I was looking forward to walking criss-cross around the Palace, where the BASELWORLD Team collected the niche watch brands. Technical and design directions and sometimes unusual virtuosity were on show that the more established large, historical companies would rarely undertake; the much smaller scale manufactures are eager to attempt this. A smaller scale and lower design budgets must be accompanied by very clear ideas of uniqueness and target groups, furthermore by creativity to achieve success and eventually a stable operation. This is why I find them particularly interesting and refreshing.
The Palace itself was altogether probably the size of two larger stalls in Hall 1. However, it encapsulated 44 manufactures. Without trying to give you a complete picture of what was in there – it is worth seeing it yourself next time you’re around – I’d like to bring a subjective selection closer to you.
It’s not the first time that I’m writing about Antoine Martin and probably not the last either. At GTE Martin Braun showed me the “skeletonized” steel version of their debut model the Quantième Perpétuel: the Quantième Perpétuel au Grand Balancier Open dial. He told me then that they are paving the road to introducing a more moderately priced collection at BASELWORLD (the Quantième Perpétuel series is in the EUR 100k range and the new collection would target the EUR 15-25k segment). Just as forecasted, the 1 Hertz Slow Runner was revealed in Basel. I met CEO Bruno Jufer, who gave me a brief about the new piece.
The concept of the novelty is rather thought-provoking. The watch has a huge balance wheel (24mm diameter compared to the movement’s 36mm), which makes one full sinus every second, summing up to a total of 7,200 vibrations per hour (1 Hz). So instead of increasing the frequency with a smaller balance the watch invites for a joint slowdown and for the enjoyment of time. Indeed, the pace of the balance wheel is rather hypnotic and I found myself staring at it for long seconds. The movement is the AM36.001 with a 92-hour power reserve. On the dial the hour and minute indicators have a similar pattern and roman numbers to the Quantième Perpétuel. There’s also a large seconds display, a power reserve gauge and a date window. Antoine Martin made three versions available: stainless steel with a white and dark grey dial, and 18k rose gold case with a white dial.
The ancient Sumerian city of Ur has given us our perception of time 6000 years ago. Twisting on how its constant passing is measured is what Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei had in mind, when they formed Urwerk in 1995. Their watches are on the border of futuristic and traditional. Actually, they merge the legacies of horlogerie with an intergalactic design. All Urwerk watches are limited editions.
Urwerk brought the UR-110 model with two types of finishing to this BASELWORLD – giving a completely different flavour to the watches. The UR-110PT has a satin-finish bezel, satin-polished screws, sand-blasted titanium crown protector and mainplate, circular-grained minute arc, and matte hour satellites with diamond-cut bezels. On the other hand the UR-110PTH has a reinforced blackened bezel, and is sand-blasted for a stunning matte finish. Same watch, two entirely different characters. The “torpedo” hour modules rotate while moving downwards in order to constantly face to the minute numerals horizontally –it is pretty impressive to finally see it live.
The UR-210 was revealed in Geneva earlier this year. The timepiece has an unusual gauge – a winding efficiency indicator. When in red, it reports to the wearer that no energy has been generated from wrist movements; therefore the watch consumes energy stored in the power reserve. When in green, motion energy is stored in the power reserve and the excess is transferred to a turbine to waste. There is a switch on the back to control (full / reduced / stop) the motion energy utilization. We can say that the UR-210 lives at the owner’s pace. It draws its energy from the owner’s pulse and adjusts itself to his/her pace. The case has received a special Aluminium coating (AlTin) for greater resistance to oxidation and scratches.
In May Urwerk presented the very first mechanical ‘smart’ watch movement.
The idea behind the Street Art collection is that Quinting produces one-and-only pieces inspired by different famous streets and places of the world – the brand new creations inspired by the Vatican and Washington were exhibited at BASELWORLD. The fun thing with this sapphire crystal disk technique is that you can let your imagination run wild and paint the disks just the way you want them. Actually, this is the game Quinting invites you to try – imagine something and they’ll paint it for you. My personal favourite was undoubtedly the Vatican with a magnified image of the most electric touch probably ever painted on the dial; Michelangelo Buonarroti’s: The Creation of Adam. The back of the watch features a famous quote from Michelangelo: “The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” I couldn’t agree more.
Being a versatile writer, an active fighter for the freedom of expression and a successful establisher of the “ideal society” in the little border village of Ferney outside Geneva, Voltaire has been inspiring the creations of Manufacture Royale since its establishment. Indeed, the intellect of the great artist of the Enlightenment hides in the watches of the manufacture.
Besides the Opera accordion and the Androgyne collection presented few years ago, fresh novelties were also displayed at BASELWORLD.
Manufacture Royale is creating a men’s and women’s 25-piece limited edition watch series for the 25th anniversary of Wiesmann, the German high-end car manufacturer. The two prototypes on display have inherited the smooth lines of the Wiesmann cars, indeed. The watches will be sold exclusively to Wiesmann clients, who can at the same time select the colour of the dial and the leather of the strap to match these to their beloved car.
The many faces of Voltaire’s talent and works can be observed on the Volteface 180°, which is a two-sided timepiece showing different time zones each side. The mechanism allows the wearer to release the watch from the back panel at 6 o’clock and turn it around the joint at 12. The two sides have individual designs – one presents an intimate view of the movement just as in the Opera or the Androgyne (with Côtes de Genève on the plate and fine sanding on the bridges), while the other has a grey sunray satin finished dial with cut-away full and semi-circles and hand polished angles. The manually wound MR03 movement has a 4-day power reserve and a tourbillion.
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