After making the rather embarrassing faux pas of thinking Paloma Faith was a cocktail and not a pop star, it recently dawned on me that music has moved on so much that New Order, The Smiths and even The Happy Mondays are now considered classic rock. I don't mean classic rock in that pejorative, "Oh God - not more Lynard Skynard" sense, but rather music that is so good it is timeless and transcends trends and fads, which I imagine will do for Paloma, unless she does get around to coming up with a cocktail recipe that sticks.
In horology, the classics play just as well, although you wouldn't know it with the noise made by manufacturers shouting about their latest whizz-bang complications. This year there has been a pleasing return by some watchmakers to first principles - classically simple, smaller case sizes; the use of gold; and cleanly designed dials.
The chief purveyor of the classical style is Vacheron Constantin and the Patrimony Traditionnelle Small Seconds (below right) is refreshing purely because it doesn't pretend to be something it isn't. The classic, stripped down design is matched by the throwback sizing of 38mm and the only feature of note is the small seconds dial at the six o'clock position. The traditional sizing and the clean design make this the ideal dress watch but, to be frank, this timepiece would look good in any setting. Inside is an in-house 4400AS mechanical movement that proudly bears the Geneva Seal of quality craftsmanship. The case is made of 18-carat white gold but there is also a pink-gold with a white dial version. The strap is black alligator leather. The Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Traditionnelle Small Seconds in white gold is priced at HK$291,000.
Classic, simple watches are not necessarily free of nuance and artistic flourish. The Jaquet Droz Grande Heure GMT (below left) is a case in point, with the 24-hour markers one of the first things you notice. The centred hours allow two time zones to be indicated in the simplest, cleanest and most unobtrusive way possible. Jaquet Droz is known for its single-hand watches but the appearance of two hands - an 18-carat red-gold hand and the other in blue steel - both elongated and cut in an intriguing shape, is a great touch. Inside is an in-house calibre 5N50.4 movement that pumps out an impressive 68 hours of power and is on display in the open-worked case back. The 18-carat, red-gold case is sized at 43mm and the strap is black alligator leather. Prices for the Jaquet Droz Grande Heure GMT are available upon request.
French jeweller Boucheron may not have the same watchmaking pedigree as the other brands but the new Epure collection is classic design done right. The Boucheron Epure comes in two sizes - the more traditional 38mm and a modern alternative at 42mm - and there are up to 19 combinations of materials to choose from. One of the best options is the white-gold case with brushed-silver dial, which maintains the unclutter-ed design but adds a frisson of texture. Clearly it pays to be part of the Kering luxury group, as Boucheron leans on the Girard-Perregaux GP 4000 movement to power things. With the GP movement you get the best of both worlds: Boucheron's craft and skill with precious metals and Girard-Perregaux's technical expertise. The Boucheron Epure white-gold with brushed-silver dial is priced at HK$151,500 for the 38mm model (top) and HK$172,000 for the 42mm version.