The Palace is not only a high complication, but a watch with a high-concept narrative. It symbolizes the industrial revolution, with its imagery of foundries and steam engines, and is inspired by London’s Crystal Palace and the Eiffel Tower.
Baselworld, the annual Swiss “fashion week” for watches, is Nirvana for collectors and connoisseurs. Hundreds of super watches make their debut during a glamorous week of launch parties and private appointments, but only a select few attain true Holy Grail status. The following top-ten list of most wanted watches in Basel represents some of this year’s most celebrated treasures, any one of which is worth selling the rest of your collection to own. Some are firsts in series, others are re-engineered versions of iconic lines that incorporate advances in technology and design, and some are simply never-before-seen inventions that redefine the way we measure time. Two of the movements on the list are made by celebrated independent watchmaker Christophe Claret, who, after creating unique movements for top brands over the past two decades, officially launches his own brand this year – a name to watch.
1. Harry Winston, Opus Eleven
The movement for the eleventh instalment of Harry Winston’s annual celebration of independent watchmaking took 14,400 hours to engineer – “and that,” comments brand CEO Frederic de Narp, “is the essence of extreme luxury.” The Opus Eleven, designed by Denis Giguet, was easily the star of the show. Instead of an hour hand, 24 placards revolve and rotate on a system of gears that resemble an army of mini alien transformers, to reformulate the time. Minutes are shown on a disk that protrudes from the case side in its own subdial.
2. Christophe Claret, 21 Blackjack
This interactive, high-roller watch is the ultimate expression of the notion that watches are toys for boys. Claret has taken the Jackpot Tourbillon he invented for Girard Perregaux four years ago one step further with this triple complication. The wearer can play “21” on the dial, going up against a dealer in any one of over 4,000 possible hand combinations, spin the roulette wheel/rotor on the back, or play craps with three 1.5mm dice in the case side. A striking function rings when you press “hit” for another card.
3. Hautlence, HL2.0
The HL2.0 is a beautifully integrated combination of classic and avant-garde elements. It is a virtuoso display of micro-engineering, with wheels and gears and belts in full view, yet displays a traditional escapement and gear train that somehow blends perfectly with the modern look of the jump hour chain. In a brilliant twist, the escapement pivots 60 degrees every hour, thus functioning something like a tourbillon, cancelling the effects of gravity.
4. Patek Philippe, Triple Complication, Ref. 5208P
The 5208P is the second-most complicated watch ever made by the brand that holds the record for creating the world’s most complicated (and expensive) watch, the Sky Moon Tourbillon. What makes 5208P even better than its one-of-a-kind counterpart is that it is part of Patek’s regular collection (if “regular” is the right word). It is a self-winding chronograph, minute repeater and instantaneous calendar, with Pulsomax escapement and Spiromax balance spring.
5. Boucheron, Hera Tourbillon Bracelet Watch
The Boucheron “Peacock” watch is collectible on two counts. It contains an ultra-exclusive movement, as the only other watch to use the Girard-Perregaux proprietary three-bridge tourbillon movement. Secondly, it is a virtuoso display of Boucheron’s expertise in haute jewelry making. The Hera is set with more than 1,500 gems, including over 35 carats of diamonds, sapphires and rare Paraiba tourmalines. Hera was a Greek goddess who placed the “eyes” on peacock feathers to help her spy on her wayward husband, Zeus.
6. Jean Dunand, Palace
The Palace is not only a high complication, but a watch with a high-concept narrative. It symbolizes the industrial revolution, with its imagery of foundries and steam engines, and is inspired by London’s Crystal Palace and the Eiffel Tower. Its makers also reference the films “Metropolis” and Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times” as inspirations. The case is high-tech titanium. The movement is a Christophe Claret manually-woundmonopusher chronograph and one-minute flying tourbillon.
7. Hermès, Arceau Time Suspended
Watchmakers, not satisfied with merely keeping time, have progressed to the manipulation of time. Created for Hermès by independent watchmaker Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, this watch suspends time. At the push of a button, the wearer can stop the hour and minute hands, which operate on what is actually a 360º retrograde scale rather than the typical hour and minute wheels. Thus, time stands still during happy moments! The suspension of time is purely an illusion, of course, but it’s fun to mess with the clock once in awhile.
8. Hublot, Key of Time
The quirky Key of Time demonstrates the brand’s boosted technological capability since acquiring the BNB watchmaking lab and 30 of its top watchmakers, including founder Mathias Buttet. Repositioning the crown causes the hour to either speed up (multiplying it by four) or slow down (dividing it by four), or return to real time. The watch is also a flying tourbillon, extended to the case side and anchored in the vertical position and incorporating a seconds track – a Buttetsignature.tands still during happy moments! The suspension of time is purely an illusion, of course, but it’s fun to mess with the clock once in awhile.
9. Seiko, Credor Spring Drive Minute Repeater
Every once in awhile, Seiko politely tells the Swiss watchmaking establishment, “We can do that too,” and then does it either better, faster or more inventively. Several things enhance the strike: the mechanism, already “tick-less” is further silenced; the steel case and gongs were developed by Myochin, a Japanese company known for creating, among other things, high-end wind chimes. It also reinvents the repeater tradition, striking at one-hour, ten-minute and one-minute intervals, rather than the traditional hour, quarter and minutes.
10. Ulysse Nardin, Alexander the Great Minute
Repeater Westminster Carillon Tourbillon Jaquemarts
Named after history’s unstoppable conqueror, Alexander the Great, this complication is fearlessly inventive. The Westminster’s chimes consist of four gongs, which are synchronized to the five jaquemarts on the dial, each depicting Alexander the Great engaged in battle. The dial background is made of diamond crystals. Limited edition of 50 pieces in white gold and 50 pieces in rose gold.