The 1950’s may have given birth to the ‘golden age’ of watchmaking, but today’s watchmakers are experiencing a deluge of demand from those that seek to stand out in the crowd.
The Mid-20th Century was an exciting time. As the world hurriedly embarked on a new modern era filled with innovation, commerce and air travel – the watch was an essential tool to track ever valuable time and keep the pace. Men and women alike relied on timepieces to keep the world racing forward, and with this burgeoning demand, watchmakers refined their wares from simple functional tools to the beautiful elegant design items we cherish today.
Nowadays, the watch has fallen into a different category all together; having been largely replaced by mobile phones and computers it has moved to an item of desire and style rather than function. With this new modality the watch as an artefact has flourished, becoming a marker of the wearer’s identity and personality.
Classic brands including Rolex, Patek Philippe, Blancpain, Tag Heuer, Omega, Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Bucherer and Audemars Piguet have expanded considerably across the globe, enrapturing new fans and leaving fertile ground for joining newer brands like Hublot, Richard Mille, Vertex and others to rise alongside them. With so much variety in the market, each brand and atelier has narrowed down on encapsulating a unique identity – allowing themselves to become centrepieces of discussion within the wearer’s wardrobe that speak for them.
DDW explores the world’s very best brands out there and what they say about their owners:
The elegant European
The French jeweller has long been the standard of timeless luxury and has been producing wristwatches since the turn of the 20th century (its first creation was the ‘Santos’ – long considered an instant classic of watch design). Their pieces continue this long tradition today, delivering creative innovation in the field alongside understated elegance. For the cognoscenti, wearers of Cartier watches are considered well travelled, discerning and classic.
The business magnate
The grand-marque of Swiss watchmaking has made a name for itself as the go-to brand for the business and sport elite. As a watch, it has taken on the unique role of being the near universal symbol of success and with many of its models having becoming essential collectibles for watch enthusiasts (key ones being the Submariner, Daytona and Explorer).
The trust-fund baby
It is no accident that the makers of the very first wristwatch are also the preferred brand for watch connoisseurs. Meticulously handmade in Switzerland since 1839 these watches quietly hint at the wealth and sophistication of their owners. These watches are legacy items of precious jewellery to be passed on from one generation to the next – or as their adverts suggest “You never own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation”.
The intrepid explorer’s watch of choice. Founded in 1884 by Léon Breitling in Saint-Imier, this classic brand paved the way for many modern competitors, none of which have matched its patented precision-made chronometers designed for aviation and adventure. These often complex timepieces have been engineered by the needs of the very men and women that push forward the reaches of human achievement.
The classic gentleman
James Bond’s choice symbolises sartorial permanence and iconic style which pairs equally with Saville Row as it does with space exploration. Omegas have made their mark on the furthest reaches of the planet and the most rarefied halls of power instilling a sense of timeless luxury to those that don them on their wrist.
The bold mover
Few watch brands have impacted the market more than the bold and sinuous shapes of the Audemars Piguet or ‘AP’ range. Among its most famous shapes is the Royal Oak – favoured by notable figures such as Karl Lagerfeld (who wore it every day from his 21st birthday until his death) and fans all over the globe. Designed by Gerald Genta it sits in the pantheon of the world’s most iconic watches (perhaps coincidently alongside other Genta masterpieces such as the Omega Constellation and the Patek Philippe Nautilus and Golden Ellipse). AP watches continue to signify style, success and a penchant for design.
Building on the AP legacy of design-led pieces, Hublot brings a new generation of serious watch lovers to the front and centre. With a distinctively unabashedly brazen style and sophisticated engineering, these watches tell the story of wealth and status through bold shapes. Their use of combined materials and new watch-making techniques has led to impressive innovations being introduced since its founding in 1980.