The best watches from BaselWorld Day 2: Dior, Blancpain, Zenith, Harry Winston, Bell & Ross, and Patek Philippe

The best watches from BaselWorld Day 2: Dior, Blancpain, Zenith, Harry Winston, Bell & Ross, and Patek Philippe

BaselWorld 2017

Text: Celine Yap

Dior celebrates 70 years; Blancpain has something for everyone; Zenith rediscovers an icon; Harry Winston is simply astonishing; Bell & Ross makes a strong statement; Patek Philippe dominates with pure watchmaking savoir-faire

Overall theme: Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the House of Dior, several new timepieces were on show, including the La Mini D de Dior tresseé which has an intricate braided gold bracelet. Other celebratory timepieces include three Dior VIII Montaigne Tissage Précieux limited edition models inspired by textiles favoured by Christian Dior and the haute couture division. The pieces come with dials featuring rich patterns like cannage, chevron, and pied-de-poule. Stunning metiers d'art creations can be found in the Grand Bal Piece Unique Galaxie line — beautiful opal dials with sapphire crystal oscillating weights studded with diamonds. Dior has skillfully done marquetry of opal and gold in these models. This year's Grand Bal Plume comes with aventurine and malachite dials. Finally, the Grand Soir Botanic is a collection of eight unique pieces decorated with precious stones, mother-of-pearl, opals, and other elements in polished gold.

Star watch: Grand Soir Botanic

Did you know: Each timepiece in this highly exclusive collection comes with around 260 individual components.

The X factor: As much as they are extremely delicate high jewellery timepieces, the House of Dior didn't hesitate to pair them with straps that made from the same fabric used in the fusion sneakers — the juxtaposition between highbrow artisanship and stylish fashion trends reinforces Dior's unique watchmaking approach.

Overall theme: Blancpain covered all its bases with novelties in multiple collections, from two new medium complications in the Villeret line to re-editions in the Fifty Fathoms series, not forgetting the new Shakudo metiers d'art watch. Women's watches also got some love from the manufacture, as it presented two new pieces, one of which comes with a very feminine moon phase.

Star watch: Villeret 8 Day Hand-Winding

The X factor: This timepiece comes with a dial featuring Blancpain's cherished shakudo alloy (gold-copper) with the rokusho patinated treatment.

Did you know: The dial depicts a scene known as 'battle of the queen cows' — a natural behaviour of the breed of cow from the Val d'Hérens that sees the female of the species lock horns to establish a hierarchy. The strongest cow has first dibs to the best pastures and thus produces the best milk for her calves.

In other news: Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC is another key highlight that vintage watch lovers will appreciate. This watch has slightly yellowed numerals and indexes, a diamond-shaped placeholder, and also a white-orange water resistant indicator, which changes colour when it comes in contact with water.

Blancpain Villeret 8 Day Hand-Winding

Overall theme: Under the stewardship of the one-and-only Jean-Claude Biver, Zenith is now focusing on its core collections and truly rediscovering its roots in watchmaking. There are several line extensions like the Chronomaster El Primero Range Rover Velar with its very elegant brushed grey dial that has copper-toned details, and the very brazen limited edition Pilot Type 20 for the Rolling Stones, but the biggest news from Zenith for 2017 is the eminent return of the Defy. Love it or hate it, this timepiece is not to be ignored, but Biver has successfully created a sober variation that is not too outré at all.

Star watch: Defy 21

Flashback: The Zenith Defy was first introduced in 1969, the same year it released the El Primero movement. It had an octagonal case and was very much ahead of its time.

Achievement unlocked: The movement in this model has two escapements, one oscillating at 36,000vph just for the hours and minutes, and another oscillating at 360,000vph for the chronograph. It also has two mainsprings, one each for the two escapements.

Did you know: The watch comes with a balance spring made of a carbon-matrix carbon nanotube composite — a new patented material developed by the engineers of LVMH (Zenith's parent company).

Overall theme: Exceptional designs were the main draw at Harry Winston, where gorgeous Avenue and Avenue C models come adorned with beautiful stones — there was even one with an emerald-cut diamond in place of the Harry Winston insignia. In the new Avenue C Mini, you'll be enthralled by what might be the world's smallest moon phase display. The Premier Delicate Silk range brings raw silk to the dials, combining them with mother-of-pearl, Japanese washi paper, and silver thread. Over on the men's range, the new Z11 adds a sporty vibe to the mix while the new Histoire de Tourbillon 8 dominates with two double-axis tourbillons inclined at 30 degrees and joined by a spherical differential.

Star watch: Premier Delicate Silk Automatic 36mm

Did you know: The silk featured in this timepiece is cultivated using a novel technique that encourages the silkworm to weave its own fabric, resulting in a delicate, small area of raw silk created without the interaction of human hands. The silver-grey hue is the natural colour of the silk.

The X factor: The dial gets its remarkable depth from the embossed gold design made by an embossing workshop for Harry Winston.

In other news: Harry Winston shows off its creativity and flair for luxury with the Emerald Time and the Broadway Glasses.

Overall theme: Military influences find their way into several collections at Bell & Ross, including the BRV1-92 Military Automatic, the BRV2-92 Aeronavale, the Garde-Cotes, and the Bellytanker. There are also several functionally-driven models like the Horograph and the Horolum. Also, pieces like the Black Camo and the Blue Steel will be popular with the trendy set. Bell & Ross also made its very first dive model in the BR03 line, indeed it is the only square-shaped dive watch on the market. This is an ISO certified dive watch. Auto-inspired timepieces have also made a strong appearance, with pieces like the AeroGT in orange and the RS17 watches for the Renault Sport Formula One Team.

Star watch: BR X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor Automatic

Did you know: This watch is the thinnest Bell & Ross automatic tourbillon at just a little over 8mm in height. There is no case per se, but just a set of sapphire crystal places sandwiching the movement which doubles up as the case middle.

The X factor: Being cosseted in sapphire crystal allows you to see the movement in its entirety, which is the key objective of the brand. This being the first in-house movement in a long time, the brand owners really wanted to show off their watchmaking ambitions and abilities with this calibre.

Overall theme: There's so much going on at Patek Philippe this year, and two of the major events are the 40th anniversary of the Calibre 240 and the 20th anniversary of the Aquanaut watch. Numerous new men's watches were introduced including the Ref. 5320G perpetual calendar, the Ref. 5940R perpetual calendar, and the 5131P world timer with cloisonné enamel. There is also the Ref. 5180R which is beautifully skeletonised and hand-engraved — the perfect watch to pay tribute to Calibre 240. New Aquanaut pieces include the 5168G which is the first Aquanaut for men in white gold. The ladies collection welcomes stellar novelties like the 7140G ladies perpetual calendar and 4947G ladies annual calendar. Ref. 7130G is a world timer for ladies that has a blue-grey flinqué enamel dial. And for the men's high complications, Ref. 5078 and 5178 offer pure minute repeaters (regular gongs and cathedral gongs) with a lovely cream enamel dial. Grand complications include Ref. 5316P minute repeater tourbillon with perpetual calendar and retrograde date and Ref. 5372P ultra-thin split seconds monopusher chronograph with perpetual calendar and moon phase.

Star watch: Ref. 5062R Aquanaut Luce High Jewellery

The X factor: This astoundingly beautiful timepiece is snow-set with diamonds on the bezel and also comes with baguette-cut stones all around. There are also baguette diamonds set on the hands and there is a patent pending for this process.

Did you know: The stones on the dial are done in a graduated style, which is exceedingly difficult because the gem-setter needs to find the exact size of the stones to give it a natural effect. The surfaces are all perfectly covered with not a single gap in sight. Also, the height of the hands are just 0.2mm compared to normal hands which are usually 0.5mm.

In other news: Ref. 5168G commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Aquanaut. It comes with a tropical composite strap and blue graduated dial that is almost black at the peripheral and a rich cobalt blue at the centre.

Patek Philippe Ref. 5062R Aquanaut Luce High Jewellery

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