The Five Coolest Watches from Baselworld 2016

This year, size mattered

By The Editors
March 28, 2016 9:00 am

Baselworld 2016 is in the books.

There were fireworks, sure, but nothing ignited social media quite like last year’s Omega’s Rolex lookalike (the Globemaster) or Patek Philippe’s lovechild with Zenith-IWC (the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time).

This year the buzz was around bronze, color and size, with still plenty of love and hate to go around.

Breitling Avenger Hurricane

Judging from the personal conversations I’ve had, Breitling’s hockey puck-sized Avenger Hurricane is “a plastic watch.” One friend told me, “Breitling has become like the noisy relatives at a family picnic.” Indeed, at 50mm diameter, the Hurricane is just a fraction of a millimeter short of two full inches. Not for small wrists.

But the “plastic” is Breitling’s new proprietary “Breitlight” material — a third the weight of titanium and harder than steel. It won’t weigh you down. And the watch features a 24-hour dial borrowed from the Cosmonaute. The beast is positively dripping with a black ops vibe. If that’s your thing, this is your watch.

Rolex Air-King

When Rolex put the Air-King on waivers several years ago, the watch was a diminutive (by today’s standards) 34mm. But its disappearance from Rolex’s roster hit hardcore Rollie fans hard. For once, the Crown listened and this year they brought back the venerable pilot watch.

The ‘King is now a strapping modern 40mm in diameter, but the naysayers are claiming it’s not “Rolex enough,” that it looks like a latter-day Explorer with too much happening on the dial — read: applied markers and verbose printing.

Indeed, someone in Geneva must have a sense of humor. The watch features green (Rolex green of course) accents on the black dial and a green second hand. But you don’t need to be a leprechaun (the watch was released on St. Paddy’s day) to appreciate it. A dash of snark directed toward the self-declared Rolex illuminati will do just fine.

Tudor Heritage Black Bay 36 

The new Heritage Black Bay Bronze (a contender for Most Controversial release of the week) maybe should have gone here, but it’s going to make everybody’s top five. And anyway, the 36 is a much more restrained and understated piece. Add the fact that you can wear it upscale or down, and you’ve got a watch worth talking about.

The Black Bays of the last few years have been 41mm, so the 36mm is a departure to be sure. So is the lack of a rotating bezel (the Black Bay is basically a dive watch). But those facts are what refine the piece into a nice all-arounder. Some will decry the smaller diameter, but those are the ones who are slaves to fashion, not the ones who set the bar.

Omega Speedmaster CK2998 Limited Edition 

The Limited Edition CK2998 is the latest in a long line of specialty Speedmasters commemorating their forefathers from 50–60 years ago. But the cool thing about this Limited Edition is the panda dial, with deep blue sub-dials against white, and a matching blue ceramic bezel. The original’s alpha hands are here, along with the lollipop chrono second hand. (Did you see that in the photo? Extra points if you did.)

You know this is a throwback piece because the Omega signature twisted lugs are missing and so are the asymmetrical case and integral crown guard of the Speedmaster Professional.

But really it’s all about that dial.

Panda dials are kind of a thing for chrono buffs. And this Speedy goes a little further, looking uncannily similar to an old Rolex Paul Newman Daytona which had a similar dial in the ‘70s. Oddly, no one on social media ranted about this Omega release of a Rolex lookalike.

TAG Heuer Monza 

The original Heuer Monza was released in 1976 to honor Ferrari’s 1975 Constructor’s World Championship. This update is to honor the 40th anniversary. And it’s telling that the brand deleted the ‘TAG” part of their logo for the piece. The TAG moniker is an artifact of the days when Techniques d’Avant Garde owned the brand anyway (1985-1999), so it doesn’t really play into this homage piece.

The original Monza was a unique piece, with chrono pushers on the right, winding crown on the left, and running seconds sub-dial at ten o’clock (instead of nine). The anniversary edition has the crown and running seconds sub-dial placed a bit more conventionally. It’s packaged in a tonneau-shaped black PVD case and dial with red highlights, and strapped down with a black leather rally strap.

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