I must admit that I hadn’t heard of the Steelcraft brand until Cedric Johner, a friend and watchmaker of renown from way back, dragged me over the road to the BaselWorld Palace Hall of Sensations to meet Michael Feldbausch the President/CEO and Julien Mottaz, the brand’s designer. The introduction to Steelcraft in their Press Kit sums them up brilliantly: ‘Solid but not stolid, Steelcraft was born in 2009 and is resolutely and naturally elegant rather than sophisticated. On the pop side of life rather than elitist intelligensia. More real life than rodeo than ‘dressage’. It’s not a motto – just the was we are.’
The watches are relatively inexpensive with wonderful splashes of colour on the dials, reminiscent of sections of abstract expressionist painters like Jackson Pollock or Clyfford Still.
The collection names are suggestive: Splash, Pulp, Velvet, Colour Concept and the watches come in various sizes and finishes - stainless steel, gold, PVD coatings. How can you not enjoy a timepiece when its designers describe their watches in the Velvet Collection like this: ‘bathes in subdued and colourful feelings and flirts with the depth of contentment and satisfaction.’ Check them out, they are a revelation in modern design and technology and are correctly priced between 400 et 750 Swiss francs depending on the model.
If it’s a perpetual calendar you’re looking for, you might like to check out the new model from Ateliers deMonaco. Making a change or correction to a perpetual calendar shouldn’t be necessary if that’s the only timepiece you wear. However, watch aficionados have more than one watch and there’s a strong possibility that it will have to be re-set after leaving it in the drawer for a couple of months without an automatic winder.
I was shown how to simplify this sometimes arduous task by Manuel Da Silva Matos, the Research and Development Manager, who explained how DeMonaco have come up with an innovative system whereby you do it all from the crown with a simple push and turn. Using its patented Perpetual Calendar with EaZy-adjust system, you can change the function between time, date, day, week, month and leap year with a simple turn of the crown and adjust it. There is also a special safety system that ensures you do not damage the calendar mechanism even when changing the date at midnight or when turning the hands anti-clockwise. All of the functions change instantaneously at the same time.
This Limited Editon (88 pieces) Quantième Perpet-ual Calendar – QP-EZ (43 mm) has an automatic bi-directional winding movement with an 18-carat bi-coloured gold rotor and a silicium escapement wheel. There is a multi-layer titanium-tinted dial with a deep sunray pattern engraved on the base and 18-carat white gold hands dial. A great looking watch that makes the onerous task of re-setting functions as easy as changing the hour on a normal wristwatch.
Better known for its creative pearl jewellery, Misaki, a Monaco-based company, launched three men’s watch collections this year that will certainly whet the appetites of consumers looking for good looking, modern and inexpensive watches. The collections, shown to me by Karine Arneodo, the brand’s Head of Marketing and Communication, have names such as 7, MC98, Adrenalin and Orbit.
‘7’ is a rectangular black chronograph designed to attract what they call the ‘Urban confident’. It has a black mat dial with orange-coloured hands for the chronographic timing with matching stitching on the black leather strap. The MC98 in stainless steel is a tribute to Monte Carlo and its association with motor racing. Adrenalin combines stainless steel with a black dial, date aperture between 4 and 5 o’clock, chronograph counters at 3 and 9 o’clock and small seconds at 6 o’clock with a handsome sea-blue stripe evocative of colouring on racing cars. There are twenty-two variations of these models, all of which have Miyota quartz movements, and the prices range from 199 euros for some of the MC98 watches to 439 for the most expensive models. They could be this year’s dark horse in the low-priced category.
Intrigued by the name of the latest watch by Ladoire, The Black Widow, I spoke with Lionel Ladoire the Chairman and founder of the brand and Joanna Budzik, the Marketing Manager. They explained that the name stems from the symbolism of the venomous Black Widow spider, that arachnidian beastie that more often than not kills its partner after mating.
The concept of this timepiece is revolutionary in that is has only one hand for the GMT and a patented mechanism using 3 silicium discs mounted on micro ceramic ball bearings that display the hours, minutes and seconds.
The case is asymmetrical and has a titanium bezel, middle case and caseback with a black PVD coating. The black titanium crown is at 8 o’clock and there is a GMT corrector also in black titanium. The sapphire crystal over the dial is cambered and the display caseback is a flat sapphire crystal and the strap uses a unique single-lug attachment system. Water-resistant to 50 metres, the ultra-modern Limited Edition of The Black Widow is entirely manufactured in Switzerland and comes with its own sting in the tail, it is priced at a hefty 65,800 Swiss francs.
In complete contrast to an avant-garde creation comes the traditional expertise and purity of a marvellous timepiece by Laurent Ferrier: the Galet Classic (Classic Pebble). An 18-carat yellow gold case with a white Grand Feu enamel dial and black Roman numerals, this timepiece has an exclusive movement - a tourbillon double balance spring featuring two inversed balance springs. This masterpiece is what I would call a watchmaker’s watch, a timepiece that goes beyond its technical characteristics, a watch that highlights the purity of simplicity and understatement, a watch that is so perfectly pebble-like, so tactile that you want to simply keep it in your hand rather than on the wrist. The superb tourbillon is only to be seen when the watch is not on the wrist.
Ferrier’s Galet Secret (Secret pebble) is a complete contrast. At first sight it has a fluted dial but by pressing a pushbutton two sections of the dial swivel on a pivot to expose a 240° opening that reveals its secret – a moon-filled sky created in Grand Feu enamel by Anita Porchet, a specialized modern enameller.
The watch is equipped with a hand wound movement with an 80-hour power reserve, which is equivalent to 3 days running time without winding. It can be seen through the sapphire caseback and the mechanism is conceived to ensure accuracy by keeping the oils from clotting during sunshine within the Tourbillon’s escapement and pivots. The case is in 18-carat white gold with the soft features of a well-worn pebble.
The potential owner of a Galet Secret can define his own enamelling and, additionally, during the watch’s assembly can pre-set a time for the opening of the dial if they wish – a manoeuvre that takes 60 minutes to complete.
It was a privilege to meet the softly spoken and bearded Laurent Ferrier . Like his creations, he is a master of discretion.
An acceptable reason for lateness?
One of the problems with BaselWorld is that being on time for an appointment is not always easy. It can be that the previous meeting was delayed for some reason such as a buyer encroaching into your time, or because whilst walking from A to B you stopped N times to greet a long lost acquaintance or merely add another appointment to your already crowded schedule.
One particular day I had an accumulation of delays to the point whereby I missed completely an appointment with Badollet in the afternoon. Naturally I went to the stand the next day, apologised profusely and arranged another rendezvous, but the damage had been done and I had the impression that I was now considered persona non grata.
When I finally got to meet Philippe Dubois the CEO, he brushed aside my apology and began by showing me their Observatoire 1872 Minute Repeater. Named after the year the brand won the first three places in Geneva’s Concours de l’Observatoire, this eye-catching timepiece has a 44 mm 18-carat white gold case which is equipped with a hand-wound BAD1655 movement with an 80-hour power reserve, a flying tourbillon and a minute repeater activated by the sliding bolt situated at 9 o’clock on the side of the case. The very audible chimes are on the low-pitched gong for the hours, the quarters are sounded by alternating between the low- and high-pitched gongs and the minutes are counted out on the high-pitched gong. There is an opaline silver-coloured dial set with 72 baguette diamonds and 12 sapphires.
Very much in keeping with the on-going black trend, http://www.Badollet.com/ have a 44 mm Crystalball Chronograph that uses a manual winding BAD 1602 movement with a 120-hour power reserve and a tourbillon at 6 o’clock. It is a mono-pusher minute and seconds chronograph with the clutch on the tourbillon carriage and a semi-skeleton dial offering the wearer a chance to appreciate the chronograph’s inner workings.
Two very different and desirable complications with a tourbillon, two very worthy timepieces and an interesting meeting – the second time around.
Using their own Calibre 04 movement, Breitling launched its 47 mm Chronomat GMT at BaselWorld. Derived from the recently developed Calibre 01 chronograph movement, this timepiece is as close as you’ll get to the perfect traveller’s watch with its beautiful styling, a very readable dial and red-arrow hand for the home time. Jean-Paul Girardin, the Vice-President of Breitling carefully explained to me over an excellent coffee that to ensure user-friendliness, the watch uses a differential system that serves to disconnect the local hour from the gear train when changing time zones, thus ensuring that there is no effect on the watch’s precision or its chronograph. To adjust the 12-hour hand to local time, you simply pull out the crown to the second position and change the time by moving the hand in either direction. The date display is indexed to this hand and changes automatically. The red-tipped hand maintains the home time on a twenty-four hour basis.
The other newsworthy Breitling timepiece is the Bentley Barnato, named after the driver that won the Le Mans 24 Hours three consecutive times from 1928. A very sporty looking watch with its Bentley bezel and counters resembling a steering wheel, the watch is equipped with a Calibre 258 self-winding chronograph movement with 1/8th of a second, 30-second, 15-minute and 6-hour totalizers and a date aperture.
As one of the few remaining truly independent watch manufacturers, Breitling is clearly doing everything right to ensure that it remains a leader in aviation and sports watches.
I don’t recall the first time that I met Alain Silberstein, but he’s the same today as he was way back when: cheerful with a a sweeping bristling moustache which is sometimes incorporated into a goatee beard, enthusiastic about his metier and always happy to talk about his latest weird and wonderful creations.
A Silberstein timepiece is never boring. Instantly recognizable, it is a tribute to one man’s fertile imagination and his talent as a master craftsman. He dares to produce timepieces that are not merely brilliantly exec-uted mechanical marvels, but watches that are eye-catchingly fun and in your face. Just look at the 45 mm Tiger Krono: titanium case with a mat black PVD finish and anti-stain silicium treatment, polished titanium bars, equipped with a Concepto C2022 automatic mono-pusher chronograph with a 60-minute counter and a crown at 6 o’clock. The colouring of the dial and hands (red, yellow, white and black) were inspired by a Henri Matisse painting ‘The Dessert – Harmony in Red (the Red Room)’ 1908 that can be seen in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.
For something completely different there is Silberstein’s Rock Art based on petroglyphs. A tribute to the manner in which early man illustrated the passing of time, the carving of their history on cave walls and on sacred rocks, here we see the petroglyphs engraved on the side of the watch case by laser and stamped into the powerful strap.
Alain Silberstein creates exceptional timepieces such as a tourbillon, perpetual calendar, chronograph and even gem-set watches with cloisonné dials, often with a transparent caseback that are destined for everyday wear. They are unique in appearance and as close as one can get to a colourful work of art that is designed for the wrist.
Love the man, love the watches and love the exuberance that they portray.
Belais is back
It was good to see Philippe Belais back where he belongs in the watch world. This time, as they say on the sceptred isle, he’s gone the whole hog: he is the new CEO, director and owner of Claude Meylan. In short, he does everything except make the watches himself.
“What I want to do,” Belais explained, “is capitalize on the fact that Claude Meylan is the ‘Sculpteur du Temps’ [Sculptor of Time] a family owned business. I want to take it back to its roots of quality and trust, a brand that keeps its feet on the ground. The Claude Meylan brand was one of the four founding families that developed haute horlogerie. For the moment I want to specialize in watches with skeleton movements, but we’re not a manufacturer of movements we simply use the best ones available. Perhaps in a few years time we’ll produce our own contemporary skeleton movement as well as other large pieces, sports models and timepieces with complications.”
Today, the brand has introduced several new models including a 48 mm watch with moon phases called Rive du Lac (Lake Bank) and Dentelle (Lace) and Eclipse, which capitalize on the brand’s in-house expertise to perfect and embellish skeleton movements until the bridges are decorated and gear trains look like mechanical sculptures. The new elegant 35 mm Dentelle or Lace watch is the epitome of what Belais wants to achieve: it is refined, polished, engraved and ennobled with the setting of 200 diamonds on the inner bezel. The movement is an ETA 2892 with a 42-hour power reserve, the case is in stainless steel and the watch is completed by the simplicity of a white satin strap.
The Eclipse is a complete contrast to the Dentelle since black dominates, with white and gold movement parts emphasizing its sobriety. A particularly discreet 43 mm timepiece, the intricately decorated black ruthenium-treated movement is contrasted and therefore highlighted by the white rhodium-plated hour and minute wheels and the gold gear train. The blackened stainless steel case is equipped with a Unitas 6497 movement which has a 42-hour power reserve and is completed by a transparent caseback. Water-resistant to 30 metres, the watch comes with a black Barenia calf strap.
The prices for these timepieces represent genu-ine value for money since the Eclipse retails at 2,850 Swiss francs and the ladies’ diamond-set Dentelle retails at 7,900 Swiss francs. For the connoisseurs there is also a 5-minute repeater in stainless steel that is water-resistant to 50 metres and retails at a very reasonable 15,900 Swiss francs.
Philippe Belais is back doing what he knows best: masterminding the creation of timepieces that not only grab your attention, but also are examples of the finesse of watchmaking.
As another BaselWorld begins to slowly fade into recent history, I can’t help re-iterating the inevitable controversy of Basel v. Geneva’s ‘Wonder Week’, which now includes the twenty-year-old SIHH, the Geneva Time Exhibition, François-Paul Journe, Antoine Preziuso, the Franck Muller Group and all the other ‘parasites’ as one rather unsympathetic and unfair CEO has labelled them. In the speech by Jacques Duchêne, Chairman of the Exhibitors’ Committee, on Press Day, he said in reference to BaselWorld, “There is a reason that success does not tail off from year to year, this unique show covers the whole range of what the sector has to offer and does not content itself with exhibiting only large luxury products. There can be no doubt that this is the secret that makes BaselWorld so attractive. … the unchallenged gathering of the economic segments [watch and jewellery] because it gives each of them optimum visibility and a strong identity … and [exhibitors] have the opportunity of meeting the whole of their clientele in a single week at BaselWorld.”
There’s much truth in what Duchêne says and there have been rumours for a while that some of the SIHH exhibitors feel that BaselWorld would be better suited for their purposes, would be less of a financial burden on them and would help to increase both their visibility and profitability. One can’t help wondering what effect the enormous cost of the obligatory participation at SIHH has on the bottom line of the brands that participate: flights and accommodation for many hundreds of journalists from around the world, free food and drinks for anyone attending the SIHH all day and every day …
With BaselWorld constantly upgrading its facilities that will culminate with the superb new Halls in 2014, perhaps it really is time for Geneva’s ‘Wonder Week’ to re-assess its raison d’être. The original problem that brought about the creation of the SIHH, smells and the lack of luxurious booths and ambience at BaselWorld, has long been resolved. What appears to remain is, in the eyes of the Richemont Group, the insolvable stumbling block of hotel availability, restaurants and other external entertainment facilities – or rather their non-availability.
Is that sufficient reason today for the exhibitors at SIHH to remain in Geneva when the majority of buyers from around the world attend BaselWorld anyway? Visitors have usually pre-booked their hotel rooms from one year to the next and they certainly don’t look anorexic because of a lack of restaurants, bistros and cafés. There’s even a McDonalds within walking distance of the Show and I understand they have an inexhaustible supply of Big Macs. I’ll bet they hadn’t thought of that!
Source: Europa Star June - July Magazine Issue