Professional Jeweler Archive: Swiss Trends

June 2000

Timepieces/News


Swiss Trends

Non-white gold and steel with rubber make news at the watch shows. In technology, it’s power reserves


The world’s watch industry clearly has one eye wide open for fashion trends and the other focused on classic watchmaking traditions. The two melded more successfully this year than in years past as exhibitors showed new timepieces at trade shows in Basel and Geneva, Switzerland, in late March and early April.

If debuts and initial reactions from retailers coincide (so far, most do), expect more gold cases and bracelets than seen in four years. The whiteout that shifted watch sales to stainless steel is slowly turning golden, even rosy.

It’s too early in the year to know how consumers will accept yellow and rose gold. But the fact gold jewelry has returned hints that watches will follow. Patek Philippe, for instance, is already sold out of the new rose and white gold version of its “Twenty-4” women’s watch (introduced last year in steel with diamonds).

Meanwhile, Tissot sports a full gold collection led by the silky mesh Bellflower (see new products, p. 118).

Power Shift

Patek Philippe is also at the center of this year’s timepiece technology focus – power reserve. As seen in the May 2000 issues of Professional Jeweler (p. 118), Patek Philippe and Chopard have debuted 10-day power-reserve watches. International Watch Co. offers the new Portuguese Automatic 2000, featuring an IWC movement that halts itself if not worn for seven days to thwart inaccuracy after that period lapses.

Baume & Mercier and Cartier also are among the companies that added power reserves. Piaget, which last year debuted a limited-edition eight-day reserve Emperador, has placed the model into its ongoing line with a 40-hour reserve Piaget movement.

Also at Cartier (as well as at all other Vendôme brands), the focus on vertical integration is clear. More often than in the past, companies featured watch movements made in-house or enhanced specifically for that brand. New models from Vacheron Constantin and Piaget already primarily feature in-house movements.

Other Timepiece Trends

Also this year, you’ll likely see more of the following:

  • Rubber, rubber, rubber. High-end diver models are at the base of this trend, but many fashion-directed and sporty timepieces also include rubber or a composite rubber/steel bracelet or case. Cartier expects good sales of its hot “21” sport series, which includes a rubber and steel mixture (see photo below). Even the crown is rubber. Likewise, Montblanc adds a chronograph with a sporty rubber bracelet, and Oris features rubber straps in most of its new items for 2000. The all-automatic brand’s best-selling watch in the U.S. last year was the BC3 with the rubber strap.
  • Multiwrap straps. At the high end, Hermès kicked this off two years ago with its handmade leather strap, but many fashion brands are now running with it in various materials and lengths.
  • Unusual case shapes. Corum’s Trapeze and Bubble, Sector’s new Expander line and several fashion-directed items (from Gucci, Guess, Nina Ricci and others) are just a few examples.
  • Bubble crystals have found their way onto more than trendy digitals.
  • Blue sapphire bezels. Cartier and Baume & Mercier, among others, use the popular blue gem instead of diamonds in several debuts.
  • Wider use of manual-wind models and automatic movements. Greater consumer appreciation of timepieces has generated demand, and manufacturers have responded with more lower cost models.
  • Pastel colors on straps and dials. Rolex has them. So does Guess. Not new but specific to this year more so than last.
  • Thin, elongated cases for women’s watches. More than the few that were seen in 1999.

Next Month: Technology raises eyebrows and sales.

– by Michael Thompson

Cartier’s new “21 Chronoscaph” features a chronograph aimed at a younger audience. It integrates rubber and steel – a trend seen this year from Swiss manufacturers.
IWC’s own movement powers this new Portuguese model. It features a seven-day power reserve.
Rubber straps , unusual case shapes and gold cases or bracelets are key trends from timepiece manufacturers this year. High-profile examples (from top right): Montblanc’s first use of rubber straps in its Meisterstuck sport collection, Corum’s single or dual-time oblong-cased diamond model and Patek Philippe’s new 18 karat rose gold “Twenty-4” model.

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications