The 10 Best Watches of Baselworld 2019
10 tickers to remember from the world's premier watch show
The watch industry’s largest event, Baselworld, took place in Switzerland from March 21st – 26th. The annual gathering brings together many of the most important watchmakers and watch brands in the world, for the sole purpose of unveiling their most important releases of the coming year.
All told, some 550 brands were in attendance to show off their wares, and while it can be overwhelming for those in attendance, if you pay attention, some dominant trends start to reveal themselves, whether it’s a proliferation of green dials or a return to the two-tone styles that were popular in decades past.
We’ll get to those in future pieces, we promise. But for now, we give you the 10 watches that most stuck with us after we flew home, the ones that felt best on our wrist, did the best job reminding us of the magic that’s happening inside these tiny little pieces of art we mount on our wrists every day.
Tag Heuer Autavia Isograph
Now two years removed from the extremely successful launch of their Autavia 02 Chronograph, Tag is back with the Autavia Isograph, a reimagination of the precursor to the original Jack Heuer Autavia design. Its highly legible dial is perfect for adventurers and casual wearers alike, with large numerals and a date window at the 6 o’clock position. It’s 42mm in diameter and chunky enough to make its presence known, both on the wrist and to observers, but it’s not so big as to seem desperate. Far from it, in fact. The Isograph is available in a number of different colorways and materials, but we’re partial to this one with the smoky green dial and bronze case. If you’re the kind of guy who cares about remaining on trend, this one will get you there.
Oris Aquis Clean Ocean
Oris has long held a commitment to preserving our oceans as one of its biggest charitable priorities, and they continue down that path with the Clean Ocean Limited Edition. The watch features a remarkably colorful caseback made of recycled plastic harvested from the ocean by Pacific Garbage Screening, and it’s limited to 2,000 pieces, which come in a box made partially from algae. Aside from the striking sky-blue gradient dial, the most notable thing about the Clean Ocean is that it comes in at 39.5mm, a welcome change for those of us whose wrists cannot support the 44mm size of the rest of the Aquis line.
Breitling 1959 Navitimer Re-Edition
If you’re of a generation that most associates Breitling with shiny, oversized dive-watches that would adorn the wrists of men like Arnold Scwarzeneger, then you’re going to want to pay attention and re-evaluate. Since taking over in 2017, CEO Georges Kern has the brand moving in a kinder, gentler and all-around more understated direction, with a focus on their rich military history. At this year’s Baselworld, they debuted the 1959 Navitimer Re-Edition, a mind-bogglingly accurate recreation of the original version of their most iconic watch. From the dimensions to the colors to the applied markers, the attention to detail is as impressive as the watch is stunning.
Zodiac Aerospace GMT
The recently revived Zodiac brand (now owned by Fossil) has quietly been producing some very nice watches, namely the vintage-inspired Sea Wolf diver they released a few years back. They’ve now done some minor tweaks to that watch and turned it into the Aerospace GMT, which is among the best looking and most affordble GMTs you’ll find. It’s priced at just $1,695 and was made in a blue and orange colorway that sold out pretty much immediately, as well as the gray and black version you see above, which also now appears to be gone. It’s a bummer, too, because this one would no doubt have wide appeal. Rumor has it there are more coming later in the year, though, so keep an eye on it.
Rolex Datejust 36
Granted, there is not a whole lot going on with this updated version of the Datejust — it’s now made with a combination of Oyster steel and white gold — but man, it’s a nice reminder that every other purchase we’ve ever made in our lives can seem trite and inconsequential. This is the kind of piece you buy and you know you’re going to have forever, not something that cycles in and out of your life like the wind.
Patek Philippe Weekly Calendar
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a Basel recap that doesn’t include Patek’s new Weekly Calendar among the best at the show. There is pretty much no way a photo can do it justice, but the dial is an absolute thing of beauty, with a date window, a day-of-the-week indicator, and a weekly calendar as indicated by the numbers 1-53 around the dial. Why 53 instead of 52? We don’t really know! But man does it look good, and man are we wholly incapable of wrapping our heads around how it all works. Bonus: the writing on the dial is based on the handwriting of one of Patek’s designers, so you can see some slight variation from letter to letter.
Zenith 50th Anniversary El Primero
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the El Primero, the namesake self-winding chronograph movement that drives Zenith’s most iconic watch. This reissue of that original piece is admirably faithful, its only modern updates being a sapphire crystal and a see-through caseback to show off the movement. Aesthetically, it’s a stunner, with three different color chronograph dials, exposed pushers, and an ideal 38mm case size. It’ll cost you nearly $20,000, but if you’ve got it to spend, you could do far worse than this.
Tudor Black Bay Bronze
Tudor had something of a quiet Baselworld 2019, with their biggest splash coming in the form of their divisive P-01, featuring hinged end-links and a complicated locking bezel design. But we were smitten with their Black Bay Bronze, the newest iteration of their extremely popular line of dive watches. This one features a bronze case, with a dark, matte gray dial and bezel, plus a fabric strap that helps it take on a casual look.
Bell & Ross Blue Steel
Bell & Ross is obviosuly known for its striking, aviation-inspired square watches, which are more than deserving of your attention, but we’re also fond of their more understated, dressier options. The Blue Steel is an ideal choice for the one-watch-and-one-watch-only people out there; it’s versatile enoug to work in pretty much any situation and, with its blue dial, just fun enough to keep things interesting.
Joseph Bulova Automatic Dress Watch
We talk a lot about affordable dress watches around here, because we’re very much of the opinion that unless you a) wear a suit every day or b) have a ton of money to throw around, you can easily get away without spending big bucks on a dress watch, if only by virture of the fact that you won’t have to wear it all that often. The Bulova 1875 Automatic, then, is a perfect addition to the shortlist of choices you have for traditional dress watches under $1,000. On a black leather strap, either the white- or black-dial versions are handsome enough to get you through any wedding, job interview, or black-tie event you may find yourself having to endure.