Baselword
Two of the new watches brands are unveiling at Baselworld; on the left, the limited edition Superocean Heritage Chronoworks with 100-hour power reserve from Breitling ($39,295) and the 38 mm women’s Canfield from Shinola ($650 to $900).
Basel--New technology is on display alongside one very old tradition, watch-making, at Baselworld 2016, which kicked off Thursday in Switzerland.

Here are five observations we made after roaming the halls on the first day of the show.

 1) New technologies are playing a bigger role at Baselworld this year.

There’s platinum jewelry made using 3-D printing at the booth of German company Heimerle + Meule, while a 5-carat lab-grown blue diamond--the biggest synthetic blue the GIA’s ever seen--was feted at a press conference Thursday. There are also plenty of smartwatches and other wearables on display from brands including Breitling, Movado and TAG Heuer.

2) The global economic outlook is “gloomy.”

Baselworld Managing Director Sylvie Ritter described the global economic climate as “gloomy” at the pre-show press conference held Wednesday and the outlook for watches remains challenging between the slowdown in China/Hong Kong and the strength of the Swiss franc.

Swiss watch exports fell 3 percent in value terms in 2015, according to statistics released earlier this year by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, though exports to the world’s second largest market for Swiss watches, the United States, was down less than 1 percent.

The decline marked the first drop in Swiss watch exports since 2009, albeit figures from the last two years signaled that a slowdown was ahead--they rose only 2 percent in both 2013 and 2014 before dropping last year.

3) But established brands as well as brands with a story to tell continue to do well.

Breitling introduced its version of a smartwatch at the show, the Exospace B55 Connected. While the watch does have a small window for smartphone notifications right below 12 o’clock, it is not too much of a departure from the brand’s traditional pilot watch.

In addition, Breitling didn’t allow development of a smartwatch too take away from the time it put into its mechanical movements. The brand’s new Super Ocean Heritage Chronoworks, a chronograph powered by an optimized version of the BC01 that has a 100-hour power reserve.

Created in a limited edition of 100, the 46 mm chronograph is Breitling’s first watch with a 100-hour power reserve and retails for $39,295.

Also at the show, Shinola, the Detroit-based maker of watches and leather goods, introduced the Canfield.

Named after the neighborhood where its Detroit store is located, the Canfield is the brand’s first watch where the movement is top-loaded instead of being installed through the back, allowing the face to have a more open look.

The 38 mm women’s model retails for $650 to $900 while the men’s is 43 mm and sells for $650 to $1,050.

Baselworld continues through March 24. National Jeweler will be providing live updates throughout the show.


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