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Arnold & Son at Baselworld 2019: Brilliance in transition

Arnold & Son at Baselworld 2019: Brilliance in transition

John Wallis

Arnold & Son, one of our favourite boutique high-end brands and an official CHRONEXT partner, had a somewhat reduced presence at Baselworld 2019. But that didn't stop it from showing off a trio of delightful novelties from the Time Pyramid, Perpetual Moon and Nebula collections.

A beautiful sight

At Baselworld 2018, Arnold & Son had a wonderful booth showcasing most of its very impressive creations. The master of complex horology, which pitches itself as Swiss ingenuity combined with British heritage, did not have its own area this year, but rather worked out of the much larger boutique belonging to Citizen, the Japanese firm that owns Arnold & Son along with the likes of Bulova and Alpina.

It was quite the sight: a gleaming, space age edifice that feels like a monument built by an alien civilisation, in which you walk through silver metal tunnels to reach the show rooms. The main space hosted a trippy art instillation in the form of 70,000 watch calibres suspended from strings like dust motes in a beam of light. When CHRONEXT arrived for our viewing, an experimental dance interpretation of Sleeping Beauty was just beginning, featuring a woman trapped in a glass box.

Once we were safely in a small room containing only Arnold & Son watches, doubting the reality of what we had just seen, things got even more interesting. These watches look great in the photos, but you have to see them up close to really understand the thrill of what you are looking at. This is complex horology done with the utmost sophistication, proficiency and finesse. The results are not just mechanically impressive, which they seriously are, but also enchantingly beautiful, sometimes even hypnotic.

Time Pyramid Tourbillon

After ogling a few goodies, it was time to meet the 2019 novelties. This is a transition year for Arnold & Son, so there was nothing totally new, but what there was was lovely.

First up was an upgrade to the Time Pyramid. The Time Pyramid is a magnificent creature, having served as one of Arnold & Son's finest collections for a while now, thanks to its unique skeletonised architecture inspired by a table clock built by the original John Arnold. All the key components are on display, arranged with symmetrical genius into a pyramid shape, really letting you explore every inch of the sumptuously decorated mechanism in exquisite detail. The movement uses two mainspring barrels in series to generate 90 hours of power, with separate power reserve indicators for each barrel.

The new models, 28 pieces each of steel or rose gold, make the concept even more wondrous, with the introduction of a tourbillon right at the apex of the construct. The high-pace action of this component, originally designed to offset the effects of gravity, makes staring at this timepiece even more thrilling and mesmeric. Like many of the company's watches, the Time Pyramid is large - over 44mm in diameter. The grander scale really works on these complicated timepieces, giving you a really good view of the operation without needing to use a loupe.

HM Perpetual Moon Aventurine

This beauty from the Royal Collection (pieces inspired by John Arnold's work for King George III) is another watch you really have to see to believe. Not as outwardly complex as some Arnold & Son timepieces, it hails from a Moon-themed collection that is among the company's most elegant and beautiful. They are also some of the largest moonphase complications on the market, with a 29mm Moon disc displayed on a 42mm watch - a true work of art for the wrist.

The 2019 model, another limited edition of 28, is simply stunning in red gold with a dial made of night-blue aventurine, iridescent with star-like flecks that gleam with reflected light.

38mm Nebula

The final novelty of 2019 is an unusual choice - it's a new version of the gorgeous Nebula in a smaller size of 38mm. The Nebula is a fascinating timepiece designed specifically as a skeletonised movement display that prioritises symmetry. The bare mechanism is revealed in a manner that at first seems dense and complex, but soon reveals an extraordinary elegance and beauty. It's symmetrical not just horizontally and vertically but also front and back. The name is inspired by the arrangement of the many distinctive bridges, which arc inwards from the edge of the watch to create a vision reminiscent of an exploding star.

The original idea behind the smaller size, which we have to admit is a puzzling choice, was to attract women customers. The brand admits that this demographic was always a difficult proposition for such a complex watch, but they have succeeded in finding a sizeable market for smaller watches in China and other Asian countries. The new version is available in red gold and limited to 50 pieces.