It was by no stretch of the imagination a year of brazen excess at Baselworld 2016 and, for many journalists, a welcome relief to see the consolidation of a number of women’s watches with many more years of fruitful declinations on the horizon.
Bulgari was one of the most prolific brands in terms of novelties this year and charmed us all with its sensual spate of snake watches for women.
However, there is another model from Bulgari’s Divas’ Dream collection that caught my eye with its heavenly blue lapis lazuli dial and an unconventional way of displaying the time. The silhouette of the 37mm white gold watch, set with diamonds on the bezel, dial and lugs, is cinched at the waist like the voluptuous Italian screen divas of the Dolce Vita scene in Rome. Even the lapis lazuli dial, reminiscent of the coloured stones used in ancient mosaics, evokes Bulgari’s profoundly Roman soul. But what I particularly like about these Bulgari watches is how their sensual presence has been tempered with a complicated heart. The automatic mechanical movement developed by Bulgari combines a jumping hour display at 6 o’clock with a retrograde minutes hand sweeping over the celestial canopy. The term retrograde refers to the way the minutes hand travels along an arc - as opposed to a circle - and how it jumps back to the beginning when it reaches the 60-minute diamond marker.
The belles of the Baselworld ball are always dressed by Dior and 2016 was no exception, with stunning new women’s mechanical watches in the Dior VIII Grand Bal collection. This 36mm Grand Bal Coquette model dances away the hours in a sumptuous gown made from 59 feathers, tsavorite garnets, sapphires and diamonds, waltzing against a blue lacquered dial. Inspired by a Mexican dress from Dior’s 2015 collection, the distinctive sweeping feature of the gown on the dial is achieved with an ingenious automatic movement, known as the Dior Inversé, developed with Soprod in Switzerland. Instead of placing the rotor - which responds to the movements of the wearer and transmits energy to the barrels - underneath the dial, it is placed directly on the dial and decorated with exotic materials and precious stones.
Elegantly understated and ideal for everyday wear, the Slim d’Hermès watch reappeared this year with a resplendent Grand Feu white enamel dial. Like many watches on the market today, the proportions of these Hermès watches, coming in at 39.5mm in diameter, are designed to appeal to men and women alike, enamoured of its pure, restrained and elegant lines. A contemporary classic, the Slim d’Hermès has a long shelf-life built into its harmonious design, which like all things seemingly simple, was devilishly difficult to obtain. The typography developed for the numbers by designer Philippe Apeloig, the purity of the case, and the ultra-thin 2.6mm mechanical movement are now accompanied by a glowing enamel dial created using the Grand Feu enamelling technique. Once the enameller has applied the white enamel powder to the dial with a fine brush, it is fired in a kiln heated to 830 degrees - which is why the technique is known as “grand feu” or great heat. The process is repeated up to six times until the artisan is satisfied with the uniformity, the smoothness, and the shine of the white enamel. It is quite astonishing to see how the enamel changes the personality of the watch, endowing it with a rich lustre and depth that can only be achieved with the alchemy of enamel.
The reaction in the viewing room at Patek Philippe was a unanimous “oooh” when the ultra-thin Calatrava model with a midnight blue dial was unveiled. The intense blue sheen emanating from the dial of these women’s watches catches the light in all directions thanks to the beautiful guilloché pattern that undulates across its surface. The dainty 33mm white gold case is set alight with 48 baguette-cut diamonds on the bezel and houses a manual-winding mechanical movement, which you can view through a sapphire crystal caseback. A matching midnight-blue satin strap with a prong buckle set with an additional six diamonds confers this model a sophisticated elegance and timeless appeal, which one always associates with Patek Philippe watches.
You can always expect a show of flamboyant, mouth-watering high jewellery watches from de GRISOGONO. The new Retro Lady Baguette, with its distinctive rectangular case, is de GRISOGONO at its best, bursting with colour and texture thanks to the luscious red baguette-cut rubies on the dial and case, the fuchsia SuperLumiNova numerals, and the matching ruby red bubbly galuchat strap that begs to be touched. Equipped with an automatic mechanical movement, the rose gold case on these de GRISOGONO watches has a wonderful retro spirit and is beautifully finished with smooth rounded angles and the crown positioned at 12 o’clock.