Tattoos are everywhere these days. Once the preserve of salty sea dogs, Yakuza and circus folk, now even the most boring suburbanites are getting inked. My own feelings on them are mixed - I can appreciate the expressive element of a tattoo but when I came across someone with Franz Kafka's face tattooed on their upper arm, it put me off the whole thing. Regardless, tattoos are no longer a fad - they're an accepted part of the mainstream.
In the rather staid world of high-end watchmaking, fashion watches, or watches made by fashion brands, were also seen as a fad once upon a time, and were looked down upon almost as much as tattoos. In recent years perceptions have changed, though, and like body ink, fashion watches (however much traditionalists begrudge them) are big players in the watch industry.
More often than not, fashion brands - with their reserves of design talent - make beautiful (or at least interesting-looking) watches, but the major reason they have gained respect in the horology world has been the seismic improvement in what's ticking away inside. Louis Vuitton is perhaps the most visible brand to have made the step up in terms of watchmaking and the quality of its timepieces, such as the Tambour eVolution Chronograph GMT Steel (below left), is now being recognised. Nominated for best men's complication watch in the upcoming Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Geneve, this model is a more hi-tech interpretation than previous releases in the Tambour range and has a style that will appeal to the sophisticated, urban gent who travels a lot. The case is sized at a rather large, but on trend, 45mm, and the bezel is made of an innovative material called Black MMC. To add to the modern tech aesthetic, the dial is also black, with the numerals and hands creating a stark colour scheme of black, white and red. The dial has two chronograph subdials, with a day/night indicator at the six o'clock position and a date indicator at the four o'clock position. Inside is a self-winding mechanical movement, which pumps out 42 hours of power. The steel case and bracelet keep the price down to a reasonable HK$82,500.
Next up is the Dior Chiffre Rouge C03 Moonphase (below right). Like Louis Vuitton, its LVMH stablemate, Dior has the advantage of having put time and investment into its watch division but also benefits from ready access to the expertise and quality movements of established watchmakers within the LVMH universe. Inside the C03 Moonphase beats a Zenith Elite 691 movement, boasting 50 hours of power, which is dependable, reliable and robust, freeing Dior to focus on what it excels at - design. And the C03 Moonphase looks great - it's a moody and sophisticated watch with a simple colour scheme. The steel case is sized at 38mm and encases a black lacquered dial with an unorthodox arrangement of date window at the one o'clock position, small seconds at the nine o'clock position and the wonderfully simple moon-phase indicator at the six o'clock position. Limited to 100 pieces, the Dior Chiffre Rouge C03 Moonphase is priced at HK$75,000.
Lastly, we have something very simple and very classic: the Ermenegildo Zegna Monterubello Solo (top). Priced at HK$118,000, due to its rose-gold case, the Solo is part of the Monterubello collection that generated a lot of positive buzz for Zegna's first forays into high-end watchmaking. The Italian menswear colossus was smart in teaming up with Girard-Perregaux, which handled the technical aspects, such as the self-winding mechanical movement with 46 hours of power reserve, leaving the design motifs to its own crack team in Milan. The results are an elegant watch sized at 38mm, with a gold case that works well with the alligator leather strap.