By Michelle Graff

To me, every trade show has a different feel.

In Basel this year, I would describe the mood as a bit subdued and that’s understandable. Baselworld is a global show and, right now, the world outside of Basel is facing a slew of economic and social problems.

As one well-known jewelry designer I interviewed at the show put it: “Politically, religiously, the economy--nothing makes so much sense, even for intelligent people. So we’re not quite sure--and the politicians are not doing a good job--how we can relax today. Because we truly don’t quite understand the problem.”  

That is why I observed what I did in Basel: watch and jewelry brands being more conservative with their new collections and working to create pieces that appeal to consumers in every possible way.

Women at work, and our more casual society
Do you know what my favorite Barbie was when I was younger? It was Day-to-Night Barbie. Her daytime skirt suit (that was pink, of course) concealed a sparkly top and turn-around bottom that she could wear to go out in the evenings after work because, like so many women today, Day-to-Night Barbie did not have time to go home and change.

As a young child I found her adaptability appealing and, looking back on it now, I guess I always liked the idea of being a working woman, hence the way I’ve chosen to live my life as an adult. My younger self also was a big fan of her little briefcase that held various office necessities, including a newspaper, business magazines (Day-to-Night Barbie obviously was an advocate for solid journalism) and calculator.
20160330 Sutra-pendantAt Baselworld, Sutra introduced new pieces that are, for it, more subtle, less expensive and designed for everyday wear. This two-tone feather pendant is 18-karat rose and yellow gold with 5 carats of diamonds ($8,750, chain not included).

Today, the day-to-night lifestyle played out by this doll is a reality for many women. According to a study published in 2014 by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the percentage of women in the paid labor force in the U.S. has risen from just above 50 percent in 1984 (the year Day-to-Night Barbie debuted) to nearly 60 percent today.

That is why we continue to see designers creating jewelry that works for both day and evening wear--something not too flashy to wear around the office during the day yet not so subtle that it gets lost at night.  

I realize the idea of day-to-night wear is not brand new but it was, in my opinion, more prevalent at Baselworld this year.

Another factor contributing to this trend is our more casual society; people rarely, if ever, get dressed up anymore.

If you don’t believe me, take a walk around New York’s Theater District in the evenings when the plays and musicals are letting out; no one thinks twice about wearing jeans to the theater.

If Times Square isn’t enough punishment for you, accompany my mother to church one Sunday. When I attend mass with my parents, my mom often will remark on the way people just don’t dress up for church anymore, and she’s right. I don’t remember ever being allowed to wear jeans to mass, even in the summer when they were more casual and (thank God) shorter. Now, it seems like the norm. Oh, the horror.   

A more casual society demands more casual jewelry.

The unbearable lightness of Baselworld 2016
The world’s watchmakers are in constant pursuit of superlatives, and the “-ests” many were after this year seemed to be thinnest and lightest.

There was Breitling’s 50 mm Avenger Hurricane, made with a trademarked polymer composite the brand dubbed “Breitlight.”It definitely did not feel like a 50 mm watch on your wrist.

In addition, there was Bulgari’s super-slim minute repeater and the Eco-Drive One from Citizen, which the brand said is the world’s thinnest light-powered watch.

Swatch Group-owned brand Rado, meanwhile, called its 2016 collection “lightness inspired” and introduced three very slender watches--the True Open Heart, True Thinline and Hyperchrome Ultra Light.
2016 Rado-TrueThinLineThe Rado True Thinline has a case that’s only 4.9 mm thick and is powered by a quartz movement that measures 1 mm--about the same thickness as a credit card. It the thinnest ceramic watch ever produced by Rado. The True Thinline comes in black, white and a gray shade Rado calls “lustruous plasma” (pictured here.) All three models retail for $2,180.

The thin trend falls in line with watchmakers’ overall desire to make watches that are smaller, less conspicuous and, perhaps most pointedly, more affordable.

Straps and colors
I saw a lot more NATO straps at Baselworld this year than I have in years’ past, and for good reason.

The usually colorful cloth straps, which, according to WatchTime, were created by Great Britain’s Ministry of Defence in the early 1970s, represent another way for brands to bring down the price of their timepieces, in addition to making them smaller.

NATO straps also give the wearer options. They can swap in a NATO strap for their bracelet to create a more casual watch to wear to work or on the weekends and then switch back to the bracelet for more formal occasions. (This also relates to the first trend I outlined above, creating pieces that transition from day to night.)

Oris showed me a number of new NATO strap options for its Divers Sixty-Five watch.

Italian fashion house Gucci rolled out a few as well, as did Rolex, Tudor and the Swatch Group’s highest-end brand, Blancpain, just to name a few.

Color-wise, I observed much of what our (newly minted) Senior Editor Brecken Branstrator did at the Tucson gem shows earlier this year: a lot of pink and blue.
20160330 Longines-ClassiqueLongines rolled out pink and blue versions of its ladies’ quart La Grande Classique model featuring mother-of-pearl dials decorated with a star. Retail prices range from $1,475 to $3,750 for the 24 mm and $1,525 to $4,050 for the 29 mm size.

Pink (Rose Quartz) and blue (Serenity) were christened the Colors of the Year for 2016 by Pantone, and I noticed both watch and jewelry brands incorporating them into their designs at this year’s show.

Have any thoughts the trends I outlined here? Feel free to send emails, kind, spiteful or otherwise, to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or comment below.

TAGS:   Watches
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