The horological greats show at Baselworld every March like clockwork. And the industry, keen to see the big reveal, have been kept waiting for the best part of a year. From the extravagant Rolex “Rainbow” Daytona to the thinnest tourbillon in the world by Bulgari: Read and discover as we unravel the 8 watches that come with the ultimate shock factor over the past years!
Of course, most brands showcase a selection that’s improved upon the year previous. No small feat - especially when you consider the poor design team that has to re-think new product on an annual basis. Other times however, brands have thrown us - the insiders - a complete curveball that we just didn’t see coming. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Other times, less so.
To give you an idea of just how surprised, we’ve collated the biggest shockers at Baselworld we’ve ever seen. And the au Suisse kept it up this year.
They say there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. They were wrong. It’s actually a watch made by Rolex, and one that boasts an eye watering multi-coloured bezel made from baguette cut diamonds. What’s more, you’ll need an actual pot of gold to buy one (and probably insure it, too).
Many have accused Bell & Ross of exhausting a tired old aviation formula. Not so in 2017. The release of the BR-X1 RS17 marked a 180 for the brand, focusing instead on the race track with a vibrant chronograph based upon a Formula 1 steering wheel. Now this is a photo finish.
Less a watch, more a flashing beacon to cat burglars the world over, Girard-Perregaux sat firmly on the grand intersection between horology and jewellery with the Ladyhawke Tourbillon. This bejewelled beauty boasts over 25 carats of diamonds and rubies, with a featherweight movement comprised of over 72 components. It doesn’t get much fancier than that.
Though relatively unassuming when compared to other wrist trophies, Tudor’s Heritage Range is more a symbolic statement. Why is it a "Baselworld Shocker"? This humble line signalled a relaunch of one of the most popular manufactures to have ever existed, and better yet, democratically opened the Rolex world to a brand new customer - and at a fraction of the usual Rolex price.
Watches and cars are one and the same. So much so that Hublot teamed up with Ferrari in 2017 to produce this monster: a 50-day power reserve tourbillon that looks more like an arm cannon than a Swiss ticker. Absolutely absurd, and absolutely brilliant as a result.
Gold on brown on brown sounds all sorts of awful. Trust Rolex, then, to make it into a dream cocktail. This statement ticker was one of the first in 2012 to marry gold bezels and batons with deep chocolate tones, harking to the right side of the seventies (just without the awful facial hair). The model is the most complicated watch from Rolex and impresses with a cleverly integrated annual calendar and a GMT function. Another highlight is the unique Ring-Command bezel with which the Sky-Dweller can be adjusted.
Breguet, through the sheer accomplishment of its founder, will never live up to the original piece it crafted for the late Marie-Antoinette. The Messidor does come close, though, with a complex tourbillon slotted inside an 18 carat rose-gold shell. What’s more, it’s handsome too, and without all the usual overengineering of watches at this grade. We think Marie would approve.
Sorry Piaget: you’ve got some stiff competition. After unveiling the thinnest tourbillon in the world, Bulgari proved it could punch with the horological heavyweights thank to this ticker - a slender octagonal design at just 5mm thick. Bigger isn’t always better.
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