Variety Hour: The Trendiest Watches of the Season

Luxury ­timepieces are back. They’re highly collectible, exceptionally crafted…and costlier than ever.

Note the watch on your left. Introduced in January at Geneva’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, the Openworked Extra-Thin Royal Oak Tourbillon in stainless steel from Audemars Piguet embodies several prevailing trends in the luxury watch market. First and foremost? ­Heritage. The Royal Oak turns 40 this year, and Audemars is sparing no expense in feting it. Across the watch business, rare is the debut that does not evoke a past glory—one sign of how important the notion of ­tradition is to the category. Next, consider its skeletonized tourbillon movement. The ­combination of watchmaking’s most conspicuous feature and a see-through display speaks to the rise of the collector class, whose members helped Swiss watch exports reach 19.3 billion francs ($20.9 billion) in 2011, a 19.2 percent rise over the prior year. Then there is the Royal Oak’s slim profile. More than a concession to postrecession tastes, the thin-is-in mentality hints at another significant trend among the Swiss: timepieces designed to be sober, subtle, and, yes, appealing to the Chinese. Finally, let’s not overlook the $170,900 price tag, which—when you turn the page on our annual watch roundup—may seem reasonable by comparison. That, too, speaks to a trend in the again-booming luxury segment. The only thing missing from this model? You guessed it—diamonds.


Limited-edition Khaki Navy Pioneer in 46.5 mm stainless steel case; $2,945; Hamilton Watches, Weehawken, N.J.; 800-234-TIME;


Tondo Tourbillon Gioiello in XL white gold case with 10 cts. t.w. diamonds on a white galuchat strap; price on request; de Grisogono, Geneva; 41-22-817-8100;
Dior VIII in 33 mm white ceramic case with 0.82 ct. t.w. diamonds; $14,200; Dior, Paris; 866-675-2078;


Histoire de Tourbillon 3 in 18k white gold case; $622,600; Harry Winston, New York City; 800-988-4110;

Duometre à Spherotourbillon in a 42 mm rose gold case; $262,000; Jaeger-LeCoultre, New York City; 877-JLC-1833; 


Pilot’s Watch Worldtimer in 45 mm stainless steel case; $9,650; IWC, Schaffhausen, Switzerland; 800-432-9330;



Night Vision watch in 45 mm stainless steel, black PVD-coated case; $650; TechnoMarine, Geneva; 305-438-0880;
Seapearl 20 ATM Swiss Chrono in a black PVD stainless steel and rubber case and bracelet with carbon fiber dial; $495; Belair, Lakewood, N.J.; 800-223-1654;


Pulsion Flying Tourbillon Skeleton in titanium; $126,000; Roger Dubuis, Geneva; 888-738-2847;

RM 056 Tourbillon Split Seconds Competition Chronograph “Felipe Massa” in sapphire case, limited to five pieces; $1.65 million; Richard Mille, Los Angeles; 310-205-5555;


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