Bold and the Beautiful
$55 Million Watch Steals Show at Baselworld
Each spring, watchmakers converge on Basel, Switzerland to unveil and hype their glamorous new creations with Academy Award-style promotion. Baselworld is the industry’s biggest stage, a worldwide luxury showcase that (like the Oscars) crowns winners, stars and trends—albeit on watch dials instead of television dials.
Baselworld’s brightest star was a blockbuster—Graffe’s $55 million watch called Hallucination. That’s right, $55 million, a price tag that’s hardly an illusion but rather a new world record for the most expense watch ever created. Showcasing 110 carats of spectacular rare colored diamonds in a floral pattern surrounding an petite dial, Graff (more famous as a diamond house than a watchmaker) delivered the rocks heard ‘round the watch world. With one watch, Graff turned all heads, and with the sticker shock, perhaps even a few stomachs.
Dior Grand Bal Fil de Soie
Women’s collections unveiled magnificent automatic and mechanical timepieces, often with unique feminine accents (florals, gemstones, lace, feathers) incorporated into the design. Dior impressed again with Grand Bal Fil de Soie, a watch so gorgeous that a Great Gatsby-themed soirée may be in order. The ultra feminine timepiece features a rotor hand-stitched with pink or green silk thread and diamonds (genius!). Each version is limited to 88 watches. Corum offers a similar look with exotic feathers on the dial.
Christophe Claret’s Margot, a poetic watch
High-end watchmaking specialist Christophe Claret presented his first ladies watch, the Margot, a horological representation of the romantic game, “he loves me, he loves me not.” With a push at 2 o’clock, the poetic watch springs to life, plucking daisy petals (which randomly disappear), upon which a final verdict is inscribed in French on a retrograde disc at 4 o’clock as a note rings out. Another pusher resets, and thus returns, the petals to pluck for love again. This remarkable sentimental complication (accented with diamond baguettes) should steal women’s hearts.
Hermés Arceau Millefiori
The Hermés Arceau Millefiori (Italian for “a thousand flowers”) is another standout—with vibrant (albeit delicate) dials of hand-cut crystal crafted by French Parisian artisans.
Equally ambitious brands expressed creative freedom in 2014—crafting watches as functional art sculpture with three-dimensional dials as deep and beautiful as a starry night sky, especially in astronomical watches and tourbillons.
Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon
Astronomical watches are distant descendants of instruments used by ancient astronomers (and even Pharaohs) who used the skies to make sense of the world and their individual gods. For today’s watchmakers, the sky is also the limit. Jacob & Co. introduced a complicated stunner—the Astronomia Tourbillon, an open-worked, manual-winding watch with a rotating tourbillon and celestial objects (Earth crafted in white gold and blue enamel; and the Moon represented by a 56-facet briolette-cut diamond) orbiting around a central “sun.”
MB&F, and it’s Star Trek fanatic founder Maximilian Büsser, launched the Legacy Machine No. 1 Xia Hang watch with the world’s first vertical power reserve indicator (in the form of a 3-D aluminum alien figure on top!). When the watch is fully wound, the alien stands tall; if not, he slumps. Space is indeed, the latest frontier.
Thin is still in, ironically served best in the tourbillon buffet. Among them, Bvlgari’s sleek Octo Finissimo (1.95 mm movement and 5 mm case) which set a new record for world’s thinnest tourbillon.
Moderated case sizes and occasional dragon themes are a bow to the Chinese market (particularly Corum’s daring Golden Bridge watch with a meticulous five-clawed gold dragon and a single pearl to represent “power and wisdom" respectively).
And the winner is….women (especially via Christophe Claret, Dior and Hermés). 3-D craftsmanship is a trend to track. Meanwhile, Graff’s Hallucination watch is a supernova impossible to ignore. No red carpet necessary for these stars, just willing wrists—and possibly a $55 million winning Powerball ticket.