This year is a particularly difficult one for me to pick favourites because, despite some online reports to the contrary, I found Basel a veritable treasure trove of watches I coveted at almost every brand I saw. Of course, there were the obvious choices like Rolex’s reworked 43mm Single Red Sea-Dweller with cyclops date and the to-die-for yellow-gold Daytona with Oysterflex bracelet, the Patek Philippe ref. 5320G Perpetual Calendar and the Harry Winston Histoire de Tourbillon 7, plus the now-expected clutch of Tudor Black Bays, but the joy spread far beyond these usual suspects.

Like so many other punters, I’m a sucker for vintage-inspired looks and that wish was fulfilled in spades, as were my loves of beautiful design, inventive engineering and a quirky aesthetic – if the objective of owning something is to make one happy rather than provide a pension pot, then most of those exhibiting hit the mark. And that’s the basis for my choices below; they may not be the most original, the most technical or the most expensive, but each one stood out and all would be welcome to find a permanent home in my collection.

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic

I first saw this record-breaking watch back in early January when I arranged for it to be photographed for several Revolution cover stories. I loved it then and the fact that I would sell my soul for it – three months and two Swiss watch fairs later – tells me that it is going to remain one of my favourite pieces this year. While the feats of the ultra-thin movement and titanium case construction (5.25mm in total) are not lost on me, it is the phenomenal bracelet – again in titanium – that seals the deal. An extreme stealth watch thanks to its muted tones of silver and grey with black accents, the bracelet perfectly fits the proportions of the case and features a clasp that is hidden inside to prevent the pure line of the 2.5mm links from being compromised. The result is an extremely legible, super-comfortable, highly versatile and utterly beautiful timepiece.

Omega Railmaster 60th Anniversary Limited Edition Master Chronometer 38mm

Originally launched in 1957, the Railmaster was a simple time-only watch designed with scientists in mind and featuring a double case to increase its resistance to magnetism. Coming in well under £4,000, this anniversary issue has been produced in an edition of 3,557 (along with the other two professional watches introduced in the same year: Seamaster and Speedmaster). A true case of the past and present colliding, modern 3D scanning was used to gather the details of the 60-year-old originals in order to keep the new models as faithful to the 1950s versions as possible. The Railmaster features an “aged” black dial and Super-LumiNova filled indexes plus a steel case and bracelet with mid-century-style Omega logo. Inside the case is the Master Chronometer calibre 8806, which is anti-magnetic up to 15,000 gauss.

H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar Purity

One of the final watches I saw at Basel this year is a piece that I can’t stop thinking about. Sleek, clean and logo-free, the Moser Endeavour Perpetual Calendar Purity may take slightly longer to read than a traditional perpetual calendar but, with a face this beautiful, who cares! The 42mm white-gold case houses a fumé dial in a stunning midnight blue – so dark that it appears black in all but the brightest lights – highlighted by only the most essential indications. The sole index is at 12 o’clock, there is a big date at 3, a seconds sub-dial at 6 and a power reserve at 9. A small hand from the centre points to the months with the 1 o’clock position representing January, 2 o’clock indicating February and so on around the dial. The leap year indicator can be seen through the sapphire caseback that also gives a view of the twin-barrelled HMC 800 manual-winding movement with 7-day power reserve.

Czapek Quai des Bergues No 33

I first met Xavier de Roquemaurel in 2013. Introduced through a mutual friend and colleague, we were sitting in a London hotel when he whipped out some watch prototypes and asked for my opinion. Fast forward three-and-a-half years and I found myself visiting de Roquemaurel and his GPHG award-winning brand Czapek at Baselworld. I arrived at the stand just as watch maestro Philippe Dufour was stopping by to look at the remarkable guilloché work on the new Quai des Bergues No 33 – a watch that has melted my heart. Made in the finest traditions of watchmaking, this version of the Quai des Bergues has a 42.5mm rose-gold case with Czapek’s “Queen Bee” signature. The Emperor blue bombé guilloché dial is inspired by a Czapek design of the 1850s and features white-gold fleur de lys hands, a small seconds between 7 and 8 o’clock and a power reserve indication between 4 and 5 o’clock. Visible through the sapphire caseback is the hand-finished Calibre SXH1 proprietary hand-wound movement with twin barrels and 7-day power reserve. If, as Keats said, “a thing of beauty is a joy forever”, then this watch is set to delight for generations to come.

Chanel Mademoiselle J12

As usual, Chanel provided a centre of loveliness amid the frenetic activity of Basel’s Hall 1. Three unique table clocks based on Mademoiselle Chanel’s Coromandel screens were joined by the Mademoiselle Privé Décor Aubazine collection of enamelled, engraved, carved and stone-set masterpieces as well as the Première Camélia Skeleton watches with Calibre 2 movement that was developed and assembled by the Swiss manufacturer Châtelain. All of these make my heart beat a little faster, but the one I want – the one that takes me back to the days when Snoopy and Mickey Mouse were more important names to see on watch dials than Rolex or Patek Philippe – is the Mademoiselle J12. A 38mm, high-tech ceramic case houses a lacquered dial topped with a sapphire plate featuring an illustration of Mademoiselle Chanel, her arms forming the hour and minutes hands of the watch. The bracelet is also made of high-tech ceramic with triple-folding, steel buckle, as is the crown cabochon. Water-resistant to 200m, the timepiece is powered by an automatic movement with 42 hours of power reserve. The watch, which is set to fly out of boutiques, is available in black or white, 555 pieces of each.

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