Text by Alex Ghotbi - Photos by Alberto Schileo
© April 2004 by the authors and ThePuristS.com
Please note that you may click on any watch image to enlarge it.
As the Swiss watch fairs were drawing close I was once again seized by a mix of anticipation and panic since absolutely nothing had been organized. Hotels needed to be reserved (one has to know that often hotel rooms are reserved from one year to the next), product presentations planed and plane/train schedules to be set.
To tell you the truth the 2003 Swiss shows were a bit of a letdown and I was not sure what to expect this year but took my courage in both hands and sacrificing my mental and physical health to the altar of the Purists I packed my small belongings, bid farewell to my wife and young son and set off to confront Swiss and Saxon horology.
You have to know that to actually get in the booths to see and hold the new pieces presented at Basel and Geneva one needs to take an appointment with the brand and that as a general rule the person preceding you either takes longer than planned or arrives 20 minutes late at the meeting which throws your meeting back meaning that the 3 o clock product presentation you were to have will actually takes place at 7!!!
In our habitual manner, everything was done at the last minute (but hell that’s the best way to do things) and we set off on Friday April 16 to Basel. This year like the 3 Musketeers we were a group of 4: Alberto S (photograph extraordinaire with his portable studio – even the Japanese photographers were impressed!!!), Clement, Jerome and yours truly.
As usual, the goal of this article is to present the fairs with the eyes of an aficionado (mine) and to share with you the very first feelings and impressions which may no longer be the same in a few weeks or months. Of course I am totally biased and unobjective in my points of view.
You may also notice that this year there are less brands featured compared to 2003, but last year was hell, we spent our time running from one booth to the other, so this year we decided to concentrate on the brands we liked the most.
We arrived at the fair just in time for the Glashutte Original presentation organized by Marcus Hanke and presented by Dr. Frank Muller the Managing Director of GO.
The first timepiece I got to see at Basel 2004 was the new Panomatic Chrono, an absolutely stunning chronograph in all aspects. First of all the movement is purely inhouse and to my knowledge one of the first manufacture automatic chronograph movements to be made in a very very long time:
The cal 95 took over 3 years to develop, it is an automatic bi directional winding movement with twin barrels. Now I did not quite fully understand the technicalities of the movement but supposedly the fact that the rotor winds the mainsprings at two different speeds depending on the direction of rotation and the fact that only one barrel is linked to the rotor enables a better flow of energy thus a better accuracy even when the watch is winding down. But don’t quote me on this!
Now the fun part: the movement (as can be expected from GO is beautifully finished and respects all the codes of traditional Saxon horology. The dial is amazing, the chronograph seconds counter is placed on a raised dial at the top part of the watch, with the minutes counter and continuous seconds on each side and the hours minutes indication on the bottom part. I find this dial lay out quite interesting and innovative compared to what can be currently seen.
The other GO novelties were:
An array of slate grey dials which I find quite attractive especially in the gorgeous Karree perpetual:
We had been at the fair for a little over an hour and were already running late for our next appointment at Ulysse Nardin.
To tell you the truth I’m not a great fan of this brand, there is no special reason for it but it just doesn’t speak to me. However, I’m always impatient to discover their new pieces which never cease to amaze me, especially their limited editions and complications…and this year was no exception.
The two regular production novelties came in Michel Angelo cases one was a “Chronometre Marine” like model, the other a UTC. Both existing also in a limited series of 100 pieces each in white gold and blue dial..
Some models with new dials:
We did not have to wait long to see the fantastic complications!
Lets start with what I found to be the neatest: a surprising 5 jaquemart minute repeater representing a circus and justly called Circus. When the repeater slide is pulled the bear bends down and slowly lifts as the gongs chime and while each of the other automates move to each hour, quarter and minute strike. The most amazing is the clown which is juggling the balls. Just one word: MARVELOUS!! I loved it and the chimes were crystal clear. The Circus is however destined for a happy few who not only have the financial means but who are lucky enough to reserve one of the 60 pieces which will be made (30 in rose gold and 30 in platinum.
The Onyx of the Circus’ dial wall also present on the new Triple Jack as well as the Hour Striker. The Hour Striker which is presented in a new case with sapphire crystal back. I think that it is a true improvement compared to the previous model.
One thing UN really know how to do is enamel dials and each year a new model with a maritime scene is introduced. After last year’s “Lightening” model this year comes the “Flying Cloud” an absolutely gorgeous limited edition piece with cloisonné enamel dial representing a ship flying over the waters. A superb piece limited to 30 pieces in rose gold and 30 pieces in platinum.
Our time was up…in fact we had to leave quickly since the fair was closing and we were to join Glashutte Original who had organized a dinner party in a lovely restaurant on the heights of Basel…let’s say that we arrived fashionably late.
The next day, Friday April 17 we were starting our day with the brand that each year leaves its fans holding their breaths in anticipation and of which the internet crowd ask invariably the same questions: will the 3740 be stopped?, when will they bring out their inhouse chrono movement? and the famous Will I become a millionaire if I buy a Calatrava today and sell it off at Antiquorum in a few years? You have guessed correctly dear reader, I am talking of the one and unique Patek Philippe!!!!!