By Rebecca Doulton in Madrid
The dial and case of a watch are what physiognomy is to the human face: the assessment of a person's character from his outer appearance. We take a look at some of the multiple personalities on display this year - shapes and decorative choices that communicate different temperaments and the design fetishes of their creators.
Nomos, the young and multiple award-winning German brand from Glashütte, manufactures watches that are, quite simply, simple. Nomos offers a welcome respite from the saturated dials whirling with tourbillons and filigreed architectures of some of the more classical brands. Metro, this year's newcomer, was created by prestigious Berlin designer Mark Braun and embraces the Bauhaus design language of Nomos, where form does indeed follow function and clarity prevails. The hands, if you look closely, have been tapered to offer precision readings and the power reserve indicator in mint green, white and red adds a nice touch of colour to the minimalist dial. The Lux Weissgold, meanwhile, with its eggshell blue-framed dial and unobtrusive indices, is a triumph of sobriety and elegance.
H. Moser & Cie also deserves an honourable mention in our design review for having produced one of the sleekest, blackest and easiest-to-read dials for its highly complicated Perpetual Calendar Black Edition. To pack that much information into such a restrained and urbane dial is quite something. For sceptics, the date window, small seconds and 7-day power reserve functions are easy to spot, whereas the month is ingeniously indicated by a little arrow-shaped hand and the leap-year indication appears on the reverse.
> Space cadets
Intergalactic flights of fancy are the inspiration behind De Bethune's stunning Dream Watch 5. Its creators Denis Flageolet and David Zanetta wanted to show the world how their "ongoing work of research on shapes, materials and colours" was materialising. While almost all of their watches allude to space, with starry night skies and delta-shaped motifs, this year's Dream Watch 5 is unequivocally destined for outer-space travel and earthly admiration. With cambered curves in polished titanium and geometry reminiscent of Art Deco design, the functions of the watch - hours, minutes and Moon phase - are secondary to the sculptural dimension of the spaceship.
Not a watch at all but a table clock that seems to levitate in a vertical take-off is MB&F's galactic Starfleet Machine. Provocation is a house specialty, and MB&F's creator and founder Maximilian Büsser, a fan of Star Trek, set out, like Captain Kirk, "to explore strange new horological worlds". What's equally surprising is that the 'friends' chosen to provide the engine were none other than L'Epée, Switzerland's only remaining specialised high-end clock manufacture, founded in 1839. Just make sure that if you acquire one of the 175 limited-edition pieces in 'light' or 'dark' tones, all the windows in your house are closed.
> Cool dudes
Back on Earth, TAG Heuer presented the world's first tourbillon driven by transmission belts no thicker than a human hair. This technological breakthrough has been housed in the square-faced Monaco immortalised by Steve McQueen in the 1971 film Le Mans. The avant-garde Monaco V4 Tourbillon, with its V-shaped main plate, rides on the design of a Formula One engine. On the back of the watch, the barrels that store power for 40 hours rotate on ball bearings whose design recalls 1970s tape cassettes.
It's hard to admit for some of us, but the late 60s and 70s are now considered 'vintage years' for watch design, and many brands have succumbed to the groove. Omega's Speedmaster Mark II is no exception, with its elongated barrel-shaped stainless steel case and fluorescent orange chronograph seconds hand with matching minute track.
Glashütte Original manifests that its Sixties and Seventies collections reflect the "decades that changed the world through their ideals, their music, their architecture and design". The square, soft-cornered Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date, equipped with an entirely new chronograph movement, speaks for itself. Available in galvanised ruthenium, silver and blue, the slinky sunburst finished surfaces and laidback dial are very cool.