Fair value Baselworld closed its doors for another year on Thursday and despite the doom and gloom that surrounds the luxury watch industry, the products launched at the fair were stronger than they've been in a while. Yes, it's easier to knock the industry when it's down but, honestly, a lot of brands, even some of the bigger ones who should know better, have spent years coasting and churning out utter rubbish, always relying on the Chinese to bail them out. Well, those days are over and things are about to get Darwinian. Here are three watches from three brands that should be fine when it comes to survival of the fittest.
First up is a watch that wins 2016 hands down. Everyone else should give up and go home because, seriously, the Girard-Perregaux Laureato (right) is that good. I rarely rise above "mildly enthusiastic" when it comes to recommending watches but if you plan to buy one, have got the money and want something that will attract admiring glances from all and sundry, then get the Laureato. What's so good about it? Well, it should be obvious from the look of the watch, the design of which goes back to the 1970s. The Laureato's dial should make it instantly recognisable - like the Royal Oak from Audemars Piguet, the Speedmaster from Omega or the Rolex Submariner - yet no one really knows about it and that says more about the way Girard-Perregaux has been so criminally neglected in recent years than anything else. For the brand's 225th anniversary, it has relaunched the 1975 Laureato, complete with modernist 70s design and a steel case sized at a retro 41mm. Features are kept to a minimum, with just a date indicator. Inside is a GP03300-0030 movement that has 46 hours of power reserve. The 2016 Laureato has a limited run of 225 pieces, although Hong Kong prices have yet to be released. One assumes this will sell out almost immediately, so the hope is Girard-Perregaux takes its success with this watch and brings the heritage iteration of the Laureato back for good.
Let's be honest, Rolex pretty much owns Baselworld. The brand has one of the biggest and most impressive pavilions at the fair and the way the bloggers and Instagrammers make a beeline for Rolex on day one tells you everything you need to know. Most years, Rolex keeps things simple with a tweak here or there to its classic core collection, but with the 2016 Oyster Perpetual Air-King aviation watch (right), it's done a lot of things that are un-Rolexy. First off, the size - many felt the old Air-King, at 34mm, was a bit small on the wrist, so Rolex has expanded things, but not so much that the trend for case sizes to return to reasonable levels has been ignored. The 2016 Air-King now comes in a 40mm steel case, which allows for more dial space for what is a busy design. The second thing that's quite noticeable, in a pleasing way, is the numeral configuration, with the three-, six- and nine-hour markers mixed with five-minute increments. It might take a bit of getting used to but it's a great point of differentiation with other Rolexes. Inside is an 3131 in-house calibre movement and the watch comes with the iconic Oyster bracelet. Pricing for the Oyster Perpetual Air-King is available upon request.
Finally, the Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronoworks (right) stood out as being not only a great looking watch but one that's innovative and has a great story. Breitling created the Chronoworks department as a sort of tuning shop for its watches, similar to the way car companies have specialist tuners who amp up engines. The department has taken the classic Superocean and supercharged it with 100 hours of power reserve (up from 70) as well as completely overhauling the Caliber 01 movement with silicon parts to lessen friction and hugely improve efficiency. For the design, Breitling used all-black ceramic, which gives the Superocean a very masculine and modern look. Unsurprisingly, like engine-tuned cars, this Superocean is limited in numbers, with only 100 in total, the pricing for which is due to be announced shortly.