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Watches direct from Basel

The world’s largest watch fair may be over for another year but the fun is just beginning as BaselWorld’s hottest releases appear on local shores. EMILY MOBBS has the low-down.

BaselWorld is either the event that stops the watch industry or pushes it into overdrive, depending on one’s outlook. It’s a huge deal for the Australian and New Zealand market because this is where most local distributors receive their first glimpses of new models and select those they believe will be a hit with local consumers.

“For us, BaselWorld is extremely beneficial not only to see the latest trends but also to share ideas and experiences with our counterparts overseas and, most importantly, get strategic direction for the brands we work with,” explains Larry Porter, chief executive of Ice-Watch local supplier Bolt International.

Ice-Watch traditionally uses the tradeshow as a launching pad for the brand’s latest fashion-forward releases and this year was no different. Porter highlights there are a number of ranges being introduced to the local market that are expected to appeal to a wide consumer demographic.

There’s the zingy-coloured Ice-Happy collection, which Porter says is the “perfect kids fashion accessory to learn to read the time or simply show off and pose with”, and the Ice-Skull range that is targeted at fashionistas.

“Based on the extremely successful Ice-Glam collection, the Ice-Skull collection showcases the incarnation of the brand’s contemporary, provocative and quirky graphic style. With the dial patterned in golden skulls, it is both chic and rebellious,” he says.

Another brand with a firm footing in the fashion arena is Guess Watches, the iconic fashion company cutting through the deluge of new styles at BaselWorld with its first step into the smartwatch category.

Guess Connect, the product of a partnership between Guess and smartwatch developer Martian, allows the wearer to connect with apps and receive messages and call alerts from a phone. It incorporates much of the standard functionality expected from a smartwatch nowadays; however, a unique selling point is arguably the fact that it looks and feels like an everyday watch and is based on the brand’s existing Rigor and Jet Setter models.

“The highlight [of BaselWorld] was definitely Guess Connect for me, with retailers and media absolutely loving the product and the features,” says Ivan Meys, head of product and planning at local Guess distributor Designa Accessories.

Meys confirms that the device has an expected release date of November this year and that pricing was still being finalised at the time this article went to print.

He also states that another Designa brand, Gc Watches, is raising the bar this season with a cohesive assortment for men and women.

“The key trend for Gc builds on the success of rose gold and blue, as well as the introduction of last year’s best-selling Rainbow Python in two new colour updates – turquoise python and golden python,” Meys explains, adding, “For gents, we see introductions in rose gold and blue, blue dials on stainless steel bracelets and rose gold and taupe detailing on stainless steel cases and bracelets.”

Police is a watch brand with a strong focus on the male market and local supplier Moda Group will be introducing a number of statement-making models.

Moda Group managing director Trent McKean points to the Copperhead multi-functional watch – designed for “guys who don’t back down” – as a stand-out in the latest collection.

The supplier distributes Roamer and Swiss Military timepieces as well and McKean is excited about the release of a new sub-dial model to the existing women’s Roamer Ceraline collection. He also predicts that the men’s automatic Roamer Mercury II timepiece will be particularly successful given the increasing popularity of automatic movements, while the black and rose gold combination of the latest Swiss Military Arrow model taps into current colour trends.

Vostok-Europe is another brand heralding from Europe – from Lithuania to be exact. Ken Abbott, managing director for local distributor Timesupply, says the new releases coming out of BaselWorld are already proving to be popular in the local market – the supplier has nearly sold out of its allocated number of Mriya Automatic Chronograph watches, the limited-edition timepieces dedicated to the company’s 10th anniversary.

“The Vostok-Europe Mriya LE Automatic Chronograph mechanical is a masterpiece of design and construction as it is the first watch brand in the world approved to feature the newly-designed SII NE88 mechanical chronograph movement,” Abbott explains.

The NE88 movement uses a column wheel design, which is said to significantly reduce friction and the ‘jumping hand effect’ that occurs when the second hand is activated.

As expected, Japanese watch brands have also come to the technology innovation party in 2015.

Citizen Watches sales and marketing manager Rod Willment says the company will be focusing on the new Eco-Drive Satellite Wave F900 model in the second half of this year. Willment explains that the important thing to note about this latest timepiece, available in November, is that it features GPS functionality.

“Last year’s model received date and time data from satellites rather than actual location,” he says. “I feel that consumers are expecting more from their timepieces. Even though style, design and the brand are important factors they are also expecting watch companies to keep up with the latest in watch technology.

“This will be our fourth year using satellite technology and the F900 will receive signals even faster than the previous version, now with dual time and improvements in our Super Titanium metal to make the watch even stronger and more advanced.”

Seiko also unveiled a slew of new releases, including an updated version of its Astron that features dual time with an AM/PM indicator.

“The Astron collection has been well received by consumers both locally and internationally,” Seiko Australia group marketing manager Stuart Smith says.

“The new calibre has been developed based on consumer feedback. Consumers were asking for ease in setting, improved dial legibility and a dual time feature; the new design meets the brief.”

Smith adds that the company is celebrating its 50th anniversary of dive watches with the new Prospex Marinemaster Professional 1000m Diver’s model. He also expects the special-edition Novak Djokovic Premier timepieces to be well received in the local market, owing to their distinct design elements and the inclusion of the tennis star’s initials on the back of each case.

With new styles everywhere, BaselWorld has once again delivered retailers with a sumptuous array of watches. The exciting part now is deciding which lines to stock. 

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