Precious Pieces: A Fashion House Watch is the Ultimate Designer Classic

watches Precious Pieces: A Fashion House Watch is the Ultimate Designer Classic

Clockwise, from left: Ralph Lauren has focused on high watchmaking and exquisite diamond setting within its timepiece line. Pictured here is the Ralph Lauren 867 Diamond with full pave diamond bracelet, retailing for $160,000, Ralphlauren.com. The new Ferragamo 1898 was introduced at the BaselWorld show this year. It retails for $1,195. Ferragamo.com. Gucci introduced the Handmaster series earlier this year, powered by a Girard-Perregaux automatic movement. It is available in two limited editions, one in rose gold ($18,400, 25 pieces) and one in stainless steel ($8,600, 50 pieces). Gucci.com. To be introduced this October is a new ladies gold-toned piece from Tommy Hilfiger. Sized at 38mm, this watch will retail for $155. Tommyhilfiger.com. Ritmo Mundo has the all-black and very fashionable Quantum I, and the brand works with high-profile football players to help spread the word. The Quantum I retails for $1,195. Ritmomundo.com. Hermès reintroduced silver into fine watches in its Nantucket and Cape Code collections. Pictured here is the Hermès Nantucket, priced at $12,850. Hermes.com. The new Dior VIII Grand Bal plisse in gold. Retail for the alligator version is $49,000 and $77,500 for the all-gold version. Dior.com.

Fashion is a broad term, especially when it comes to watches. In most cases, fashion watches are relatively inexpensive, impulse-purchase pieces that are seasonal and linked to whatever is in vogue right now, such as rose gold-plate and all-wooden faces. Under the “fashion” umbrella, however, are watches that are made by haute couture houses, designed for a longer life, using high-quality materials and high watchmaking movements. Dior, Ralph Lauren, Gucci and Hermès lead the charge.

Brand Names

The fashion industry is driven by brand names and the fashion watch segment is packed
with players on many different levels.

As Ali Soltani, founder and owner of Ritmo Mundo, explains it, “I feel that there is a merging of fashion luxury brands versus purely fashion watches. In my world, ‘fashion watches’ can range from $50-$500 and even more if the product DNA is concentrated on fashion versus technical and/or pure design.”

Entry Level Fashion

At their most basic, fashion watches are considered trendy, low-priced items that are by nature seasonal, using the “now” colors and styles. Michael Kors, DKNY and Anne Klein make great value, good-looking timepieces at this level. However, high turnover is key because these companies must always have an eye out for the next trend, enabling them to stay ahead production-wise.

Mid-Level Fashion

Gucci, Armani, Burberry and Ferragamo operate at this level. Their watches are not as trendy but are meant to be longer lasting, though still fueled by the fashion trends embraced by the companies.

“Gucci Timepieces & Jewelry have a clear image and a legitimate brand history,” says Michele Sofisti, CEO of Gucci Watches and Jewelry. “We were the first fashion brand to enter the watch segment, and our history dates back 42 years. Our collections are Swiss Made and feature many of Gucci’s iconic
design elements; this helps us to be
different from other brands and to be very identifiable to customers the world over.”

Brand names are important in any segment of fashion. “The name is important because clients tend to gravitate toward a brand that shares their values and makes a statement they are comfortable with,” says Paul Ziff, president, Ferragamo. “That’s true whether one is shopping for a car, a pair a shoes or a watch. They also feel confident in the quality and service when it’s a well-respected brand.”

High Fashion, High Watchmaking

Then, there are the companies that create timepieces in the higher price ranges, often including diamonds, complications or métier d’art (or all three)—Ralph Lauren, Hermès and Dior comprise just a few.

“For us, the strong demand comes from women who were until recently the forgotten customers. Thanks to our input, they are now able to find, on the market, creations that have been made for them and that are not masculine timepieces adapted to women,” says Laurence Nicolas, president and CEO of Dior Montres.

“Dior watchmaking’s vocation is to draw inspiration from the heritage of an haute couture house, that is to say, timeless elegance, femininity, creativity, know-how, quality and excellence in the making as well as refined materials and details,” she continues. “We convey a message of Parisian luxury, refined down to the last detail, combined with Swiss expertise. Dior watchmaking might well be the marriage of an elegant Parisian from Avenue Montaigne with a Swiss watchmaker.”