Not to sound like a curmudgeon, but the problem with art, fashion, music and films these days is that there is far too much going on. I'm not about to say that things were better in my day (although they kind of were) but we live in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it sort of world nowadays, so everything, from television news to breakfast cereals, screams for our attention. Some watch manufacturers are as guilty as any of loading up their dials with features and complications or plumping for outlandish case designs to grab our weary attention. Thankfully, others have confidently stepped back from the shouting match and realised that if you build watches of breathtaking simplicity there is a ready audience waiting to snap them up.
Minimalism has its roots and its greatest exponents in Scandinavia and Danish jeweller/watchmaker Georg Jensen is at the top of the class. The Georg Jensen Koppel Dual Time watch (above right) is an exercise in measured restraint; that is, it may seem like nothing much is going on but there are actually quite a few handy complications on this watch. Priced at HK$10,400, the Koppel Dual Time is, as the name suggests, capable of dual time zones via a fourth centrally adjusted hand. The design is of course the thing that wins through - the lack of numerals and large plain white face are to the fore. Though Danish-designed, this watch is actually made in Switzerland, so the movement is top quality. The 41mm case is made of polished steel and comes with a black leather strap.
Bell & Ross is a watch manufacturer not noted for its subtlety - its iconic square-faced watches take up quite a bit of wrist space - but every now and again the company comes up with something that's conceptually complicated but wildly simple. The Bell & Ross BR01-92 Horizon (below left) is inspired by the altitude indicator found on instrument panels on planes. Unlike most Bell & Ross watches the BR01-92 Horizon does away with the oversized numerals and exaggerated central hands but the 46mm case made of stainless steel with a black coating does maintain the famous case shape. The strap is also the familiar wide black rubber. The dial is split by a 'horizon' line with the top grey half indicating the sky and the black bottom part the ground. The features of this watch are kept to a minimum, as in nothing beyond hours and minutes, but the watch is water-resistant to 100 metres. Priced at HK$46,500, the BR01-92 Horizon is limited to 999 pieces.
The watch companies creating the biggest hullaballoo are usually newcomers to the market for whom a strong first impression can be the difference between success or failure. Venerable brands such as Vacheron Constantin that have been quietly going about their business for hundreds of years don't have to worry so much about fickle modern trends, as witnessed by its deliberately simple Patrimony Contemporaine self-winding Collection Excellence Platine (below right). Priced at HK$492,000, this watch is limited to 150 individually numbered pieces. As with any Vacheron Constantin, this watch is dripping with watchmaking heritage and despite being relatively unflashy is sure to turn heads. The 42mm case is made of luxuriant platinum and the strap is a wonderful dark blue Mississippi alligator leather. The power reserve is 40 hours but as for features, you should probably look elsewhere - there is only the indication of hours and minutes. This watch is all about classic minimalist design, and of course it's a Vacheron Constantin, enough said.