“Is it just me or did Baselworld 2019 lack a bit of… oomph?”
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Here comes the negativity, folks. Stay away. Not today, Satan. Not today!”
With that said, there were some standouts at this year’s Baselworld but personally, I think most of the offerings from the big brands failed to set a big of a fire as they did back in 2018. It’s either that or certain releases just drew all the wrong kinds of attention from fans. *coughTudorcough*
Additionally, the departure of the Swatch Group meant that there was little fanfare surrounding its subsidiary brands this time. The world’s media scrambled to punch out article after article and as a result, most (if any) new releases by brands under the Swatch Group were quickly buried under an avalanche of Baselworld-related news.
Speaking of news, let me just make it clear that this piece isn’t meant to keep you updated on what went down. For that, you guys have a plethora of media outlets and websites. This is merely a personal take of Baselworld 2019 from a casual enthusiast with limited funds to daydream and window shop.
“So, anything remotely affordable on show?”
Yes but it’s not from everybody’s favourite value-for-money brand, Seiko.
Say wha-?! Yes, you heard me the first time. Unfortunately (for us, good for Seiko), the brand appears to be gaining more confidence as the years roll by. As expected, this is reflected most clearly in their prices, which appears to be climbing at quite the rate. This year is no different with Seiko announcing the Prospex LX lineup.
Now, models in the Prospex (that’s “Professional Specification”) range is already known for being tough as nails and built to withstand the apocalypse, right? Imagine that kind of build quality turned up to 11 and you’ll get what the Prospex LX line stands for.
I’ll admit that while it’s costly, you’ll end up getting a lot of watch for the money. Just how costly, you ask? Official Malaysian pricing is not out yet but the range is priced between €5,100 (RM23,398) to €6,100 (RM27,986) in Europe. Can you honestly drop that much money? I know I can’t.
So, a quick rundown on the Prospex LX range. First things first, there are six models. All come with 44.8 mm titanium cases on a selection of titanium bracelets, silicone or leather straps depending on variants. All six are also powered by Seiko’s Spring Drive calibres – 5R66 for the GMT models and 5R65 for the rest.
In my opinion, the only ones brave (and rich) enough to gun for these would be hardcore, well-off Seiko fans. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’ve always come to love Seiko for its affordability and tremendous bang-for-buck rating. With the Prospex LX, I think Seiko is slowly distancing itself from its “affordable” image in an attempt to push itself more upmarket.
“… isn’t that Grand Seiko’s job?”
Oh, don’t even get me started on Grand Seiko. Make no mistake though, it’s not like their 2019 releases were horrible, no. In fact, I reckon it’s far from horrible. It’s bloody brilliant. I’m sure most of you would have read about the limited edition sports and dress watches, right?
If not, here’s a quick recap on the major releases. I’m gonna’ start us off with the sports watches, mainly the limited edition SBGA403, SBGC230 and SBGC231. The latter two are chronograph GMT models (calibre 9R96) while the former is a “simpler” model with time and date complications (calibre 9R15). All three have a “high-intensity” titanium case that measures 44.5 mm. For the 411 on these models, head on over to Grand Seiko’s dedicated page right here.
Moving on, there are also several dress models that are… how should I put this? Interesting. For starters, there are four new models in what Seiko calls the “Spring Drive Thin Dress Series.” There’s the SBGZ001, SBGZ003, SBGY002 and the SBGY003. I still don’t know how long it’ll take them to come up with names that don’t sound like model numbers of dental chairs.
With that said, they definitely have more character than dental chairs. Two have platinum cases (SBGZ003, SBGZ001), while one has an 18k yellow gold case (SBGY002) followed by another with a stainless steel case (SBGY003). However, all of the four have the exact same case measurement of 38.5 mm. Two Spring Drive movements are featured here, the 9R31 (SBGY002, SBGY003) and the 9R02 (SBGZ001, SBGZ003).
By the way, some of you might be wondering why all the focus on the Spring Drive this year? That’s because 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the Spring Drive movement, so that’s why.
*waits patiently for (much) more affordable options*
I’ve been waiting just as long as you have, truth be told. So, can you imagine how happy I was when I came across Bulova’s ‘Joseph Bulova Swiss Automatic Collection’? Not so much, apparently. Why? This is because Bulova insisted on limiting the production of these highly attractive, affordable models. Yes, I’m looking hard at you guys, Bulova. Why on Earth would you deprive yourself of potentially selling more than the announced 350 pieces is beyond me.
And when I said affordable, I meant it. Prices for these beauties begin at US$995 (RM4,095) and stretch to US$1,495 (RM6,099). There are three distinct case designs with a multitude of references within each family. For starters, there’s the more traditional round cases followed by a tonneau-shaped design and finally, a harder-edged ‘Tank’ design.
All variants come with a Sellita SW200 automatic movement. The 26-jeweled movement beats at a rate of 4 Hz and features a date complication. Power reserve is rated at a reasonable 38 hours. My personal favourites would be the tonneau cases, particularly the white dialed model. Also, the circular cases come in two sizes – 34 mm and 38 mm.
*waits patiently for (much) more affordable (non-limited) options*
Good things come to those who wait, right? And for that, we are rewarded with yet another non-limited (possibly even cooler) Bulova model. Ladies and geeks, here’s my personal favourite from Baselworld 2019 – the Bulova Computron. Pulled from its Archive Series, the Bulova Computron just screams 80s to me.
Image courtesy of watchonista.com
Take one long, hard look at this watch and it’s easy to conjure up images of “Knight Rider” and the like. Three variants are on offer with a gold-plated version, a stainless steel unit and a black ion-plated (IP) steel model with a rubber strap. Of course, the standout here is the design of the actual watch itself with its trapezoidal case and angled LED display.
Aside from the time, the modernised Computrons also have a dual timezone feature along with day, date and month display. Everything is accessed via a single button mounted on the right of the case.
Image courtesy of watchonista.com
Finally, the best part of it all? As mentioned, the Bulova Computron isn’t a limited edition model and is priced from US$295 (RM1,203) for the IP and steel model to US$395 (RM1,611) for the gold-plated model.
“Now we’re talking…”
And we’re not quite done yet. Another one that stood out for me from Baselworld 2019 was the Monta Atlas. The latest creation from the St. Louis-based independent watchmaker features a delightfully clean design, in my eyes. More so when optioned out with the opalin silver dial – which is one of the three dial colours on offer. The other two are charcoal and Monta blue.
Strap options are also aplenty with black, tan, chestnut and chocolate leather choices to go along with the bracelet and rubber variants. Additionally, Monta throws in a NATO strap in the same dial colour. The stainless steel case measures 38.5 mm. As for the movement, a Selitta SW330 is featured. The 25-jeweled movement ticks at 4 Hz and has a power reserve of 42 hours.
The standout feature of this particular GMT has to be the location of the 24-hour counter, no doubt. While most GMTs depend on having the counter on a bezel, Monta has opted to incorporate the second timezone within the rehaut. This, in my opinion, makes for one heck of an uncluttered design while still allowing the secondary timezone to be visible. Somewhat.
Pre-order prices for the Monta Atlas begin at US$1,410 (RM5,752) for the rubber strap, US$1,420 (RM5,793) for the leather and US$1,615 (RM6,589) if you go for the steel bracelet. If you’re really keen on one, deliveries are expected to begin in August 2019 so best get your order down at their official site, right here.
For me, that’s about it, yeah. The absence of the Swatch Group definitely made an impact considering that some of their more affordable arms would’ve stood out with new releases but alas, such is life. In conclusion, it wasn’t a particularly bad Baselworld event but I just felt that there were less interesting, affordable options for the average Joe.
Here’s hoping for many more affordable releases in 2020.