With the US government in shutdown mode, Brexit uncertainties and hints at another global recession, who knows what 2019 holds. However it turns out, we should be the very best versions of ourselves, living the very best lives we possibly can relative to our circumstances, as if each day was our last. This sentiment appears to be shared by the watch industry, if this year’s releases so far are anything to go by.
VINTAGE IS ADVANTAGE
“Vintage” is an even more prominent theme, not only through homage editions, but due to the boom in the secondary market and because the big luxury brands are entering the fray with certified pre-owned channels. Richemont acquired UK-based Watch Finder last year, showing just how serious they are about controlling the market.
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE INNOVATION
There have been huge changes in retail and, with the growth of online luxury-product sales through group and brand-owned sites, some traditional partner retailers might start feeling they are being muscled out as brands like Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille take back control of their customers for a one-on-one experience.
Customer experience is not new to the industry but the challenge today is to create even more memorable moments and meaningful connections. This was front of mind for Panerai with the launch of their Submersible Carbotech divers’ collection and, more specifically, the Eco-Titanium (recycled titanium) Mike Horn-endorsed editions. The Mike Horn Edition 47mm (PAM00985), with black dial and blue accents, will give their 19 new owners an opportunity to join Horn on his Arctic expedition as part of the $39,900 ticket. (The reference PAM00984, with green accents, is not limited and priced at $19,900.)
“Identity” in all its guises has to be the main theme of “now” as individuals, communities and nations try to establish who they are and where they fit in. From gender to national identity, whether you’re with them or not, everyone is proudly revealing their true colours. Living Coral 16-1546 is Pantone’s colour for 2019, alongside Millennial Pink, which appears to be here to stay. The watch industry’s answer is salmon pink or pink-gold dials, normally the reserve of the super luxe or limited editions in the past, but looking like it might become a more familiar face this year.
The A.Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon, in white gold with pink-gold dial, is one of the most elegant watches so far this year and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin is one of the most covetable. The Montblanc Heritage Spirit Pulsograph also features a beautifully executed update on a vintage Minerva chronograph salmon dial.
Celebrating the great outdoors, green made an appearance last year in the Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph Limited Edition and, this year, in their accessibly priced 1858 Automatic, as well as a new chronograph and Geosphere in bronze dedicated to the Seven Summits challenge. The elegant and sporty Piaget Polo also features a green dial and IWC’s new Spitfire line of Pilot watches has a number of its models presented in bronze with green dials, also offering some consumer-friendly pricing.
A big surprise this year, and maybe one of the more controversial, is the new collection from Audemars Piguet, called Code 11.59, of which the Perpetual Calendar is offered with a red-gold case and Aventurine green dial and matching leather strap.
Anyone who has listened to the nurturing “This is Love” podcasts from the creators of “Criminal” will know the episode on the colour blue and how much people love blue. This stylish colour remains the most prominent on dials.
One of the most eye-catching pieces is the Hermès Arceau L’Heure De La Lune, with its charming floating subdials set adrift against a deep blue galaxy dial. In Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59 collection of 13, six pieces are offered with blue dials and straps. Blue is synonymous with Jaeger-LeCoultre and its fine watchmaking heritage. Although the magnificent mechanics of their Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel are on full display, the striking deep-blue enamel guilloché dial and ribbed chiming mechanism will catch your eye.
This is the latest generation of multi-axis tourbillon to emerge from Jaeger-LeCoultre, which first appeared in 2004, and apart from creating a very wearable high-complication watch, has added the charm of the Big Ben chime. Against an asymmetrical silvery argenté dial, more subtle accents of blue are marked in the white-gold A.Lange & Söhne LANGE 1 “25th Anniversary” through blue steel hands, deep-blue numerals, markers and date numerals.
The Perpetual Calendar is the complication to watch this year. Even “accessible luxe” brand Baume & Mercier added one to its Clifton Baumatic collection combining the calibre BM13 with an extra module. It’s perhaps overpriced ($24,500) for this segment but it is in rose gold and will definitely work as an excellent brand-building tool to win over aficionados and young fans of B&M. A perpetual calendar requires the exceptional skill of master architects to create the highly efficient and accurate movements that not only display date, day, month and moon phases, but which automatically take account of the various lengths of the months and leap years.
Size counts in the world of watches and while some like it loud and proud, the real challenge is to make high complications as skinny as possible to fit into the most slender of cases. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Ultra Thin Perpetual Enamel achieves this beautifully.
Although watchmakers take their trade very seriously, there is no reason they can’t be playful. In times of uncertainty, I hope to see more from the likes of Richard Mille, whose Bonbon Collection put a smile on my dial.
In the words of their artistic director Cécile Guenat: “Bonbon – just saying the word is enough to make you smile. It manages to convey a combination of pleasure, good cheer and sharing all at once.”