New drive at Dunhill
The archetypal British firm is bridging the class gap
That most quintessentially British of brands Alfred Dunhill might seem a little out of place at a Swiss watch trade fair. But under the creative guidance of watch aficionado Tom Bolt, Dunhill's watches are moving up in the world.
'Dunhill watches are a bridge between oversize sports watches and classy dress watches,' Mr Bolt said. The collection was moving into the twin avenues of cars and facet watches and positioning itself as a serious watchmaker.
'We are getting away from an unwanted fashion-watch image,' Mr Bolt said. That meant all Dunhill's men's watches would feature mechanical movements and, aside from one exception, they would all be automatic.
But serious watches did not necessarily have to be boring.
'Although we're making especially high-end watches, we also believe that watches should be fun. We are exploring the innovative side of watches,' he said.
Last year's smash hit was the CityTamer, a bold rectangular watch with a case split horizontally in two. A visible black gasket traced the line through the join where the two halves were clamped together. This year, the watch is back, with 400 pieces being made in both gold and steel versions. This year's model of the watch comes with easily interchangeable bracelets.
Shorter and chunkier than the CityTamer, the CityDrifter has been designed for people with narrow wrists. Mr Bolt said this watch sat 'closer to the dress side of the bridge', and had a unisex feel for men and women.
The Parody Rose plays up the brand's image as the ultimate in English couture, taking its inspiration from the country's national flower. It's also the collection's showiest watch.
'Apparently this year, bling is king,' Mr Bolt said.
Back on the more active side of the designer's 'bridge', Dunhill's new driving watch is called the BobbyFinder SP25. Featuring an exclusive Dunhill movement, the large round watch takes its name from one of the quirkiest products the brand has produced in the past. The original BobbyFinders were binocular goggles for drivers to spot policemen (known as 'bobbies' in British slang) at a distance, released in the early 1900s after Alfred Dunhill was caught speeding. The watch has interchangeable bezels for different occasions.
The chronograph in the range includes a novel feature, the subject of the brand's first patent for the year. 'On chronographs, the buttons can be a hassle. So on this watch, you can rotate the bezel and they retract,' Mr Bolt said.
Also on the subject of cars, the Car Watch which takes its cue from classic driving watches of the 1950s. The watch's limited edition number comes on a plate attached to the front of the face, but as it comes with a spare plate, owners will be able to swap it for something more personal - such as their car's registration number.
Completing the driving watch collection is the Wheel Watch, which takes its design inspiration from the wheel spinners on classic Aston Martin sports cars - and the slightly more conservative PressureHead.