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Photos: Wristwatch windup

As watch companies and jewelers congregated for the Baselworld trade show, aficionados celebrated the watchmaker's art.

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Topic: Hardware
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1 of 11 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Patek 5002 J

Baselworld 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.

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Patek 5101 P

Patek 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.

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Patek 5102 G

This Patek Philippe 5102 G in white gold features a self-winding movement. In addition to the sky chart, it shows the phases and orbit of the moon.

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Patek 5970 R

Patek's 5970 R is a manually wound chronograph that also includes what watchmakers call a perpetual calendar--a mechanical system for displaying the day, date, month and year, including leap years.

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Girard-Perregaux 3 gold bridges

Swiss watchmaker Girard-Perregaux's Tourbillon with perpetual calendar. The cutaways in the dial and a sapphire-crystal case back allow the wearer to see most of the watch's interior parts at work. Girard-Perregaux is one of only a handful of watchmakers that produces its own movements rather than buying them from a supplier and retrofitting them for specialized functions.

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Jacques Lemans 'Mozart' watch

Jacques Lemans celebrates the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) with a line of watches in the composer's honor. The watch on the right features a reproduction of one of the few paintings of the Austrian composer and a copy of his signature. These limited-edition watches will be available only in 2006.

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Rosinex cosmonaut watch

From Russia, with time to spare: Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir A. Dzhanibekov is said to have developed the idea for this watch while he was drifting to sleep aboard the Soyuz-7 space station in 1985. Dubbed the Cosmonavigator and produced by Russian watchmaker Rosinex, this watch is designed to allow the cosmonaut/wearer to input the distance between a space-mission orbiter and Earth; the watch then calculates the point on the ground over which the wearer is orbiting. To the right is a display outside the Rosinex store in Moscow.

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Rosinex biorhythm watch

The Speznaz Biorhythm Watch from Russian watchmaker Rosinex also was created by cosmonaut Vladimir Dzhanibekov. It is designed to indicate the biological condition of 12 human organs, depending on the time of a day. This edition is limited to 300 copies.

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Pilo & Co. Black Diamond

From Geneva-based watchmaker Pilo & Co., the Black Diamond. It features a 25-jewel movement, gold-plated case and 298 black diamonds.

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Viola watches

Viola, one of Hong Kong's first watchmakers to exhibit at BaselWorld, introduced watches from the company's "Lost in Time" collection. The watch on the left is marketed as a timepiece for the woman who doesn't want to be preoccupied by time. Playing to customers of the opposite temperament is, on the right, a watch whose 10 hands can track the time in three different time zones.

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Guess 'Wild Child' watch

Guess Watches offers its Wild Child watch, which features a denim cuff with 12 teardrop crystals surrounding the face to create a sunburst effect.

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