiko’s version of Toyota’s Lexus. Beyond that, it was a bit unclear as to why this separation needed to happen, or what being part of Seiko was holding Grand Seiko back from. For consumers, this means a Grand Seiko watch dial without both “Seiko” and “Grand Seiko” on the dial.

Top 10 Watches Of Baselworld 2017: A Trade Show At A Crossroads ABTW Editors' Lists

I personally think the separation had to do with the fact that Seiko feels Grand Seiko can appreciably grow and carry the beleaguered Japanese watchmaker in an important way as the brand’s core business of lower-end watches has slowed recently. Grand Seiko watch prices have been going up a lot lately, so I hope that we will also see more personality and a forward-focus at Seiko’s high-end division (as I mostly seem to recall a slew of limited-edition retro-inspired models versus too many new compelling sport models).

And now, onto the aBlogtoWatch selection of the top 10 watches of Baselworld 2017...

  • Greg Lee

    Surely the rattrapante from Breitling deserves a place in this list. It’s a pretty impressive achievement.

  • shortys home

    Any top ten list is deeply subjective, I personally would agree on one watch from your list.
    The opening comments have been very interesting and I tend to agree to many aspects mentioned, on others I miss an emphasis on what fine watchmaking is all about. We tend to discuss the industry more than we discuss individual outstanding pieces for their horological aspects.
    One last remark: you rightfully criticize polished hands over a shiny dial for their lack of readability. That you pick the Zenith Defy, which is hardly readable for most of it’s indications is beyond me… it is an eye catcher in the short term, but dissatisfying when it comes to it’s core purpose.

    • PleaseSpellRoman4AsIV

      Re the Defy: Check out some hands on videos on it. It is surprisingly legible.

    • Mr. Snrub

      The non-skeleton version is perfectly legible and should hold up over time.

  • PleaseSpellRoman4AsIV

    The beauty of these lists is everyone can find something missing or that they feel should not be here. Overall for me seems to be a good roundup, despite the lack of actual interesting watches. For me it seems clear that most of the big brands has cut back on interesting new offerings, and seems justified that Rolex did not make it to the top 10. Even PP and Omega seems to be a bit of a stretch, but I guess this is personal taste.

    However JCB needs to be applauded for his work across all the LVMH bands, it seems that half of the new movements and designs of the whole Baselworld are coming from them. And also at some very competitive price points.

    And I think Omega deserves a special mention for screwing up the Speedy 60th anniversary. After their earlier SpeedyTuesday edition I was expecting to be blown away this year, and boy did they fail on that.

    • Yan Fin

      Amen to Omega bit

  • CognacSocialist

    This is a great article – I agree with almost everything here. Ariel, is this the worst Baselworld you have ever attended? It certainly seems that way to me. Many of the new watches are dreadfully boring.

  • BILL

    …skip to page 2…

    • I was looking for page 3, wherein the actual top watches were presented.

      • BILL

        There’s a secret page 4, but it’s all Apple Watch, if you’re interested…

        • I heard there’s going to be a post-Basel announcement from Apple, where the 428 new strap options are released. There’s even talk of one of them being under $100!

  • Wow, was attendance as bad as it seemed? (see fake comparison below)

    Kidding aside, while a few of the Top 10 watches are nice most bore me to death and it seems like very slim pickings this year overall.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2fbff6064e60860f17fc1cc6241a988d49389740dd1fb4e35d11f86b8df61251.jpg

    • PleaseSpellRoman4AsIV

      Seems you made the right decision no to go this year? 😉

      • Had new knees installed exactly 7 weeks ago today. Hobbling around now but not yet up to all of the walking that is BaselWorld. So while it pained me not to go, it was the right decision. But back next year for sure. There better be some dope ass killer watches in 2018 or I will be really bummed. And yeah, 2017 may not have been much of a miss for me. Cheers.

        • PleaseSpellRoman4AsIV

          Get well soon, I also went though the same installment many years ago, and know how fun it is…

          • Thanks. Yeah, pain – the gift that keeps on giving. I ruined my knees back in 1983 in a hang gliding accident (over two dozen fractures) so I’ve had bad knees for close to 34 years and they kept getting worse each year. So it was finally time to bite the bullet and get ’em done. Nasty as it is, I’m recovering faster this time, but the pain and the PT drill is as I remembered. Take care.

          • Shinytoys

            heal quickly…

          • Fast as I can – which is still not as fast as I’d like.

          • Chaz

            Maybe you can start ultra lite-ing this year…

          • I gave up “death sports” when I got married and had kids. Now I’m just plain too old for such fun/nonsense. Can’t afford to break what little I have left that works.

        • Chaz

          The only thing “dope ass” will be your knees 😉

          • I hope not – I want to see some great watches next year (to make the knees worth the effort). You should go sometime Chaz (or have you already?)

          • Chaz

            Went back in ’14 but of course it would be MUCH more fun going with some insiders *eh hem* so one can actually see some of the new pieces and get some DNA on them.

            Seeing how AA thinks Baselworld may be an ALL media event in the near future, that might be possible…anyone with a blog becomes “accredited media”.

          • The BaselWorld press accredidation asks for proof of publication. So screenshots and URL of you blog might just do the trick next year. Heck, I could have loaned you mine this year as I got them but did not use them, ha ha.

        • Sheez Gagoo

          Get well soon.

          • Thanks – I’m actively working on it every day!

    • Shinytoys

      Love the Joker…

  • IanE

    Good round-up of a poor Baselworld!

    For me, the absolute stars of Baselworld 2017 were Beat Haldimann’s H11 and H12 (2 and 3 handers) now shown in stainless steel for the first time. OK, not completely new watches in some senses, but, wow, are they heart-stoppers!

    • KC Lee

      And the Lang and Heyne new caliber as well.

  • Chaz

    I kept saying to myself “cool…ok…nice…interesting…” until I hit the gold Aquanaut. Seriously?? A bigger case diameter…gold…blue…nearly $40k?!? You lost me at that one. It’s part of the PROBLEM that you wrote about earlier!

    Notice that Zenith looks much like Tags that look much like Hublots? Wonder how that came about??

    Good write up and thanks for not pulling your punches!

    • Agree about the creeping Hublot -> TAG – > Zenith look. Then again, the Heuer Autavia is pretty nice (since they listened to customers rather than JCB on that one).

      I want to like Aquanauts, but I really don’t. Love the Nautilus but the Aquanaut just looks like a screwed up Nautilus to me.

      • Sheez Gagoo

        Agree. I love the Autavia. A lot of people complained about the biveris(z)ation of the brand and that TAG is a brand for noobs and Monopolies, but with the Autavia they proofed, they can build serious watches for adults. I hope Zenit will build a nice non-ridiculous new El-Primero based beauty you still can wear as an adult and in ten years. I`m quite optimistic. Biver is not loved here but he`s not that stupid. I honestly like the Aquanauts for me it looks like a modernized Nautilus that looks a little outdated to me, like a lot of these post-crisis icons like the Royal Oak. I respect Genta, but he`s dead for a while. The Nautilus and the RO were cool and even shocking when they were released and now they are part of the retrotrap (admit, the Autavia is nothing else than a re-release) like Jags from the pre-Tata era.

    • IG

      The LVMH brands get Biverised (or Biverized in colonial Eng.)…

  • ??????

    No Breitling Rattrapante and no Seiko 62MAS?

  • A_watches

    The bulgari and zenith are my winners, bulgari still looks like nothing else and this new iteration is gorgeous. Both fresh and anti retro/vintage/heritage.

    The zenith looks hublot-ish (which i personally don’t mind as it suits it ultra high tech movement), the new zenith movement packs huge horological weight for the money.

    Similar to how the big watch trend has faded, I hope the heritage thing also wanes. I want to see relevant watches for today which are potential classics of the future, instead of wallowing in past designs and tastes. Perhaps it is similar to the movie industry, in tough times it is much easier to make money from another terminator, harry potter, spiderman 7 etc

  • SuperStrapper

    Is that aquanaut on the list because it embodies the (fake) P. T. Barnum axiom so well?

  • No Longines 1945? The silver dial non-limited Railmaster? FC Flyback? Chronoris Date? Voutilainen Vingt-8 ISO?

    Methinks you missed a few booths. I’ll be more than happy to accompany your crew next year and take awkwardly composed pics of some of the more forgotten pieces.

    • A lot of reviews will follow though out the year from the meetings that ABTW guys had. Not ever meeting (sometimes 10 a day) gets covered within 24 hours during the show period. Cheers.

  • DanW94

    Thanks to the ABTW team for the coverage. I especially enjoyed the video logs. Well done. Sure, re-hashes and downright uninspired designs might have been the order of the day, but there’s always plenty of watches to get excited about, I liked the GO Senator chrono, Gauthier’s micro-rotor, the Hermes Impatiente, and Rado had a really cool diver at the more affordable end of the spectrum. The Fossil smartwatch pictured above though? Sigh…..

  • Polerouter

    As a mere visitor, I think Baselworld has very little to offer and even as someone passionate about watches I feel that going only once every 5 years in more than enough. The entrance fee of 60CHF is ridiculous, just to find closed booths such as Rolex, Omega, or worst of all, Chanel, which exposed only 4 (four!!!) watches to the public, not even including the latest Monsieur. As usual, the only interesting things were with the independant watchmakers, I had for instance the chance to talk to Voutilainen and people from the AHCI.
    There are a few exceptions, though. Blancpain was probably the best: their place seemed open and inclusive, and there was a watchmaker eager to talk about anything with everyone while manipulating great tourbillons, yet at the same time they seemed to have the same private salons as everyone else, which shows that a brand can do both. This should be an example to follow in order to attract the occasional amateur in the future.

    As for the watches, this was a very poor edition. The best novelties were, for me, the Longines VHP, the various entry-level silicon spring Swatch Group watches, the FC Flyback and the Fabergé Chronograph.

    The Zenith El Primero 21 is also a great novelty, with a very reasonable price compared to the R&D involved. The style, however, is a miss. I don’t mind the Biver style for Hublot or TAG Heuer, but I think it does not belong to what Zenith means. Zenith is not only a brand making fast chronographs in the 80s. It is also a brand making restrained and classy three-handers with astonishing chronometric performances in the 50s.

    • Mark1884

      I would be very unhappy, If I got there and those booths were closed!

      • Recall that it really is an industry trade show and is not public oriented. Meaning it exists for retailers and distributors to go see the new lines and place their orders. Secondarily it is a press event. But as a consumer, you won’t get an appointment (made well before the show opens) so you likely will never see the inside of the massive (2 or 3 story) booths. I remember the first day of my first BaselWorld back in 2013: before I hooked up with Ariel and James I had just been wandering around like a member of the public and I quickly became frustrated and even bored just looking at watch from the showcases on the outside of the booths. Without inside access, Hall 1 does not have much to see. In contrast Hall 2 has smaller brands and you may have better luck dropping by and talking to people and seeing watches. Cheers.

        • Mark1884

          Well then….. I will need someone with connections to hook me up!!
          I will need access to the vendor suites and full access to the bar!!
          Thanks for the info.

          • A number of booths will offer you champagne (but not a full bar). The problem with drinking before the last booth of the day is that it will negatively impact your ability to get work done (like trying on and photographing watches) with any clarity. Cheers.

          • The Deplorable Boogur T. Wang

            Spoken like a true amateur!…;)

    • Larry Holmack

      You could have always gone to the Invicta Booth….. ( insert creepy clown laugh! )

    • The Deplorable Boogur T. Wang

      A very good point for the marques to remember – We all start out as “the occasional amateur.”

    • cluedog12

      Want to attend one of these years, particularly for the AHCI booths. Glad to hear you got something out of it.

  • Mark1884

    A bit disappointed in the top 10 list. Seems like most of my “picks” were absent. The one I do agree with, seems to be flamed here: PP Aguanaut. That’s ok, I just like PP.
    Still surprised Rolex & Breitling were not on the list.
    I thank the ABTW team for the info though.

  • Thanks for a very interesting review of the show Ariel. Interesting choices for the “top 10” which I can certainly appreciate.

  • TrevorXM

    Wow, you put some stupid G-shock on your list and a superboring old news PP Aquanaut that brings nothing new to the table? Watches missed by the list which should have been on there instead include the Oris Chronos super 70’s new-retro watch which is now leading the way in that trend along with the really fun show-stealing Rado Superchrome “Captain Cook”. And the Tudor Black Bay with the steel bezel and date, which is turned the Black Bay from a watch for poseurs to a watch worth having as a serious everyday one — and an “only watch” proposition. The superbly improved Sea Dweller with the really great touch of colour and this new Black Bay and the Cellini moon phase show a Rolex who is “getting it” again. The rebirth of Tudor in the past few years and their strong, positive evolution of that brand has gradually led to good things back at the parent company. Tudor seems to be influencing Rolex now, and not the other way around.

    • Yan Fin

      Totally agree on Rado “Captain Cook” and Tudor. Would also add Longines. To me those are more important.

  • WatchMark

    I appreciate the honest review of Baselworld, and how problems in the watch industry have affected the show. As a low to mid-range collector, I’m very price conscious. And it’s hard for me to ignore a several-hundred-dollar price difference between a local brick-and-mortal store versus a legitimate Internet dealer. I’m interested to see if the high end brands I love are able to compete effectively. The price increases in the $4-6k range are frustrating to deal with.

    Regarding your 10-best picks, the one that made me raise my eyebrows the most was the Patek Aquanaut. I actually like the Aquanaut line. It’s reasonably nice looking, and in steel it’s not crazy-expensive (well, maybe a little). But this version at nearly $40k is too much. The availability of other fine watches at that price is too high to consider a three-handed, rubber strapped PP. You could get any number of perpetual calendars, moon phase watches, or in-house chronographs at that price from brands like JLC, IWC, and Lange instead.

    Looking forward to more reviews, posts, VLogs, and more!

  • gw01

    That new Sea-Dweller… the more you look at it, the sexier it gets. Rolex has done a good thing, continuing to evolve the design. It lets the vintage Sea-Dwellers be good in their own time, it was good while it lasted and now it’s time for another kind of good. Life is about stages, and different stages in life have their own challenges and set of rules – so is Rolex letting it be; letting their watches pertain in a undisturbed manner to the time they belong to.

  • Raymond Wilkie
    • Gokart Mozart

      I think this was the only watch that deserved to be in the top 10. Its fabulous.

      • Raymond Wilkie

        Just goes to prove, one mans meat is another mans poison.

      • And if Rolex produced it, next year it would be an “all new” version with simply changed colors, ha ha.

        • And two-tone instead of solid precious metal.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Bronze looks garbage,…….their, i said it. A G-Shock in the top 10 ? That, i never thought i would see. The only one that takes my fancy on the list is the Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Moon Retrograde. Must look wonderful in real life.
    Of course everyone is going to have different choices.
    Great coverage of the event guys , thanks.

    • I agree that the MLC Masterpiece Moon Retrograde deserves to be on the list.

  • Shinytoys

    Thanks very much to Ariel and the crew for taking us with them on their annual pilgrimage to Basel World. The coverage was excellent as well as the photos and commentary. Please send me plane tickets so I can go next year and enjoy the show personally.
    Best Regards and Cheers!

    • Raymond Wilkie

      You don’t ask you don’t get , right ? : )

      • Shinytoys

        You have to ask !!! Who knows, it could happen…Cheers

        • Hey, where are my plane tickets? I keep going on my own nickel. But then again, that means I have no responsibilities to write posts until 5 A.M. each night like the rest of Team ABTW.

          • Shinytoys

            You definitely should get tickets !

  • Marius

    You can imagine just how boring Baselworld was this year when you see that the Top 10 Watches list is comprised of a Casio G-Shock, a Citizen STX-whatewer, a Maurice Lacroix, a dated Eterna, a ridiculously overpriced Patek, and a bunch of Omegas and Tag Heuers that are a copy/paste of watches produced in 1957.

    Personally, I would have included the following watches on that list:
    Beat Haldimann H11, H12.
    Lange & Heyne Georg.
    Rolex Sea-Dweller.
    Breitling Navitimer Split-Seconds Chronograph.
    Monta SKYQUEST.

    • TrevorXM

      That Breitling in steel is one hell of a good looking watch!

    • ??????

      Couldn’t agree more. Your post has more sense than any article I’ve seen so far.

    • Larry Holmack

      You forgot about the Clown watch!!! I do think I had one back in the mid 1960’s when Batman was a weekly TV show with Cesar Romero playing the Joker!! I was sure that watch was the April Fools joke of Baselworld!

    • gw01

      Skyquest… really? They’re playing the Oyster Case game. Same case, different movement. Still recasing cal 39s

      • Marius

        Yes.

  • SuperStrapper

    Surprised that so many are suggesting the H 11/2 should make some kind of list other than one containing boring jokes. $30k for a steel snoozer with a hardly-interesting movement from a brand known mainly for tourbillion watches that don’t tell time (or maybe even show you the tourbillon).

    The H2 is/was a great watch, but these latest iterations are expensive sleeping pills.

    To each their own.

    • TrevorXM

      says the G-shock collector…

      • SuperStrapper

        Your point?

      • SuperStrapper

        Never mind. Not worth my time.

    • Marius

      The Beat Haldimann H11 and H12 are far from being “steel snoozers.”

      Aesthetically, these watches have a very elegant and discreet, but at the same time very recognizable design language. As far as simple three-handers are concerned, these are definitely my favourite watches, and I find them more attractive and full of character than most Lange, Patek, or Voutilainen.

      From a technical perspective, these timepieces are beyond top-notch. For instance, the dial starts out as a solid silver plate with engraved and lacquered indexes, which is then covered with a silver powder that is applied by hand. The cases are completely handmade in Haldimann`s workshop. What’s more, the movement is entirely designed, manufactured, and finished in-house by Haldimann without the use of ANY CNC machines. Sure, the caliber might look unspectacular, but it is highly original, and it has all the high-grade finishes that one needs: hand-frosted plate, wheels with sunburst pattern, highly polished screws, sinks, and countersinks, and so on. I can assure you that most Pateks and Vacherons could learn a thing or two from this caliber.

      Lastly, from a pricing perspective, these watches are far from “expensive sleeping pills.” $30,000 is not that exaggerated considering that Haldimann produces max. 20 watches per year, and that these timepieces are 90% handmade by him. How much does a steel Patek Aquanaut cost? Around $20,000. Considering that Patek produces over 60,000 watches/year, and that its timepieces are mostly machine-made, and machine-finished, I would say that Haldimann offers fair prices.

      • SuperStrapper

        tl;dr. You’re not an expert, or an authority. If you like the H11 or H12 put your money where your mouth is and buy one. Post a wrist shot.

        They’re steel snoozers priced for the terminally unaware.

        • Marius

          You are absolutely right, this is certainly a watch for the “terminally unaware.” Those who are highly knowledgeable and informed will definitely buy G-Shocks, Hublots, and Panerais.

          • SuperStrapper

            Not sure how panerai, Hublot, or Casio are related to this subject matter, but I do honestly thank you for recognising how correct I am.

            Enjoy your weekend,

      • Raymond Wilkie

        That’s you told ! 🙂

        • SuperStrapper

          Let’s not turn this into anymore than it has to be. Happy Friday and all that.

      • Mark1884

        I prefer the Haldimann H9 Reduction. I only wear it when precise timekeeping is required. : )

    • cluedog12

      Would caution calling it a straight-up snoozer. There’s obviously a group of collectors that adore the idea of the perfect simple watch, like the Dufour Simplicity.

      Second, very well finished (yet ascetic) watches generally look and feel a lot more impressive in-person.

      Finally, I agree that the H11 and H12 don’t qualify for a Top 10 list this year. The steel craze is now a trend, so you can pretty much pick an AHCI brand and they’ll sell you a steel watch. Contrast this with five years ago, where Lang & Heyne was one of the few. The Chaykin is a better choice for the Top 10 list.

      • SuperStrapper

        I am of course only speaking for myself. On the other side of the coin, if someone were to say that this is a ‘perfect’ watch, I wouldn’t bat an eye: that’s their opinion. I wouldn’t ask that they exercise caution with the term perfect considering there is a segment of collectors that would disagree.

        • cluedog12

          I agree with your point here.

          The advice to exercise caution comes from my own opinion, which is as follows: the finer the finishing, the greater the gap between photographs and in-person impressions.

  • Andrew Buckley

    This year, I had to choose between Baselworld and skiing in France. Glad I took the skiing option…

  • otaking241

    People have been predicting the death of the big trade shows–CES, E3 etc.–since the dawn of the internet, yet they still struggle on. I think that they are and will remain important places for brands to advertise and connect both with others in the industry and the buying public, and that the brands avoid them at their peril.

    What organizers of shows like Baselworld need to do is make themselves more open and accessible. They should lower the cost of entry as much as possible for brands that wish to show there (maybe even offering subsidies for start-ups?) and also open themselves up to the public at large. E3 will be open to the public for the first time this year (though the “press and industry only” barrier to entry was largely hypothetical since almost anyone could qualify) and I’ll be interested to see how that experiment works out.

    • SuperStrapper

      Maybe Basel just needs some good old fashioned controversy to make it an event to see again? I went to CES ’16 and was lucky enough to witness a portion of US Marshall cracking down on capitalism as they took down the booth and inventory of a Chinese ‘hoverboard’ manufacturer that apparently infringed on some copyrights. It was all anyone was talking about afterward.

      I didn’t attend this year but I hear that CES 2017 was a record breaker for attendance. I think it was an anniversary for the show (but who cares) and I assume a bunch of people went just to see if they could witness something similar.

      I think Basel is 60 francs to enter? That sounds like nothing really: I go to a trade show every year and the badge is over $1300, which is crazy. And they wonder why attendance has dwindled.

      • IG

        A Swiss Army commando (using only Swiss Army knives) could take down the Steinhart booth full of knock-offs at Basel? That would entertain the crowd.

        • Sheez Gagoo

          It’s not the army, but there is such a force, that takes copies out of the fair. Immediately.

      • 60 CHF per day for the public. But the public can only “get” so much from the show, so they really have little reason to go every day. The press gets in for free but that requires prior accreditation.

  • Yan Fin

    To all the ABTW team reporting from the show – thanks a lot! It was so much fun to read your wonderful reports in almost real time!

  • Sheez Gagoo

    I`m a fan of the KonTiki but bronze, skulls and carbon really are stupid trends. I think Eterna is really an underrated brand with a rich history in watchmaking and underestimated by the community. I can understand, why nobody knows them but they made great movements before their movement factory has been de facto seized decades ago. ETA would not exist without Eterna. Then, after a boring and long period of mediocre ETA based crap, they decided to build their own and magnificent movement, which is able to carry modules for plenty of complications. Unfortunately, former CEO P.K. was a great movement developper but a bad CEO. The crisis of 2008/2009 made Porsche sell Eterna to the Citychamp (former Haidian) and chaos broke out. They change their staff more often than Charlie Sheen his porn starlets and now, rhey don`t even pay their bills and again a lot of employées left in anger. I really love their watches and their contribution to watchmaking history but this brand is a mess. I don`t understand why citychamp is able to restructure Corum for good and leaves Eterna with unpaid bills and such a ghetto. I know, times are bad but when they managed to make a crappy one trick pony (two, when you count the bubble) like Corum profitable why they fail so miserably with Eterna?

    • Interesting take on Eterna. Thanks. I wish them well, I’d had to see them disappear as a brand and as a movement maker.

      • The Deplorable Boogur T. Wang

        Their movement contributions may well out live their watch brand – sad to say.

      • gw01

        Specially when so many that recase their movements sell for the same (or even more) – Eterna should just invest in good design talent… up their aesthetic game.

        • I agree. While they have rich heritage to draw upon, a new killer design would help carry them forward (now the the PD days are over).

  • The Deplorable Boogur T. Wang
  • The Deplorable Boogur T. Wang

    Very enjoyable videos – Thank You Mr. Stacey.
    Very good coverage of a monster of a trade show.
    So much to see and do and in so little time.
    I will predict a continuing decline in attendance over the next few years and the eventual disappearance of The Watch Part of Basel Wold as attendance and interest wanes.
    Enjoy it while it’s there.

    • SIHH is putting pressure on BaselWorld as some brands are showing there instead of BW. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues or of the BW show staff can induce brands to stay. Ariel has approached the show staff to create better working accommodations for the press (Internet, working spaces, etc.) but I don’t know if they finally “get it” or not that the online press is the great extender of the show (making it worthwhile for brands to so heavily invest in being there each year).

  • Yanko

    SIHH 2017 overshadowed Basel. 95% of the watches we saw at BaselWorld with their offensive prices should’ve never left the factories. It is like watching a movie you hate and tell yourself that the film negative should’ve never seen light.

  • George Hook

    I found it very interesting reading about the show for one very specific reason. I used to work for COMDEX. For those who have never heard of COMDEX, it was THE IT trade show back in the late 90’s to the very early 2000’s. In 2000, there were 250,000 attendees in Las Vegas at the big show in November. Basically, it took over the city. By 2002, we were out of our jobs. When the crash comes to a trade show, it’s very sudden and fast and what I’m reading about Baselworld mimics what I lived through almost 20 years ago. Sure, the companies changed, but the premise is exactly the same thing. What happens is the trade show company loses contact with their actual customers and it spirals from there.

    I get that the Rolex’s, Zenith’s, and other manufacturers that make $10,000+ watches drive the shows based on the money that they have, but those companies aren’t the “mainstream” companies that 95% are going to get their watches from. But with the focus on these companies, the shows lose who the bulk of the watch customers are, and with that, lose focus but see the $$$’s. Look, I like those watches as much as the next person, but at the same time, I’m never spending that much on the watch. I’m sure that’s true of most people here as well. It’s just the financial reality. But when trade shows focus only on those people, they’ve lost their actual clients.

    My favorite watch that I own is a Casio MTG-S1000D. I’m not a CEO, or a “mover and shaker”, or a self-important person or someone who spends tens of thousands of dollars at a whim. In other words, I’m part of about 99.9% of the people out there. Just a working guy. There isn’t any focus on us at these trade shows, but I’m part of the group that, simply by numbers, buys the most watches. An auto show with only Pagani, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini and Maybach makes for great things to look at, but most of the auto buying audience would have no use for a show like that, and that’s what Baselworld is quickly becoming.

    • IG

      You’d travel to Switzerland to see some Casios on a trade show? LOL

  • Celine

    Thank you Ariel for your insightful look into Baselworld and the luxury watch industry at large. Uncertain times indeed. When I used to attend the fair (2006 onwards) as an authorized retailer, there was a very common practice of only allowing the retailer to order top selling pieces if they ordered a certain amount of “loser stock”. This always perplexed me because why make the damn watch if you know it sucks? You’re forcing the retailer to buy a bunch of them knowing they won’t sell. So now the retailer has no choice but to either 1. Offer them at super discounted prices in-store at the risk of the brand finding out and facing the consequences or 2. Selling them to gray market establishments, thereby feeding the beast that will ultimately kill the authorized retailer model. A toxic relationship if I ever saw one!

    • Sheez Gagoo

      Thanks a lot!

  • The Deplorable Boogur T. Wang

    Just a rambling thought (actually inspired by a comment from Mr. Carson further into the thread)

    How long until we see new offerings, by former big marque employees, who have left their positions in order to give the public what it wants?

  • Tõnis Leissoo

    I visited the show mostly because I was planning on attending in 2018 with my brand(s). I got a pretty good answer from my visit and I am definitely not going to spend money on a small booth at Baselworld. If you are a small brand and can afford only something small in a corner of the Hall 2.0 or similar then you will most probably make your brand look even worse. Retailers, press and potential customers will think that you are in a bad shape because you are not able to afford a better booth. Baselworld is very very very expensive!

  • cluedog12

    Kudos on listing the Chaykin! It’s my favourite watch of the ones you featured over the past month.

    The Chaykin Joker is aesthetically pleasing, quite creative and available to the ordinary man or woman.

    I know you might disagree with my definition of “ordinary”, but I could theoretically save up for one on a (first world) middle class income. To me, that’s attainable, if still a luxury.

    • Tõnis Leissoo

      The Joker looked even better in real life. It was very impressive!

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