For the most dedicated of watch fans, the New Year of January first is just a formality, because their inner clocks are set to the precise measure of the annual Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, the SIHH. The exclusive watch fair takes place in the second week of January in Geneva. Some of the most prestigious watchmakers, including the brands of the Richemont Group such as A. Lange & Söhne and Vacheron Constantin, present their eagerly anticipated top new releases.
Then a few weeks later the BASELWORLD, the gigantic platform of the industry, attracts watch lovers from all corners of the globe to the heart of the Rhine city for a week with the latest offerings of all other major brands from Rolex and Patek Philippe to Omega, Breguet and Zenith, to name just a few. Since its establishment as the industry trade fair almost 100 years ago, the event has become a kind of pilgrimage site for watch lovers. The global trade hunts there for the latest trends since the newest releases are revealed during the event, same as at the Geneva Watch Salon.
Even the considerate media pressure of the modern Smartwatch has not affected any change in this position in recent years. On the contrary, this year’s edition of the SIHH impressively demonstrated that manufacturers focus on their traditional strengths: precision, quality, design and perfect finish, with great emphasis on the artisanal craft. The tradition and care of these pillars are to the industry what balance and escapement are to a watch.
This year at the SIHH you could see a significant increase in in-house calibers, which once again underscores the undiminished interest for mechanical watches. Interestingly, not only the greats of Swiss watchmaking but also smaller family-run brands confidently demonstrated their pursuit of independence with proprietary calibers and constructions. The demand for ever increasing quality in mechanics also reflects in the launch of many chronometers. Classic retro designs that capture attention with simple beauty are another trend demonstrating elevated quality consciousness. The industry invests effort and devotion to relaunch classics with the utmost attention to detail and outfit them with a modern look that is a genuine interpretation of the original, whether Chronograph, diver’s watches, pilot watches or major complications. Instead of flaunting luxurious design the manufacturers opt for understatement and showcase the technical and aesthetic perfection of the product to prove once again that the longevity and value retention of the mechanical watch outdoes the cliché.
As mentioned above, historically inspired designs are the protagonists of the year. Whether you are drawn to the elegant Art Deco of the roaring twenties, the new objectivity in the 1950 and 1960s or the deliberately angular style of the seventies – retro is in, a phenomenon of our time, which goes hand in hand with nostalgia. Initially, a term used in medicine, nostalgia defined a particularly pronounced form of homesickness, today the word captures a wider circle, describing a slightly melancholic longing which is not deemed pathological at all. As the innovation cycles of today pass with ever accelerating speed, anxiety associated with this fast forward mode is calmed as we reminisce about the good old times when the Earth seemed to turn slower. Gladly we adhere to values of the past to steady ourselves in the dizzying ride of the future.
Nostalgics are present in many areas, in art, in music and the world of watches. These small marvels are particularly well suited to dress the most successful styles of the past in a modern outfit. Archives become the source of new ideas because the watch brands take comfort in remembering icons from their history, too. Models that became best sellers because of their technology, their functions or their designs are reinterpreted with a contemporary appearance and modern state of the art technology, quality and function.
A stellar representative of this trend is the new generation of Santos by Cartier. New features, including an innovative mechanism to change the strap, as well as a metal bracelet with adjustable length, a leaner case height and a newly designed bezel improve the user experience while it maintains the characteristic appearance of the square icon, which has been style defining for more than a century. The new generation of the Memovox Polaris by Jaeger-LeCoultre, which in 1968 wrote history as one of the first watches with alarm clock, presents Retro-chic par excellence.
If you look at watches in their purest function as an instrument of measuring time, it is reduced to this singular task: to indicate time in hours, minutes, and seconds. This is the rhythm that determines our daily routine: 24 hours of 60 minutes of 60 seconds each: within these measures, we conduct our day’s work.
As much as additional functions or complications, such as a calendar, an alarm clock or a stop function, enthuse watch lovers, they are unnecessary for the fulfillment of the traditional purpose of the timepiece. A date display however is a useful additional information, as the hectic rhythm of the present sometimes causes us to lose track.
Currently, many brands, also in the luxury sector favor the classic three-handed watch, possibly with date display. The offerings at the Geneva Watch Salon widely reflected this development. The common denominator for all competitors is the all-embracing attention to detail and the pursuit of optical perfection which extends to all components: the pointers and digits as well as the straps. The newest launches persuade with refined simplicity.
Two current examples of the SIHH are Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Self-Winding, which is part of a new watch series, and the Clifton Baumatic by Baume & Mercier. It offers an innovative self-winding movement with five days of power reserve and chronometric precision.
Every year has its defining trends, which are occasionally announced by their advancing silhouette from the previous year. After years of lavish diameters, a trend towards smaller sizes and narrower dimensions has been developing over several years. The case diameters are somewhat modest also for men and measure on average between 39 and 42 millimeters.
Panerai, the Italian luxury watch brand, which the world of Haute Horlogerie regards as a pioneer in the field of distinctive and large instrument watches beyond by 45 millimeters, stirred surprise. For the first time in their history they presented models with a restrained 38-millimeter case, their new collection Luminor Due 3 Days Automatic Acciaio. Equally, the new Laureato 38mm Ceramic by Girard-Perregaux, a veritable sports watch in its durable ceramic housing, measures only 38 mm in diameter as the name announces.
As usual, exceptions test the theory. For example, Carl F. Bucherer launches the Manero Peripheral, a timeless and elegant watch with manufacture movement, in a rose gold case, which was increased by 2 mm to 43-mm diameter.
No other color competes with the ascendency of blue in recent years in the world of watches. Not surprising considering the practically infinite range of hues, shades and nuances, which supplies artistic choice to set the stage for showcasing complications of any kind. The blue miracle that began four to five years ago has planted itself firmly next to the evergreens of black and white. The selection of new models with blue dials seems endless, from IWC and Glashütte Original – both by the way pioneers in the field – to Breitling, Girard-Perregaux, TAG Heuer, Bell & Ross, Ebel and NOMOS Glashütte.
For example, the current IWC collection counts on dozens of blue watches, including the IWC Tribute to Pallweber Edition, which offers a mechanic-digital display of hour and minute. It is inspired by the historic pocket watches called Pallweber. Also, the Swiss brand Breitling Navitimer 8 dispatches some blue dialed models of the new aircraft family to the runway.
Even if blue is still leading in the world of watches, when it comes to color experiments, a cautiously emerging trend rallies for green dials. This trend among watch brands confirms the top ranking of green in the fashion color trend report of the PANTONE color Institute spring 2018. PANTONE, the global authority in all things color and provider of professional color standards has adopted the hue Arcadia with the reasoning: “the rather cool and clear green tone Arcadia is retro and modern at the same time. With its slight blue tinge, it gives a new direction to the spring season 2018.”
The new version of the Classic Worldtimer Manufacture by Frédérique Constant is an excellent example. The world time watch with automatic caliber was at the BASELWORLD with a novel green color pattern. As in the previous editions, a richly detailed world map adorns the dial, and the 24 cities are located on the Rehaut.
Even the Swiss brand RADO, famed for industry-leading expertise in new materials presents its latest slimline True Thinline with an expressive tribute to green in a leaf pattern on the dial which is framed in a green high-tech ceramic case.