A decade on from one of the worst global financial crises in history, the situation seems to be improving with a Deutsche Bank report stating that the number of countries in recession had fallen to the lowest level in decades.

Daniel Alioth, chief operating officer of Ball Watch Company, says: “In mainland China and Hong Kong, 2016 was a particularly bad year. We saw signs of recovery in early 2017, which seem to have been confirmed in the second half of the year. Stock markets may be reaching historical heights, but many retailers are overstocked.”

The company has its roots in US railway history. BALL watches have kept the brand’s industrial DNA and much of the standard railway watch. Not surprisingly, many are stainless steel, making them among the more affordable mechanical watches. Annual output is about 82,000 pieces, with most priced around 2,000 (HK$18,099).

Watchmakers have released stainless steel versions of many classics to broaden appeal. At Baselworld, Rolex introduced the 904L steel version of the Oyster Perpetual Datejust 41, together with a white Rolesor version with a mix of 904L steel and 18ct white gold. Redesigned with a 41mm case, the new Datejust 41 is powered by the new Rolex calibre 3235, with its 14 patents, the new Chronergy escapement and a power reserve of 70 hours.

Brands see value in steel. Changing lifestyles requiretimepieces to be refined and functional, enabling the wearer to move from the office or a game of golf to an evening function without having to change what is on their wrist.

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Vacheron Constantin’s Overseas Collection, launched in 1996, has expanded to include six all-steel or two-tone references with a pink gold bezel. The two new steel references, available in 37mm diameter, are fitted with blue or rosy beige dials. Powered by Manufacture Calibre 5300 driving central hours and minutes hands as well as small seconds at 9 o’clock, these new models are delivered with a stainless steel bracelet and two additional straps in rubber and alligator leather respectively.

The 42.5mm chronograph is equipped with a self-winding Calibre 5200, with power reserve of more than 50 hours. It displays its functions on a translucent silver-toned lacquered dial, as well as 37 time zones. The other two-tone model, housed in a 41mm stainless steel and pink gold case, displays the hours, minutes, seconds and date on a translucent silver lacquered dial.

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There are few classics as recognisable as Cartier’s Tank, which is marking its centenary. The Tank has evolved in shape, size and style through the eras and been seen on the wrists of Rudolf Valentino, Andy Warhol and Princess Diana. There are three new stainless steel versions of the Tank Americaine, a model previously only available in precious metals, and the new additions – a small watch with a quartz movement, and medium and large-sized watches powered by automatic movements – seem a response to demand for chic everyday watches.

Another classic being reinvented is the Star Collection by Montblanc, a line originally inspired by the Minerva pocket watches, such as the Gold Hunter Calibre 19’’ from 1927. The new versions feature round cases with a curved finish on the sides for a refined shaped pebble effect, and horns with steps on the sides.

The prominent Arabic numerals signature to the collection have been designed. Other details include a railway minute track with dots instead of lines and a filet sauté running around the dial and outlining it.

The stainless steel additions include the 42mm Montblanc Star Legacy Moonphase with 25 jewels and powered by Calibre MB 29.14 with 42 hours reserve, and one from the Star Legacy Date Automatic, which comes in 39mm or 42mm and is meant to go with everyday work or smart casual attire.

Additional reporting by Anders Modig