The story of David and Goliath has endured mainly because we all like to think it could happen. But let's be honest: 99 per cent of the time the "giant" crushes all before it. Such is life; and indeed something akin to the old biblical match-up has arisen in the watch industry, where the Goliaths of high-end fashion are planning raids on David-like dedicated watchmakers.
Up until recently, the latter were relatively unconcerned, as fashion houses struggled to marry design with technical expertise. Having thrown a tonne of money at remedying their technical shortcomings, hiring the best and the brightest watchmakers, however, the fashion houses are now serious players, and none more so than Ralph Lauren.
In a 50-50 partnership with the Richemont Group, the American brand has come from a standing start in 2008 to release an impressively diverse collec-tion of watches this year. And it has stepped up its game, with the RL67 Safari Chronometer (above right). Staking a claim for the most masculine watch of 2013, the RL67 Chronometer is a 45mm beast with a gun-metal-grey steel case and olive canvas strap. The burnished, almost used, finish to the case, the roughness of the strap and the oversized numerals and red seconds hand all make for an aggressive, vintage aesthetic.
Inside, Ralph Lauren has leaned on Richemont to modify the mechanics, resulting in the nascent brand's first chronometer-certified movement. The watch is aimed at those with an active lifestyle who want a no-nonsense timepiece and it certainly delivers. The Ralph Lauren RL67 Safari Chronometer is priced at HK$24,000
Another fashion brand that's relatively new to watchmaking is Salvatore Ferragamo, and the venerable Italian house has steadily built up its credibility by making incremental improvements to its breakout watch, the F-80 (below left). For 2013, the F-80 has been given the pilot's watch treatment, complete with an aeronautically inspired dial design. The black steel case is reassuringly big at 44mm and the sporty look is accentuated by a militaristic khaki rubber strap.
Inside, Salvatore Ferragamo is aiming to mollify more discerning watch buyers with a Swiss-built chronograph movement, but it's still a quartz, which is reflected in the relatively modest pricing (HK$16,200). On the dial there's a 30-minute chronograph subdial at the 10 o'clock position and a large date display at the four o'clock position; and there's also a tool on the outer ring for fuel and speed calculations. Topping off the aviation theme is a tachometric scale, again around the outer dial.
Finally, we have something a little less pricey but no less eye-catching, which kind of sums up the ethos of Italian brand Diesel. The DZ4283 Chronograph (below right) is not a watch, according to Diesel, but a "timeframe", and you can follow the logic given the amount of real estate it occupies on your wrist.
Sized at an incredible 59mm, the DZ4283 is all about grabbing attention and it does so by way of a dial design that's a riot of indicators and subdials. There are subdials for 60 minutes, 30 seconds and one-tenth of a second, along with a date window and a curious presentation of indices. The case material is robust black steel with a rugged black ceramic bracelet. The dial has the legend "Only the Brave" stamped on it and it's true only the brave, or the massively wristed, would take on this watch.
The Diesel DZ4283 is priced at HK$2,450.