Unlike in years past, the mood at the annual Salon International de la Haute Herlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva was quite subdued. According to Ira S. Krieger, a CEO of a watch making company, the tough economic times affected “how people want to be perceived…consumers don’t want to go over the top”. Nevertheless, the trade show did not lack the glitz, innovation, and technological advancements that Swiss watch making is known for. There are so many fascinating timepieces on displays.
Incorporating various types of materials from leather to titanium from different renowned watchmakers, the event can be considered as a success from all angles. On display was the vintage timepiece with traditional craftsmanship. The skeleton design showcases the piece’s intricate mechanisms through a transparent casing. The tourbillon is particularly notable and is coveted by watch collectors all over the world. This marvel actually opposes gravity by isolating the mechanisms in a revolving cage. It was patented by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1801.
The SIHH Trade Show
Running from January 19 to 23, the trade show reported 20 percent decline in the number of visitors. Fortunately, the 17 brands that showcased their collected still reported positive sales results. Most of the collections launched at the SIHH would not enter the mainstream market until later this year. But it is easily apparent that toned-down pieces will be the trend this year. The designers focused on the movements, mechanics, and designs that each brand is renowned for.
The managing and creating director of Ernst Benz noted that men are becoming inclined toward vintage and revamped watches. He added that “now it’s about the historical context of the watch and a return to timelessness and modern elegance. This observation is apparent in many other design houses as well.
For example, Corum has re-launched its classic Romvlvs Steel. Initially introduced in 1966, it is the first timepiece that displayed hour numerals on its external rim. Before this innovation, the numbers were always placed in the face of the timepiece. The new version places the hour numerals on satin-brushed steel. Other vintage timepieces that can’t be out of fashion include the IWC Vintage collection, the Audemars Piguet’s Tradition, and the Vacheron Constantin’s Hommage d’Amerique.
Another design that’s making a comeback is the skeleton design. Design houses like Krieger are reintroducing the beauty and functionality of skeleton timepieces. Since the 1800s, these designs have been popular among watch collectors. The understated elegance makes it perfect for today’s economic climate. It’s extremely high-end without shouting glitz and extravagance. One notable timepiece that represents today’s trend is the Krieger Elite stainless steel skeleton.
Return of Black
If there is one color that is never out of fashion, it is black. For 2009, black will see resurgence in popularity when it comes to watches. Design houses that are going back to black include Baume & Mercier with its Riveria Magnum XXL, Panerai with Luminor Regatta, and Audemars Piguet with the Royal Oak series. These watch have a significantly improved coating because technological advancements allowed watchmakers to bond the case by using think diamond powder which also protects the color.
Fashion Trends and Its Vagaries
According to Jean-Claude Biver, the president of Hublot, “no trends last forever, otherwise it would not be a trend”.
Looking beyond the current fashion trend though, it is clear that the art of watch making will continue to experience various high and low points. There will always be outstanding achievements that are just waiting to be recognized.
And commenting on people who wear larger diameter watches, he noted that people who are used to wearing large and thick watches will not go back to wearing small ones. This is because it is difficult to revert back once you are accustomed to its weight and feel. Perhaps the next generation will appreciate smaller watches more.
What Can You Expect for 2009?
In recent years, metal combinations such as magnesium, ceramic, and tantalum have become incredibly popular. They look sleek, cool, and ultra-modern. But for 2009 and probably for the next several years afterwards, the trend goes back to basics with yellow gold, rose gold, and steel taking center stage once again.
The art of watch making will never be a dying art but it is an art that experiences fashion, trends, and the vagaries of consumer preferences.According to Khankin from Ernst Benz, “Just like men are fascinated by fast cars and their inner workings, the same goes for watches.” Indeed, connoisseurs have always been fascinated by each feature a timepiece has within it.