The Basel 2006 Fair

An Overview - Part 1


Text by Alexandre Ghotbi, photos by Alberto Schileo
© April 2006 by Alberto Schileo, Alexandre Ghotbi and ThePuristS.com

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Heart rate beating faster, anxious for days to end, getting itchy feet…nothing to worry about! This is the habitual symptoms the last week preceding the Swiss watch fairs (Basel World and SIHH) produces on me, where I feel like a kid planning a trip to Disneyland.

On March 31, my kids’ nanny having kicked me out of the house 3 hours prior to my planned departure, I decided to go hang out in the airport and read some watch magazines in the news stands. I discovered, upon arrival, that my plane to Basel was in fact taking off from a terminal which looked more like a cattle shed than an airport: I had nothing to do and to top it all my plane was over 2 hours late!

The elements were against me but I would overcome! How could I miss my annual pilgrimage and not bring you our annual write up with Alberto’s amazing shots?

The goal of this write up is not to be exhaustive and cover every single brand and model and we may certainly have missed many interesting pieces, but then again that’s life. If you find that the opinions expressed here are subjective, unfair and biased… you’re right!! They’re mine, and based upon spending only a few minutes with each watch so what may be true today may not be tomorrow so never quote me. :-)

Basel is always the first stop and this year I must admit that it was quite a disappointment (definitely not worth the 5 hours I spent in the airport waiting for my flight!) A rather poor year of which the most marking moment was when I finally managed to pronounce Caipiriña correctly at the Bvlgari party!!

Last year’s “tourbillon” mania had given away to this year’s “alternative spiral material” mania, and mainly the silicon hairspring.

Two brands (other than the ever refreshing watchmakers of the AHCI) managed to save my show from an utter fiasco: Patek Philippe and De Bethune.

But please follow me into the booths, with Alberto’s fantastic photos its going to be just as if you were in there with us.


Breguet

Breguet was presenting quite a few new pieces this year including new Marine series with 2 new models , a RG/WG model quite similar to the one off sold at the Only Watch auction by Antiquorum in Sept 2005 which I find quite attractive with its dark ruthenium plated dial as well as a tourbillon chronograph model featuring a “half flying” tourbillon bridge system.

As much as I find the original Tradition to be interesting, in my opinion the new offerings are rather bland. The Automatic Tradition model features a rotor cut in the form of an “anchor” similar to the original ones used in the Breguet “perpetual” watches. The problem here is that I find it quite inelegant: it is paper thin and the decoration rather gaudy, instead of having a rather heavy rotor or even going all the way and making it bumper wind.

The Tradition in white gold, which every one was waiting for must have looked good on the computer but in real I find it rather “plain” it just doesn’t work for me. I don’t understand why the white colored movement features yellow wheels, blue screws and parachute rather than having cased the original gold movement in a WG case? But hey what do I know? This watch will probably sell like hot cakes!

My biggest shock of the day came from The Double Tourbillon. This seems to be Breguet’s answer to the multiple tourbillon craze of the past years. The problem is that this year all the brands seemed to have more or less agreed on giving the tourbillon a break and moving on.

Breguet’s double tourbillon features two tourbillon movements coupled with 2 differentials: one commands the top plate which rotates and another which commands the arming of the mainspring.

One of the tourbillon cages also has a hand affixed to it and serves as the hour indicator since the top plate actually rotates.

As much as I would like to appreciate this technical feat I can’t. Its big, thick extremely inelegant and a hundred thousand miles from the elegant cases and dials Breguet has used us to. It just doesn’t make sense to me! This piece shall be produced in platinum at about 20 pieces a year.

Breguet also presented its new in house movement (cal. 5770) featuring a sillicium hairspring, anchor and escapement meaning it will not need lubrification. This movement is first housed in the and I must admit that the finish was quite impressive on a “series” produced watch. The guilloche dial variation was very attractive especially due to the fact that the dial seemed more cream colored and warm compared to the newer Breguet dials.

Alberto's note: if you look closely enough at the last picture showing the detail of the escapement, you will be able to see that the silicium anchor has Breguet's secret signature engraved on it, which of course also appears at 6 o'clock on the enamel-dialled version of the watch (shown on the next-to-last picture).

A new Reine de Naples model as well as a new unisex Heritage Bombé.

Part 2 - Daniel Roth & Gérald Genta

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