The release of the Apple Watch more than a year ago sparked existential questions regarding the relevance and survival of mechanical watches. This issue seems to have been put to rest for the time being: mechanical watches are loved as much now as ever before and that won’t change for the foreseeable future. As far as watch aesthetics are concerned, alongside some new developments, 2017 shows early signs of a continuation of the trend towards minimalist and classic designs, accompanied by some newer trends, which will broaden the overall picture in 2017 and create a more diverse range of styles.
By and large, 2017 is not expected to deliver a major turning point where style is concerned. Many of the trends that we had already identified for 2016 will continue to unfold in 2017. This applies, for example, to the widespread use of dark-blue dials and retro designs, and above all to a general departure from overcrowded designs and a tendency towards smaller to medium-sized watches. Thus, the New Year will see a continuation of the "less is more" mantra of 2016, a development which seems to have solidified over several years for both men's and ladies' watches.
2. More Diversity
The times in which two out of three wristwatches fit noticeably into the same sporty-elegant timepiece category are over. These days, as is the case with optical glasses or sneakers, wristwatches are combined more closely with respective outfits to ensure coherence as well as a little more variety. Gone are the days of the one-watch-to-fit-all-outfits, and the modern gentleman’s newfound willingness to diversify is reflected in manufacturers’ collections with more and more watches swaying outside the constrained design of a watch fit for all occasions.
3. Funky goes Mainstream
While the general aesthetic of 2017 continues to be characterized by simplified designs, an emergent contrasting trend runs parallel: the avant-garde squeezes its way into the mainstream, and innovative design solutions from brands such as MB&F, Greubel Forsey, and Richard Mille are finding their way into the collections of A-list brands à la Omega and TAG Heuer. The first signs of this exciting development were already evident last year, such as with TAG Heuer’s Carrera Heure 01, for example.
4. Flat Cases
Should you have recently sworn against awkward and chunky wristwatches, fear not! Sleek, flat designs are coming back into the forefront. A robust and precise mechanism, simultaneously compressed into the smallest possible space, was long the ultimate premise for the technical advancement of mechanical watches, and as such is now again becoming more and more important. Especially business-watches and timepieces for special occasions are increasingly adopting flat cases.
5. Textile Watch Bands
Alongside various leather variations, the beloved wristwatch will be individualized primarily with textile wristbands to match respective outfits. The special thing about Natos, Zulus or Canvas straps is the playfully fashionable quality they lend to seemingly antiquated wristwatches. Many a relic is therewith given a modern twist, thus bridging the gap between the timeless aesthetics of a valuable watch and the trendy customization with vibrant colors.
After years characterised by a plethora of high-tech materials, a level of calmness has returned to the material laboratories of the watch industry for some time now. A greater appreciation of materials that are considered classic for good reason has emerged. In addition to watches made of steel, a growing proportion of titanium watches are available since they offer similar characteristics, particularly the corrosion resistance and durability combined with lightweight make titanium attractive. Also, the color, which is noticeably darker than steel, is in trend for 2017.
Another trend is and remains to be bronze: Alongside brands such as IWC, Zodiac and Tudor, as well as the English brand Pigeon, there are now a dozen of watchmakers who rely on the copper-based alloy. Even if bronze will never be the new steel, it is a potentially ideal choice for those seeking something distinctive for their third or fourth watch. The success of bronze as a niche material goes hand in hand with the popularity of vintage designs and the beautiful, natural patina that cast bronze cases over time.
8. The Colour Black
PVD coated, ceramic, carbon, or black titanium? No question: cases, dials, and bracelets in black are in full swing in 2017. Not that black was ever out. But the vast number of black watches that have been pushed onto the market lately ensures that even the eternally prominent of the colors, at least as far as watches are concerned, has reached a new peak. Especially popular is the combination of black watches with red details, which creates a lively color contrast and gives the watch a sporty tone.
The same as applies to the color black also pertains for the chronograph function. Chronographs have never been, and will never be, out of fashion. Rather than a trend, the current popularity of this classic under the complications is a rebirth of the old. Whether in vintage markets or in new collections, the demand for chronographs is reaching new heights. We expect that, despite the high developmental cost, new in-house chronograph calibers will not be long in the making, and will lend a stronger counterbalance to the caliber landscape, which is characterized by the broad range of variants the caliber ETA/Valjoux 7750 has to offer.
10. (Visible) Mechanics
2016 was the year after the widespread market-entry of the Smartwatch and it is already abundantly clear that it will not replace mechanical watches in the medium term. After a brief hype it seems word of the highly anticipated existential crisis of the mechanical watch has been quelled, and most watch enthusiasts feel reaffirmed in their admiration of the mechanical watch, seemingly exclaiming that their wrists are an intimate space that shouldn’t be “disrupted” by new technologies. According to them, pedometers, personal contacts, and if possible any battery operation should remain strictly in pockets, not on wrists.
The awareness of wearing a mechanical watch is also reflected in upcoming designs: More and more manufacturers rely on retrograde or decentralized time displays, and pointer multitudes of various sorts. Long story short: the mechanics should be made visible again. The development of the mechanical watch as a fashion statement is also made evident in the form of skeletonized watches. But even if the short-term hype has subsided, the Smartwatch is far from dead. It will always serve a particular customer segment and will continue to alter the watch industry, advance it, and co-exist alongside mechanical watches.