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Danish Design. From timekeeping devices, timepieces have morphed into fashion accessories.
Danish Design. From timekeeping devices, timepieces have morphed into fashion accessories.
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Watch trends: What makes you tick?

The fashion watch is now an industry staple and the category’s constant evolution means there’s always something new
for retailers. Sonia Nair reports.

There’s been much talk about the future of the wristwatch. After all, every consumer has a mobile phone these days and if these devices take care of our timekeeping needs, does that make the traditional watch redundant? But here’s the thing: these timepieces are no longer merely practical timekeeping devices – they have morphed into something altogether different.

These days they embody a style accessory; an adjunct to an outfit and an ornament for one’s wrist. A watch is now as much about its fashion appeal as it is about its functionality.

Fortunately for watch aficionados out there, watch manufacturers have found ways to combine the two, with contemporary materials and colour palettes. Here, Jeweller offers its pick of the biggest trends on the Australian high street.


Colour has exploded onto the Australian market and emerged as a striking theme in its own right, with every colour of the rainbow available for retailers to stock.

Rachael Abbott, creative services co-ordinator at watch distributor Timesupply, thinks what people wear tells a story about them and the persona they want the world to see – a colourful watch is an effective yet simply way for consumers to spice up their look without spending a fortune. “Coloured ranges give customers the opportunity to update the look of their watch and add excitement without having to spend a lot to make a fashion statement,” Abbott says. The latest Flavours range in Timesupply’s Banda watch collection contains vivid tones of bright red, pink and blue.

Fossil Australia managing director Ives Palmer says striking hues have always been an overriding theme of Fossil watches. Recently, Fossil has started to combine colour with different materials like aluminium and silicone straps to diversify the range. “In past seasons, dial colour has been a key call-out. The colour palette we select is inspired largely by fashion trends of the moment as we know our Fossil fans are up to date with what’s happening globally in the fashion industry,” Palmer says.

The local trend for colour is mirrored elsewhere in the world. Stefan Thomaschuetz, who distributes Austrian brand Jacques Lemans in Australia, says colour is the latest trend to hit Europe too. He claims that this theme is especially popular “among the youngest generations, because they want something more fun and expressive”.

The light-heartedness that accompanies bright colours is particularly important to Belgian watch brand Ice-Watch. Larry Porter, chief executive of Ice-Watch’s Australian distributor Bolt International, says, “Colour promotes experimentation and a playful attitude towards fashion and accessorising.” In Porter’s mind, coloured watches have become popular because they allow consumers to respond to the daily change in their lives by implementing different styles and coloured watches for different outfits and occasions.

“With 300 models in different sizes, colours and styles, all at an accessible price-point, Ice-Watch has succeeded to allow people to change their watch as they change their clothes,” Porter says.

A vivid colour palette may be a key feature across many new watch collections, but timeless white is said to be the “colour of the season”.

Taking direction from its classic Scandinavian design heritage, Skagen Denmark’s watch collections are rife with monochromatic hues. Nils Rasmussen, managing director of Jarass, which distributes the brand in Australia, says these tones will never go out of style. “When it comes to women’s fashion, there are two colours that will never outdate or be considered a fashion faux pas: black and white.” Abbott agrees, saying that white is now the hottest watch colour for women and that many men are following this trend as well.

Olivia Bramble, brand manager of Guess at Designa Accessories, says Guess has factored the broad appeal of white watches into its upcoming collections for 2011. “White will definitely play a major part of the Guess range for 2011. It will be an all-year-round trend.” Mani Farhang, brand manager of Timex, Maxum, Marc Ecko and Nautica for Designa, supports this view – saying white has been identified as a trend for “summer and winter because it can be worn every day with many outfits”.

Striking hues have always been an overriding theme of Fossil watches
Striking hues have always been an overriding theme of Fossil watches

Porter also believes white’s appeal could lie in its highly fashionable and versatile nature, meaning it can be worn with anything. Ice-Watch has capitalised on the appeal of this tone by launching its Ice-White collection after the initial success of its white Sili Forever watch model, which was a best-seller for the brand.


Silky ceramic

‘Move over steel’ are the whispers emanating from every quarter of the industry, as ceramic takes the watch market by storm. In this material, monochromatic tones have performed particularly well, with the best-selling ceramic models on the market coming in either glossy white or silky black. With its luxurious finish and its versatility, manufacturers and consumers alike have been bewitched by ceramic’s feel and finish.

Rasmussen says ceramic holds a mysterious allure that proves hard to resist for both Generation-Y and Generation-X. “Ceramic has been produced for decades and there is a sense of nostalgia that surrounds it and transcends generations. To the Gen-Ys it looks cool and funky, while to the Gen-Xs it is something old that has become new.” For Fossil, Palmer says ceramic epitomises luxury and beauty. “The material has an intriguing quality that captivates consumers. [It’s] so delicate and light while being durable at the same time,” he says.

Other manufacturers emphasis this durability as a key factor behind the upsurge in demand for ceramic. “If made from high-tech ceramic, it is harder than steel, it’s scratch-proof, very lightweight and hypoallergenic,” Bramble explains.  

Plastic fantastic

Plastic is recognised as being funky and accessible and, like ceramic, it is becoming increasingly popular – usually it is is coupled with bright colours for a playful effect.  

However, the industry must be careful to avoid misconceptions that often accompany the use of plastic. Bramble points out that “there are varying degrees of quality on the market”. Many of Guess’s watches are made of polycarbonate. “Polycarbonate is an extremely lightweight and durable form of plastic,” she says.

Ice-Watch distributes a wide range of coloured plastic ranges and Porter attributes this to the attractiveness of the material itself. “As plastic is lightweight, versatile and durable, it is great material to work with which ensures our watches are ultra comfortable to wear and work well with our broad colour palette.”


In the male fashion watch market sports chronographs are here to stay, according to industry observers. Yet this style –usually marketed to sporty and outgoing males aged between 20 and 40 years old – looks set to revolutionise the female watch market as well, with women increasingly wearing the chronograph models as fashion statements.

Palmer says the sports chronograph watches appeal to both sexes due to their “practicality fused with a luxurious feel”. This ethos is not only a theme in Fossil’s ‘luxe sport’ models, but also in the high-end luxury brands that Fossil distributes such as Burberry and Emporio Armani, Palmer notes.

“We see a definite movement towards a luxe sport watch, especially in the men’s category. We know that this is a global trend and are excited to bring it to the Australian consumer,” Palmer says.

Rasmussen goes so far as to say that sports chronograph watches are now so well entrenched in the watch market that they cannot be considered a fashion trend. Despite the fact that these watches have traditionally had a masculine appeal, he adds that many men either do not use the chronograph function or do not know how.

According to Rasmussen, chronograph trends are more related to the materials used and case dimensions. Abbott agrees, adding that different styles appeal to different demographics: younger age groups are purchasing the oversized chronograph models, while more mature customers gravitate towards the more typical chronograph styles.

Danish Design is a classic example of how ceramic is becoming increasingly prominent in watches
Danish Design is a classic example of how ceramic is becoming increasingly prominent in watches


From the novelty of new-age materials, to the age-old fascination with jewels. Bejewelled watches are another top trend for fashion watches in 2011, according to Italy-based trend jewellery forecasting company TJF. The glamour and elegance of crystal-set watches resonates with this year’s new season fashions for fanciful, feminine jewellery and clothes.

Crystal-encrusted cases and faces embedded with gemstones are just two of the ways in which watch manufacturers have been applying this trend. Guess has long been known for its use of crystals in its women’s watches, and Bramble says its jewel watches appeal to a large demographic.  “A hint of glitz such as crystals gives the watch the appearance of a jewellery piece and adds a touch of glamour,” she says.

However, Bramble claims that Australians’ love for crystals is not replicated elsewhere in the world, where consumers are favouring Guess watches without stones. Thomaschuetz, on the other hand, says Jacques Lemans’ La Passion range is an international bestseller – and most of the watches in that range feature Swarovski crystals. Swarovski crystals appear again in some of Ice-Watch’s ranges. Porter says the crystal-set models appeal to a large demographic of women between 20 and 65 years old.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend and watchmakers have taken the old adage to heart recently. Rasmussen says diamonds are a key feature in Skagen’s Black Label collection. “Women love to wear jewellery and women love diamonds. With Black Label, the aim is to introduce as many luxurious elements as possible while keeping the timepieces affordable.” He says women regard a watch as more than a mere timepiece. Pandora has done the same with its debut watches, setting a rose-cut black diamond into the crown of each model.


Sports chronographs aren’t the only category where size matters: a new desire for oversized watch faces has become popular in other areas of the market too, as the distinction between male and female fashions increasingly blur. Men are wearing women’s skinny jeans and women are wearing men’s brogues – the watch industry is reproducing this trend with more and more oversized watch models for women, a style traditionally regarded as masculine. Thomaschuetz says oversized watches are the second most prevalent trend in his range after colour and points to the men’s watches in Jacques Lemans’ ‘Liverpool’ range that are larger than usual with 48mm diameter faces.

Abbott says young professionals – a large demographic of watch buyers in the current market – are looking to large watches as a fashion statement while mature age groups are moving towards them because they have dials that are easy to read. “The trend that I have witnessed is away from small, difficult to read watches with fussy dials and watches with instruction manuals that are 1cm thick and require a physics degree to understand.” She has observed that women now want large watches and men want even larger watches.

Meanwhile, round watches still reign supreme in the fashion watch arena. Bramble attributes this to the “boyfriend watch trend”, adding that Guess watches with round case shapes and a sports-chic look to them are very popular at the moment.

Although round watches may still have a stronghold in the market, Rasmussen says he has noticed a trend for square watches too. “We see round as remaining strong, particularly with our ultra slim profile but, that said, Skagen Denmark is launching a limited edition line of square watches for Christmas [2011].” Abbott says she has seen a similar trend for large square and rectangular watches.

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