By Nirja Dutt
Speak to any watch enthusiast/retailer/collector and the one thing they will always endorse is, “your watches must always be Swiss!”
Over the years, the Swiss have given us many things including breathtaking timepieces, fine chocolate, a place to safely keep our money (without suspicion) and landscapes that never fail to gasp in wonder. However, there is a significant change from when all these Swiss marvels were counted as iconic, are now well, in a pool of many… For instance, we now know of so many other regions around the globe who create fantastic watches (hello Germany!), chocolates are now preferred single origin from places like Japan or Ghana, our money, well lets just say we’ve learnt a thing or two over the past decades on where and how to keep it and won’t comment further on the topic and landscapes, well maybe they still have that but hey! Shahrukh Khan looks as lovely on the Swiss Alps as he does on the Himalayas.
But coming back to timepieces, it’s not just other locales that have created a name for themselves in the world of watchmaking, some (dare I say it) fashion and jewellery brands have really turned a corner and are giving some very stiff competition to only watch oriented labels.
Let’s take Bulgari to start with, they are known for their unforgettable affair with Elizabeth Taylor, the Serpenti and are a go-to when you think you need a gemstone cocktail. But here’s what you probably don’t know, they are one of the only brands in the world to achieve the slimmest automatic movement—presenting the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic. Breaking the world record six years in a row, the latest edition is equipped with a single-push chronograph with tourbillon functions. All nipped in a skinny 3.50mm thick movement, which includes a 52 hour power reserve, a horizontal clutch and column wheel, and lastly a peripheral oscillating mass. Encased in a 42mm case made of sandblasted titanium grade 5* and transparent case back all sandwiched in a whopping 7.40mm thickness, this one literally melts on your wrist and ticks through your veins.
Now let’s move to a more controversial label in the world of watchmaking—Hermès. The leather legends have taught countless generations the art of subtle yet fine fashion but watches were always on the fringe, they were playful additions to their numerous collections. However, the past few years have seen a radical change when it comes to how the house approaches this vertical. Ever since the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève took note of them in 2011 it has been only up and onwards for the horological wing. Their latest offering is definitely one for the books, say hello to Hermès Arceau L’heure de la lune, a dual moonphase watch that utilises the clever play of two dials (one for hours and minutes and one for date indication) as disks to conceal two moons settled in on the base plate and rotate as per the moon phases of the northern and southern hemisphere. The beauty is how with simple yet effective artistry one can see all the watch’s wonders at once that include its exotic dial options in meteorite tints. At a bold 43mm, this one is sure to make every head turn, including yours.
Another fashion label that most definitely advocates fine-watchmaking, with a few of their creations; but is not given their due recognition, is Chanel. The house of pearls and tweed does more than just empower women with an armour of style, they are also here to add the most chic looking women’s compilations in the market. The J12 series has been synonymous with the house for years, and for a very special 20 year anniversary they have launched one that truly bares it all—the J12 X-Ray that is literally made of sapphire glass through and through. While the hands, train wheels, mainspring, and a few other mission-critical metal components remain unwavered by the overall theme, the hour markers and bazel take a life of their own via baguette-cut diamonds. The very cool indeed handwound wonder comes in 38mm with 50 hours of power reserve. While this gives you a front seat to see every gear in action, it’s also a reminder that great style comes from within.
While jewellers and watchmakers have had a close association for decades, its houses like Cartier that are a true testament to how far that association can really go. The house has produced numerous icons and the Tank being one of the most recognisable ones has given a very interesting twist to its latest version. Think a lovechild between Tank and the legendary Crash but all in skeleton—enter Cartier Tank Asymétrique Skeleton. Everything including the numerals are at a 30 degree angle clutching on with three lugs to a fine alligator strap. The full view also includes the skeletonised manual wound movement with a 48 hour power reserve. While this may be a niche category of watches, it is definitely a collector’s delight.
And finally, the emblematic Van Cleef & Arpels join the list with their effortlessly stunning Poetic Complications. Much like the title itself, these creations are anything but ordinary. The house uses its exemplary knowledge and fine marquetry of gemstones to effervesce a complication so seamlessly it really does appear like poetry. This series has been on for a while, with various ideas, stories and more, the latest offering takes from the solar system and gives you a full view of the entire celestial horizon all in one glance with a little shooting star just shy of the bezel to indicate the time. Aptly titled Midnight Planétarium, the complex self-winding mechanical movement displays earth’s five neighbours (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) along with the sun in rose gold and glide in their respective orbits as per real time: the earth will take 365 days, Saturn will take over 29 years to make a complete circuit of the dial, while Jupiter will do the same in just under 12 years, Mars 687 days, Venus 224 days and Mercury 88 days. Think of this one as a constant reminder of you and the cosmos, it’s all happening all you need to do is look!
Moral of the story, fashion is about utility! And every time you think about purchasing a timepiece, research what you want, and then select a brand. At the end of the day, it’s what makes it tick, for you.