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Articles from WATCHES (859 Articles)


Worth watching

When it comes to today’s timepieces for men, it seems anything goes. With built-in distress transmitters, golf course counters and diamond-encrusted diving watches among this season’s many advancements. CARLA CARUSO reports.

The wristwatch is undoubtedly the mainstay men's fashion accessories. While women worldwide gush over an endless assortment of adornment - men are historically more conservative when it comes to jewellery for themselves.

John Rose, director, Storm Australia says most of today's men own at least three watches: "A man will have an expensive watch they wear for special occasions, a fashion watch they wear when they go out and one to wear to work."

Elton Ledger, national luxury brands category manager, Fossil Australia agrees, adding, "Men are purchasing an affordable watch for everyday or work wear, and splurging on a more expensive model to wear out."

And price is not a consideration here, he continues: "Men are looking for comfortable, stylish watches that differ from the run-of-the-mill. A watch is generally the only piece of functional jewellery that men wear, so it needs to reflect their personality and individualism."

Indeed, one of the first things men usually decide upon when shopping for a watch is whether to opt for a higher-end, mechanical style or a battery-powered timepiece; simplifying the matter considerably has been a push by the major watch companies to offer dual modes of movement to lure the customer.

Fossil's Twist watch features both an automatic movement and a quartz movement, according to Ledger: "The quartz movement runs the watch component, while the automatic movement is exposed on the dial to show the movement working," he says.

Stuart Smith, group marketing manager, Seiko Australia, says the group's Kinetic Direct Drive model also uses dual-movement "emotional technology" to create a direct interaction between the wearer and the watch. As in all existing kinetic calibres, the wearer automatically generates the electrical energy by wrist movement. The Kinetic Direct Drive also allows the wearer to generate energy by winding the crown, increasing its power reserve. "Some people like to have some sort of interactivity with their watch; for it to feel a part of them and for them to be in control of it," Smith says.

Paul Madziar, director of Edox supplier Mahler Trading, says mechanical watches are now also opting for some of the functions of battery-powered watches. "The higher-end mechanical watches are now starting to feature such complications as the day, month and year," Madziar says, "in addition to the hours, minutes and seconds, which are already electronically available and not as expensive. In mechanical watches, it takes 110 components just to tell the hours and minutes, and 450 to reveal the date as well!"

In general, chronograph watches are proving popular across most brands. As well, other new functionalities include two-dial or dual-time features - in which wearers can simultaneously gauge the time of a location they are in and that of a friend or family member interstate or overseas - and moon-phase indicators.

Niche markets are pertinent to men's watches, with many styles aimed at aviation, automobile, diving and golf enthusiasts.

Justin Veil, the brand director of supplier Designa Accessories, which looks after Timex, Industrie, Ecko, Nautica, Guess and Maxum, says major trends for his brands include the use of black ion plating (often mixed with rose gold) and a bent towards the sporty look.

Popular and sporty add-ons for Designa brands included tide and heart-rate monitor functions - particularly popular in the Australian professional tide watch series Maxum Waverider. The series boasts 200m water resistance, a heated bezel, and tide functions including tide range, position and height.

When it comes to digging deep, Veil says: "Today's men are willing to spend more, but not on one watch. Instead, they may buy a sport-specific watch, with a tide or heart-rate monitor, and a dress or fashion watch each year."

Nicholas Hooper, national sales manager, SA Desco Australia, says Swiss brand Breitling appeals to aviation and racing-car lovers. A strong seller is Breitling's Emergency Mission chronograph with its distress transmitter that broadcasts on aircraft emergency frequencies. Following a crash or a forced landing, the watch can broadcast a signal for 48 hours over a range of 160 kilometres merely by unscrewing a protective cap and extending an antenna.

Seiko's Special Edition F1 Honda Racing Team Alarm chronograph includes split-second timing, heightened legibility - thanks to non-reflective sapphire glass and a jet black dial - and a urethane strap.

A newer entrant into sports watches, Storm has scored a hole-in-one with its specially-designed watch for golf lovers: the Fairway has a counter display that can show the score for each hole, the hole number and an accumulated score.

Storm gets extra mileage from its association with celebrities, such as singer Justin Timberlake, rapper Kanye West and sprinter Michael Johnson. "If people who are influential in the fashion and social worlds are seen to be wearing a Storm watch, it becomes the in thing and fashion is, after all, about now," Rose says.

But not all agree with celebrity associations, like Nils Rasmussen, managing director of Alfex and Skagen supplier Jarass. "It's not a part of the philosophy of Alfex and Skagen because the consumer pays the fees for these celebrities," Rasmussen says. "We believe people respond instead to the classic quality and design of our brands - without the need for celebrity endorsement."

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The appeal of men's watches transcends functionality, however, with aesthetics and size still areas of much debate.

In the oversized camp - watches more than 40mm in diameter - is Hooper, who says chunkier styles are still heavily lusted after. Two models include Maurice Lacroix's Valgranges, measuring 47mm, and the Breitling for Bentley range, averaging around 45mm.

Rasmussen, however, believes the oversized phenomenon is over: "Today's men are looking for a more-refined watch that offers comfort and durability. Standard watches (those about 30mm in diameter) and slightly larger are being favoured."

To Madziar, wearing an oversized watch of up to 60mm in diameter is akin to "wearing a clock on your wrist. The trend in larger watches seemed to be abating in Basel, with more conventional sizes in favour. The reason why the smaller watches need to survive is the simple reason that you can't wear something half-an-inch thick under a sleeve."

In materials, stainless steel continues its dominance, though new ways to wear it are emerging.

"The treatment of black PVD (physical vapour deposition) on stainless steel is one of the biggest things to come out of Baselworld," Hooper says. "It has a similar effect to tattooing on steel. It looks really good and is a very hardwearing, black coating. We have used it on movements and cases and it's also available in gold."

"Demand for rose gold and black ion plating is definitely growing," chimes Ledger, particularly on solid titanium. "Ion-plated titanium is a strong trend, because it's durable and lightweight. They're also coming up with some fantastic colours in it," Rasmussen says.

Form eventually overrides function in the fashion market and retro dial shapes such as the barrel and TV-screen varieties are experiencing resurgence; however, round still dominates.

"Many of today's styles are taking influences from the 1950s and 1960s," Rose says. "One of our bestselling lines is the Remi, which has its influences from the very first digital watch. Its dial spins around and shows the time rather than the hands in a style prior to LED." Another of Storm's styles to opt for retro-cool styling is the Azuza, with its oval multi-dials and chunky, brushed stainless steel case reminiscent of a classic sports car.

This return to the past is supported by the huge demand for vintage watches at auction houses around the world. "The prices of these watches, particularly those appearing prior to 1950, can be astronomical," Madziar says.

Clasp and buckle watches, as opposed to cuffs, are also in favour while sapphire-crystal and mineral-crystal faces are holding sway, while glass and acrylic are becoming popular in low-end timepieces.

At the upper end, manufacturers are increasingly turning to diamonds to give products an extra advantage.

"Edox has recently produced a small range of diving watches with the unique bezels set with diamonds to varying designs," Madziar says. "These have proved very popular and have appealed to collectors and sporting enthusiasts alike, with the sell-out being surprisingly fast. Demand from worldwide distributors has surprised even the most conservative marketing executives."

Personalisation, such as the production of single editions, is another burgeoning strategy helping brands to establish that all-important point of difference. "The simplest of single editions may involve some design or engraving at the factory," Madziar says, "such as extra diamonds on the dial, and the prospective owner's name engraved at the back."

Almost as exclusive are limited-edition watches, generally manufactured in runs of between 50 to 250; though, according to Madziar, "The challenge remains in selecting the most optimal production-run balance, in such a way as to sell out the editions quickly and minimise residual stock.

"These styles," he says, "appeal to the well-to-do middle market, those who want to migrate from a general watch to a more exclusive style with added features, such as perpetual or annual timers and five-minute repeaters (featuring two tiny hammers inside - one that strikes the hour and the other in a different tone every five minutes)."

For entrants at all price categories, the options for buying a men's watch are vast indeed. There really is something to suit all manner of personalities, lifestyles and interests. Today's marketplace has given the consumer an overwhelming number of watches to choose. Some basic knowledge - and attention to detail - can help a customer to browse through more choices in less time, and significantly increase their chances of finding the watch they want. Importantly, always remember that all men are keen to spend. They just sometimes need a little encouragement.

Carla Caruso • Journalist
Carla Caruso has been a jewellery junkie for as long as she can remember, has covered the Vicenza gold fair in Italy and one day hopes to pen a novel about all that glitters. She has been a freelance contributor to Jeweller since 2005.
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