Perhaps it was the scaled-down feel of the Palexpo building where the Baselworld watch expo takes place, or maybe it was the first stirrings of global economic headwinds, but for whatever reason, this year the timepieces that shone the most weren’t the ones with the most diamonds.
Instead, among the hundreds of new watches I saw from brands such as Rolex, Graff, Hublot, Nomos, Bell & Ross, Grand Seiko, TAG Heuer, and Bulgari, the ones that caught my attention included a fair number at entry-level price points. Whether they were new concoctions from Oris or Casio, or retro pieces from Breitling or Bulova, there was a lot to love under $10,000. Of course, I loved the diamonds, too. I’m not crazy. Here are my favourite pieces from the biggest watch show of the year.
Oris Great Barrier Reef Limited Edition III
This is the third in a series of timepieces Oris has launched to raise awareness and funds for the disastrous decline of the Great Barrier Reef. The brand’s commitment to sustainability and cleaning the ocean was a strong through-line in its collection this year, and with this watch I heard about Oris’s efforts to support reef replanting. The piece itself is a dive watch (obviously), with a gorgeous blue colouring and a slick date complication. It’s limited to 2,000 pieces and is certified to 300 feet underwater. Price: $2,463
Breitling Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition
This is a near-exact replica of the 1959 Navitimer but with an updated movement inside. The busy vintage look is utterly eye-catching, with everything from the rotating beaded bezel to the Champagne luminescent numerals and hands screaming “old school.”
Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu II in King Gold
So this one isn’t cheap, really. But for Hublot it’s at least a little understated? The 45-millimetre watch is an update of the brand’s ongoing, successful collaboration with tattoo artist Maxime Buchi. The top of the huge diamond is actually the hour indicator, while the long hand that stretches across the face indicates the seconds. The little white triangle in the subdial at 3 o’clock 0serves as the minute hand. They all rotate visibly in a very satisfying way, on a 72-hour power reserve.
Zenith El Primero Revival A386
This was probably my favorite watch of the show. Another vintage-inspired piece, at 38mm it looks kind of small and understated on the wrist, despite its intricacy. It’s essentially a reissue of the first watch to be introduced with Zenith’s legendary El Primero movement back in 1969, but with more powerful and reliable automatic technology inside. Although it will be limited to 50 pieces in each metal, you can bet more versions will continue to come out in the coming years. Even if you’re not a yellow gold person, you should get this in yellow gold. It’s literally a classic.
Price: 19,900 Swiss francs
Casio Limited-Edition Rainbow MT-G
We know rainbow watches are all the rage, but the trend has so far existed mostly at the top of the price range. Brands such as Rolex, Chopard, Hublot, Audemars Piguet, and Parmigiani have been rolling out versions, with a spectrum of coloured gemstones and diamonds. That’s why it’s hard not to love that Casio, one of the biggest movers in moderately priced timepieces, decided to deliver its own response. This limited-edition MT-G watch (MT-G is the premium, solar-powered range of the G-Shock line) looks cool in person and won’t break the bank.