The explosive growth experienced by the watch industry last year means that new brands continue to spring up like mushrooms. You could be forgiven for thinking that the comprehensive construction work now taking place around the exhibition centre in Basel is to accommodate many brands who are hoping for a space within the hallowed halls of BaselWorld. But the general consensus is that there will actually be fewer—but bigger—stands at the 2013 edition of the show.
We offer here a selection of brands who were either making their debut at the show or returning after both short and long absences, no doubt buoyed by the excellent results for the watchmaking industry last year.
De Motu’s manufacturing base at Helsinki’s Malm airport may just beat the Petrovorets watch factory of intriguing Russian brand “Raketa” (see Malcolm Lakin’s article in this issue) to the title of northernmost watch factory. This new Finnish brand offers a g-force meter combined with its own electro-mechanical watch movement (made in Finland using Swiss parts) in a 48mm case available in steel, titanium or with a patented coating developed by Finnish company DIARC. “Mechanical movements cannot cope with high g-forces because they affect their accuracy,” says co-founder Jouni Karvo, “and if you’re a combat pilot those seconds matter.”
But why the need for an instrument that can measure up to 11g? “Small aircraft such as a Cessna don’t have a g-force meter installed and some gliders can even pull 4g, so it is useful for such pilots. Also, because the g-suits used by professional pilots are so effective, these pilots need to be able to check the g-forces they are experiencing in order to avoid injuries.”
De Motu will produce 30 pieces of each version of its DMG-11 Pilot Instrument and will start delivering in the autumn. The brand is already planning to reverse the dial configuration, giving more importance to the time and less to the g-force meter, and promises new limited editions using aircraft parts, as well as a new instrument for next year that could be used for navigation.
Kienzle returned to BaselWorld this year after a three-year hiatus. The brand has strong German roots, having previously been owned by Mannesman and produced alarm clocks, tachographs, parking meters and even the first computers with Nixdorf, but it was incorporated into a Swiss holding structure at the end of 2009.
The brand was back in Basel with a new collection at a price point below €500. “At the beginning of 2010 we were too expensive,” says CEO Rolf Wüthrich. “We developed great products but we spread ourselves too wide and people didn’t know what we represented. So we asked ourselves what is Kienzle and came to the conclusion that we are the people’s watch.”
Keinzle’s range is currently divided into four collections, K Core, Lady K, K Spirit and K 1822 – all powered exclusively by Ronda quartz movements. Mr Wüthrich promises further new developments later on this year. “We have 160 references, which is relatively low,” he says. “We also have pocket watches, but we stock these mainly for the German-speaking markets. We plan to launch automatic and radio-controlled watches in the autumn.”
This was only the second year in Basel for Offshore Limited but the gents’ collection presented last year was so liked by ladies that the brand launched a separate collection for them this year. The watches are characterised by their strongly fashion-oriented French design but use Swiss movements.
Offshore timepieces carry their own distinctive traits, from the subtle, such as the left-handed arrangement of crown and pushers on certain models, to the not-so-subtle, such as visible springs that link the pushers to the offset dial on the Commando range and the separate time zone dial on the side of the case at 4’clock on the brand’s flagship Force 4 collection.
The star new model for this year is the “Octopussy”, which features a robust and angular case with the chronograph pushers and crown on the left-hand side and a dual-time indication on the side of the case at 3 o’clock. Offshore also presented new “Sonar” versions in the Force 4 collection, whose dials mimic the display of radar or sonar screens, with a sweeping line of light caught in mid flight around the grid on the dial.
A successful BaselWorld in 2012 allowed the brand to increase its global presence from 35 to 50 countries in its €300-600 price bracket.
Swarovski is hardly a new brand, but it did make a bold statement with its first gents’ watch collection this year. Its cornerstone is the Piazza Grande model, which is available with quartz or self-winding mechanical movements, all supplied by ETA. The case (42mm for the quartz, 43mm for the automatic) is available in stainless steel for all models, with additional models in black and gold PVD launched in the quartz collection.
Naturally, the Piazza Grande is available with dials that feature Swarovski crystal batons as hour markers, but more sober versions are also available with applied hour markers and Arabic numerals at the four quarters. In all cases, Swarovski’s personal touch is the facetted crown in ceramic that is surrounded by matching ceramic inserts on the case middle. They can be mistaken at first glance for pushers, but are in fact a very subtle form of crown protection.
The Octea collection transfers the use of facetted black ceramic to the bezel to create an original diver’s watch in a 44mm case in stainless steel, black PVD or a very original matt orange aluminium.
Although Swarovski already has its own strong retail presence, Robert Buchbauer, CEO Consumer Goods at Switzerland-based Daniel Swarovski Corporation AG, was keen to stress the importance of independent retailers for the brand: “We have over 2000 monobrand stores but we are also present in 500 multi-brand stores. Without the independent retailers we would have no way of establishing a serious image.”
Having migrated from its original home in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Venus was revived in 2011 in Geneva. The brand, whose name was inspired by the only planet that rotates clockwise, can look back on an illustrious past that saw it grace the wrists of Hollywood icon Jane Mansfield and Soviet Union leader Leonid Brezhnev.
Venus celebrates its comeback with the Genesis model, a sporty chronograph with a black PVD steel case, black rubber strap and sober black dial with oversized Roman numerals. The Genesis is water resistant to 100 metres and is powered by the Venus calibre 175, which is based on the ETA Valjoux 7750. The Genesis Black is a limited series of 250 pieces.
A ladies’ Genesis model, using the same 44mm diameter case but in rose-gold PVD steel, is also available, in which the oversized Roman numerals are set against a leopard-skin design on the dial, which continues on the bracelet. The ladies’ model is powered by a Ronda calibre 505 quartz movement.
Venus also offers a splash of colour with its Chroma collection, which is available with a black PVD case in two sizes – 40mm or 44mm – with vibrant colours for the large Arabic numerals and hour markers on the dial and the matching rubber strap. The Chroma is also water resistant to 100 metres and uses the Ronda calibre 515 quartz movement with hours, minutes, seconds and the date.
Source: Europa Star June - July 2012 Magazine Issue