The best of Basel 2015

© Written by Rachael Taylor for Global Citizen 

Breguet Tradition Chronographe Indépendant 7077

When your eye first falls upon the Breguet Tradition Chronographe Indépendant 7077, it can take a while to know where to focus your attentions; there is a lot going on within its delicately fluted 18ct white gold case. If you simply want to check the time, you’ll find it within a miniature silvered dial quirkily offset at 12 o’clock to make room for a clear view of the watch’s mechanisms – the real star of this timepiece.

After acclimatising to the elegantly mesmerising show of the movement in action, click the screwed pusher and watch as the chronograph function sends oversized blued steel seconds round the dial, with up to 20 minutes of timing kept score on the counter to the left-hand side of the dial; the other sub dial is an indicator for the watch’s 50-hour power reserve. A click of a second pusher will snap the two hands back to their starting positions.

This is in no doubt a bewitching mechanical wonder, but the true magic lies within, where you’ll find not one but two independent movements; one to power the time and the other to facilitate the chronograph, complete with its own gear trains, escapements and springs.

Two movements would usually require two independent power sources with barrels and springs, as well as individual crowns for winding those separate barrel springs, but Breguet has developed a patent-pending flexed blade spring that takes the place of a second mainspring and provides enough power for up to 20 minutes of chronograph timing, charged by the actuation of the chronograph’s reset function.

If you stop too long to think about the technology housed within this incredible watch, it can be overwhelming. Instead, just click the pusher, watch the whirr of the movements and relax back into the beauty of groundbreaking horological excellence.

Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time (Ref. 5524)

When the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time was unveiled at BaselWorld this year, it was a jaw-dropping moment; this is simply not what we’ve come to expect from Patek Philippe, master of the elegant dress watch.

While this chunky 42mm timepiece will certainly stick out in a cabinet of Calatravas, Patek does actually have some history with this genre, creating pilot’s watches in the 1930s, and this 2015 reincarnation has been presented in an easily digestible, tried-and-tested style.

The first thing you want a pilot’s watch to deliver is legibility, and it has scored on this front. The dark blue dial, so deep it looks black in most lights, provides a perfect contrast for the luminous 18ct white gold markers and Arabic numerals and blued steel hands, all lavished with Superluminova.

Second is a dual time zone to keep track of where you’ve been and where you’re going. Catering for this need with beautiful simplicity is a smaller hour hand that can be set to show a second time, with a key on the dial to remind you which hand is for home and which is for the local time zone.

To prevent any unintentional changes, the pushers that click the second time zone forward or back in one-hour increments are protected by a patent-pending safety lock. Accuracy is protected too, with an isolator uncoupling the second time-zone mechanism from the going train when changes are being made so that the main time can continue uninterrupted.

The one quirk of this watch, other than its maker, is its material. It is only available in 18ct white gold, rather than standard stainless steel of pilot’s watches, which adds to the weight and the price. But when a watchmaking legend pushes the envelope, it is fitting that the only way to get on board is a first-class ticket.

Jacquet Droz Grande Seconde Deadbeat

Clear your mind before glancing at the Grande Second Deadbeat, because you are about to be greeted by a topsy-turvy dial. Though once you get the hang of reading this unconventionally beautiful dial, you’ll never want to go back to the norm.

The largest of the three rose gold hands on the dial is dedicated not to minutes but seconds, hence the name Grande Seconde. The hours and minutes hands can be found on much smaller dial offset at 12 o’clock, and below is a surprisingly large retrograde date indicator.

Though the dial is simple, its creation certainly was not. It is made from grand feu enamel, which means that rather than painting the numerals and markers on to the dial, the enameller applies oxides in gold before putting it into a fire that hits temperatures of up to 900°C, at which point it becomes unalterable.

The Deadbeat part of the name refers to the patent-pending self-winding movement that causes the seconds hand to tick round the dial rather than sweep. While in modern times we’ve become appreciative of a steady sweep, the Deadbeat was highly prized before quartz movements made ticks commonplace. It was originally created to meet the demands of professionals who needed accurate second-by-second timing, such as doctors checking a pulse, and is very tricky to achieve mechanically. To do it, a spring-loaded gear must be placed between the escapement and seconds wheel, loading up and releasing the hand, in this case, every six beats of the movement to create one tick per second.

This deceptively simple-looking watch is a bastion of impressive complications and impeccable artisanal craftsmanship, and as such is bound to be a conversation starter – but you’ll have to be quick, only 88 have been made.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Ocean Commitment Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph

The chance to give back while you shop is all too rare in the watch world, but a new release from Blancpain allows you to support the preservation of the world’s oceans whilst adding a really great diver’s watch to your collection. For every one of these 250 watches sold, the brand will donate €1,000 to charities working to improve our seas.

As well as its philanthropic properties, what is interesting about the Ocean Commitment is that you can use the timing functions below the waves. Normally, you can’t use chronographs underwater but the sealed pushers that control this chronograph can be used at depths of up to 300m.

And when you are on your way back up from the depths, the chronograph’s flyback function comes in handy for decompression stops by immediately snapping back to 12 o’clock and resuming timing instantly when you hit the reset pusher. A standard chronograph would require three pushes to achieve this – one to stop timing, another to reset and a third to start up again – so the flyback function offers a speedier option.

The Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph itself is not a brand new model, but the limited-edition Ocean Commitment version has some quirky features that include a specially decorated winding rotor visible through a sapphire caseback and the blue hues on the dial, strap and ceramic bezel that perfectly complement the grey ceramic case, crown and pushers.

And as a final sweetener, every Ocean Commitment Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph will be sold with an impressive 475-page book dedicated to the history of Fifty Fathoms, which when it first launched in 1953 was considered the world’s first modern diver’s watch, and will also be given membership to Blancpain’s Ocean Commitment Circle club.

Harry Winston Midnight Feathers

Since its initial launch in 2012, the Premier Feathers collection has been the reserve of Harry Winston’s female followers, offering up an exotic menagerie of dials made from ethically sourced feathers expertly crafted into dials by Parisian plumassiere Nelly Saunier, but now it has created a version just for men.

The beautiful art form of plummaserie, which nearly disappeared with the decline of the millinery trade in the 1960s, is a perfect match with watchmaking, and while the women’s versions are delightfully feminine, Saunier and the Harry Winston team have worked carefully to bring feather marquetry to the dial in a far more masculine way for the Midnight Feathers watch.

At first glance, the dial appears to be made from wood but what you are actually looking at is an intricate layered pattern of goose feathers and spines.

The dial has been kept completely clear, other than a pair of simple rose gold hands and the Harry Winston name, which has been applied to the inside of the glass rather than placed on the dial itself. Finishing off the rustic, woody vibes of this charming timepiece is a dark brown alligator strap.

Within the 42mm 18ct rose gold case beats a mechanical movement that can be viewed through a sapphire crystal caseback, its 18ct white gold skeleton rotor swinging beautifully over Côtes de Genèves engraving and bevelled bridges.

This dress watch brings not just the joy of owning a piece of horological mastery, but also a fine example of an artisanal craft brought back from the brink of extinction. It is truly luxury craftsmanship at its best, and let us hope it is the first of many feathery watches for men.

This article was originally published in the May/June 2015 issue of Global Citizen.

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