At iW, I have the opportunity to see and wear a terrific selection of the newest timepieces. The trying-on part of my job is admittedly the easiest regular chore here. My ability to preview so many upcoming timepiece collections is among the most enjoyable aspects of working on the staff of a timepiece publication and website.
But when it comes time to choose favorites among the many beautiful watches that are for a few minutes either strapped or clicked into place on my wrist, the job gets a bit tougher. I’m often torn between the latest piece I’ve worn and the anticipation of the next beautifully decorated, mechanically interesting instrument that betrays hundreds of years of timepiece history.
Still, wrist-memories can be strong, and during all the strapping and unstrapping at the recent Baselworld, one of my favorite recollections is how the newest NOMOS Tetra Neomatik Tiefblau felt and looked on my wrist.
You must know the Tetra. This latest example of the German brand’s square watch collection has this year been enriched with DUW 3001, the NOMOS caliber that I had the opportunity to watch being produced last fall while visiting NOMOS in Glashütte. Recall that this caliber measures only 3.2 millimeters in height, making it among the thinnest of its type.
The square watch, long a bestseller at NOMOS, this past Baselworld joined the NOMOS neomatik (with lower-case n) automatic series, which the watchmaking company so successfully debuted last year. In case you missed it, the neomatik quickly sold-out its first edition and drew added attention to this already fast-growing watchmaking company.
NOMOS this year increased the Tetra’s diameter to a still-unusually small 33mm and has slightly tweaked the dial. Its running seconds subdial is larger and round, not square as in some previous models. This, combined with the new new colorful minute index around the dial, makes for a slightly more masculine look. And here the neomatik logo is gold rather than neon-colored as on the 2015 neomatik debut. Secured under my cuff with a supple Horween Genuine Shell Cordovan strap and NOMOS winged clasp, this watch felt perfectly at home on my wrist.
The watch arrives in one of two versions: One with cyan blue accents on a white silver-plated dial; the other, the Tiefblau, has green details on a deep blue dial. While I prefer the latter color, I’d gladly wear either of these Baselworld 2016 debuts on my wrist today. Given the NOMOS credo to keep its timepieces moderately priced (both are available for less than $4,000), this dream could one day soon become reality.
I must first say that I am not a flashy person. My watch tastes run to minimalist designs, understated enamel dials and maybe a date window if I’m feeling rambunctious. I prefer straps to bracelets, and black leather is my preference—or maybe brown for the weekend. Monastic? Hardly. Classic? I’m all over it.
But I’m also the first to appreciate a great design, even if it wouldn’t quite fit into that sea of sameness that I lovingly refer to as my watch collection.
So as much as I like to try on a wide variety of great watches (one of the best perks of this job), today I’m trying on a new personality—one that can wear a high-jewelry watch with all the aplomb it deserves. I will wear it and it will not wear me. And the watch I’m choosing for my new wrist (new wrists go along with new personalities) is the Bulgari Serpenti Incantati Skeleton Tourbillon.
Why? First of all I love everything that Bulgari represents, from its fascinating history to its maturation as a watchmaker. Second, as a self-described classicist, the Serpenti collection feeds my desire for something with provenance and long-lasting appeal, even though this watch is a new iteration. Third, I love the unexpected spin of a skeletonized tourbillon movement—a first within the Serpenti line. Last, and maybe most importantly, I am bowled over by the flawless re-design of the snake motif.
Redesigning a classic is always a risky endeavor. Remember New Coke? But here, at the hands of Bulgari’s masterful designers, the Serpenti retains all the emotional appeal of the original, while at the same time reminding us that the mythological snake can successfully take on many forms. Shown here, the diamond-set snake wraps around the 41mm watchcase rather than the wrist, framing a skeleton-worked manufacture tourbillon caliber visible on the dial side. The mainplate and bridges are crafted in gold, and the steel parts are complemented by circular graining and snailing. The gold bracelet is set with 28 brilliant-cut diamonds.
Repeat: I will wear this watch and it will not wear me.
Swiss Managing Editor
I have a love for all things French. From the language and chic fashions to the delectable food and, let's be honest, delicious wine. Therefore, it is not surprising that I have chosen the Hermès Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu as the watch I would wear from Baselworld.
On to more of my French loves, I have always been drawn to the classical Parisian Haussmann buildings of the 19th century especially when the interior is well appointed with modern elements. The mezzanine rooms with gorgeous parquet floors and high ceilings elaborately decorated with moldings are to die for and this relates to another reason why I love the Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu. While the movement, dial, and case express the classic traditions of horology, similar to the Haussmann style, in contrast, the typography on the dial brings a contemporary and playful vibe to the timepiece. For me, this watch creates a timeless style and in my opinion is an ideal blend of tradition and modernity. Additionally, it fits like a perfectly tailored piece of clothing. The slim case made of 18k pink gold measures 39.5 mm and has well-angled lugs to hug the wrist.
An abundant amount of talent is required to create this elegantly understated dial. The design process for the French maison takes place in Paris and is greatly influenced by the historic roots of the brand. Creative Director of La Montre Hermès, Philippe Delhotal conceived the minimalistic design of the Slim d’Hermès collection while the stylized typography to mark the time was designed by French artist Philippe Apeloig. The eye-catching dial of the Email Grand Feu model exemplifies the artist collaboration creating light and airy hour markers as well as the in-house expertise of Hermés artisans through the Grand Feu enameled dial. Each dial takes eight hours to make and requires five to six layers of enamel and firing to create the rich color.
Beyond the outer beauty of the dial, is the slim movement is to be admired as well. The La Montres Hermés SA office is based in Biel, Switzerland and Hermés owns 25% of Manufacture Vaucher Fleurier, a movement manufacture. As a result, automatic movement, H1950, featuring a micro-rotor, hand-chamfered bridges, and a 42-hour power reserve, powers this time only watch. Pairing the dial together with the balanced proportions of the case and finished with a Hermés Havana alligator strap truly strikes the perfect balance. I would be lucky to add one of the 100-piece limited edition to my collection.
At Baselworld 2016, Dresden-based independent Lang & Heyne won my heart – and hypothetical wrist – with its stunning Johann Champlevé.
While the Johann model itself is not a 2016 debut, the champlevé variant is. As a manufacture in the purest sense, Lang & Heyne executes the vivid enamel and the underlying engraved silver dial entirely within its workshops. All engraving of the silver blank is conducted freehand, and the translucent blue enamel ensures that each element of the engraved silver remains visible on the finished product.
Lang & Heyne prides itself on the sheer scope of its engineering, artisanal, and watchmaking capabilities. The Johann Champlevé incorporates hands, wheels, bridges, plates, and screws fabricated in-house to complement the show-stopping engraved enamel dial. Masonic symbolism, rich color, and subtle Mobius strips are integrated into the enamel span, and a robust 43.5mm case offers a broad frame for Lang & Heyne’s opus. For additional depth, the seconds sub-dial is a separate silver plate that is engraved, enameled, and installed within an aperture at six o’clock.
Proprietor, founder, and AHCI inductee Marco Lang intended the Baselworld display watch as a proof-of-concept rather than a definitive model to be duplicated. The 45 year-old Lang is a youthful fellow by AHCI standards, and he retains the accommodating stance toward customization that often wanes as master watchmakers age. According to Lang, at least 50% of his 2016 output of 30-40 watches will consist of custom orders. Given this type of license, my ideal Johann Champlevé would swap rose gold for white, and I wouldn’t hesitate to request the Mammoth-ivory plate and bridge option (hint: it’s exactly what it sounds like) to add exotic flair to the L&H Caliber 1 movement. Keep in mind that this caliber already boasts a diamond cap stone atop the balance…
Among watch collectors, the term “Exit Watch” has evolved from its literal origin as the “final installment” of a complete collection to something approaching an absolute, a superlative. Lang & Heyne ranks among the few manufactures that can justly describe each product of its workshops as an “Exit Watch.” With the Johann Champlevé, I’ve found my bow-out.