Next week, the horological community will convene in Basel, Switzerland, for Baselworld – perpetually the most important event on the global watch-fair calendar.
Some of the timepieces making debuts are closely guarded secrets, and this can be the case even when the secret in question concerns a very minor tweak to a highly familiar watch.
Don't get us wrong: We like subtle updates and spiffy modernisations; it's not always necessary to reinvent the balance wheel. But nothing whets our appetite for Basel so much as examining eccentric visions and virtuosic innovations.
Ergo, the preview below goes heavy on high complications and the razzle-dazzle of tourbillons. As far as what's on the wrist, these watchmakers understand the importance of a strong first impression.
Arnold & Son Tourbillon Chronometer No. 36
This 46-millimeter showpiece commemorates a breakthrough pocket watch design by brand founder John Arnold, the 18th century watchmaker rivalled only by Abraham-Louis Breguet as inventor of the modern mechanical watch. The dial-side, one-minute tourbillon, held by a mirror-polished top bridge, is also visible from the back. We're partial to the version with the 18-karat rose-gold case, but its stainless-steel sister is not too shabby.
Faberge Visionnaire Chronograph
The jewellery company notes that the inspiration for this timepiece is the "Constellation Egg" – the last such piece that Peter Carl Faberge ever designed, its completion interrupted by the Russian Revolution. (There's a nearly imperceptible laser-etching of that ovoid on its sapphire case back.) One hundred years later, the revolutionary movement we'd prefer to consider is the one powering this watch, developed by the Geneva workshop Agenhor, with its streamlined chronograph reset function.
Hermes Cape Cod Shadow
A fresh take on a model that debuted as an instant classic in 1991, this version of the Cape Cod is far more suitable for a night in the city than for a day at the beaches of its namesake peninsula. The brushed-steel case, the matte-black dial, the black calfskin with its red-burnished edges – these combine to tell the time in timeless style.
Breguet Tradition Dame 7038
With 68 brilliant-cut diamonds on its bezel and a watch-movement jewel bedecking its crown, this women's watch saucily walks the line between high jewellery and haute horlogerie. The offset dial is made of natural white mother of pearl; the signature open-tipped Breguet hands consist of rose gold.
Graham Geo. Graham Orrery Tourbillon
Grandly celestial in its gestures, this is a 48-millimeter stunner from an independent brand with a long history, a fun sense of astronomy, and a minuscule client base. Graham produced an earlier version of this watch in a limited edition of 20. This new one, with its beautiful, blue-lacquered dial, includes one scale to indicate the year and a second to show the reigning zodiac sign. With rotating gems and rare metals, it depicts the orbital patterns of earth, the moon, and Mars.
Seiko Presage Automatic Chronograph
Following last year's limited-edition release of two Presage models, Seiko rolls into Basel with four non-limited models. All boast enamel dials with designs based on the company's first wristwatch (1913's Laurel) and made by master craftsman Mitsuru Yokozawa. Our favourite is this stainless-steel, crocodile-strapped, 42-millimeter chronograph-elegant and energetic in equal measure.
Angelus U22 Tourbillon
This model-like the U21, another new execution of the house's skeleton tourbillon movement-is made with a carbon-fiber main plate that gives it the illusion of being part of the case and gives you the pleasure of gazing upon an architectural marvel. The structure of the movement, created for maximal three-dimensionality, is all the more impressive, considering that the watches weighs in at 54 grams-about the mass of 11 nickels.