Keeping it simple (in a complicated world)

Some watchmakers are uncomplicating the task of reading the time.


The biggest challenge facing watch designers today seems to be coming up with something that doesn’t look like a dinner plate with shiny bits hanging off the edge.

Where legibility and the ease with which you could read off the hour of day were once the Holy Grail, it seems brands are increasingly vying for new ways to complicate the task.

That’s partly understandable; marketing folk would argue who wants a watch that looks like any other, or performs like one you’ve already got; for their part watchmakers, bored with the usual cogs and springs, relish the chance to do something different.

High end... A.Lange & Sohne Saxonia

As for the consumer, complications such as stop-watch modules, moon-phase indicators, day and date windows and what have you, give a bloke something extra to enjoy. Adding a bit of bling does the same for women, with diamond hour markers and bezels more popular than ever, and little moon effigies peeping out from dial after dial.

Going by my mail, polite timepieces seem now to be the hardest to find: It’s not only architect types, graphic design students, connoisseurs and cyclists who favour the upright riding position who are united in their despair; the same goes for those simply wanting a nice watch.

But such pieces are out there, and surprisingly you can find them to suit all pockets and preferences.

High value...Calvin Klein

At the high end there’s Jaeger Lecoultre’s ultra-thins, while A.Lange & Sohne has timepieces that tick two boxes: restraint and collectability. Ditto the simpler IWC Portugiesers and refined models from Girard Perregaux and Vacheron Constantin.

For high style, the new Slim d’Hermes offers both cachet and clarity. The brand even commissioned Parisian designer Phillipe Apeloig to look at the graphics, resulting in winning stencil-like numerals. Likewise Dior’s Chiffre Rouge offering does restraint with an edge.

For high credibility with the design crowd, Nomos is a serial Red-Dot design award winner, while Jungham’s ‘Max Bill’ watches and Georg Jensen pieces occupy similar territory.

High style...Slim d' Hermes

If it’s horological types you want to impress, makes like Dornbluth and Grossman get the high-fives.

And if it’s high value you’re after, Calvin Klein offers snappily-designed inexpensive watches, year after year. You won’t like every model, but within the range you will always find something cheerfully unaffected.

High horology...Moritz GROSSMAN Atum

At the very least, watches like these are a pleasant change from the extravagant machinery that usually grabs the headlines.

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