Over the past few years, there’s a joke increasingly doing the rounds among replica watch journos (and probably many, many other specialist journos obliged to attend trade fairs throughout the year) which goes along the lines of, “To be honest, I flicked through Instagram on my way to the airport this morning, and I don’t really need to be here at all – I’ve already seen everything.”
Well, we’re here to bring you news of timepieces launched at last week’s Baselworld extravaganza that none of us were expecting, none of which saturated our timelines as soon as embargoes lifted at 8am on day 1. The surprise factor and word-of-mouth factor are back, mercifully, and – even more mercifully – the following five more than justify our plane ticket.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater
A super-slick slice of haute horlogerie, which really is just a slice; at an impressive 6.85mm, it is the thinnest minute repeater ever made. Its 3.12mm movement’s hammers chime-out the hours, quarters, then remaining minutes by striking two circumferential gongs, attached to the inside of the case, with “dongs”, “ding-dongs” and “dings” respectively. Its beautifully faceted case, milled from a single piece of metal, is made from titanium to give a techy look, but also to make it louder as its lower density transmits soundwaves better. A snip at €180,000, we think you’ll agree…
We’ve always known Seiko make solid, workaday mechanical movements, in addition to its finely crafted Grand Seiko calibres, but they’ve never powered a replica watch available in the UK – until now. In fact, an entirely new collection has been conceived to showcase the Japanese superbrand’s considerable aptitude on this front, called “Presage” and offering a genuine alternative to the increasingly fertile sub-£1,000 Swiss market.
The Parisian shoemaker Berluti may date back to 1895, but it’s the current, fourth-generation custodian Olga Berluti whose ingenuity is to be thanked for the brand’s distinctive look – Venezia leather, tanned laboriously by hand to give a unique patina to every shoe. It’s a progressiveness and skill that chimed with Hublot, giving us this 250-piece special edition of the Classic Fusion dress replica watch, fitted with Scritto calf leather straps, and each complete with a gorgeous shoeshine kit. What’s especially clever is the leather dial – you can’t have organic material in a sealed case, so a “neutralisation” method was developed specially.
Rado Hyperchrome 1616
It’s all been slender and streamlined at Rado in recent years, which certainly isn’t how the materials alchemist of replica watchmaking rose to fame in the Sixties – its super-hard tungsten carbide DiaStar was a far-out flying saucer for the wrist. Skip forward another decade, and you have the “Cape Horn” cathode-ray-tube TV for the wrist, celebrating its 40 birthday this year, and reissued as the “1616”, after the year the Earth’s southern-most point was discovered.
Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronoworks
Little did we know, but Breitling has been furtively establishing its own skunkworks at its “Chronometrie” factory in La Chaux-de-Fonds, tasked with stripping down, examining, fine tuning and honing its in-house movements – essentially improving everything by marginal gains, and occasionally turning things up to 11. This £30,410 launch model soups-up the B01 chronograph calibre by introducing a ceramic baseplate and geartrain (self-lubricating, doing away with the need for 11 bearing jewels), an entirely silicon escapement, plus an ingenious means of introducing elasticity to the chronograph wheels’ meshing, meaning the hands start sweeping immediately.