Most Baselworld veterans will tell you that Hall 1.0 is where all the serious horology heavyweights are to be found, while the Palace is a creative, convivial meeting place for exciting new and independent brands, Bremont being but one of them. I was awed by Hall 1.0 and deeply impressed by The Palace, but there’s a lot of interesting things going on in the upper reaches of Hall 1.0, a place where watch snobs fear to tread.
Hall 1.2 is a little off the beaten track, it’s not up one set of escalators but two, and you have to seek out the second set because they are some distance from the first. I like the idea that you have to work a little to find it. There are still some massive brands up here, Casio and Rotary (the UK’s best-selling Swiss brand) among them, and even though the brands may fall into the so called ‘affordable’ category, thereby open to sneering criticism from connoisseurs, it doesn’t mean there is any less creativity or ingenuity to the new products on offer.
As one extremely successful brand owner pointed out to me, “Some watch bloggers like to deride what we do, like affordable or entry level watches are beneath them, but have they ever sold a watch? No. Go sell a watch, go sell two dozen container loads, then criticize what I do.” And not only that, many brands you would least expect are starting to offer watches with mechanical movements.
Baselworld 2014 Affordable Treasures – Rotary
Rotary has recently introduced Les Originales, a collection of Swiss made, skeleton automatic timepieces with sapphire glass casebacks revealing a Swiss automatic movement. The watches come in a wide range of styles for both men and women. As mentioned, Rotary is the UK’s best-selling Swiss watch brand, but also sell in 35 countries worldwide. The firm was founded in 1895 by Moise Dreyfuss in the Swiss town of La Chaux de Fonds and is still owned by the Dreyfuss family. Football legend Frank Lampard is one of their Brand Ambassadors. (www.rotarywatches.com)
Baselworld 2014 Affordable Treasures – Fossil Swiss Automatic
Whaaat? Yes, Fossil, the usually cheap and cheerful brand in thousands of different designs, has produced a watch with a high quality Swiss automatic movement. Fossil are celebrating 30 years since they were founded this year, and to commemorate the occasion they have produced two refined timepieces in 316L stainless steel. And they are clean, classical and tasteful. The mechanical watch has a 44 hour power reserve, while the quartz version is fitted with a Swiss Ronda quartz movement. The watches feature a sapphire dome crystal and have rose gold-tone indexes with Superluminova on the numerals 12 and 6. Fossil will be bringing out several 30th anniversary specials and limited edition products throughout the year so this is just the start. The automatic Ref. FSW1002 cost $895. (www.fossil.com)
Baselworld 2014 Affordable Treasures – Quantum Barracuda
Quantum Watches are not from Switzerland but from Turkey. They are designed for those who enjoy exploring the limits of their capabilities, from divers and pilots to adventurers. Bringing together high-quality materials, advanced production techniques and innovative designs at, yes, there I’ve said it, affordable prices, these watches are seen as a symbol of style and luxury. At Baselworld 2014, there’s a new Quantum Barracuda diving watch being released with brand-new high-performance, extreme durability and high-legibility features. The new Barracuda model is a big 48.5mm watch watertight to 1000 metres. It features a rotatable stainless steel bezel and a helium escape valve at 8 o’clock so it’s suitable for professional dive trips. (www.quantumwatches.com)
Baselworld 2014 Affordable Treasures – Casio G-Shock
Derided by many as a cheap kid’s plaything, G-Shock don’t do mechanical movements yet, but I have seen more creativity coming from G-Shock than many a haute horology brand. If you don’t like a G-Shock design wait a couple of days and a new one will come along. They never stop creating fresh ideas. I love the new multi-angleprint G-Shocks that has enabled camo to be adorned across the entire watch, even on curved surfaces. G-Shock is also getting into smart phone technology with the GBA-400. It’s compatible with Bluetooth v4.0 and enables two way operation of a watch and a smartphone so that the music player can be controlled by the watch. But best of all, G-Shock have a world first on their hands with the GPW-1000. It has two mutually complementary time correction systems that provide easier, more reliable time calibration and signal reception so the watch can remain accurate via GPS in the depths of the jungle or on walkabout in the Australian bush without relying on time zones. (www.gshock.com)
Baselworld 2014 Affordable Treasures – Enicar
Finally, Enicar. You simply don’t hear much about this brand, but it’s been around for 160 years. Its name is the reverse of the family that founded it. They have over 300 styles for both men and women. Enicar produce both quartz and Swiss made mechanical movements and the company is based in the cradle of Swiss watchmaking, La Chaux de Fonds. It’s actually among the top ten watchmakers of COSC certified automatic watches. For Baselworld 2014 they have brought out new models in their Aquarius range. (www.enicar.com)