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16th June
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Dubai Watch Week

Swatch Group’s decision to exit Baselworld this year meant we had to wait for stories from the big six. Dubai Watch Week picks the best of those unveiled at its launch event

Swatch Group’s storied departure from Baselworld left a big hole in the spring watch fair. It also meant news of the group’s brands had been thin on the ground.

Over the last few months, news of its mid-range portfolio (Longines, Tissot, Hamilton et al) has been dripping through, but there was near total silence from Omega, Breguet, Blancpain, Glashutte Original, Jaquet Droz and Harry Winston.

That all changed in May during a series of events the group dubbed ‘Time to Move’, a thinly veiled dig at Baselworld’s organisers.

Here are some of the highlights from those six, including a special Moonwatch, a drop-dead gorgeous diver’s chronograph, and a staggering piece with four tourbillons.

Omega:Speedmaster Apollo 1150th Anniversary Limited Edition

This is of course the 50th anniversary year of the Apollo XI moon landing, and therefore also of the first steps taken by a Swiss watch company on the lunar surface. The story of how Omega’s Speedmaster ended up on Buzz Aldrin’s wrist on 20 July 1969 merits much deeper telling, but the short end of it is that it propelled the ‘Moonwatch’, as it became known, into orbit, where it’s remained ever since. This year’s Speedmaster Apollo 11 is the inevitable commemorative piece, but at least Omega has done a memorable job on it. The watch’s two-tone finish is very much of our time, but it will also be remembered as the launch vehicle for Omega’s Moonshine Gold, a new material that’s paler than yellow gold. Among the nods to the historic event are the twin hour markers at 11 o’clock for Apollo XI, and the subdial at 9 o’clock engraved with the image of Aldrin’s famous descent down the ladder to the moon’s surface. The watch is limited to 6,969 pieces – which, incidentally, is more than double Parmigiani’s entire annual output.

Breguet:Classique TourbillionExtra-PlatSquelette5395

Breguet’s exquisite Calibre 581 tourbillon movement has appeared in a couple of pieces prior to this one, but this is the first time it’s been skeletonised. Breguet says its scooped almost half the material from the movement to give it its delicate, sinewy look, without sacrificing on performance. So it’s still a 4hz tourbillon – an unusually high frequency for a tourbillon – with an 80-hour power reserve. It’s only 3mm thick in total, squeezing into a 7.7mm case, available either in 18-carat rose gold or, as pictured here, in platinum. The symphony stemming from the watch’s silicon escapement is complemented by some sumptuous finishing and decoration. On display are engraving, engine-turning, and anglage, including some Clou de Paris hobnailing, a first for Breguet. A spectacular piece from a brand that too often punches under its weight.

Blancpain: Air Command

By unearthing and reviving a forgotten story about supplying watches to some military or other, Blancpain has joined a very large club this year. But no matter, judging the Air Command on its merits, it’s quite clear this is a wonderful watch that provides a much-needed injection of life into Blancpain’s collection. It is, as is to be expected, a ‘faithful’ update of the 1950s original (created, on this occasion, for the US Air Force), with a bi-compax chronograph layout. The 5hz movement means the watch could technically record time to the nearest 10th, although there’s no accommodation for that level of precision. This being a high-end flyback chronograph, it has vertical clutch and column-wheel systems, designed to improve the mechanism’s operation and reliability. Much of the beige detailing is ‘old radium’ Super-LumiNova, a material used increasingly liberally by watch companies looking to capture the look of radioactive models from a bygone era. The 42.5mm steel case is of course larger than the original, meaning the reverse can cater for a large sapphire crystal that showcases a propeller-shaped rotor cast in red gold. A gimmick, yes, but one Blancpain should be commended for given its usual stultifying conservatism. Only 500 will be made.

Glashütte Original: Sixties

Whether consumers tire as quickly of watch dial trends extending beyond black and white as quickly as brands do will be moot, but following hot on the heels of blue, green and brown are gradient dials, seen in number this year. Glashütte Original’s Sixties ramps up the heat with a fiery yellowy-orangey-reddy-black lacquer dial with what it’s calling a ‘dégradé effect’, which makes it look like the dying embers of a summer barbecue. Apparently it’s embossed using a 60-tonne pressin the company’s Pforzheim manufacture. It’s rather effective, in truth, and certainly an eye-catcher that will give the company some kudos with the style set. No bad thing. It’s 39mm in diameter, steel, automatic and comes on a brown Louisiana alligator leather strap. One for a growing band of fans of 1960s designs.

Jaquet Droz: Grande Seconde Skelet-One Ceramic

The story of how the Swatch Group brought mechanical watchmaking back from the abyss will never grow old, but there are plenty who wonder why it doesn’t do more for Jaquet Droz, still a relative unknown outside industry circles. Its watches are uniformly beautiful, and often very clever – it is arguably the leading maker of wristwatch automata. Its signature style is the ‘Grande Seconde’, a dial layout that promotes the seconds above all other displays and that was invented more than two and a half centuries ago. The idea behind it is to showcase a watch’s beating mechanical heart. The skeletonised Grande Seconde Skelet-One version of it arrived last year, and is now joined by a 41.5mm version in black ceramic with white gold indexes, which flash like a movie star’s teeth when they catch the light. It has a sportier look than most skeletonised pieces, made more apparent by the hand-made blue fabric strap.

Harry Winston: Histoire de Tourbillon 10

New York jeweller Harry Winston came under Swatch Group’s control in 2013. Some changes were inevitable – for now at least, the Opus series appears a thing of the past – but the company continues to produce some esoteric pieces, such as this 10th anniversary Histoire de Tourbillon. The shackles, as ever with this collection, are well and truly off. The watch has no fewer than four tourbillon regulators, one each for the four corners of the widescreen dial. Each makes a 360-degree rotation anti-clockwise in 36 seconds. Mechanical minds may perhaps understand why these require three differentials rather than two or four, but what is easier to comprehend is that they collate the time measured from each tourbillon into one central display. Harry Winston is claiming this is the first time a watch with four tourbillons has been produced in series – 10 each in 53.3mm of white and rose gold, and a one-off in Winstonium, the company’s take on platinum.

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