It’s easy for any amateur horologist to look down their nose at ‘fashion’ watches. They do tend to lean towards the less positive end of the spectrum. Cheaply built inside and out with nothing but a passable attempt at design, the worst offenders aren’t worth a single tick. The best though… well, they don’t deserve such an awful name.
Few and far between though they may be, there are fashion houses out there that know what makes a watch tick. In-house movements and designs that you actually want on your wrist, here are the couture houses doing watches right.
Hermès like to stick at the minimal end of the spectrum, at least when it comes to their movements. Not that the watches are simple; it’s just that all the nuance and sophistication of Hermès has been funnelled into looks, not mechanics. Granted, until recently I wasn’t giving them much attention, but after the new Carré H (£5,625) I won’t be the only one looking at Hermès in a new light.
The painfully cool square watch has more attention to detail than a Birkin with polished and sandblasted finishes, plenty of guilloche and a shape masculine enough for a bodybuilder to pull off. There’s not much to say about the in-house H1912 movement, but hey, you can’t have everything.
The grandmomma of all fashion watchmakers, Chanel’s J12 is still an object lesson in how to translate the aesthetics of a famous designer into something as esoteric as a high-end watch. As if that first, now-iconic watch wasn’t enough, Chanel quickly began adding in an absurd number of embroidered flying tourbillons and, last year, one of the most handsome men’s watches of the year.
If you can get over the pretty awful name, the Monsieur (£26,750) is a fantastic piece of watchmaking. Jumping hours, retrograde minutes and cool geometric proportions, the bottom line is that I want this watch. So very, very much.
Where Chanel take the tenets of the label and transfer them correctly to their watches, Louis Vuitton prefer going a little crazy. They do like their travel watches, which is a bit of a throwback to their trunkmaker status, but the way they do them is… imaginative?
Take the Escale (£5,400). It’s a worldtimer with every single time zone made from a series of discs that rotate at different speeds. It means that you can tell the time in each city by reading down. Throw in an eccentric level of colour and you have one hell of a watch. LV do have more classical watches from their signature Tambour collection, but the Escale is where their heart lies.
An honorable mention should go out to Dior. I’ll be frank, I don’t like their watches, but the flipped movements of the Grand Bal Plume pieces are at least interesting.
The Chiffre Rouge (£5,200) also has something to it, but they’re just not there yet and trying so very, very hard to be.