BaselWorld 2019 was a pivotal year for the trade show, with the Swatch Group pulling out entirely and drastic changes planned for the 2020 show. Rolex and Tudor remained as pillars of the show, and their releases were among the most talked about both at the show and online. Love them or hate them, these are some of the biggest releases from Baselworld 2019.
The Tudor Black Bay P01
Let’s get this out of the way. The Tudor Black Bay P01 was possibly the most shocking and divisive release of the entire show, and almost everyone has a strong opinion on the watch. The design is far removed from the Black Bay collection’s more standard updates like bezel insert changes, GMT movement from 2018, or the use of bronze cases, starting in 2016. The watch is modeled after a prototype case made for the US Navy in the 60's, which featured a unique bezel locking system and twelve hour bezel insert. The case is 42mm which makes the P01 surprisingly wearable, in a watch that is otherwise very out of the ordinary.
The Tudor Black Bay Chrono S&G
This piece adds to the Black Bay Chrono line from 2017, which introduced The MT5813 chronograph movement in a steel case sharing design elements with the Black Bay divers watches. The addition of gold capping to the case and bracelet for this year’s release, added depth and warmth to the new line, along with undeniable vintage style. Informally dubbed the John Player Special for its gold and black livery, this watch was a highlight for Tudor and provides a relatively affordable option for a chronograph with a little gold flare.
Rolex Yacht-Master 42
We begin the overview of Rolex releases much in the same way as Tudor, with a piece that stirred the collecting community. This Yacht-Master, at 42 mm on Black Oysterflex bracelet is in many ways a sensible continuation of the successful Rose gold model in 40 mm from 2015. The stir was caused by the fact that this simple looking watch with clean matte black bezel and dial, is not in steel, but rather in white gold. This of course brings the price up considerably, making a watch that many would have jumped at, less attainable.
Rolex GMT-Master BLNR
The BLNR received the update treatment from Rolex this year, following last year’s monumental release of the ‘Pepsi’. The lugs are now slimmer and the Oyster Bracelet is discontinued, replaced by a Jubilee which features the oyster lock from other Rolex sports models, giving it a more sporty capacity than its Datejust counterparts. Also new to the BLNR, Calibre 3285, the newest GMT movement from Rolex. This piece is already in high demand and previous models on Oyster Bracelet are fetching eye watering sums on the second hand market.
Rolex GMT-Master BLRO
The BLNR on Jubilee was not the only showing for the GMT-Master range. Two white gold models were released as well. The first of these watches is an updated blue dial variant of the BLRO released alongside the steel Pepsi last year. It should be noted that this release, with a dial that more perfectly matches the slightly upgraded bezel colors, makes last year’s BLRO an extremely short production run piece, and will likely provide collectors with a piece to really sink their teeth into as examples become more scarce over time.
The second white gold GMT-Master released by Rolex this year, features a meteorite dial alongside the blue and black options. This watch was certainly not something that anyone could have seen coming, but many are glad that it’s here. If it was a white gold GMT-Master you wanted, Rolex had you covered this year.
Two-Tone Rolex Sea-Dweller
A piece that was divisive among collectors (this was a theme of Basel 2019), the Sea-Dweller in yellow gold and steel was another surprise move from the Crown. Featuring the cyclops date magnifier (divisive in its own right) and the 43 mm case from 2017’s anniversary Sea-Dweller, This two-tone saturation diver might be one of the biggest indicators of Rolex’s mastery with respect to luxury, balanced by sheer usability and functionality. Additionally, a Deep Sea from the mid century deep dives which used Rolex watches, has since been noted as being two tone, so historical value is not out of the question here.
In all, Basel 2019 was divisive and full of surprises. A reminder that collectors’ wishes are not always at the forefront of every decision by brands. That said, these brands have still proved that surprises can still excite collectors, just as much as giving them exactly what they want might.