It’s a little misleading to talk about “trends” in the watch business. Timepiece fashions may come and go, but compared with the apparel industry, tastes change rather glacially. So none of the categories highlighted here should be brand-new to you. The Swiss have been besotted with high-tech materials for the better part of the past decade; color is, by now, a staple of the fashion watch world; and the auto tie-in is de rigueur for any brand with designs on the men’s market. What is new, however: the sheer enormity of selection. We took the time to select 30 of the snazziest styles on the shelves.
Off to the Races
Watchmakers can go a little nutty when it comes to cars. When they’re not busy sponsoring auto races, they’re crafting timepieces that borrow materials, colors, and styling from the world of motor sport. In January, IWC unveiled its revamped Ingenieur line, which honors the brand’s three-year partnership with the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One racing team with models rendered in carbon fiber, ceramic, and titanium. For Hublot, already the official timepiece/timekeeper for FIA Formula One, becoming Ferrari’s newest official watch and timekeeper in late 2011 has led to a series of bold timepieces, including this year’s Big Bang Ferrari Red Magic Carbon, that trumpet its obsession with the automotive genre. Sure, the car tie-in is an industry cliché, but no one is putting the brakes on it anytime soon.
Men in Black
With oxidized and rhodium-plated jewels hitting peak popularity in the women’s market, watchmakers surely sensed the need for some gender parity. How else to explain the bevy of men’s styles that take the darkened look to the extreme? Cases, bracelets, and dials now are routinely tricked out in a stylish all-black treatment, be it carbon fiber, PVD coating, or, in Rado’s case, glossy ceramic. Black is clearly back—not that it ever went away.
|Flat Six watch in 44 mm matte-finished and polished black PVD-coated stainless steel case; $5,360; Porsche Design Timepieces, Grenchen, Switzerland; 41-32-654-7256; porsche-design.com||Steel Evolution Carbon in 45 mm stainless steel and black carbon fiber case; $950; TechnoMarine, Miami; 305-438-0880; technomarine.com|
Once Upon a Classic
Simple, straightforward, steel-cased men’s watches—the kind that can be worn to the office or to a pickup basketball game—are a hit with buyers this year, not least because of their uncomplicated pricing. At Baume & Mercier, the new Clifton collection ($2,700–$6,300) is designed to build up the brand’s classic round men’s watch offering, while Hamilton and Tissot continue a long tradition of making basic yet fetching men’s styles for everyday wear.
|Khaki Aviation automatic watch in 38 mm brushed stainless steel case; $770; Hamilton Watches, Weehawken, N.J.; 800-234-TIME; hamiltonwatch.com||tissot.ch|
Making a Movement
At Geneva’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in January, Cartier made waves with its new Calibre de Cartier chronograph, a no-frills timepiece exclusively for the boys. It also houses Cartier’s first in-house self-winding chronograph movement—which is hardly a surprise. As parts and movements have become tougher to source in Switzerland, brands have done everything in their power to establish sovereignty over their production, all the while proving their watchmaking chops. In years to come, expect even smallish makers to tout their very own movement-making capabilities.
|Calibre de Cartier chronograph in 42 mm steel case; $11,500; Cartier, NYC; 800-CARTIER; cartier.us||Patravi EvoTec Power Reserve with manufacture caliber in 18k rose gold case on calfskin strap; $35,200; Carl F. Bucherer, Dayton, Ohio; 800-395-4306; carl-f-bucherer.com|
It’s tempting to attribute the vogue for thin watches to the post-recession mindset, which made the brash, oversize models of the past decade seem almost comically out of touch with shoppers’ embrace of sensible, even sober, styling. But like all fashions, watch trends come and go, and now happens to be a moment for timepieces with low profiles—literally. Piaget has a proud history of manufacturing slender movements and showcases it to great effect in its new 6.36 mm–thick Altiplano Date model, and Jaeger-LeCoultre’s and Arnold & Son’s latest timepieces also prove a lean look can make a large impression.
|Altiplano Date in 40 mm 18k white gold case; $26,000; Piaget, NYC; 877-8PIAGET; piaget.com||Master Ultra-Thin in 41 mm 18k pink gold case; price on request; Jaeger-LeCoultre, NYC; 800-JLC-TIME; jaeger-lecoultre.com|
Like mad scientists, the industry’s most daring inventors are experimenting with metals, minerals, and molten combinations that seem more suited to a high-tech aerospace endeavor than anything as antiquated as mechanical watchmaking. Take Omega’s newest Constellation model, the Sedna, which is forged in the brand’s new rose-colored alloy, Sedna gold—a blend of gold, copper, and palladium. For Los Angeles–based Devon Works, whose reimagined Tread 2 concept chronograph debuts this month at Baselworld, a quartz-based timekeeping mechanism stores energy in a lithium-polymer rechargeable battery as opposed to a mainspring. But Richard Mille takes the cake for its new Tourbillon RM 56-01 Sapphire Crystal, whose entirely transparent movement is housed in a case machined and ground from a solid block of sapphire crystal. The price is, of course, commensurate with the work required to produce each timepiece: a jaw-dropping $1.85 million.
|RM 56-01 Tourbillon in sapphire glass and titanium; $1,850,000; Richard Mille, Los Angeles; 310-205-5555; richardmille.com||Tread 2 chronograph in 316L stainless steel case that measures 44.2 mm x 41.7 mm; price TBD; Devon Works, Los Angeles; 310-402-1530; devonworks.com|
The Golden Rule
The best way to complement fashion’s fixation on black and white? Pile on bold gold accessories, naturally. Whether they’re made of solid gold, like the new Patrimony Contemporaine Lady from Vacheron Constantin or they merely look the part (like the plated TW Steel and Belair models), the watches sure to stand out this season against all those contrasting patterns, stripes, and polka dots have one thing in common: a lusty appreciation for links in yellow- or rose-toned metal.
|Patrimony Contemporaine Lady on 18k gold bracelet with diamond bezel and minute markers; $49,700; Vacheron Constantin, Geneva; 877-862-7555; vacheron-constantin.com||Canteen style on 40 mm steel bracelet; $550; TW Steel, Beverwijk, Netherlands; 31-251-26-3021; twsteel.com|
The Art of Time
The advent of the digital era may have made mechanical watchmaking technically obsolete—but the renaissance in artistic techniques collectively known as métiers d’art has helped save the genre from irrelevance. From the “poetic complications” pioneered by Van Cleef & Arpels, which in 2007 began making watches with mechanical movements designed to reflect a narrative that plays out on the dial, to the explosion in know-how related to obscure specialties such as miniature enamel painting and wood marquetry, the Swiss have unequivocally placed esoteric arts on equal footing with mechanical innovations.
|Tonda Woodstock Tourbillon in 42 mm 18k rose gold case with Gibson motif in wood marquetry; $275,000; Parmigiani Fleurier, Miami; 305-260-7770; parmigiani.ch||Lady Arpels Cerf Volant Fuchsia hand-wound mechanical watch in 38 mm 18k white gold case with miniature painting on mother-of-pearl dial; price on request; Van Cleef & Arpels, NYC; 877-826-2533; vancleef-arpels.com|
The popularity of smartphones, with their click-of-a-button world time displays, would seem to have dampened demand for world time wristwatches. Yet mechanical models that can display the time simultaneously in the 24 time zones established by the 1884 International Meridian Conference in Washington are more popular than ever. Sure, their stylishness and increasing affordability are appealing to jetsetters. (See Montblanc’s 2013 standout, the TimeWalker World-Time Hemispheres, which comes in two versions for the Northern and Southern hemispheres.) But don’t discount the vicarious thrill armchair travelers get from reading the far-flung locales emblazoned on their dials.
TimeWalker World-Time Hemispheres (Northern Hemisphere version) in 42 mm steel case; $5,700; Montblanc, Murray Hill, N.J.; 800-995-4810; montblanc.com
|Astron GPS Solar with perpetual calendar and world time functions in 47 mm high-intensity titanium case with black ion finish; $3,200; Seiko USA, Mahwah, N.J.; 800-782-2510; seikousa.com||Sporting World Time watch in 45 mm brushed stainless steel case; $9,500; Ralph Lauren Watches, NYC; 877-639-7934; ralphlaurenwatches.com|
Slaves to Fashion
When Swatch’s stable of cheap and cheerful wristwatches debuted in the 1980s, fashion and watches didn’t belong in the same sentence. It took another two decades for the big Parisian fashion houses—Chanel, LVMH, Dior—to take notice of the Swiss watch business, and take notice they did, eagerly establishing new divisions to manufacture high-end timepieces that lived up to their chic reputations. In recent years, the watch industry, like fine jewelry, has relaxed its stiff entry requirements, opening its doors to brands that once again traffic in affordable, trendy, and, above all, vividly hued luxuries. The arm party—and the candy-colored timepieces that ring it in—has only just begun.
La Mini D de Dior in 19 mm steel case with diamonds and mother-of-pearl on fluorescent pink strap; $4,250; Dior Timepieces, Paris; 866-675-2078; dior.com
|Miami Beach watch in 36 mm gold-plated case on orange patent leather strap; $195; Glam Rock at ViewPoint, NYC; 800-237-9477; glamrockwatches.com||Steel Sport diamond case watch with mother-of-pearl dial on interchangeable light purple metallic ostrich strap; $1,130; Philip Stein at ViewPoint, NYC; 800-237-9477; philipstein.com|