Watch-next editor Bani McSpedden looks at some beautifully simple newcomers giving complicated watches a run for their money.
I was asked recently – not for the first time – which watches are favoured by those whose budget for such things is unlimited. The simple answer is that ample funds has always meant you can consider complications from Patek Philippe or A.Lange & Sohne, classics from Vacheron Constantin or Jeager LeCoultre, or creative confections from the likes of Greubel Forsey or Richard Mille.
This is assuming you’ve already ticked the Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Panerai boxes, and probably also have an IWC Big Pilot and Hublot Big Bang on hand.
But has ‘bolder and bigger’ peaked?
Recent releases suggest detail has replaced dazzle while the new size ideal has come down from Frisbee-proportioned platters of 45mm and considerably more in the case of some brands. Yes, we’re looking at you Panerai, AP, and IWC.
And even though the latter has popped monster 55mm and 48mm ‘collector’s’ models into this year’s catalogue, they’ve also trimmed millimeters off popular models in their pilot range, the classic IWC Mark XVlll now down to 40mm. That means a watch you would actually wear, and a sign that even in the boys-own domain of tool watches, restraint now reigns.
That said, true heaven-on-a-strap requires a bit more – or less – than happy proportions, with 2016 shaping as the year of delicate and discreet design. Vacheron Constantin, for example, can furnish you with a wonderfully sparse manual-winding white-gold ornament, the Patrimony, its movement carrying Hallmark of Geneva certification and boasting 65-hours power reserve.
In a similar vein Zenith offers an Elite Chronograph Classic in steel or gold that’s far removed from the usual busy button and sub-dial bedecked watches we associate with the genre.
Then there’s Chanel’s new horological statement dedicated to men, the Monsieur, a watch that moves firmly away from the chunky ceramic lines of the brand’s J12 to embrace an altogether more sophisticated aesthetic. The 40mm case is beige or white gold, and the silvered dial features separate displays for a jumping hour, retrograde minutes and small seconds.
As for women, Breguet has managed to give even the complicated jewellery watch a deceptively pared-back look with the Classique Phase de Lune – even though it boasts a grand feu enamel dial, moon phase aperture and all case studded with 66 brilliant-cut diamonds. If you don’t demand diamonds there’s the Slim d’ Hermes, a watch showing almost religious restraint.
The winner in that regard though would have to be Schaffhausen-based H. Moser & Cie, a brand that’s produced a simple stunner. The brand describes its 40.5mm Endeavour Perpetual Calendar as a counter to “a market saturated with oversized watches and logos everywhere”.
Apart from hour and minute hands, a tiny arrow-shaped hand indicates the month, there’s a big date display, a power reserve indicator and on the reverse a leap year cycle indicator. Powered by a movement good for a week between winding, just ten will be produced, cased in white gold.
That not only makes it exclusive; it makes the case for the allure of simplicity in a complicated world.
For a behind-the-scenes update from Bani McSpedden on all matters wristworthy, please sign up for our free weekly watch-next newsletter.