Talk to watch executives in Geneva, New York, and Hong Kong and you’ll hear that Swiss watch exports are down due to the strong Swiss franc, the ongoing
anti-corruption campaign in China, and the threat of terrorism in France keeping high-spending tourists away from Europe.

Only the African continent, followed by South America, is currently in a growth phase for Swiss watch purchases, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

From a product perspective however, this has been a comparatively bright year, with a number of bold new collections, collaborations, and collector’s items coming to market. Cartier led the way with the launch of a distinctive, cushion-shaped watch called the Drive in a full suite of variations. Most brands would phase these additional models in over several years, starting with the entry level and gradually adding complications, diamonds, and so on. Not so at Cartier.

From day one in the life of the Drive we have stainless steel and rose gold editions, with white, grey, or black dials in three versions: hours and minutes only, a second time zone and day/night indicator, and  a flying tourbillon.

The rose gold iterations are shown here, with the white dial and brown leather strap making for an elegant match with the Roman numerals and vintage styling. There is only a marginal price difference between the hours and minutes model and its big brother with two additional indications; some may prefer the simplicity of the former as the latter’s dial is undeniably busy. It is with the high-end Flying Tourbillon that the Drive truly finds its groove, picking up a prestigious Poinçon de Genève certification for its aesthetic detailing.

Graff is a comparatively niche player in the watch market, yet it too played a strong card this year. The release of its Vendôme collection celebrates the launch of a stunning new Graff boutique on Paris’s prestigious Place Vendôme, arguably the most desirable address in the luxury industry.

The collection, which takes its design cues from the shape of the iconic landmark is available in both men’s and women’s ranges, in white or rose gold, with blue, black, or brown dials. Our attention was immediately drawn to the more colourful iterations set with sapphires, emeralds, and rubies.

At 30mm for ladies, these bright and cheerful yet high-end timepieces stand apart from the more sober diamond versions. Powered by a quartz battery and displaying just hours and minutes, each precious stone variation is paired with a matching alligator leather strap. Jaeger-LeCoultre also played the colour card this year, but in a very different way, working alongside eclectic French designer Christian Louboutin to create a commemorative edition of the iconic Reverso
watch for the brand’s 85th anniversary. An unlikely pairing in many ways but, it turns out, a clever one. 

The release of its Vendôme collection  celebrates the launch of a stunning new
Graff boutique on Paris’s prestigious Place VendÔme.

The previously rather subdued Reverso model has been pushed and pulled in a variety of new creative directions and it seems to have enjoyed the ride.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso by Christian Louboutin, price on request
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso by Christian Louboutin, price on request
Image: Suuplied

The previously rather subdued Reverso model has been pushed and pulled in a variety of new creative directions and it seems to have enjoyed the ride. Shown here is a brightly coloured iridescent strap, paired with a standard Reverso face on one side and a similarly exuberant iridescent dial on the reverse, framed by diamonds above and below.

This type of palette is virgin territory for the Reverso and only a man such as Louboutin could have led Jaeger-LeCoultre so far out of its comfort zone; the Frenchman’s name brings added allure and, of course, ensures this limited edition is likely to be a sell-out before its 12 months in the boutiques are up.

Unlike in fashion, where definite trends in colour and style are common each season, in watches these things generally move at  a far slower pace and are restricted to more practical elements, such as case size and thickness, rather than dial or strap colour. In this light, Panerai’s launch of four blue dialed watches for 2016 has more to do with the brand’s internal connections with sailing, diving, and nautical lifestyle than any external trend factors.

A distinctive blue satin finish gives each of the dials depth and character, and when paired with a blue alligator or vintage brown leather strap, it’s a timeless, nautical look that brilliantly treads the line between formal and casual. Think of it like a tailored blazer worn with an open collared shirt in true Italian style.

The foursome is made up of a 42mm Luminor 1950 3-days GMT Automatic in stainless steel, a 47mm Radiomir 1940 3-days in stainless steel, a 44mm Luminor 1950 10-days GMT Automatic in stainless steel, and a 45mm Radiomir 1940 10-days GMT in red gold. The last of these is truly exceptional, showing the marine blue at its finest matched against the red gold case to brilliant effect. 

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