Buzzwords and buzz phrases are to be expected in the world of business, where the trick is to appear clever by using words such as 'paradigm' and 'granulise' as many times as possible, whatever the context. Sometimes these buzz phrases enter the general vocabulary and, useful or not, there's no denying they are shaping the world around us. A case in point is the phrase 'affordable luxury', which at first glance looks rather oxymoronic but has gained credence in these recessionary times.
The impact of affordable luxury on watchmaking has been the rise and rise of fashion brands at the expense of more established watchmakers who simply can't compete on price as the quality gap closes. High fashion brands have stepped up their game when it comes to watches and their 2012 line-up is impressive in both its range and quality. A winner on the technical side is the Salvatore Ferragamo 1898 Chronograph (above left). Celebrating the birth year of Ferragamo himself, the 1898 Chronograph incorporates one of the most ubiquitous complications in watchmaking, but one which some watchmakers have difficulty balancing with the overall design. The 1898 Chronograph has a 42mm case that comes in stainless steel with a gold-treated top ring that evokes the Gancino shape from the Salvatore Ferragamo logo. The chronograph is activated by two push buttons on either side of the crown and the additional steel and gold bracelet gives the timepiece a distinctly sporty look. The white dial features chronograph subdials and a small seconds counter at the six o'clock position, and there's a date indicator at the four o'clock position. The Salvatore Ferragamo 1898 Chronograph is priced at HK$11,500.
The D&G watchmaking arm tended to divide opinions on the daring designs, unorthodox use of materials and the in-your-face attitude. However, with the imminent closure of the diffusion D&G label, main line Dolce & Gabbana has taken up the watchmaking reins and, thankfully, toned things down. Dolce & Gabbana's first watch collection is beautifully designed, reflecting the more mature and refined ethos of the label. A particular standout is the DG7 Elegant (right). A simple watch, but all the better for it, the DG7 comes in a steel case with a great woven steel bracelet, although there are optional leather straps. The design harks back to watches from the 1950s, with oversized roman numerals at the 12 and six o'clock positions and the logo kept in check. The confidence of the company as a watchmaker is reflected in the transparent case back. The Dolce & Gabbana DG7 is priced at HK$39,500.
A relatively unheralded fashion watchmaker is Alfred Dunhill, which is doubly curious as the label is part of the Richemont Group, which owns venerable watchmakers Vacheron Constantin, IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre. And it is the last of those storied names that has provided the mechanics behind the wonderfully chic Dunhill Black Diamond Classic (above right). The Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 896 movement is as top class as can be expected, but the styling is a pleasant surprise, with the prominent black dial made of crushed black diamonds mixed with lacquer. The polished-steel case is a restrained 38mm, making this a perfect formal watch. The dial features a small seconds hand at the six o'clock position and a date indicator at the three o'clock position, and the watch comes with a nice matt-black alligator-leather strap. Perhaps the best thing about the Dunhill Black Diamond Classic is the price, which given the Jaeger-LeCoultre movement, the materials and the styling costs an extremely tempting HK$60,000.