Baselworld 2018 has kicked off, and watchmakers from across the globe are already showing off their latest timepieces. In terms of the latest smartwatches, things aren't quite as hot as last year – but there are some really strong offerings from Team Switzerland.
The arrival of Wear OS (the OS formally known as Android Wear) seems to have stunted the impact of full display smartwatches at Baselworld, as manufacturers target the end of the year for new devices. However, that hasn't stopped us from seeing the first smartwatch to run Google's newly named platform.
Elsewhere, the likes of Mondaine and Kronaby are pressing on with their hybrid platforms, while some smartwatch manufacturers have been boycotting Baselworld altogether.
Below we round up the biggest stories so far.
Hublot makes a Big Bang
Getting early dibs on the award for strangest named watch of Basel is the Hublot Big Bang Referee 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. No really, that's its full name, and you shall address it as such.
The Swiss watch brand's connected timepiece comes runs on Google's Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) and the company is an official partner for the World Cup, which takes place in this summer.
The smartwatch will be worn by referees, who will be connected to goal-line technology during the tournament. The Big Bang Referee and will alert officials when a goal has been scored, thanks to the built-in apps. Ostentatious and ridiculous? Absolutely, but that's what the watch industry is about – and this time its doing it with smartwatches.
Fossil Group holds back
The Fossil Group is almost certainly going to have a lot to talk about at this year's show. Its big push into smartwatches and hybrids appears to be paying off finally, and after launching a bunch of new devices in 2017, we're expecting plenty more this year. But the company has changed tact, and is now going big at the end of 2018, rather than announcing scores of watches with autumn availability, which is what they did last year.
At the show so far we've seen a gorgeous new hybrid from its Skagen brand - the Skagen Holst - marking the company's third analogue smartwatch. The Holst comes in two models, one with a brown leather strap and a blue watch face that costs $175, and a version with a titanium link-style strap with a more greyish watch face that's $195.
Mondaine releases even smarter hybrid
Mondaine is back with a new hybrid for 2018. The new Mondaine Helvetica Regular smartwatch review boasts a two-year battery life and, of course, moulds itself on the Regular font, while 2015's watch was based on Helvetica Bold.
It's also 40mm, making it 4mm smaller, and now supports notifications with a unique spin. Rather than just buzzing when something happens on your smartphone, a few of the numbers on the dial have been replaced by letters, helping you to decode the type of alert. Clever stuff.
The Mondaine Helvetica Regular will be available in March 2018, and costs a pretty-reasonable $660.
Alpina smartwatch lands
The Frederique Constant-owned Alpina is using Baselworld to show off its latest hybrid smartwatch, that'll run on Kickstarter first. The AlpinerX takes things a step further than previous hybrids by adding an LCD that can display information like altitude and even UV index data.
Hands on: Alpina AlpinerX review
So why Kickstarter? The AlpinerX isn't actually finished, and the company wants input on ideas to improve it (along with the money, of course), so it'll be crowdsourced as well as crowdfunded. We're currently testing a pre-release version of the watch, but we fully expect there to be changes made including, hopefully, the addition of GPS.
The watch has a price 895 Swiss francs (approximately $943) but Kickstarter backers can get it for the early bird price of $450.
New range for Kronaby
The hybrid smartwatch startup based out of Sweden was one of the surprises of the show in 2017 and even made the Wareable Tech Awards shortlist for our pick of the best hybrids.
This year it's rolling out new models to its Apex, Sekel and Nord ranges. These have the smarts as the current lineup, but will introduce new looks and sizes to offer more variation.
Pricing for the Kronaby 2018 collection starts from £275 for the new Nord model and goes all the way up to £615 for the sub dial-packing Apex. All of the hybrids will be available to own from 13 April
We'll be getting our hands on all the new watches at the show, so keep your eyes peeled.
The Baselworld boycott
This year saw 50% of watch brands boycott Baselworld, leaving the show with stacks of empty space. And a couple of smartwatch manufacturers were part of the protest:
Like the Fossil Group, we expect the Movado Group to follow suit after surprising us with a bunch of smartwatches at Baselworld 2017. But there's a large scale boycott at Baselworld 2018 with 50% of brands now showing up, to protest high prices of exhibiting.
Last year Movado, Tommy Hilfiger and Hugo Boss all had Android Wear devices to show off, and while those watches took some time to roll out, there could well be more in store for 2018. There are still brands like Coach, Lacoste and Juicy Couture that have yet to get the Android Wear treatment, but one thing is for sure: it won't be at Baselworld.
Guess actually jumped on the smartwatch bandwagon earlier than most watch brands, launching Guess Connect and GC Connect Android Wear watches at Baselworld 2017 – but the company is another that's not rocked up to the show.
It went big on blingy design and left Google's software largely untouched, aside from the odd custom watch face or two. The company is set to launch six new smartwatches with bPay tech inside but we'll have to wait – probably until April – to see them.
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