Thursday, March 31st
This is the traditional opening day of BaselWorld. At 8.59 in the morning masses of people wait in front of the security turnstiles that lead to the hallowed Halls. I watched as everyone lurched forward at the stroke of 9.00 to get their first glimpse of what the world’s watchmakers have been creating. There is an exciting buzz that becomes a constant hum as visitors and buyers alike work their way along the Champs Elysées, as the main corridor of the Hall of Dreams is nicknamed. Eyes flash from left to right trying to take in the sheer magnitude of the presentation stands and one can almost hear their minds clocking up the Swiss francs as they stare open-mouthed at the fabulous glass structure of Patek Philippe or the elegant wood panelling at Rolex, or the surprise as they see the beautifully manicured gravelled garden arrangement that separates the brand’s stand from its small movie theatre.
My first port of call was the Rio conference room where where Sue Rechner, the Victorinox Swiss Army Chairman and CEO and Jean Bernard Maeder, Creative Director, presented the brand’s latest creations. “We have a clear strategy and are executing a careful growth plan which is performing beyond initial expectations,” Ms Rechner explained, “… because we are dedicated to listening and understanding their [consumers] needs and wants.”
The result of this ‘listening’ are watches that are practical, rugged timepieces: the ST 5000 Digital Compass, a new navigation watch with a unique lighting system; Ground Force, a titanium and stainless steel chronograph that comes with either a quartz or self-winding mechanical movement and the AirBoss Mach V and Mach VI timepieces – a GMT Mechanical and a self-winding chronograph respectively (see the Sports Watches article in this issue).
TechnoMarine then beckoned in the Hall of Desires and in the company of Franck Dubarry, the brand’s President, a small group of us made our way around the exterior of the stand, stopping at each and every discrete display window as Dubarry described the watches. This is followed by a session on the upper floor of the stand whereby we get to handle the various innovative timepieces. Much admired were the colourful TechnoDiamond Chrono ceramic watches (see Europa Star 2/2005), the incredibly macho XS Magnum Square Hummer watch and the new RoyalMarine No. 1, the flagship line of TechnoMarine’s high-end of Swiss Made timepieces. This particularly powerful looking stainless steel watch (42 mm) is equipped with a Jaquet 8150 automatic Big Date movement, is available with four different dials ranging from black carbon fibre to guilloché, a transparent caseback, an alligator strap and it is water-resistant to 200 metres. Dubarry’s calm enthusiasm and innovative timepieces won a few more admirers in the press.
Just a few stands away, Versace officially announced its licensing agreement with the Timex Group. The new company is Vertime SA and ‘will oversee the manufacture and worldwide distribution of Versace watches, in perfect continuity with the project undertaken by Gianni Versace in the early 1990s.’ In the presence of Santo Versace, Joe Santana the CEO of Timex, Cindy Livingston, the President and CEO of Callanen International and some sublimely sculpted young ladies in slinky Versace dresses, the new watch collections were unveiled.
Although there were six new attractive models, the hit was the DV One. A white or jet black ceramic watch (41 mm) with a gold-plated bezel, a guilloché dial with gold-plated Roman numerals and the Medusa logo at 12 o’clock. The watch is equipped with a Swiss ETA 2824 automatic movement.
TechnoMarine, Versace, Frédérique Constant
This was followed by a mad dash over to the Hall of Visions where Victor Mayer was launching the first Fabergé watch collection since the Russian Revolution in 1917. True to its Peter Carl Fabergé roots, the two watch collections – Agathon and Anastasia - combine precious metal, engraving and guilloché work. The Fabergé Agathon men’s model was the one that caught my attention since it is in keeping with Pierre Maillard’s prognostics (see his Editorial in 2/2005) that elegant simplicity is on its way back. In 18 carat red gold (40 mm), it is equipped with an automatic movement with a hand-engraved guilloché gold rotor. It has hours, minutes, seconds functions with a date aperture at 3 o’clock, a cabochon blue sapphire set into the crown, a sapphire crystal front and back.
I then slowly wended my way to the Frédérique Constant stand in the Hall of Dreams where Peter Stas, the brand’s CEO, gave an erudite presentation to the assembled press and guests that would have been the envy of any professional equilibrist since he accomplished it whilst balancing on a narrow table.
The latest additions to his now famous Heart Beat Collection, are the Moon Phase and Date version using the brand’s own manufacture mechanical movement the FC-915 Calibre, with all functions adjustable from the crown, and a particularly attractive diamond-set stainless steel ladies’ model using the original FC-910 Calibre movement. The Moon Phase and Date model is available in Limited Editions in 18 carat gold and also in stainless steel. Both watches have a 48-hour power reserve, a convex sapphire crystal at the front and a flat screw-down sapphire crystal on the back. The Frédérique Constant manufacture movements which took three years to create and were launched last year, are proving to be a very successful addition to this young company’s stable of quality timepieces.
The day, or rather the evening, concluded with excellent annual TAG Heuer get-together in the Teufelhof restaurant in the company of Jean-Christophe Babin, the CEO, the inimitable Jack Heuer, the founder’s grandson (see the Cover Story on TAG Heuer) and members of the press. This old lion then joined the young lions in the Campari bar for one for the road.
TO BE CONTINUED…
In the forthcoming days, the rest of this lenghty survey will be added to our europastar website.
BASELWORLD & SIHH: Part 1
BASELWORLD & SIHH: Part 2
BASELWORLD & SIHH: Part 3
BASELWORLD & SIHH: Part 4
BASELWORLD & SIHH: Part 5
BASELWORLD & SIHH: Part 6
BASELWORLD & SIHH: Part 7
Source: April -May 2005 Issue
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