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Light is right in watches at SIHH 2010 Featured

Exotic materials reduce weight and increase luxury
by 22 January 2010

A very interesting trend that I have noticed at the SIHH 2010 is the relative weight in luxury watches. It used to be that one of the best ways to measure a watch’s worth was by palming it in your hand and gently raising and lowering your hand to judge the weight. A heavy watch was often a good watch. Why? Mostly because nice watches were made of precious metals such as gold that weighed more than steel. Even a high quality steel watch weighed more than a low quality steel watch.

While this fact about heavy watches is still often true, it is not nearly as good an indicator of value anymore. These days with the reams of exotic materials being injected into watch design – it is often the light watch that exhibits the most luxury. After having handled dozens of watches at this year’s ‘Salon,” I am impressed as the number of very desirable watches that are much lighter than their golden counterparts. It is also true that with the increase of size that watches have been experiencing as of late, there has been an increase of client complaint that watches are too heavy for regular wear – a valid concern.

Two watches I handled were indicative of the lightening trend. Note that these are not smaller watches, simply lighter due to the use of exotic materials. First is the Panerai Marina Militare Composite PAM339 watch. Made in a unique type of ceramic based on aluminum this is really a fantastic material from Panerai. Strong and very light, the 47mm wide case feels lighter than it should be. Even with a steel in-house made P.2002/7 hand wound movement inside, the watch is still like air on your wrist. The dark bronze brown tone of the watch is matched with a simple brown dial and vintage looking strap. Priced somewhere around $10,000 it is an interesting and light to the touch new watch from a traditionally large and heavy watch maker.

Then you have an even more expensive and maybe lighter watch with the brand new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Grand Prix line. This limited edition collection comes also with gold, but it is the pictured model that is the heavyweight of lightweight watches. The is made from Audemars Piguet’s special forged carbon that is impossibly light (and hard) as well as ceramic and titanium – two more notably light materials. Again, the only steel is found in the movement. Here the 44mm wide case, even with its extremely intricate design and construction is like a feather on the wrist. Both the Audemars Piguet and Panerai watches are impressive from a design and engineering standpoint, and epitomize a new trend in “light” luxury watches.
Ariel Adams, Jameslist.com

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