Omega’s heritage-inspired piece of the year is this retro-design
(Image credit: press)

Omega Spacemaster Z-33

One of our favourite designs of the fair, Omega’s heritage-inspired piece of the year is this retro-design quartz pilot watch with digital display referencing an original 1970s model. It’s got so many hi-tech pushers and functions that we are almost convinced that, with just one push, we can make a plane fly

Baselworld, the biggest watch and jewellery fair on the planet is gearing up for change. Next year, all 160,000 square metres of the enormous exhibition centre on the Swiss-French border are due for a revamp as part of a major expansion. The perfect opportunity, then, for each brand to re-work the million-dollar temporary boutique stands that have been their Basel homes for the past six years.

From Rolex’s sweeping Roman-style marble staircase structure to Dior’s mini Avenue Montaigne-style boutique and Breitling’s giant ‘floating’ fish tank installation, the current stands have stood the test of time well enough not to feel too tired in their last year. The message? Baselworld is and always will be one of the slickest shows on earth.

And this year, with such polished ranges on show, we thought that the watches pretty much followed suit. From Omega to Zenith and Patek Philippe, the mood was focused on strengthening or building core lines. Hence, we were presented with some of the sharpest collections in years

Of course, getting it so right is all very well and good but it’s the crazy, ‘not quite sure about that’ pieces that are, in a way, a healthier representation of what makes watchmaking tick. It is, after all, an intensely creative business. To that end, we jostled our way through the crowds to get an up-close look at some of the most decadent dial designs ever – feathers, crystal gold, marble and wood were just some of the inventive materials on show. There were some pretty imaginative technologies being bandied about too. More of which to come. But for now, here’s our round up of 15 of the best in show.

Dior VIII Grand Bal ‘Plumes’

The house’s most inventive watch range just got more so, with its playful inverse caliber – the oscillating weight is mounted on the front rather than the back (where it is traditionally) – featuring a fan of feathers

Dior VIII Grand Bal ‘Plumes’


(Image credit: press)

Bell & Ross WW1 Heure Sautante Platinum

Jumping hour mechanisms – where the hour is relayed in a sizeable aperture on the dial – are beautifully old-school. This spanking-new take from French brand Bell & Ross also displays how they allow watchmakers more dial space to re-work traditional notions of design. Limited to 25 pieces

Bell & Ross WW1 Heure Sautante Platinum


(Image credit: press)

Chanel J12 GMT Black Matte

It was created as a watch suited to both men and women but this year the J12 gets a tad more masculine: the original high-gloss ceramic design is refashioned in subtle matte-black. The dial is a sizeable 41mm; the movement is self-winding mechanical and there’s the added fun of a world-time function

Chanel J12 GMT Black Matte


(Image credit: press)

Hublot Classic Fusion Extra-thin Skeleton

The brand best known for its super-sized wristpieces has taken a super-skinny turn with this year’s skeleton model. It’s also given us a new alloy – King Gold – to think about. Good old Hublot for reminding us of the watch industry’s ability to re-invent the wristpiece

Hublot Classic Fusion Extra-thin Skeleton


(Image credit: press)

Maurice Lacroix Pontos

Sporty Nato straps are a big trend this year and Maurice Lacroix’s Pontos nails it to a T. A great value chronograph for sporty and stylish types alike, it’s fitted with a reliable Valjoux chrono movement

Maurice Lacroix Pontos


(Image credit: press)

Patek Philippe Ladies First Perpetual Calendar (ref 7140)

Brands are falling over themselves to create mechanical watches for women – a relatively new trend – but Patek create such established models that it feels as though they’ve been doing it forever. This seriously complicated piece is an elegant case in point

Patek Philippe Ladies First Perpetual Calendar


(Image credit: press)

Rado True Thinline

When it comes to new technology and design, Rado has always been pretty out there – it was one of the first to experiment with now-ubiquitous ceramic. This year, the brand has developed an intriguing method of turning white ceramic into gold using a plasma treatment that slowly transforms the atomic make-up of the material

Rado True Thinline


(Image credit: press)

Hermès Arceau 1912

It was 100 years ago that one of the Hermès family came up with the idea of a leather watch strap for young Jacqueline Hermès’ pocket watch, so that she would not lose it while at play. Not only does this new model pay homage to her, it is Hermès’ first mechanical watch for women

Hermès Arceau 1912


(Image credit: press)

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller

This deceptively simple-looking little number comes complete with dual-time zone and 24-hour time display, read via a rotating disc on the dial. The fact that it is placed in an off-centre position is sure to have collectors standing to attention

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller


(Image credit: press)

Tag Heuer Limited Edition Heuer Carrera

Jack Heuer – the man who put the square-case Monaco on Steve McQueen’s wrist in the early 1970s – is 80 this year. He designed some of the most iconic watches of our times. The Carrera was one of them, and this anniversary issue shows why

Tag Heuer Limited Edition Heuer Carrera


(Image credit: press)

Tudor Pellagos

This new divers’ watch is actually inspired by one of the house’s original models from the 1960s. The good-looking satin-finish titanium case is one major selling point; the helium valve (designed to absorb variations in pressure), marked ‘Gas Escape Valve’, quite another

Tudor Pellagos


(Image credit: press)

Breitling Transocean Chronograph

The Transocean is one of Breitling’s key models, designed in the 1950s. This year’s decidedly handsome world-time model nods to its past but, equipped with a new in-house movement, most definitely points towards a brighter future

Breitling Transocean Chronograph


(Image credit: press)

Louis Vuitton Tambour Regatta America’s Cup

As official timekeeper of the America’s Cup – which takes place in San Francisco next year – Louis Vuitton has created a series of watches dedicated to the sailing competition. This version has a nifty five-minute revolving-cube countdown function

Louis Vuitton Tambour Regatta America’s Cup


(Image credit: press)

Zenith Pilot Big Date Special

Pilot watches are, quite literally, big this year, and Zenith’s limited-edition Montre D’Aeronef Type 20 leads the charge with its 57.5mm diameter dial. For those less inclined to strap a giant timepiece to their sleeve, the brand’s more demure Pilot Big Date Special was a best in show

Zenith Pilot Big Date Special


(Image credit: press)

Caragh McKay is a contributing editor at Wallpaper* and was watches & jewellery director at the magazine between 2011 and 2019. Caragh’s current remit is cross-cultural and her recent stories include the curious tale of how Muhammad Ali met his poetic match in Robert Burns and how a Martin Scorsese Martin film revived a forgotten Osage art.