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BASELWORLD 2017: Day 4 – The power of design

In a world in which 90% of watches are round, what options do brands have to rise out of the mass and let their models achieve a breakthrough with the public. Between associations with history and stylistic research, some brands have managed to give their creations durable success.

By Vincent Daveau
Managing Editor France

The question is often asked: what are the boosters that will ultimately produce a horological icon. In the final analysis, there is no pat recipe. The success of a timepiece is the sum of a certain number of factors that will be different from one reference to the next and from one epoch to the next. Essentially, one could almost speak of coincidence, even if some associations are more propitious than others when it comes to making watches that will end up having a great future.

Chopard Mille Miglia :going the distance

For example: We know that partnerships with automobile brands tend to result in commercial successes. The most obvious example is Chopard, which has been associated to the Mille Miglia rally as a sponsor since 1988. It was clever enough to become totally involved. This endurance race, which Enzo Ferrari described as the “most beautiful race in the world,” and which, this year, will involve over 400 collectors’ vehicles competing on 1618 kilometers of road connecting Brescia to Rome and back, was the glebe in which the legend of Chopard’s Mille Miglia chronograph grew.As of 1988, this family-run business has been making a commemorative watch for the participants on an almost annual basis. 

Chopard Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph 2017

Then, as of 1998, given the success it encountered, the brand decided to enlarge its offering for those people enamored with fine mechanics. The 2017 crop of this serially produced chronograph meets all the expectations of individuals fascinated by vintage cars. They are the ones who made the model a point of identification. The watch has an automatic caliber and boasts COSC chronometric certification. The steel case is sober and powerful, with a 42-millimeter diameter, a black dial that is classic and very readable with luminescent Arab numerals and, the most famous part, a strap of black rubber decorated with a motif inspired by a Dunlop tire from the 1960s.

Chopard Mille Miglia Race Edition 2017

Hublot Big Bang Ferrari :celebrating speed

This is another partnership in the same realm, and it is also very successful. However, it was not guaranteed, since many brands had already tried to collaborate with the automaker, but had never succeeded in transforming the passion for the automobile into desire for a watch. Ever since the launch of the collaboration in 2011, Hublot has managed to create models with powerful and distinctive designs that everyone agrees reflect the image one might have of the cars of the Scuderia. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of Ferrari, the Hublot manufacture had to offer the fans a Big Bang Ferrari that was designed in the spirit of constant quest for innovation, excellence and performance, which are values common to the two brands. By seeking inspiration from the innovative shapes and the emblematic design of the latest Ferrari models, Hublot endowed the Big Bang Unico with new contours and a more recognizable silhouette. The watch comes in a 45-millimeter case and in a limited edition of titanium, king gold and carbon.

Hublot Big Bang Ferrari

Patek Philippe:Evocative mechanics

The other way that might create a horological icon is to find a shape that will catch the eye of the public by means of visual edginess. We know that some watches can really evoke something. Among them is the Royal Oak by Audemars Piguet, the Lauréato by Girard-Perregaux, the Nautilus by Patek Philippe, and later the Aquanaut, which is returning this year to celebrate its twentieth birthday with a masculine offering of very graphical shapes. The new reference No. 5168G is the first Aquanaut ever for men in 18-kt grey gold. Like the other Aquanauts (and the Nautiluses), its design with an octagonal bezel and soft angles, highlighted by satin-brushed vertical finishing on the top and polished on the tapering sides has never changed. No need to, since it is very distinctive.However, with its 42 millimeters in diameter, it's a model that does manage to have its say as the biggest Aquanaut of all. It pays homage to the original Nautilus (1976), which was nicknamed "Jumbo” and was of the same size. Another novelty:The dark blue dial that has a shaded effect as it gets darker towards the edges – which was introduced for the first time in 2016 on the Aquanaut Travel Time -- is a reference to the effect that is typical of the Nautilus.

Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5650G-001

Bvlgari Octo :keystone of time

Many a company has tried to come up with some original designs to differentiate a watch from the run-of-the-mill. Hamilton with its Ventura found a very brand-specific cue with a triangular case for the watch. Ever since, no brand has ever really been able to renew that feat of turning a timepiece with unfettered shapes into an industrial success. The timepieces made by independents are made in series of fifty per year and are not significant, even if their esthetics are fascinating. The majestic silhouette of the Cartier Tank, which is celebrating its centenary this year, belongs to the world of rectangular watches. In the same vein is the tonneau shape, which had its moment of glory with Franck Muller. Nowadays it is used by some of the big names like Hublot or Richard Mille for small series.

Hamilton Ventura

The point being that using an innovative or brand new design is something complicated in watchmaking. At the same time, when a design does manage to attract the favor of the public, it quickly develops into a stylistic phenomenon that requires some analysis.  

Bvlgari Octo Roma

In 2012, Bvlgari launched its Octo in Rome. The Italian brand managed to reveal the architectural potential in a form of rare originality. It integrated a number of geometrical elements that ultimately gave rise to a line of watches made to defy time itself. As far as balance concerned, it proved that the most inspired designs are often the ones that dare provoke the eye and are either loved or hated. The Octo confirms the brand’s intention to merge the world of watchmaking with that of jewelry.

Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Automatique

The Octo Roma captivated watch fans with its 58 facets that reflect the light to reveal the magic of the Golden Rule. But it’s the Octo Finissimo Automatic, with its overpowering design, its titanium case and its record-breaking thinness (the thinnest in the world) that undoubtedly picks up the top prize for the most graphical watch this year at Baselworld 2017. It is a textbook lesson in balance, a contemporary jewel that will show all its facets to his owner, be it on the titanium or the leather bracelet.

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