Business News: Baselworld Inks Deal with Hotels But Prices Stay the Same

The future is bright for hoteliers.
Baselworld

The world’s largest watch and jewellery fair as it describes itself, Baselworld has taken significant flak after industry giant Swatch Group pulled out of Baselworld 2019 in a shock move on a quiet Sunday in July, citing the fair’s unwilling to adapt to the future and the high cost. That soon led to the resignation of the chief executive of MCH, Baselworld’s parent company, followed by the forecast of a large annual loss at the fair and events company.

In the wake of the series of unfortunate incidents – several, smaller brands have since followed the Swatch Group’s lead – Baselworld’s management promised change, including an effort “to guarantee a reasonable price level” of accommodation in the city, which usually balloons to an extortionate rate during the fair.

The reasonable price level has just been revealed, with Baselworld proudly announcing 40 hotels have signed on to its pact. According to Baselworld, the 40 hotels “accounts for more than two thirds of Basels accommodation capacity”, though that figure only includes official hotels within Basel, and not the home rentals (obtained via the likes of Airbnb) or the hotels outside the city that most of the fair’s visitors rely on.

Baselworld’s charter for accommodation lays out four criteria for hotels: an adherence to a price ceiling in each class of hotel (more on that later), no minimum stay, price parity with 2018 rates, and no “compulsion for additional consumption”.

Meeting all four criteria means a hotel is an “Official Partner” of Baselworld; 26 hotels are in that category. “Preferred Partners” only fulfil three of the four qualifications.

The topmost class of hotel is “5***** SUP”, comprising just one hotel – Les Trois Rois, owned by the dental implant billionaire who was the former owner of H. Moser & Cie., Thomas Straumann. The rate ceiling as laid out in Baselworld’s pact is SFr1290 a night, or about US$1280, presumably for a basic room.

Baselworld takes place from March 20 to 26, 2019. According to Les Trois Rois’ own booking site, the rate for the weekend after Baselworld, March 29 to April 1, is SFr450 a night (on Hotel.com the rate for the same is about SFr440). A comparison of the rates offered during Baselworld is unavailable on its website.

Les Trois Rois hotel baselworld 2019

But that perhaps is ambitious, since Les Trois Rois is a 19th century grand hotel that has been home to the Dalai Lama and Queen Elizabeth; Napoleon even once lunched there.

Two classes down are the “3***” hotels, which can charge up to SFr550. One hotel in the segment is Motel One, which is modestly named but by most accounts is new, clean and cheerful.

Motel One Baselworld 2019

Motel One Baselworld 2019 cost

Again for the weekend after Baselworld, the Motel One rate is SFr420 – for three night’s stay. That’s SFr140 a night, and without breakfast all three nights are just SFr366.

During Baselworld 2019, Motel One imposes a four-night minimum stay, and the cost is SFr1512 for the period. That’s SFr378 a night, without breakfast.

The full list of Baselworld partner hotels can be found here.


 

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Up Close: Bell & Ross BR-X2 Skeleton Tourbillon Micro-Rotor

Artfully open-worked.
Bell Ross BR-X2 Skeleton Tourbillon 2

Long the signature case form of Bell & Ross, the square BR 01 was inspired by aircraft instruments but has long since evolved into a diversity of timepieces, including the brand’s flagship watches in clear, sapphire crystal cases. The latest, and arguably the most elegantly conceived, is the BR-X2 Skeleton Tourbillon Micro-Rotor.

Bell & Ross first debuted a sapphire watch case in 2016 with the BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon Sapphire, which was not unlike most other sapphire case watches – impressively large, yet transparent. That was followed by the equally chunky BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire.

Last year Bell & Ross took a different tack, streamlining and slimming the case, while also reinventing its construction. The BR-X2 was essentially a movement sandwiched between two sapphire plates, front and back. The new BR-X2 Skeleton ratchets up the transparency by stripping out the movement, which has a construction that lends itself particularly well to open-working.

Bell Ross BR-X2 Skeleton Tourbillon 5

The sapphire sandwich

Conceived as a movement with barely a watch case, the calibre sits inside a narrow stainless steel frame – the movement and case are essentially one and the same. Two sapphire crystal plates act as the bezel and case back, sandwiching the movement between, creating a construction that has both strength and transparency.

Bell Ross BR-X2 Skeleton Tourbillon 11

Impressively, the case is only 8.9mm high, with the two sapphire panels accounting for more than half its thickness. The movement alone is a mere 4.05mm high.

Seen from the side, the case is a just narrow band of metal. In fact, the case is slim enough that it is finished with a vertical brushing, which accentuates its height, instead of the usually lateral brushed finish that makes a case seem longer rather than higher. Combined with the 42.5mm diameter and short lugs, the result is an elegantly proportioned case, an unusual feat for a large form watch.

Bell Ross BR-X2 Skeleton Tourbillon 10

Bell Ross BR-X2 Skeleton Tourbillon 9

With polished, sloping edges, the sapphire crystals offer a sweeping view of the movement from all perspectives, despite their thickness. Visually, the movement extends right to the edge of the case, framed by the four screws that keep the sapphire crystals in place. And because the case is sealed with clear gaskets, the look is seamless, while also being water-resistant to a surprising 50m.

Bell Ross BR-X2 Skeleton Tourbillon 6

One of the screws that secures the crystal, along with the clear gasket, seen from the case back

The approach to the case is also a practical one: it eliminates the need to machine the whole case in sapphire, a lengthy and costly process that usually makes the case the most expensive component in an all-sapphire watch. Consequently, the BR-X2 is almost a fifth the price of the BR-X1 of 2017, which had a nine-part sapphire crystal case.

Bell Ross BR-X2 Skeleton Tourbillon sapphire

The BR-CAL.381

However, the key feature of the watch is the self-winding movement. As with most of the complicated movements used by Bell & Ross, the BR-CAL.381 was developed by Manufacture Hautes Complications (MHC), a Geneva-based complications specialist founded by Pierre Favre, a watchmaker who was formerly at complications specialist BNB Concept, which was folded into Hublot after it went bust.

Bell Ross BR-X2 Skeleton Tourbillon 3

While mechanically identical to the movement in last year’s BR-X2, the bridges and base plate here are open-worked, giving it a dramatically different look. While the flying tourbillon regulator was the visual focus in the original BR-X2, especially combined with its large bridges, the negative space within the skeleton movement draws the eye away, compelling one to take in the movement as a whole and then its details.

The open-working reveals the entire workings of the calibre, starting from the micro-rotor at nine o’clock, which is wound by the gearing at 12 o’clock. The mainspring sits at one o’clock, driving the wheel train that extends downwards to the tourbillon at six. Despite the compact barrel, the movement still manages a respectable 50-hour power reserve.

The skeletonisation of the calibre has been done in a clean, architectural style that emphasises the round forms of the wheels as well as the layout of the wheel train and winding mechanism.

Bell Ross BR-X2 Skeleton Tourbillon 13

Bell Ross BR-X2 Skeleton Tourbillon 12

Finished simply, the movement is aesthetically congruent with Bell & Ross’ house style. The finish is monochromatic, with most parts being steel or rhodium-plated, but the surface finishes are carefully varied.

While the wheels are circular grained, the front of the bridges and base plate are vertically brushed, while their bevels, flanks and backs are finished with a granular frosting. Similarly, the tungsten alloy rotor is finished with a spiral graining on top, and a coarser frosting on its other faces.

Although the movement appears almost industrial, its details are surprising fine. And because most major parts are visible from the front and back, both sides of each component have to be finished. The slots of most screws are bevelled, while the jewels sit in frosted countersinks. The spokes and inner edges of most wheels are also bevelled.

Bell Ross BR-X2 Skeleton Tourbillon 7

The rotor is made of an alloy that’s 95% tungsten and twice as dense as steel, with its screws showing bevelled slots

Bell Ross BR-X2 Skeleton Tourbillon 8

The winding mechanism at top right, with a serrated wheel and elongated click spring

Shaped like the ampersand of Bell & Ross’ logo, the tourbillon cage, however, is finished to a slightly higher degree. While it has a circular brushed top surface, its edges are bevelled and polished. The balance wheel features gold adjusting screws, a feature found on most of MHC’s calibre.

Bell Ross BR-X2 Skeleton Tourbillon 4

With the intricacies of the movement, the dial is barely there. It’s a circular flange, made of clear sapphire naturally, featuring applied luminous indices that float above the movement, adding another pleasing dimension to the dial. For maximum legibility, or as much legibility as a heavily skeletonised watch can offer, the hands are filled with Super-Luminova and frosted, which means they catch the light different from the brushed surfaces of the movement.

Bell Ross BR-X2 Skeleton Tourbillon 1

While it is clear that aesthetics and mechanics are what motivated the styling of the BR-X2 skeleton – departing from the typical, no-nonsnse aviation instrument look of Bell & Ross – it is still fairly legible as such things go.

Price and Availability

Limited to 50 watches, the Bell & Ross BR-X2 Skeleton Tourbillon Micro-Rotor (ref. BRX2-MRTB-SK-ST) is priced at US$79,000 or S$115,000. For more on the BR-X2, visit bellross.com.


 

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Introducing the “Blackest Black” Wristwatch for under US$500

Space age coating that absorbs 99.9% of light.
Chronotechna 2

Vantablack – short for “Vertically Aligned NanoTube Array” – has enthralled not just engineers and nerds, but also artists (Anish Kapoor has exclusive rights in the art world), architects and more recently, watch designers. Developed by Surrey NanoSystems and launched in 2014, Vantablack absorbs 99.965% of incident light, making it the blackest substance ever. It’s essentially made up of carbon nanotubes that are vertically aligned, trapping any light that enters.

But the downside to its incredible light absorbing properties is its prohibitively high cost. The substance can only be applied at 400°C, thus Vantablack can only be used to coat materials that can withstand high temperatures.

A handful of watchmakers, most recently H. Moser & Cie., have used Vantablack as a finish for dials, turning them into a black void inside the watch case. All the watches equipped with Vantablack dials have so far been priced well into the five figures.

H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Perpetual Moon Concept 5

The H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Perpetual Moon Vantablack

Prague-based brand Chronotechna, however, has just unveiled “the blackest watch ever made”, priced at just €389 on Kickstarter. According to Chronotechna, the dial of its watch is coated with the “darkest man-made substance… originally developed for satellite-borne blackbody calibration systems”, a substance that absorbs 99.9% of incident light.

Blackest black for less

A name from 1946 that was recently revived, Chronotechna won’t divulge any details about the black coating it uses. That being said, it is worth pointing out that Vantablack is not the only ultra-black on the market. A black coating similar to Vantablack, but more affordable, was launched last year by American nanomaterial specialist Nano-Lab.

It was originally developed as part of the company’s ongoing parternship with NASA, which needed ways to reduce glare on space equipment. Named adVANTA, the coating is one of several lower cost options on the market, which offer up possibilities for wider use. In fact, Nano-Lab also offers Singularity Black, a coating that is applied with an air brush and costs just US$300 for a 250mL can.

Chronotechna

The dial is sparse, which lends itself well to the dramatic effect of the coating. It’s ringed by a hour markers that are apertures cut into the dial, giving it a “sandwich construction”. It’s available in four versions, with the Super-Luminova on the dial and hands in green, orange, blue or white.

Chronotechna 6

Measuring 42mm in diameter, the Chronotechna case is stainless steel with a brushed case band and a polished bezel, topped by a domed, “sapphire-coated crystal” (which likely means mineral glass with a hard coating on top). To match the dial, the case is also offered with diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating at no additional cost.

Chronotechna 4

Chronotechna 5

The watches are powered by the self-winding Sellita SW200 in its no-date configuration, which is visible through a sapphire case back.

Chronotechna 3

Price and Availability

The price of the Chronotechna starts at €389 during the Kickstarter launch, with the retail price in the future slated to be just under €2000. It will be available starting 4pm GMT on October 31, 2018.


Correction November 2, 2018: The crystal is sapphire-coated, and not sapphire as stated in an earlier version of the article.

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