From watch editor Bani McSpedden in Basel.
As the largest of the annual Swiss watch fairs takes over the city of Basel for the next week, the signs are looking good for something imaginative for the wrist. Wednesday March 18 was press preview day, where the 3000-odd journalists attending were untroubled by the usual crowd, which can number upwards of 110,000.
Inside Basel’s hallowed halls of horology, the windows on multi-million dollar brand ‘booths’ seemed to offer more promise than usual. Could it be that watch folk have been prodded by flat sales and the imminent arrival of a fierce (and feared) competitor – Apple – to lift their game in the imagination stakes?
We’ll get a detailed look at the new “novelties” – as they’re quaintly called in watchland – in the coming days, but meantime those windows suggested that brands have shrugged off typically conservative thinking to come up with something a bit more adventurous and beguiling, smarter in how they operate, smarter in how they look.
Omega for one showcased a finessed co-axial movement and a spread of Speedmasters in configurations ranging from wild to wonderful, including a full black version – hands, the lot – and a white alternative.
Louis Vuitton, famed for brown canvas and bold nomenclature, had a brace of Traveltime watches that could have been inspired by a primary colour chart, with barely a logo in evidence.
Breitling, along with Bulgari and Frederique Constant and a growing clan of others, had watches that connect with your phone, giving rise to a new promise rapidly gaining currency, namely ‘enhancing functionality.’
Whether this is bandwagon-climbing, future-proofing or a genuine attempt to adapt to changing times, the real challenge for traditional watch brands is not that the elephant in the room, Apple, has such a smart watch; it’s that Apple is also a cool brand.
What Basel will need to deliver in the next few days is some cool watches, and the signs so far – ‘connectivity’ aside – are encouraging.
More from Baselworld 2015 tomorrow.
Bani McSpedden, editor of watch-next.com and watch editor of The Australian Financial Review is in Switzerland for the Baselworld 2015 watch fair. See the latest images here. You can also follow Bani on Instagram, or like the watch-next facebook page to keep up to date.