BaselWorld 2008 Preview

JD_Shabaka_WhiteGold_Front view

(Jean Dunand Shabaka)

It’s Disneyland for jewellery and watch lovers, the annual smorgasbord(s) where every watch brand reveals what’s in store for the coming season. The extravaganza begins at the massive Baselworld event encompassing brands in the thousands, before moving on to Geneva, where a coterie of exclusive houses display their treasures at the Palexpo exhibition centre at Geneva airport.

Sorting out the – literally – thousands of new models will occupy the trade for months, and it takes all year before the watch annuals can organise all the material in a coherent manner. For most of the new models, prices have yet to be established. But La Dolce Vita is undaunted: here’s a select glimpse at what watch connoisseurs will be tempted by in 2008-9.

AUDEMARS-PIGUET: LadyCat Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph with pink trim, diamonds

Audemars-Piguet’s diamonds-and-pink-rubber-trim Royal Oak Offshore LadyCat honours Dona Bertarelli Späth’s Ladycat catamaran, operated by her all-female crew. But don’t call it ‘girly’: underneath, it’s related to a watch favoured by Arnold Schwarzeneggar.

BELL & ROSS: BR 02-94 Chronograph all-black

Having created the public’s taste for square aviator watches with its BR01, Bell & Ross have turned to a rounder shape for their assault on diving watches. The time-only BR02 has been joined by this chronograph for 2008, all black and secure to 500m.

BLANCPAIN: Tourbillon 2926-5222-92S with diamonds

What better way for Blancpain to showcase the most coveted of complications that by paving the entire watch – dial, case and bracelet – in the finest of baguette diamonds? 257 of them (to be precise) cover the company’s latest Tourbillon.

BOUCHERON: Reflet XL in rose gold

With her biopic providing us with 2008’s ‘Best Actress’ Oscar-winner, Edith Piaf’s choice of watch for her male friends (a classy farewell!) has been revived in a timely fashion during Boucheron’s 150th Anniversary Year. The new Reflet Xl employs a movement from Girard-Perregaux.

BREGUET: Classique 5447 in pink gold

Breguet has housed two of the most desirable complications in the Classique 5447: a minute repeater and perpetual calendar. Those who wear this beauty will sport a direct link to the greatest watches of the 18th and 19th centuries, the styling originating in the pocket watches designed by the Master himself.

BREMONT: Spitfire Commemorative EP120

Real pilots watches made by real pilots: Bremont created a devoted following in record time because of the timepieces’ sheer authenticity. Their commemorative model honouring the immortal Spitfire will satisfy, alas, only 120 lucky fly-boys. Flip it over to see a balance weight in the form of a Spitfire’s three-blade propeller.

BULGARI: Assioma limited edition

Every watch company should boast an icon or two, and Bulgari is no exception. The Assioma chronograph – notable for the trademark ‘BvlgariBvlgari’ on the bezel, round case and straight sides – is being issued in a special edition, limited to only 199 examples.

CARTIER: Cartier Ballon Bleu

Cartier’s history is littered with icons – the Tank, the Santos, the Americain – and it took only a year for the Ballon Bleu to join their ranks: round case, Roman numerals with the hidden Cartier signature, winding crown protected by at little bridge. And now it’s joined by an ultra-cool, oversized male edition.

CHOPARD: Happy Sport Mark II Chrono All Black w/diamonds

Chopard’s Happy Diamonds has been, for decades, amongst the most coveted of feminine watches; try taking your eyes off those diamonds dancing under the glass. With the Happy Sport Mark II Chrono – all black finish and with diamonds on the bezel – it’s now possible to be elegant and ‘stealth’ at the same time.

DE BETHUNE: DB24V2 Big-Power

Amongst the most exclusive watches on the planet, De Bethune’s offerings boast in-house movements with patented features. The DB24V2 ‘Big Power’ provides all of that high-tech in a titanium case, making this timepiece one of the most rugged sport watches money can buy. And it’s the only watch you can regulate to match the intensity of your activity.

DE GRISOGONO: Meccanico dG

Always radical, de Grisogono has a new spin on luxury dual time-zone watches: the Meccanico dG – a splendid piece that’s especially elegant in red gold and black – shows one zone in analogue and the other in digital.

HARRY WINSTON: Avenue Squared

Harry Winston’s Avenue Squared is an urbane take on the otherwise mainly utilitarian dual time-zone watch. Its elongated case houses two independent quartz movements, while the bezel and dial surrounds are set with diamonds.

HERMES: Clipper Sport H1 Grande Date

Hermes H1 Clipper Sport addresses all of the concerns of a truly rugged sport watch, with robust case, clear dial and – as is now de riguer – a ‘big date’ read-out. But if you’ve any doubt that this £5995 treasure is pure Hermes, the seconds hand is orange.

IWC:  Vintage Portuguese

IWC has been tormenting collectors with annual dips into their museum for the auction of a single piece. For 2008, to ease that pain, the company is reissuing limited runs of a half-dozen classic models; the outsize Vintage Portuguese, launched in 1939, takes credit for inspiring the big watches we wear today.


There can be nothing more exclusive than a one-off watch. As no two Jean Dunand timepieces are alike, then each is truly, inimitably unique. In 2008, Jean Dunand will be delivering the Egyptian-flavoured, Art Deco-inspired Shabaka, with truly exotic dials chosen by the client.

A. LANGE & SÖHNE: Cabaret Tourbillon

A faultlessly suave rectangular case, formal dial, ‘big date’ display, power reserve indicator and – most notably – a tourbillon movement: A. Lange & Sohne’s Cabaret Tourbillon is the sort of watch you know would have been worn by David Niven or Cary Grant had it existed during their lifetimes.

MONTBLANC: Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph
Montblanc’s latest ‘halo model’, ensuring that its manufacture status is recognised, will entice any purist with a love for chronographs: the Star Nicolas Rieussec is hand-wound, features twin barrels and a look like no other dress chronograph. £14,500 seems an indecently low price for all this horological magic.


Parmigiani’s Kalpa Hemispheres shows the world traveller the time in two different time zones and it has a night/day indicator for both, so you’ll never mistakenly wake up friends or family 10 hours away. As gorgeous as it is useful.

PATEK PHILIPPE: World Time Ref. 5131

It’s only fitting that the first company to specialise in world time watches that display ALL 24 time zones at once releases an update of its vintage milestone: a model with a cloisonné map of the world in its centre. This beauty’s ancestors have set some of the highest prices ever paid in auction for vintage pieces.

PIAGET: Emperador Coussin perpetual calendar

Piaget’s Emperador Coussin Perpetual Calendar, a snip at £37,000 in white gold, reaffirms the company’s position as a manufacturer of desirable complications: this masterpiece features the calendar that provides its name, with mechanical programming ‘to cope with the irregularities of our Gregorian calendar up until the year 2100.’ One to leave to your great-grandchildren, then.

RICHARD MILLE: RM 020 pocket watch

We’re not suggesting that pocket watches are about to make a comeback, but Richard Mille’s 21st Century interpretation just might inspire it. This clever device features a tourbillon, and is large enough to double as a table clock when fitted to the stand that comes with it.

TAG-HEUER: Grand Carrera RS2

One for the collectors: TAG-Heuer will make only 1000 of the Grand Carrera RS2 chronograph, which features the company’s new take on small dials: the dials rotate, rather than using small hands to show the data.

VOGARD: Stockmaster

It’s one thing having the usual major cities around the dial of your multi-time-zone watch: Vogard’s Stockmaster shows the major stock exchanges. Looks like you’ll need never miss the openings again.

ZENITH: Academy Tourbillon Quantieme Perpetuel

Zenith’s latest ‘grand complication’ provides a perpetual calendar, automatic tourbillon movement and chronograph functions in a handsome 45mm rose gold or platinum case. Price is anticipated to be £135,000.

(La Dolce Vita, 2008)