The temporary town of Baselworld has been packed up and sent to storage for another year, but the decisions made at the fair will dictate the success or failure of retailers for the rest of this year. British businesses committed hundreds of millions of pounds in meetings with watch brands lasting little more than an hour. It is a mind-boggling week of deal-making at which only the brightest retail minds excel. WatchPro spoke to several of the leading British buyers to find out what brands, collections and trends they most admired and want to sell this year.
In the first of a series of interviews, WatchPro asked head buyers from the UK’s leading watch retailers to identify the models that impressed them most at Baselworld. First up, is Mark Toulson, head of watch buying at Aurum Holdings.
Mr Toulson heads a team of buyers at Aurum Holdings that uses Baselworld to assess watches that will find their way into Watches of Switzerland, Mappin & Webb, Goldsmiths and WatchShop, a group of stores that account for around one-third of the entire UK market with estimated turnover of over £600 million in 2016.
This is a man in serious demand at the fair, and his buying decisions move markets. It is a weight of responsibility he wears lightly as he recalls his time in Basel to WatchPro.
“Overall I thought Baselworld was excellent. Lots of anniversary product from Omega, Patek, Rolex, TAG, Longines etc, which is always something worth talking about. Similarly, blue dials are still very much in evidence and we saw some very bold designs from the likes of Gucci,” he describes.
Mr Toulson says there was no shortage of inspiration; far too many to mention, he admits. “Listing favourite pieces is always a problem because it’s very easy to start the list but almost impossible to stop. Anyway, here are a few highlights from me,” he introduces.
“Patek Philippe’s 5168G-001 white gold Aquanaut, with its deep blue degraded dial was a real show stopper,” says Mr Toulson. “It’s the twentieth anniversary of the Aquanaut so we hoped for something special and we weren’t disappointed. An amazing watch and we had lots of requests for it from clients whilst we were in our meeting with the UK team. Another favourite of mine was the 5320G-001. A beautiful cream coloured lacquered dial perpetual calendar with great “syringe” shaped hands.”
Most pundits reviewing the 2017 novelties from Rolex have picked out the 50th anniversary Sea-Dweller, but Mr Toulson says that the steel white gold Sky-Dweller was “the one”. The key is the price point. “Previously the amazing dual-time annual calendar 9001 movement was only available in precious metal cases but it’s now much more affordable at £10,600 – and the blue dial model was just such a cool looking watch,” he says.
Aurum Holdings knows that watch collectors love anniversary models, and Omega has three to celebrate this year. “Omega had lots of outstanding product and none more so than the Trilogy: the Seamaster 300, Railmaster and Speedmaster. All are faithful replicas of these models first introduced in 1957, they are limited editions available either singly or as a box set and promise to be some of hottest watches of 2017,” Mr Toulson predicts.
Another anniversary that collectors will be marking this year is for the TAG Heuer Autavia, which Mr Toulson says has lots of retro charm and a good price too at under £4000. “With only 1,932 being made, it’s a good one for the collectors,” he says.
Along with fine mechanical watches, Mr Toulson says he was fascinated to see some interesting developments in relatively low priced watches. “For example, Longines re-introduced its VHP, the incredibly accurate quartz movement with the addition of a sleep feature to protect the watch from magnetic fields. At £690 it’s a relative bargain,” he suggests.
Breitling was also taking quartz watchmaking to a new level with its Colt Sky Racer. “Not only does this watch have the “Superquartz” movement, but its presented in their “Breightlight” case, all for £1,810. Amazing value,” says Mr Toulson.