The third of the year’s major watch fairs, Watches & Wonders, which just wrapped in Hong Kong, has revealed a new movement – and we’re not referring to the mechanical motor or battery module powering your watch.
The movement we’re referring to is the trend to highly creative pieces, often iced with diamonds and predominantly destined for the female wrist – a smart move given the relentless morphing of the watch from time-telling tool to luxury adornment, not to mention the hitherto focus of manufacturers and the media on men’s timepieces. After all, growth has to come from somewhere.
Mind you, soon we might all be wearing the same watches given women are opting for larger models, while men, particularly in Asia, are said to be favouring smaller platters on their wrists. And no matter who you are, why not a few diamonds to bring things to life?
The Watches & Wonders fair follows the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) and Baselworld showings, with the aim of taking the industry out of Switzerland for a minute, and paying attention to the largest watch market in the world.
Yes, watch sales in Hong Kong are almost double that of anywhere else, followed by the US and China. With things slowing in the past year or so, no wonder the brands are anxious to take their wares to where the wearers are.
And, what wares they are. Bear in mind the brands at Watches & Wonders are predominantly from the Richemont stable, meaning Cartier, Piaget, Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC, Montblanc, Baume & Mercier, Panerai, A.Lange & Sohne, Vacheron Constantin, Roger Dubuis and Van Cleef & Arpels, plus independents Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille. With their respective CEOs and a retinue of watchmakers and marketing folk in attendance, nary a one didn’t have something feminine and beguiling to show the regional clientele.
Cartier, appropriately for the location, produced the Pasha De Cartier Skeleton Dragon watch, a chiselled and almost see-through white-gold fantasy set with 233 diamonds, it’s mechanical movement so sculpted it’s barely in evidence.
Piaget’s stunner was a skeletonised tourbillon, the Emperador, a 49mm piece in white gold you might imagine would require a decent wrist, whatever the gender. Nonetheless, adorned with more than two thousand diamonds, (yes, 40+ carats) covering every available surface, it not only impressed but represented a watchmaking first. Piaget even had a secret “treasure room” at the fair, displaying $25 million plus worth of high-jewellery pieces, and reported quickly selling out of a run of six limited-edition sculpted creations costing more than $100,000 each.
Other stellar statements included an incredible tourbillon in sapphire crystal from Richard Mille, while Vacheron Constantin’s trove included a bespoke piece that sold on day one for more than $2 million.
Even so, the big news came from the brand that has hitherto used the proud line “Engineered for Men”. Yes, you know there’s a trend afoot when a company like IWC announces a watch range for women. Despite a 37mm size and most versions featuring a bezel with diamonds, IWC couldn’t quite bring themselves to call it that, preferring the moniker Portofino “Mid-size”.
Similar thinking was evident at Montblanc and Baume & Mercier, both of whom who introduced fresh faces in similar territory, Montblanc with a pretty new Boheme range and Baume & Mercier with a cute Promesse line.
Such attractive restraint – not too many diamonds – proved a nice balance to the breathtaking exotica from their upper-end cousins, not to mention exotic creations from Jaeger and Roger Dubuis, the happily hedonistic brand only just available in Australia.
Indeed it was left to the popular Panerai to concentrate purely on pieces for the male forearm, their home territory since being “discovered” a decade or so back by Sylvester Styllone. Their highlight? A handsome Radiomir 1940 3-day automatic featuring a new P4000 movement with a decentralised micro rotor just 3.95mm thin, allowing for a slimmer profile on the wrist.
Meaning, yet again – even if unwittingly – the resulting watch could be equally at home on the wrist of your better half.