Figures fresh in from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry confirm that 2016 is going to be a challenging year for watch brands, dampened by negative growth in the two leading markets for exports, namely Hong Kong and the United States. With the colossal Baselworld 2016 watch and jewellery fair opening in just a few weeks’ time, it will be interesting to see how those brands selling men’s watches will react.
Judging by the climate of moderation reigning at the SIHH salon in Geneva earlier this year, I think it is safe to assume that a windfall of new watches for men is not on the cards. It is likely that brands will hone in on their core collections and experiment with new materials to refresh existing lines. But perhaps the biggest novelty at Baselworld will be a revision of the stratospheric prices that once characterised this market. Euphemisms such as “accessible luxury” mean that brands will be offering a lot more watch for your money, so keep your eyes peeled because this could well be a bumper year for buyers.
Bulgari has indulged in a new suit for its architectural Octo collection, in which octagons and circles are harmoniously integrated. Decked out in a tailor-made Italian suit of black DLC-coated (Diamond-like Carbon) steel, the Octo Ultranero collection is decidedly masculine with refined touches of pink gold to exalt its faceted features. My favourite among these Bulgari watches is the sleek 41mm Octo Ultranero Solotempo with its dashing black DLC-coated case and robust features such as water-resistance to 100 meters and a solid 50-hour power reserve.
TAG Heuer watches are leading the way in the pricing war, with the first Swiss, COSC-certified, automatic chronograph with a flying tourbillon for under SFr 15,000. By streamlining and optimising production processes, the ubiquitous Mr Biver, of former Hublot fame, is sure the new Carrera Heuer-02T - presented in a black 45mm lightweight titanium case with a beefy 65-hour power reserve and water-resistance to 100 metres - will fly off the shelves.
The GMT watch, which shows the time in two places simultaneously, is an ideal complication for frequent travellers. These new Perrelet watches bring you home and local time with a spin, and come with a very attractive economy-class price tag. On the upper section of the dial on the Turbine GMT, a 10-blade turbine spins in time to your movements, revealing segments of the lower section of the dial engraved with a map of the world. Not only is the effect mesmerising, the turbine is in fact the rotor of the automatic movement - a fitting tribute to the namesake of the brand, which invented the self-winding, or automatic, watch more than 250 years ago. Presented in a 45mm stainless steel case with a variety of finishes, the price of these men’s watches range from €5,950-€6,950.
Materials matter a great deal in the watch world. Instead of having to invest in a costly new line of products, many brands are turning to the fascinating world of avant-garde materials to refresh the wardrobes of some of their perennial collections.
Transparent sapphire cases are most definitely a trend. Who can forget the recently unveiled Richard Mille watch for women - an RM 07-02 Pink Lady housed in a chunk of pink sapphire?
Hublot watches show off their alchemy when it comes to materials, and have even concocted a scratchproof gold alloy known as Magic Gold. For 2016, Hublot will present the Big Bang Unico Sapphire watch, an impressive X-ray of a flyback chronograph housed in a totally transparent case cut from blocks of sapphire. Sapphire is an extremely difficult material to machine and usually reserved for ultra-limited editions. But being Hublot, a brand that likes to pump muscle on a big scale, 500 models will be on the market, offering its owners a unique spectacle of a watch with absolutely nothing to hide.