If you’re looking for the world’s most spectacular watches then Switzerland is the place for you. But how do you find the crème de la crème of this year’s crop?
When shopping for a luxury timepiece, there are few better places than Switzerland. More than 25 of the world’s top watchmakers are based in this small landlocked country. ‘Swiss-made’ watches are under the jurisdiction of strict laws from the Swiss government and this prestigious seal can only be granted if the movement and the casing of each timepiece originate in the country; the final inspection must take place in Switzerland, too.
Swiss watch brands are based everywhere from the shores of Lake Geneva to the foothills of the Jura Mountains, and every spring watchmakers from across the country venture to the city of Basel in the north west of the country for the most prestigious event in the horological calendar. Baselworld offers a chance for the great and the good of Swiss watchmaking to show their most spectacular creations to the world, and each year the competition becomes stiffer. In 2018 brands presented some of their most daring and luxurious models to date. From extravagant crystals to intricate complications, the choice was vast. Once the show is over these outstanding creations make their way into the boutiques of Geneva and Zürich and on to the wrists of discerning customers.
When thinking of Swiss luxury watches, Rolex immediately springs to mind. Although the company was first established in London in 1905, founder Hans Wilsdorf left Britain in 1919 to begin a new life in Geneva, and Rolex has been part of the Swiss landscape ever since. The brand is usually typified by classic sporty timepieces with monochrome dials and steel bracelets, yet for 2018 the Rolex men’s models were brimming with unexpected colour.
The GMT-Master, launched in 1954 in collaboration with Pan American Airways and worn by cabin crew on long haul-flights, features a 24-hour bezel, allowing the wearer to read two time zones at once. This year Rolex introduces three new versions of this design. The 2018 GMT-Master II model is the perfect piece for a global traveller and the innovative ceramic two-tone red and blue bezel gives the steel model a retro look and eye-catching appeal. For those wanting to make a statement, two new rose gold GMT-Master creations are bound to impress. Their ceramic bezels come in a striking yet unusual combination of black and brown, a new colour combination for the brand. With the ongoing trend for rose gold throughout men’s watchmaking, these models were the shining stars of Rolex’s 2018 Baselword presentation.
Another brand that is revisiting a classic this year is Patek Philippe. One of the most respected watchmakers in Switzerland and across the globe, the family-owned business has presented some of the most outstanding and record-breaking timepieces of all time. This year is the 50 anniversary of the launch of the Golden Ellipse, the second oldest watch in Patek’s collection and a true highlight for the house.
The Golden Ellipse has long been viewed as the quintessential men’s dress watch, with its clean dial and retro yet timeless case drawing. At its peak in the late 1970s the watch was available in more than 65 varieties. The shape of the elliptical case – not quite a square, not quite a circle – is based on the Golden Ratio, the formula of proportion discovered by Ancient Greek mathematicians that has served as the basis of many of the world’s finest architectural and artistic wonders.
To celebrate the watch’s golden jubilee, Patek Philippe has launched two new versions of the design. The first is a stunning rose gold creation complete with an onyx dial and black alligator strap. Available for only the second time as a larger, grande taille, model (34 x 39.5mm), it also has coordinating cufflinks. Not content with one elegant timepiece, Patek Philippe has something extra special for the dress watch connoisseur.
To mark the brand’s commitment to Geneva’s artisans, each year it launches a limited-edition Rare Handcrafts model, created by exceptionally skilled engravers and enamellers whose traditions have been passed down for more than 400 years. To coincide with the anniversary, it seemed only right that this year’s model is a Golden Ellipse. The piece features black enamel inlaid with white gold engraving in a motif that mirrors the brand’s Calatrava cross logo. Limited to 100 pieces, this is a true collector’s item.
Tag Heuer is a Swiss watchmaker that thrives on collaboration and innovation. For 2018, to mark a new partnership with Aston Martins, Tag Heuer created a special edition of its classic Carrera 01 model. The sporty skeleton display includes a hexagonal pattern inspired by the new Aston Martin Vantage, while the case has been designed to evoke images of speed.
At Tag Heuer, sporty design by no means eclipses the brand’s serious watchmaking credentials. The second 2018 addition to the Carrera family is a feat of horological engineering. The prestigious Tête di Vipère stamp dates back to 1897, an independent award given only to chronometers that offer unrivalled precision timing keeping. The mark has been given to just 500 models in the past 12 years, each of which had to go through 16 days of rigorous testing.
The Tag Heuer Carrera Tête de Vipère Chronograph Tourbillion model features not only this revered chronograph, but also a tourbillion movement allowing for one of the brand’s most accurate models ever. While tourbillions are often the preserve of strictly traditional timepieces, the Tag Heuer piece proves that modern watchmaking hasn’t overlooked the beauty of a classic Swiss complication.
Whether you have a penchant for Rolex’s bold sporty pieces, for the classic refinement of a Patek Philippe dress watch or for the boundary-pushing styles of Tag Heuer, this year’s offering from premium Swiss brands will leave you spoiled for choice.