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  • Luxury watches are abandoning the bling to focus on slimmer cases, newer materials and innovative mechanisms
  • Platinum, bronze and carbon seem to be the preferred choice, while blue is the colour of the season


Understated luxury seems to be the new mantra driving luxury watch brands and maisons today. According to an article on the website Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, which organizes the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva, “There is no longer a rule that says a lady’s watch must be dripping with diamonds and encased in gold.”

The focus is now on slimmer cases, smaller dials, reinvention of existing mechanisms and innovative materials. Platinum, bronze and carbon seem to be the preferred choice, with hints of rose gold. Blue is the colour of the season, with varied hues like smoked, navy, even a blue-on-blue, inching their way into dials and straps. Salmon comes a close second.

But understated need not mean boring. And one got a taste of some quirky designs, sans embellishments, at Baselworld (21-26 March). There was the Legacy Machine Flying Tourbillon by MB&F, with a sun-shaped rotor and a crystal dome sitting atop the watch like a sculpture. Bulgari unveiled its Octo Finissimo Chronograph, the thinnest chronograph in the world—interestingly, an automatic with a GMT complication.

Luxury watchmakers are delving deep into their legacy and reinterpreting some of their most iconic designs. Case in point—a capsule collection of the Cartier Prive Tonneau showcased at SIHH 2019, which hails from one of the first models of wristwatches created by the luxury brand in 1906. Or the Serpenti Seduttori, a reimagination of Bulgari’s iconic drop-shaped watch.

However, one of the biggest trends dominating the luxury watch space now is “meaningful design”—products that offer an experience or follow an ideology, such as one of sustainability. Brands such as Panerai innovate not just with materials at their laboratory, but also with ideas. For instance, at its facility, experts are working on ways to restore, certify authenticity and innovate with heirloom Panerai watches. “The brand is about creating communities,” says Jean Marc Pontroué, CEO, Officine Panerai.

So the Panerai Submersible Chrono Guillaume Néry edition is aimed at those into free-diving and water adventure sports. The watch also taps into the brand’s history of supplying instruments to Italian commodores to help them survive in a hostile maritime environment. “The mission of a luxury sports watch is different from that of a jewellery watch. It needs to be functional, aiding your sport activity as you swim, run or drive fast,” he says.

Whether it is the retro look or the functional adventure watch, these five timepieces bring together key trends with a unique style of their own.

Cartier Privé Tonneau

A capsule collection, launched at SIHH 2019, that draws on the iconic Tonneau watches first created by Louis Cartier in 1906. This was Cartier’s first venture in “shaped watches”, which broke away from the traditional round design. The new Privé Tonneau Large collection features both platinum (limited to 100 pieces) and rose-gold versions, powered by the 1917 Manufacture Cartier.

Panerai Submersible Bronzo

A professional diving watch with a case made of bronze—a material that acquires a unique patina over time, giving each piece a distinct look. The timepiece boasts of the patented winding crown, a solid bronze case (47mm in diameter), a micro-sandblasted brown ceramic disc, and a natural leather strap. The watch is water-resistant to a depth of 300m, and all the indications continue to be visible even if it’s pitch dark.

Available on Panerai.com, at Panerai boutiques in Delhi and Mumbai.

Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Rainbow

This ultra-thin women’s watch evokes the feel of a rainbow in its signature round case. The collection is set with round diamonds and features an elegant array of sapphires, rubies and amethysts within a pink-gold case.

Bulgari Octo

The series combines the architectural harmony of Rome with a Swiss style of watchmaking. The Octo, as the name implies, brings together a unique octagonal form with mechanisms such as minute repeaters and mechanical manufacture movement with automatic winding. The Octo Grande Sonnerie features 827 handcrafted components, while the Tourbillon Automatic is described as the thinnest-ever automatic carbon watch.

Available at Johnson Watch Co., Connaught Place, Delhi.

Galop d’Hermès

The idea for this watch came to Ini Archibong—the celebrated designer who has collaborated with the Parisian luxury house for the collection—when he saw all the stirrups that Émile Hermès had collected. The watch is 26mm in diameter and has a two-layered dial. It draws on every aspect of the harness design, ranging from technicality and balance to hybridization. As Archibong told The New York Times, “The essence of the watch is in its simplicity.”


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