Time Honoured


For many of the major watch brands, Baselworld 2016 proved a particularly nostalgic affair. Overall, it is a time of great change in the sector. On one side, high-end smart watches are redefining the world of luxury wristwear while, in a continuing worry, many of haute horology’s core markets are still blighted by economic uncertainties, with cautious spending the order of the day.

It is, perhaps, not surprising then, that many marques have turned noticeably wistful, revisiting the models and styles of their heyday. Last month, in the first part of our annual review of the very best of Baselworld, we focussed on a number of revisited classics from Rolex and Omega – the Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona and the Moonphase Speedmaster, respectively. There were, however, far more brands apparently keen to recapture that special magic of yesteryear.


This was explicitly the case for Girard Perregeaux, with the high-end Swiss manufacturer making a point of highlighting the upgrade to its Laureato range. First introduced in 1975 – like today, a challenging time for the luxury watch industry – the original Laureato had to contend with the dawn of the age of the quartz movement, while a number of new materials were beginning to make an impact. While, today, it is ceramic, stone and the more exotic metals that are the arrivistes, back then it was steel.

Appropriately enough, then, the re-imagined Laureato comes in stainless steel, while also retaining the octagonal, polished bezel of its illustrious predecessor. Fetchingly framing the dial – in a choice of white, grey or navy blue – the bezel comes with the imprimatur  of a Clou de Paris checkerboard pattern, another knowing nod to the 1975 debut edit.

The 2016 incarnation has been released in a limited edition of just 225 models in each of the two dial styles. Each watch retails for around US$14,300 and, such has been there popularity, Girard Perregeaux is said be considering making the watch a permanent addition to its collection.

As a knock-on from so many brands consciously revisiting their past triumphs, there was also a striking return for a number of classic sporting timepieces.  One of the most significant of those came courtesy of Longines, with the company lovingly recreating its Equestrian Pocket Watch Jockey, first issued in 1878. The original watch featured the marque’s first chronograph movement, an addition that made it possible to measure performances to the split-second. It was on the back of this that Longines established its pre-eminent association with the American racetracks, a connection that has continued to this day.

The 21st century Pocket Jockey comes in a limited and numbered edition of just 20 units, with each one boasting an engraving of a jockey and his mount on its rose gold cover. Set beneath this is a hand-wound movement, complete with a column-wheel chronograph mechanism that can be activated via a push button on the winding crown. It blued-steel column wheel can be viewed by opening the engraved cover. As with its influential forerunner, the watch marks seconds – in this case via a small 6 o’clock-mounted dial.


Another brand with clear links to an illustrious sporting past is Blancpain, with the company choosing to mark this with a new edition of its Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe. First produced in 1953, and cinematically endorsed by Jacques Cousteau, the legendary French aquanaut, Blancpain last revisited its masterpiece in 2003, the occasion of this particular watch’s  50th anniversary.

The 2016 version is markedly different, coming in a plasma grey ceramic case for the first time. It also features a deep blue dial, one intentionally evocative of the depths of the sea. Its bezel – again in plasma grey ceramic – comes equipped with a blue ceramic insert featuring Liquidmetal hour markers, an alloy said to withstand all distortions.

The watch’s original function as a diver’s watch was betrayed by its luminous bezel-mounted index, a faithful nod to the original Bathyscaphe. Priced at US$12,800, it is a fair hike compared to last year’s stainless steel incarnation. Buyers, however, seemed far from deterred by its inflated price tag, a clear sign of the quality of this quite extraordinary feat of horological engineering.

Not every brand, however, took a retrospective approach. Bulgari – in a move that garnered considerable attention – chose a defiantly forward-looking stance, introducing a timepiece that notably raised the bar. The Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater is the world’s thinnest minute repeater, elegantly employing a series of differently pitched chimes to tell the time to the nearest minute.

Complicated thin wristwatch movements, as manifestly presented here, are rare and understandably so, due to the technical challenges involved in creating them. Very few companies have mastered the requisite precision techniques, with Bulgari a comparative newcomer to this elite fraternity, gaining admission with the 2014 rendition of the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon as its calling card.

With the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater, its case is just 6.85mm thick, more than a millimetre thinner than the previous “thinnest minute repeater” – a much-loved offering from Vacheron Constantin – and comes in at 40mm wide.

Fashioned from titanium – a logical choice given its strength and light weight, the metal also has none of the sound-deadening qualities of gold or platinum. A further stylistic innovation, although one with a clearly practical bent, is the way that the hour markers and small second dial have been cut out from the dial, rather than being embedded. As well as looking suitably elegant, this allows the interior case space to be used to its fullest as a resonance chamber for the chimes.


Taking a somewhat different approach to both its past and future glories was Glashütte Original. This year, it offered a new take on its Senator Chronometer, a piece first introduced back in 2009 as a conscious homage to those marine chronometers that were produced in the 1940s and 1950s.

The version debuting at Baselworld, however, notably upgraded the design along more contemporary lines. The case was slimmer, and fashioned from white gold, as were the stylishly and elegantly designed hands.

Taking a peek inside, the Senator Chronometer is driven by the manual winding Calibre 58-01, while also boasting a refined second-stop mechanism. When the crown is pulled out, the time display stops and the second hand is reset to zero, holding there while the minute hand jumps ahead to the next full minute index. This ensures that the exact relationship between seconds and minutes can be continuously maintained.

Another brand that opted to make significant revisions to one of its landmark pieces was Tudor, the innovative Swiss watchmaker now approaching its 50th anniversary. This year, the company unveiled a new addition to its Heritage Black Bay collection, one fashioned largely in bronze.


Recent years have seen the company experiment with a variety of colours for the Black Bay, with red, blue and black bezels all having put in an appearance. Bronze, of course, comes with some particular historical connotations, most notably its echo of the classic deep-sea diver’s helmet.

As with the nautical headgear that inspired it, its colour will inevitably change over time, gaining a distinct greeny patina. Other than its colour, the new model maintains a great deal of the look and style of the earlier Black Bays – snowflake hands, a large crown and a clean and easy to read design.

While this updated model characteristically features numbers at the three, six and nine o’clock positions, there are few stylistic differences lurking below the surface. This, for instance, is the first Black Bay to use Tudor’s in-house movement. As with the rest of the family, its calibre MT5061 boasts a 70-hour power reserve, while its chronometer-rated movement has been certified by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC).

It is perhaps significant that at such a challenging time for the luxury watch industry, so many have chosen to emphasise their historic achievements. While Longines’ Equestrian Pocket Watch Jockey may capitalise on the brand’s legacy in a different way to Tudor’s Heritage Black Bay, both celebrate landmark achievements, while adding that degree of contemporary functionality.

At a time when new companies and new technologies are at the very gates of the haute horology citadel, it is no surprise that the old masters turn to a daunting fusion of tradition and innovation as their surest line of defence. These, after all, were the two principles on which the industry was born.

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