Rolex Cellini Moonphase

Rolex celebrated the 50th anniversary of a cult icon this year with a modern take on the Sea-dweller, alongside the unveiling of three stunning iterations of the Daytona. But what was most surprising was the release of the Cellini Moonphase because really, when was the last time this complication came from the crowned king? It is a successor of the two most coveted watches in the vintage watch arena—the 6062 and 8171 Padellone— and is astronomically accurate to a day in 122 years with the full moon cast in meteorite and the moonphase cycle displayed on a blue enamelled disc. Another appreciable decision was how the brand had chosen the Cellini collection in which to relaunch this complication, invigorating and demonstrating its ambitions for the oft-overlooked line.

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic

Elsewhere, Bulgari continued its domination in ultra-slimness and the Octo Finissimo Automatic unveiled at the show was simply astounding. It weighs just 68g and measures 5.15mm thick, surpassing the previous record-holder, Piaget at 5.25mm. With an entirely redesigned movement, every component has been significantly reduced to its minimum. The rotor is made of platinum to ensure sufficient inertia to fully wind the watch while the rest of the movement components are made of titanium. And for the first time, accompanying the watch is a striking bracelet made in full titanium with links that are just 2.5mm thick, 1mm slimmer than the norm of the market. It sits superbly well on the wrist and as per the codes of the Octo Finissimo, its heavily faceted case ensures a formidable wrist presence amid its record-breaking elegance.

Patek Philippe 5320G

As we exited the Patek Philippe booth at Baselworld after being presented with a load of novelties, highlighted in my mind — in bold, lurid, neon alphanumeric characters — was the reference 5320G for it was a watch that demonstrated admirably how the past should furnish the present. At its core, it’s an amalgamation of historical codes from many a great Patek perpetual calendar. Measuring an arguably more modern size at 40mm in diameter and available only in white gold, it features art deco styled triple-stepped lugs, a cream lacquer dial for an aged appearance, SuperLuminova-filled syringe hands, and lume-heavy arabic numerals in blackened gold. The result is this very fresh and charmingly executed perpetual calendar that pays forensic homage to Patek’s past without being a commercial dead ringer.

Zenith Defy El Primero 21

This is also the year where the legendary 1969 chronograph icon was given rocket fuel. The latest and the most significant evolution of the original, the Zenith Defy El Primero 21 features a completely new movement concept built around a 1/100th of a second chronograph, featuring two separate regulation systems with balance springs made of a new patented material known as Carbon-Matrix Carbon Nanotube. The timekeeping balance wheel beats at 5Hz as per standard El Primero while the second escapement that controls the 1/100th-of-a-second chronograph runs at an astounding 50Hz. The latter also has a 50-minunte power reserve that is isolated from the timekeeping half of the movement. Cosmetically, it is a millennial antithesis to the original, featuring versions in titanium or ceramicized aluminium with skeletonized dials.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Mil-spec

Another brand that played its cards well with a vintage reissue was Blancpain. The Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec is an impossibly beautiful tribute piece that reintroduces the humidity indicator of the original UDT-issued dive watch, found at 6 o’clock in half orange and half white. In the event of moisture ingress, the white part will turn a reddish-orange to match the other half, indicating the need for servicing. But given its 300 meters water-resistance, it is almost unlikely to see the change in this reissue. The watch is also equipped with modern attributes such as the luminescent uni-directional rotating bezel that is coated in scratch-resistant sapphire, an innovation of Blancpain that first appeared in 2003 with the 50th Anniversary Fifty Fathoms. And by way of afterthought, its 40mm case diameter sat comfortably on my devastatingly slim wrist.

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