Heavy metal

Heavy metal
Longines new commemorative Conquest Heritage 1954-2014 in steel.

There was enough gold on display to light up the dark halls of Baselworld 2014 last week - almost blinding the record 150,000 visitors at the world's biggest watch and jewellery show. So it was pretty smart of Patek Philippe to steal the show with an alternative display of steel timepieces at this annual fair, where about 80 per cent of global sales are sealed.

The two steel watches launched - Annual Calendar Chronograph and Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph - backed by the Patek Philippe pedigree, were among the key exhibits that stood out in a sea of gold and platinum timepieces at the week-long exhibition, held since 1917 in the Swiss city of Basel.

All of the 1,500 exhibitors from over 40 countries - dominated by the Swiss, of course - had plenty of new watches in precious metals to show off this year. Rolex's star piece was an updated version of its red and blue GMT-Master II which first appeared in 1955 in steel.

The new version of the travel timepiece, fitted with the ceramic bezel Rolex has put on all its sports watches since 2005, is in white gold.

Chopard made much of the fact that its new L.U.C. Tourbillon Fairmined is created entirely from "Fairmined" gold. Small miners produce this gold in ways friendly to the environment - and miners are paid fairly. Yet apart from the positive spin given to it, Fairmined gold is no different from conventional gold.

Platinum also made a big showing at Baselworld 2014. Omega, which rarely launches new models in this noble metal, has a platinum version of not one but two novelties in its extensive offerings this year - the Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial and the Seamaster Planet Ocean Orange.

The Seamaster 300 is among the first to be powered by Omega's breakthrough anti-magnetic movement, which is to be fitted in all Omega watches by 2019.

Breguet, which shares with Omega the same parent - the giant Swiss Swatch group - took its invention, the gravity-defying tourbillon, to a higher level with the Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique 5377. This is the world's slimmest automatic tourbillon - 7.0mm thick - and, fittingly, has a platinum case because it's Breguet's 2014 pride and joy.

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