Quality watches by fashion brands

A new development in the trend towards diversification


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07 January 2013

Many fashion brands have diversified into watches, just as they have done so with perfumes, sunglasses and so forth. It's another opportunity of getting the name out there and seen by another sector of the population. In most cases, these watches have a quartz movement, but recently, a few brands have introduced mechanical watches with Swiss-made movements.

For example, last year Burberry launched the Britain, a series of watches that includes the Power Reserve Automatic, a Swiss-made mechanical watch with a Soprod 9040 self-winding movement. It has a power reserve metre just above 6 o'clock, the date in a window at 3 o'clock, a 40-hour power reserve, and a curved transparent caseback in sapphire crystal that reveals the rotor with Geneva stripe decoration. The alligator strap in a dark beige colour provides a link to the Burberry trench coat tradition, along with details of the case and lugs. It retails at about €3,000.

The Soprod 9040 is an interesting movement, that can also be seen in watches such as the Baume & Mercier 8869 (which has, in addition, a window on the front of the dial revealing part of the movement), which retails at about €3,600.

Dolce & Gabbana have bridged the gap from their previous ranges of quartz watches (D&G Time) to Swiss-made mechanical watches, such as their DS5. This possibly reflects Domenico Dolce's and Stefano Gabbana's own personal interest in watches, as they designed the visuals of the watch, building it around the ETA Valjoux 7750 movement, which provides chronograph function with central chronograph seconds, small seconds, day and date. Prices for the DS5 start at about €3,890.

Unlike the Soprod 9040 which is not found in many watches, the ETA Valjoux 7750 is a popular movement for entry-level chronographs, by brands such as Hamilton, Breitling and Tag Heuer. For example, the Breitling Superocean Chronograph II fits a modified ETA 7750 (they call it the Breitling 13 movement), and it retails at €4,960 (prices vary according to the version).

Alfred Dunhill's watches feature Jaeger-LeCoultre movements. The Classic PVD Moonphase watch is a striking design, with small seconds on the moonphase dial at 6 o'clock, day of the week and month in windows at 9 and 3 o'clock respectively, and date shown by a central hand with date numbers on the bezel. The stainless steel case has a black PVD coating, which blends perfectly with the black diamond-guilloché dial and black calf strap. The movement is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 924, with a 43-hour power reserve. It retails at about €5,600.

You can find the same movement in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Calendar, a beautiful watch with a very different appearance, retailing at about €7,800.

Ralph Lauren's watches are also high-quality products with Jaeger-LeCoultre movements. For example, the Sporting World Time will be presented in a new stainless steel version at SIHH 2013 in Geneva. It has a second crown at 10 o'clock which controls the second time zone, with time in this second zone on a subdial at 6 o'clock, the corresponding city shown on a disc just below the subdial, and date on a subdial near 3 o'clock. Power reserve near the 9 o'clock position gives the dial a fine overall balance. The movement is based on the Jaeger-LeCoultre JL 939 calibre, used in the brand's Master Geographic.

There are at least two examples of brands who have diversified into watches by purchasing or incorporating existing watch brands, such as Bulgari with Geral Genta and Daniel Roth, and Montblanc with Minerva. Both these experiences have produced some superb timepieces. Shown below, rear of the Daniel Roth Carillon Tourbillon by Bulgari.

From the point of view of critics and consumers, this trend towards quality mechanical watches on the part of luxury fashion brands can only be positive, introducing more people to the fascinating world of haute horlogerie. I think that, in some cases, brands have to work on the quality of their sales and after-sales services. Sales staff accustomed to selling garments don't have the same expertise as the assistants in a watch brand's store. But I'm sure that this will change very soon.

Read more:

The Burberry Britain
Watches by Dolce & Gabbana
Mechanical watches by Bulgari