April 6, 2014
by Ariel Adams
Baselworld 2014 marks the fifth anniversary of aBlogtoWatch visiting the massive watch trade show event and at this point, our March/April pilgrimage to the third most populated city in Switzerland (not actually saying much) is met with gracious welcome by many of the brands who produce the best watches in the world. Baselworld is the larger of the annual watch trade shows around the world. While SIHH in January (in Geneva) is smaller, it is also an important event where a different list of important brands display their newest watch and jewelry creations.
For your reference you can check out our list of the top 10 watches of SIHH 2014 to recall the timepieces we felt were the most worth knowing about. We make it part of our coverage to provide aBlogtoWatch audience members with a list of what we feel is going to be of importance or worth your hard-earned income over the next few years. No “top list” is complete nor is it totally inclusive of everything that is cool. For that you’ll need to participate in reading our coverage during the show and over the course of the year.
A few thoughts about Baselworld 2014 and the following list that I feel are important to explain. First of all, we like to focus on watches with a high degree of “buyability” as opposed to being impressive or novel. Baselworld has literally thousands upon thousands of new watches, many of which are cool, impressive, new, wild, weird, and insane. aBlogtoWatch isn’t able to meet with everyone, and as much as we would like to, the duration and our own endurance only allows for a snap shot of those brands that we have taken the time to meet. If you know of a particularly important watch or brand that we have failed to mention, by all means, mention it in the comments below.
If you are a brand and would like aBlogtoWatch to be aware of your products or take more interest in what you do, please ensure that you contact us well in advance of the show next year to set up an appointment. Our time is more or less totally booked a month or two out, so the 20 or 30 e-mails we get in the five days before the show imploring us to meet simply aren’t going to get a ton of attention for the pure reason of logistical impossibility.
A few thoughts about this list and the show overall. It wasn’t totally easy to fill out the list of the top 10 watches for 2014. Sure, there were lots of watches that impressed us, but most of the high-end to mid-range brands continue to be extremely conservative with their new offerings. We are seeing a lot of product churn, line extensions, up-sizing, down-sizing, and small product revisions for the sake of revising product. This is really in order to maintain a conservative station with customers and to produce new models that retailers need to buy without the brands having to risk inventing totally new products. In other words, it was a quiet year and “new” was hard to come by–though, as always, it did of course exist.
Finally, I want to comment on the “new vintage” watch, as my relationship with this type of product has evolved over time. At first I thought that the re-release of classic designs, models, etc., was a cheap way for brands to leverage their past. Then the vintage watch kick started to get popular in a major way, and I felt that brands were merely riding the wave of collector interest versus really doing anything original. In some ways, I still feel that but I also am much more sympathetic to the concept of a “new vintage watch,” which actually describes many of the timepieces in this list. I will tell you why: The idea of owning a classic or vintage design can be very appealing from a nostalgic or stylistic perspective. Many of the “original” designs people seek are too rare, expensive, fragile, small, etc. to own or wear today. Brands who focus on offering high-quality and internally modern timepieces that emulate success from the past allow the watch lovers of today to experience some truly fantastic designs and experiences in a skin that often utilizes a modern movement and case construction. For that reason I am a bigger fan of “new vintage” watches that allow us to buy a new watch that seems to exist in a space of timeless desire and appeal.
My thanks to the entire aBlogtoWatch team who was extremely professional and rather amazing at helping us to fully cover Baselworld 2014 on this site and via social media. My kudos to their diligence, efforts, and keen interest in our mission. Thanks especially to our James Stacey who sat with me after long hours of meetings to help choose the pieces on this list. We take it seriously and contemplated the pluses and minuses of our choices as though they were political policy that would alter the lives of those people they would touch. Recall once again that this list is in no particular order and you can click on the heading titles of each watch to read our expanded coverage of the various models. Each of these timepieces deserves an equal place on the list. Comment with your thoughts below and please stay tuned as we cover these and many more watches from Baselworld 2014.
Several years ago the mandate at Tudor was “up your game boys, Rolex wants to offer the world’s best watch from about $2,000-$5,000” (which of course is just under the starting price of a new Rolex.) So the historic brand Tudor was re-shaped and refocused into what is perhaps the best value in Swiss watches today, given what you get in regard to style and quality. The Ranger is a new three-hand watch that in my opinion is a less expensive Rolex Explorer I, but that is in many ways more appealing. It is a military style field watch with a slick design, awesomely made 42mm wide case and a dial that is both legible and highly attractive. Tudor offers the Ranger both on a steel metal bracelet and range of strap options including this fabric camo strap. With a vintage inspired design and tool-like feel, there is almost nothing better for the money. The Tudor Ranger starts at $2,825.
It is both an evolution and a revival, but there is something about a modern Pepsi bezel GMT-Master II that feels great. Rolex continues to show off its ability to mass-produce extremely high-quality sophisticated ceramic parts with a new ceramic bezel that is half blue and half red. This takes the modernization of historic designs full circle to the newest iteration of the GMT-Master II. The up and down of it is the 18k white gold case. For better or worse, Rolex made this iconic sport watch an exclusive luxury item because of its non-steel price. It is perhaps the least blingy high-end luxury watch of 2014 priced at around $40,000 (36,500 Swiss Francs).
For me it is difficult to get sold on a “complicated looking” dress watch. That doesn’t mean it is actually complicated per se, but rather that a company takes a more traditional case that is not a sport watch and puts an intricate movement inside that merely shows the time (and perhaps a bit more). Maurice Lacroix’s new Masterpiece Gravity combines a slick modern look with a sophisticated openworked dial that is designed to show off the entirely in-house made movement. Maurice Lacroix even produces some of the more difficult to manufacture parts such as the silicon elements as well as the metal hairspring. That is all nice and good, but at the end of the day this beautiful to look at automatic mechanical movement and timepiece mix together well in a watch for movement lovers with taste. Priced at around $13,000.
Rather than being a new limited edition release each couple of years, Chopard has made the Monaco Historique collection a new permanent family of watches. Black and yellow mark 2014 with a collection of Grand Prix de Monaco Historique Chrono watches that include a three-hander, power reserve indicator, and of course chronograph. The collection uses a new titanium case that is wonderfully polished and the race inspired dial details are gorgeous. A new element are the matte black hands and hour markers that make everything important on the face just pop. The mix of quality, composure, and sheer beauty make this a rare race-inspired men’s watch one can easily wear on a daily basis. Price for the Chrono version of the Chopard Monaco Historique is $7,640.