The new artisans
Some people fear change, and technological progress may not sit well with everyone. I, for one, will never understand the appeal of Twitter or the lure of Facebook. That is not to say I am a luddite; I quite like the idea of robot butlers and flying cars. But I tend to pick my battles with modernity.
Elite watch collectors are now faced with the dilemma of progress. The huge fashion houses have been creating watches for some time, and with each passing year the quality of their timepieces has inched ever closer to that of the specialist watchmakers - threatening the very foundation of watch aristocracy. My advice is to give in and bow to industry progress.
Among the big fashion houses, Louis Vuitton is leading the charge into high-end watchmaking. After massive investment and having built a decade's worth of experience, the label is beginning to make even the most ardent watch snobs take notice. While many of its counterparts tend to keep things simple, Louis Vuitton has committed itself to opulence, as in the case of the Tambour Minute Repeater (top right). It is easy to see the craftsmanship that has gone into the watch, with the open-worked dial giving an intimate view into the LV 178 calibre movement.
This watch is all about intricacy. Aside from a minute repeater, there is a power-reserve indicator as well as a night and day indicator. The power reserve is an impressive 100 hours and this watch is also water-resistant to 30 metres. The case is large, at 44mm, and made of white gold, complemented by a black alligator leather strap.
When it comes to menswear, Ermenegildo Zegna is one of those brands that is likely to make the male heart skip a beat. The Italian fashion house is admired for shoes and suits but its watch collection, designed by Zegna and manufactured by Swiss master Girard-Perregaux, has come on leaps and bounds. Launched in November, the brand's Monterubello Chronograph (above right) is a handsome watch inspired by 1940s timepieces, with its luscious use of rose gold for the case and wonderful brown alligator leather strap.
The Girard-Perregaux movement is first-class, giving the watch an overall power reserve of 46 hours, and more than justifies the price tag of HK$224,000. The case diameter is a restrained and retro 40mm, encasing a dial that has three chronograph subdials and a date window. There are wonderful flourishes, such as the elegant numerals along with the striking blue of the seconds and chronograph hands. The Monterubello is the perfect marriage of Italian design and Swiss watchmaking expertise.
Meanwhile, Fendi is not a name one immediately associates with men's accessories but the Italian leather goods specialist has ventured into watches. Its focus thus far has been on women's watches, but during the BaselWorld 2012 watch and jewellery fair, Fendi launched the Fendimatica (left) watch for men. It doesn't have the cleverest name in the world but it is a sound and well-built timepiece.
The 42mm stainless-steel case houses a Swiss-made movement and provides a platform for a simple but effective dial design.
While the temptation to go overboard is always apparent with certain fashion brands, Fendi reins in this impulse, giving centre stage to the deep-blue sun-ray dial and adding a dash of character through oversized numerals. There is also a date window at the four o'clock position. The Fendimatica, with its alligator leather strap, is priced at HK$18,500 and is available in three dial colours.