It’s been a tough few weeks for me and my beloved Arsenal. It’s all gone a bit wrong for the Gunners in the Premier League and the Champions League but they have an unassailable lead in the League of the Most Annoyed Fanbase. In times of such depression, my only solace is watches (and the dulcet tones of the greatest living Welshman Tom Jones). Lucky for me, I’m getting swamped with pre-Baselworld watch releases. With the world’s biggest watch fair still a few weeks away, it might be an idea to look at some of the early offerings that pass muster.
First, we need to talk about Oris. The Swiss independent watchmaker has become something of a hipster fave over the last few years and produces great watches at decent prices. The Oris that caught my eye in the pre-Baselworld releases is the new Big Crown ProPilot Chronograph (left). The original ProPilot was released in 2014 and this variant stays true to the design that proved such a success. The only major tweaks are the more refined lines, including the machine etching on the bezel. Oris is pitching this watch as unisex but, overall, it’s very masculine due to the size (44mm) and large crown of the name. Features include the chronograph, of course, but there is also a date window. The case is made of steel and inside is a calibre 774 movement. Prices for the Big Crown ProPilot Chronograph will be released in the coming months.
Bell & Ross’ pre-Baselworld releases are intriguing as the company continues to try to branch out into other areas away from its core aviation watch speciality. The BR03-94 RS17 (a catchy name, if ever there was one) has been created in collaboration with the Renault Formula One team, to wit, this is a racing watch and takes its design and build cues from the world of performance motor racing. The watch (right) is made of tough ceramic with a very-F1 carbon-fibre dial, so overall the piece is light. Other nods to racing are the tachymeter scale and the chronograph with Renault homage indicated by the splashes of yellow. The case is square-shaped, which is a Bell & Ross signature that some will love and others will find kind of irritating as it does dominate the wrist. Coming to Hong Kong next month, the BR03-94 RS17 is priced at HK$47,000 and limited to 500 pieces.
Finally, a new iteration of one of my favourite watches – the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe. True, it doesn’t look all that different from the first generation released in 2013, but this bad boy now comes in 38mm (left) and has a more alluring blue dial, which Blancpain is seductively calling “abyss blue”. Reducing the size is a welcome move as this watch generally sits large on the wrist with its brutish bezel and nylon strap. The design is a classic and Blancpain knows not to mess with it. Features-wise, it is a simple dive watch (water resistance to 300 metres and a unidirectional bezel) but inside is an excellent calibre 1150 movement with 100 hours of power reserve. Prices for the 38mm Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe will be released shortly.