Baselworld Preview with Michael Martin
Baselworld starts next Thursday, and the week before is always one of my favorite times of the year. Watch companies typically release a model or two a day to pique our interest as we excitedly ponder what is to come? I am currently in Florida visiting my good friend, and Watchuseek & IWL watch forum moderator, Michael Martin. As we approach the start of Baselworld 2017, Michael and I are talking about what we would like to see as new releases from some of his favorite brands sold at Topper.
Rob: Let's start with Omega as it's your favorite brand and given the cornerstone of your collection is made up of historical Speedmasters. 2017 is the year of the Speedmaster as it's the sixtieth anniversary of the series debut in 1957. What do you expect from them?
Michael: The past three years I think they've knocked it out of the park with their limited editions as they've built what in my opinion are three of the most desirable Speedmasters ever. (the titanium Apollo 11, Apollo 13 Silver Snoopy, and CK-2998). They have a high bar to meet.
Rob: For the sixtieth anniversary they have to go "Broad Arrow", right? And if they do, that will be two years in a row that the "historical" Speedmaster is pre-moon. Do you think they will come out with a watch celebrating the moon landings, too?
Michael: I think it's a significant enough year that they will probably come out with both a 60th anniversary piece, and a moon landing watch.
Rob: Then you might have a choice to make in terms of which one to get. As to the anniversary piece, what would you like to see?
Omega's celebrated ad from 1957 showing the debut of the professional series Omega Seamaster 300m, Railmaster, and Speedmaster.
Michael: My true wish for a historical Omega would be to build one with a "321" movement that is manual wind with a column wheel. At your Omega launch event for the Omega display at Topper in November, I met Gregory Kissling (Omega's senior product developer) and had a talk with him. I told him that if Omega makes anything with a modern 321 calibre it would be immensely popular.
Rob: What did he say?
Michael: He grinned. I wasn't sure how to interpret it, but he clearly understood the draw.
Rob: On the anniversary piece, I'm pretty sure it will have Broad Arrow hands, and be the same case size as the CK2998, but I'm really interested to see how they do the bezel and dial color. I loved the CK2998's use of a blue ceramic bezel, but the original Speedmaster didn't have a colored bezel. I'm hoping they embrace modern material with the bezel, but am not sure ceramic is the answer.
Michael: That will be interesting to see, and I'm also interested to see if they execute the aged lume look like on the most recent 57 (from 2015).
Rob: One of the things you liked about the CK2998 was it took a blue panda color scheme that wasn't in the original watch. Are you hoping they infuse the 60th anniversary watch with some other design element (like in the CK2998) or do you want it to look like the original watch from 1957?
Michael: I think I'd like to see a unique use of color, but I'm not certain what that would be. I don't want it to be bright, but I'd love to see a unique shade of some kind. Do you want to see them do a Panda?
Rob: I don't think so, I think that would be too close to the CK-2998 and the Speedy Tuesday.
Michael: What do you want to see do the most this year?
Rob: I've been wanting them to do something with the Railmaster since 2013 when they came out with the anti-magnetic 15,000 Gauss. With it being the 60 year anniversary, I'm hoping it gets a big launch with a lot of variants. The 2500 calibre Railmaster wasn't that much of a success for us when it come out in the mid 2000s, but I think its design was ahead of it's time. I also want to see what they do (if anything) with the Seamaster 300. The Omega Master Co-Axial 300m is my favorite modern Omega, but I'm interested to see how they would make a new one different from the one that came out in 2014. That 2014 model was really faithful to the original in 1957. If they make one, I'm hoping it will be more matted in both the bezel, and the bracelet.
Michael: The other thing, I want to see from Omega is a new Diver 300M Seamaster with an in-house movement and an adjustable clasp more like the 300 Master Co-Axial.
Rob: I'm not sure if that is going to be the year for that, even though it's usually true that when Omega doesn't come out with much in a family during a Baselworld that major change is coming the next year. This series would fit that profile as the Rio Limited Edition was the only new diver from the Diver 300M series last year) Still, I think a revamp of the Diver 300M Seamaster is more likely to be the focus of 2018.
Michael: There is definite call in the collector community for thinner dive watches with less water resistance and 13mm max case thickness.
Michael: I really like the newly announced El Primero Panda dials.
Rob: Yes, it may be the year of the rooster but between those watches, Speedy Tuesday, and that new Hamilton Intra-matic 68, it feels like year of the panda. But our focus for Zenith has to be on the new chronograph movement.
Michael: Yes, the El Primero 21.
Rob: So tell me what have you heard about what's coming?
Michael: We know that it's a 10-beat watch with a 100-beat chronograph. The big question is going to be where are they going to put the registers, and will they overlap? Also, will it have a silicon hairspring? I know they've made silicon palette forks and escapement wheels on some models recently, but they've never done a silicon hairspring as far as I can tell. Also, will the movement hack? Do you know what I find really interesting about the new movement?
Rob: Go on.
Michael: That the new movement is going to go into the "Defy series", which as you know isn't fondly remembered.
Rob: I think it's a bold move to call it Defy. The Defy Classic "Rainbow" style chronograph still holds up pretty well, but yes, most of the Defy Extreme isn't fondly remembered. But Defy goes back much further than those watches. The Defy series originally came out in 1969 at the same time as El Primero as a more durable sports watch. I think it's bold of Jean Claude Biver to choose to reclaim the word to a new meaning away from Defy Extreme.
Michael: Speaking of Biver, now that he is more directly in charge of Zenith, I think everyone is also interested to see if there is much Hublot influence in the case and design of the new collection.
Rob: Yes, and as Mr. Biver's increased involvement is the biggest storyline at Basel this year, I made sure that this was my first appointment at Basel. The El Primero 21 has been billed as a modern looking piece that's been mechanically reimagined for the 21st century that still references its past. Given all of his other successes, this is the watch I'm looking forward to seeing the most.
Rob: Last year Grand Seiko treated Basel like an auto show where they only showed concept cars. Yes, there were ceramic limited edition watches for sale, but it was just as much about the company embracing new materials as it was about the watches. They did come out with some Hi-Beat watches in 2016 (SBGJ019 & SBGJ017) which were all big hits at Topper Jewelers, but these watches were all blockaded from being discussed by the media until the late fall. I don't think they are going to do that again this year.
Michael: The rumors that I've heard are that Grand Seiko wants to move up market and that prices may be going up, there will be a change to the logo (less Seiko focused), and there is going to be a Hi-Beat version of the diver.
Rob: I think it will be interesting to see what the case will be like in their next dive watch. I think that like Omega, there is a huge demand from their fan base for thinner, smaller Grand Seiko divers. The rumor that's being discussed on IWL is that the new diver will not be smaller than existing pieces. What else do you want to see them do?
Rob: That may or may not come this year. The original green came out in 2014, so maybe new colors of that watch are going to be an even year thing. What I want to see the most are more Spring Drive limited editions with unusual dials, (a Blizzardfor 2017) and more reissues of historical pieces. The 62GS from two years ago was incredibly popular. I'd like to see them come out with more watches in that case size.
Michael: I think I'd like to see a Hi-Beat chronograph. They have an incredible column wheel chronograph, and I don't think they've made a Grand Seiko chronograph with a movement other than Spring Drive.
Rob: While this isn't exactly Grand Seiko, that new diver 62MAS looks fantastic. I'm thrilled for the coming installation of our Grand Seiko shop-in-shop, and that we will be able to provide boutique exclusive models at Topper. Last year those Pressage enamel pieces were fantastic though we weren't able to procure any. I'm told we will be able to provide pieces like that this year.
Rob: What do people want to see from Longines?
Michael: The biggest desire is for them to make more watches with no date. The historic models would be far cleaner if no-date options were available. People loved last year's single pusher chronograph, but hated the date wheel dominating that second hand sub-dial. Same thing with the Heritage 1918.
Rob: I think the big news is going to be in another series. If you could change one thing about the HydroConquest would it be?
Michael: It would have to be the bezel. It's been anodized aluminum forever, and I think a ceramic bezel would bring it up a notch.
Rob: I predict an extremely active Longines Forum over on WUS. You will have a lot of discussion to moderate.
Rob: You have a Zodiac.
Michael: Yes, the bronze Super Sea Wolf limited edition. I think the interesting thing to see there is how they will utilize the STP movements in newer models. I think all their vintage look models were quite well done. This could be a brand to watch at a great price point.
Rob: Have you looked at the Zodiac website lately? The most noteworthy thing about it to me, isn't what's there, but what's not there. All of the modern styled pieces (such as the Jet-O-Matic) have been discontinued. The website is now exclusively showing their throwback pieces.
Michael: Yes, it's all divers and Sea Dragons.
Rob: I'm interested to see if they try again for more modern designs or if they stick exclusively with these heritage looks. What will also be interesting is to see who is designing the pieces. Brandon Little, who we interviewed last year, is no longer at Zodiac, and I'm not sure who is the main creative director there.
Michael: I hope they stick to just doing the throwback pieces. The Zodiac bronze watch that I have has an incredibly well engineered case.
Rob: My favorite thing about that piece is how good the bezel action is. The push release is really hard to get right, and it feels really smooth. I think Zodiac, perhaps due to the aesthetic boldness of some of their quartz watches, doesn't get their due.
Michael: For the price point, they are very hard to beat.
Rob: Let's talk about Bremont, which involves the least amount of prognostication as they already released their 2017 collection.
Michael: The new S300/301 looks fantastic, especially in the live pictures as opposed to the renderings. There was some initial concern that the lugs were long.
Rob: They aren't. Usually when people are talking about long lug watches, they are talking about 40-42mm watches that are 52mm lug to lug. These watches are under 49mm end to end.
Michael: The other thing that's different than the rest of the SuperMarine series is the loss of the angular crownguard. I personally like the S301 the best of the initial photos I've seen.
Rob: Agreed. As soon as I saw the 301, I knew it would be a hit, as many customers have done their best to make Bremont 43mm cases work because they liked the brand, but really wanted something smaller that would fit better. Do you want to hear something surprising though? The 301 isn't the most pre-ordered Bremont watch so far. Guess which one is?
Michael: The Airco Mach 1
Rob: That's right. It's been the most pre-ordered Bremont since the Terra Nova. What do you think is so appealing about this watch?
Michael: Many people have been looking for that size of military watch.
Rob: It's hard to know exactly what to call the genre of the Airco. It's part officer watch (especially the Mach 2 of course) part pilot and part field watch.
Michael: I think it's popular because it's more aviation oriented than the S300/301 and extremely wearable. The color of the second hand of the Mach I reminds me of the Milgauss without the lightning bolt. It really pops.
Rob: If you were going to buy one which would it be?
Rob: They did confirm that there will be a historical watch for 2018 that will be delivered right before X-Mas, but that's it.
Rob: The big story with Glashütte Original has to be the movement. Last year they announced the Senator Excellence with the Calibre 36, which was the first time they've done an in depth partnership with Nivarox and the movement used a silicon hairspring. It's a movement that melds Swiss and German tradition. How they will expand on that is the biggest storyline.
Michael: You say that, but the watch that I fell in love with was their pre-Basel release of the Sixties Iconic Square Chronograph. This had everything to do with dial manufacturing, and used their existing Calibre 39 which has been in their collection for a number of years.
Rob: Yes, the popularity, media attention, and success of those watches show that many collectors are much more interested in other things besides the latest technical achievement in movement calibres. On that note, what do you want to see out of Glashütte Original?
Michael: I would like an everyday watch that splits between sport and classic with a German flare.
Rob: I'm trying to picture that. That request think it wins the award for most vague request in a Baselworld preview.
Michael: I have to point out that Glashütte Original builds one of the best bracelets of any manufacturer out there. The one on the Senator Seventies still blows me away.
Rob: What are your other favorite bracelets?
Michael: The Rolex Glidelock and the Vacheron Constantin Overseas. Where the Glashütte Original is superior is in its adjustability. These other two bracelets are really celebrated, but I don't think the Glashütte Original bracelet gets nearly enough attention.
Rob: What are you most excited about from Nomos Glashütte?
Michael: The great thing about Nomos Glashütte is that since the style is so minimalist, small variants such as new dial colors are exciting. Last year we only saw one new case (the Tetra Neomatik), but will they do something as radical as the Metro this year? Will they build a chronograph?
Rob: Or a new diver that's more than 200m water resistant? The last new series was the Metro in 2014, so maybe it is a year or two soon for an entirely new series? What I expect are larger Neomatik models. Right now, the largest Neomatik model is around 36mm. The movement while incredibly thin, would still look proportional in 38-40 mm cases.
Michael: Since we've been talking about wanting Grand Seiko and Omega to come out with thinner divers, and we saw how well Bremont's 300/301 has been received, the same probably holds true for Nomos Glashütte. Ahoi Neomatik?
Rob: That would definitely be a hit.
Michael: Then there's the next Topper Limited.
Rob: Right, I'm not sure if that is going to be announced at Baselworld or not as we are still working through some final details, but I am very excited about it.
Rob: So far, the only pre-basel release that I've seen has been the steel 38mm Bathyscaphe. It's a great looking piece, but I'm hoping there will be something in between 38 and 43mm.
Michael: Do have info that says that they will?
Rob: No! Of all the brands that we represent, I think they play it closest to the vest. What would you like to see them do?
Michael: I'd like to see them do something like the Bathyscaphe Ocean Commitment from a few years ago. I'd love another version of the chronograph (perhaps in steel or titanium) that uses that blue dial. Most people do not realize what a technological tour de force that was, or that Blancpain has a high beat chronograph with a silicon hairspring and is a flyback!
Rob: I love the aesthetic of the original Fifty Fathoms, as well as the Bathyscaphe models. Still, there are a lot of great looking pieces from their early dive history that would be great inspiration for a modern dive watch. I hope they come out with a new heritage piece.
Michael: What new designs would you like to see for the original Fifty Fathoms?
Rob: I'd love to see them come out with one in the 40-42mm size.
Thanks for reading! What would you like to see happen from the brands of Topper?The Topper Blog consists mainly of original writing by Rob & Russ Caplan with occasional special contributions and interviews. All photography in the blog is taken at Topper Fine Jewelers , or on location unless otherwise indicated in the photo captions.