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Patek 5002 JBaselworld 2006, held earlier this month in Basel, Switzerland, is one of the biggest trade shows for retailers and wholesalers in the watch and jewelry industry. It also is a point of focus for collectors of mechanical-movement wristwatches, whose manufacture and maintenance almost became lost arts amid the growing popularity of quartz-movement watches.
Mechanical watches, however, have made a remarkable comeback over the past 20 years, and demand for even very expensive pieces, many of which are displayed at Baselworld, is surprisingly strong. (The timing of a quartz movement, whose source of power is a battery, comes from the precise oscillations produced by a quartz crystal placed in an electric field. A mechanical watch uses no battery or electrical circuits. Instead, it is powered by a coiled, wound mainspring and regulated by a system of gears, levers, springs and wheels.)
One of the brands many collectors follow is Patek Philippe, whose watches, along with those made by Rolex, tend to have especially good resale value.
The watch shown here, the 5002 J, is billed as the most complicated watch in regular production at Patek Philippe. It falls in the category of "grand complications"--watches that incorporate complex timing functions, chimes and astronomic indications such as moon phase. It is a big watch, with 55 jewels, a case diameter of 42.8 millimeters and case thickness of 12.61 millimeters. It is designed to run for up to 48 hours between windings.
Look for more watches, including those showing at Baselworld, to post in this gallery in the coming days.
Patek 5101 PPatek Philippe's 5101 P features a movement that, after being fully wound, will run for 10 days without rewinding. The "power reserve" dial at 12 o'clock indicates the amount of power stored in coiled springs that drive the movement. This watch also features a tourbillon--a device that rotates the balance, lever and escapement around a single axis. Originally intended for use in pocket watches, the tourbillon is designed to average out irregularities in the timing of the balance wheel due to gravity. Because even with current technology it is relatively difficult to create, a tourbillon can increase the cost of a watch dramatically. Although the market for such watches is relatively tiny, demand is strong enough so that stores carrying them typically don't sell them for less than their full retain price, which in this case tops $170,000. "We got only one, so we're waiting for another," says Alexandre Alesandrini, watch specialist at Shreve & Co. in San Francisco.
The most recent issue of WatchTime, a quarterly magazine for watch buffs, cites statistics from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry that show exports of complete watches in 2005 hit $9.68 billion, a 12 percent increase over the year before.