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Monday, May 6, 2013

Independent Watch Brands Make their Mark at Baselworld 2013

The Speake-Marin Triad

It’s officially known as the “Palace” but it’s actually a small, makeshift building on the Basel fairgrounds (Messe Basel), home of Baselworld 2013, the world’s biggest and most important watch and jewelry tradeshow. Royalty may not inhabit this portable building but what is inside are some of the most creative and innovative independent watchmakers in the world. These companies are joined by equally capable small independent watch brands that were scattered among the 1,460 exhibitors throughout the massive complex of buildings.

Their visions may be entirely different, but one thing these companies do share is keen intellect, creativity and passion. The individuals who lead these small firms are highly skilled at combining the highest forms of modern watching with an advance design esthetic and a singular vision.

It was impossible for me to visit them all but what is presented below are nine companies and their products as a representative sample of the technical prowess and artistry of these firms at the recently-concluded tradeshow. They are as follows:

Arnold & Son
The Swiss company with British heritage created what it says is the world’s thinnest tourbillon watch. Called the UTTE (Ultra-Thin Tourbillon Escapement), the case of this timepiece is 8.34 mm thick. It is equipped with the A&S8200 movement that is just 2.97 mm thick. The caliber was created in-house at the brand’s La Chaux-de-Fonds workshops. It is limited to 50 pieces.

Christophe Claret
The French native who operates out of Le Locle, Switzerland, introduced the Kantharos at Baselworld— a complex monopusher chronograph with an integrated in-house automatic movement. It features a striking cathedral gong at the 10 o’clock mark that chimes with each change of function. The constant-force escapement is on the dial side at 6 o’clock. The energy delivered to the escapement remains constant from beginning to end of the power reserve.

Da Vindice Geneva
A watch complication I never encountered is a barometer. It was a passion and challenge for Cosimo Vindice, founder of the new Geneva-based watch brand with Italian heritage, to include this and a tourbillon in a single watch built in-house. An aneroid barometer is used for the Da Vindice’s Videx Tourbillon Barometer timepiece. Atmospheric pressure is managed in a capsule, sealed with the air partially removed from it. The changes in pressure are visible on a subdial placed at 6 o’clock. The watch is designed to accommodate this complication. It is available in white or rose gold.

Dubey & Schaldenbrand
The stainless steel tonneau-shaped Grand Dome R92 Column Wheel Chronograph is another example of how this watch brand produces timepieces that combine vintage movements with modern craftsmanship and design. The R92 movement was originally fabricated in the 1950s. It uses a swivel-pinion design to synchronize the chronograph components. The dial is exposed providing full view of the movement.

Franc Vila
The Spanish native is one of the best-known and most innovative independent Swiss watchmakers in the world. The latest edition to his Intrepido Collection, the FVi No 8 Tourbillon Intrepido SuperLigero Skeleton, has a skeletonized hand-wound tourbillon and 100-hour power reserve. Its set into a grade 5 titanium case coated with black DLC, with an 18k red gold bezel. Visible through the sapphire crystal, the dial exposes the in-house movement.

Linde Werdelin
The German watch brand launched the Oktopus II Moon in a series of 59 pieces, available in two versions. The first 12 pieces, representing one piece for each moon of the 2013 calendar year, feature a rose gold and titanium DLC case with ceramic bezel. The following 47 pieces are available in a DLC titanium case with a ceramic bezel. The Oktopus II Moon’s complication, developed in-house, displays the phases of the moon on its dial as one would see it in the sky. As the moon moves clockwise through its monthly cycle, more of its surface is illuminated.

The company that released a music box at Baselworld 2013 also decided it was a good idea to release an advancement to its well-known Horological Machine No. 3 (HM3) series: The Megawind. The focus of this piece is a giant battle-axe shaped winding rotor that swings unhurriedly, but indomitably, over the hand-finished movement. The titanium arms of the rotor intermittently reveal views through to the oscillating balance wheel. It’s available in red gold with a 22k red gold rotor or white gold with a sky-blue 22k gold rotor.

Speake-Marin (top photo)
One of the most passionate and intelligent independent watchmakers I met at Baselworld 2013 is British native Peter Speake-Marin, founder of the eponymous Swiss watch brand. His creations are complex in their functions and their stories, yet they adhere to the tradition of fine Swiss watchmaking. The Triad features triple hour-minute indications over an open dial powered by an Eros 2 automatic winding movement. Three is a number heavy with symbolism and meaning; encompasses beginning, middle and end; birth, life, and death; past, present and future. In music, a triad is a three-note chord played simultaneously to provide a single sound. It is available in a limited edition of 88 pieces in stainless steel with an 18k red gold bezel.

The new release of the Royal Black Caviar watch has all of the pomp one would expect from a watch brand fronted by Earl York, a prince of the former Schaumburg-Lippe, a tiny principality in the Lower Saxony region of modern-day Germany. The watch comes in a handcrafted Wengé case that includes a caviar service for two. However, this timepiece is more than just packaging. It is a serious traditional watch created by the Schaumburg Watch company, which York serves as creative director and shareholder. The 18k, 44 mm gold case is topped by a bezel set with 53 black diamonds and five black diamonds on the crown. The black textured strap is made of indo-pacific stingray leather with a textured finish that is looks like caviar eggs. The mechanical movement SW 07 is made in house. It is available in a limited edition of 99.

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