Keeping an eye on time: powerful players in the watch world
Within the world of high horology, it is a pointed insult to use the term “fashion watch”.
There are ever-growing hordes of people who look at the ancient craft of watchmaking with near-religious reverence, and they do not like anybody to associate the object of their affection with the kind of gaudy watch you buy at the airport for a tenner.
This is always a consideration for fashion houses if they decide to diversify into watches. They are known for fashion, and this can raise eyebrows among the sort of people who believe that certain watch brands must only be discussed in a very serious tone of voice.
Two things make life easier for Hermès. Firstly, the grand old Parisian dame has such a strong reputation in its core business that you wouldn’t dare suggest it might consider cutting corners. Secondly, Hermès may be best known to Motor Sport readers as a maker of rather splendid scarves, but the company also has a fair bit of previous with watches.
The Hermès flagship in rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré has a history of retailing and co-branding partnerships with the likes of Jaeger-LeCoultre, Vacheron Constantin and Universal Genève going back more than a century. In 2013, Hermès collaborated with Jaeger-LeCoultre to make the Atmos clock, a beautiful creation kept in perpetual motion by changes in atmospheric pressure.
For the last 40 years Hermès has also been making its own watches. It has chosen to make the most of its heritage, a noteworthy early contribution being a double-wraparound strap created by fashion designer Martin Margiela. The watch pictured came from the pen of furniture designer/architect Marc Berthier.
The Hermès Carré H first appeared in 2010. The new version for this year has a slightly larger case, which actually gives a significantly different feel. It is one of the most handsome watches to have been released this year. And it is not just about looks. For the first time the Carré H is powered by a fully in-house movement. So it is a watch from a fashion house, but is definitely not a “fashion watch”.
The Hermès Carré H has a 38mm steel case and an in-house automatic movement with a 50-hour power reserve.
A. LANGE & SÖHNE
The sense of restored pride in German watchmaking is clear from everyone that works for Lange & Söhne. They are still mourning the death of Walter Lange, who died last year aged 92. The great-grandson of Ferdinand Adolph Lange, who founded the company in 1845, Walter was responsible for relaunching the company after a 40-year Cold War timeout. Its Saxonia Outsize Date has an automatic movement within a 38.5mm case in white or pink gold.
In terms of bragging rights, the story of the Cartier Santos is hard to beat. Pocket watches had been strapped to wrists before, and wrist-worn ladies’ jewellery had carried watches before, but the Santos was the first proper wristwatch made in any numbers. It was created in 1904 so that aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont could check the time without taking his hands off the controls. This design of this watch remains recognisable to this day, complete with utilitarian rivets around the bezel.
From £5500, cartier.com