The Design of Time

The fascination of 2005’s new watches lies as much in the details of their designs as in their overall appearances.

There are more sculpted, or “stepped,” dials like Concord’s relaunched limited-edition Mariner Reveil, and more “raised” subdials, as on Paul Picot’s 44 mm Technograph. There are more merged and off-center subdials, such as Chopard’s L.U.C Twist or Concord’s Delirium La Nuit. Some incorporate all three, like Audemars Piguet’s eye-catching oval Dual Time Millenary Maserati.

There are clever presentations of time, like Gerald Charles’s A-Evolution (with a sliding hours window); Harry Winston Opus 5, which uses three tiny-numbered blocks to display the hour in the “faceless” dial; and Eberhard’s tonneau Chrono 4 Temerario (with four subdial counters atop each other on the dial’s right side).

Case sides, too, are getting more attention as designers look for decorative ways, besides traditional coin edges, to distinguish their creations. Burberry’s Heritage watches, for example, feature the fashion brand’s signature “checks” on the case sides, while Hamilton’s Jazzmaster Lady series has patterned rubber sides. Accutron’s Dual-Time watch has stripes, and Bulova’s women’s tonneau evening watch has crystals set in the sides and top. Some have exhibition side windows to view the movement, as in Carl Bucherer’s Patravi TravelTek GMT and Seiko’s Spring Drive watch.

There’s more use of open-link bracelets in women’s watches, as in Bulova’s two-tone models; Hermès’s Clipper Plongeur, with eight new rubber-on-steel straps; Burberry’s Signature watches with check-inspired bangles; and Movado’s Dolca, a retro-chic series whose open holes in square links echo the “dot” of the brand’s iconic Museum watch.

Comfort also concerns some designers, leading to more use of flexible lugs to fit a watch to a wearer’s wrist and move with it, as seen in Cyma’s 18k and diamond Baguette women’s watches, Oris’s Frank Sinatra watches, and Burberry’s square-case men’s Heritage watches.

Big cases are still popular, with many in the 39 to 44 mm range. While curved cases abound, there are also more angular watches, especially square cases, like Charriol’s large Actor watches; JeanRichard’s automatic Paramount Square; Louis Erard’s La Carrée series, with copper-color dial and python strap; Bulova’s Intermezzo Collection for men; Dunhill’s Parody Rose Dew Drop watches for women; Zenith’s luxury-price Grande Port-Royal Open; and Baume & Mercier’s Hampton Classic SL series.

Other striking case designs include oval watches, offered by brands in all categories. Maurice Lacroix’s women’s Divina watches have an hourglass shape, and Raynaud Geneve’s haute joaillerie Sunshine watch has a star-shape case set with 232 diamonds.

The Stuff of Time. Yellow gold, evident in popular European watches last year, is more widespread in 2005 in cases and bracelets, in both classical and contemporary styles. There’s more use, too, of pink and rose gold. Stainless steel remains the most popular metal for watches overall (one of every two worldwide) but lightweight titanium is increasingly used by more midmarket and upscale brands. Designers also are using more nontraditional metal and materials, such as aluminum, tantalum, and tungsten carbide.

The Colors of Time. Following trends in fashion and the important women’s market, watchmakers in recent years have given color higher priority in their designs. In 2005, fashion watches in various shades from subtle pastels to bold brights abound, often with matching mother-of-pearl dials (or color subdials). Among many examples are Fendi’s new Zip Code series, with streamlined horizontal cases on wide color nylon bands; Façonnable’s Hydra series, with brightly colored self-described “palette bracelets”; and Gucci’s color G Bandeau bangle watches, with G bezel.

More expensive watches, even some with complications, are also more colorful, such as Raymond Weil’s Tango Spirit watches, with 44 diamonds, on radiantly bright straps or Patek Philippe’s sporty Aquanaut Luce, with flexible color straps of rubbery composite materials.

Among 2005’s most notable uses of color is that of Hublot’s, which since 1980 has used only its signature black-rubber strap. Starting this year, in a makeover of the luxury brand’s products, Hublot is adding crocodile straps (on flexible rubber bases) in various colors, including blue, red, pink, silver, and bronze.

Generally, there’s more yellow and green on watches, and growing use of orange for dial accents, hour markers, subdials (especially sports watches), and on straps of fashionable watches. Pastel pink and blue remain popular, as seen in Chanel’s steel square Mademoiselle, Caravelle’s new pastel cuff watches, Rado’s pink Sintra, Montblanc’s women’s sports watches on pink-rubber straps, and Ritmo Mvndo’s oversize diamond watches for women.

And white is still very popular, such as seen in TechnoMarine’s all-white diamond tonneau Butterfly watches, Rado’s white Sintra, and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Lady Alinghi cuff watch.

One of 2005’s new, widely used hues is brown—or as it was inevitably called at the watch shows in candy-loving Switzerland, “chocolate brown.” Many brands in all price categories—such as Guess, Gucci, Louis Erard, Fendi, Pippo Italia, Omega, Hermès, Breitling, and Zenith—are using various brown tones on straps (in addition to traditional brown-leather ones) and even dials.

While most color news concerns women’s watches, there are strong splashes of color in men’s watches, too. Among men’s sport watches generally, “there’s a strong demand for color, especially on diver watches,” notes Sue Rechner, Swiss Army Brands president. Timex’s new perpetual-calendar watches have bright blue dials in silver-color frames and darker-color straps with matching bezels. (Timex’s Indiglo backlight, used in many of its watches, is also adding red, blue, lilac, orange, yellow, pink, and green to its well-known soft blue.)

But 2005’s strap news isn’t all about color. Guess’s new Heavy Metal women’s watches have leopard prints on the dials, Charriol’s Kucha watches have imitation zebra and panther markings on the dial and straps, and Alfex’s newest Bangle watch uses leopard-, tiger-, and giraffe-stamped textiles.