Fashion! Turn to the left. Fashion! Turn to the right. Oooh, fashion! We are the goon squad and we’re coming to town. Beep-beep. Beep-beep. In describing the world of high fashion, the late great David Bowie #NailedIt. Particularly the beep beeps. Take that, fashion! What’s that? The song is probably about fascism? Wait, what? Really? Oh.
Anyway, fashion has an odd relationship with the watch industry. There’s a certain amount of snootiness on both sides: the watch crowd feel like the fast and loose, style-over-substance timepieces the fashion brands churn out cheapen their craft, whereas the fashion houses find the established watchmakers ponderous dinosaurs fetishising the past. I’m generalising a bit here and these sentiments really only exist at the top end but, to use a Trumpism, “believe me”, there’s a palpable tension between high fashion and high horology – especially as over the last five years the former has been much more aggressive in trying to steal market share from the latter.
The biggest way fashion has impacted watch brands is by the huge number of companies making timepieces these days, and they are coming from the most unexpected places, such as beachwear experts Vilebrequin. The French brand’s first collection ranges from simple plastic watches to more complex dive pieces but also includes this odd-looking but distinctive Dual Time. Obviously, the key feature here is the two timezone indications so it’s aimed at the business crowd, presumably those who spend their time working from the hotel pool. It’s a large watch, measuring 46mm by 24mm, and the case is steel. Water resistance is a healthy 100 metres. Inside is a quartz movement, so the HK$3,100 (US$397) sticker price might seem a bit steep, but if you are looking for something different this might be up your alley.
Diesel’s approach to watches is to launch as many as possible each year – seriously, check out its website, it’s getting ridiculous – and they are not to everyone’s taste given their size and loud designs. But they are “different” and the prices aren’t outrageous. The DZ1716 Rollcage is a case in point – it’s priced at a reasonable HK$1,600 and it’s memorable. The thing I love about this watch is the military aspects: the tough roll-cage case, the leather strap and the gunmetal grey dial. OK, it’s still probably too big at 46mm but that’s actually small for Diesel pieces. Despite the relatively busy dial face, the watch is pretty simple, with only a date indicator at the six o’clock position, and it has 50 metres of water resistance.
Lastly, we have something from Gucci. The fashion brand has been doing watches for a long time but, if I’m honest, its offerings have been mostly miss rather than hit over the years. Gucci’s issue is that it is a high luxury brand but its watches haven’t really matched that positioning in the past. Thankfully, things are getting better and even though I couldn’t pull it off myself, the new Le Marché des Merveilles is not only a great showcase for the playfulness of Gucci under Alessandro Michele but also a pretty cool watch. The centrepiece is, of course, the embroidered gold bee, one of Gucci’s iconic design motifs, and it sits above the green and red stripes that are so associated with the house. It should be noted that the bee watch is one of a series and there’s the tiger head and snake, too. The 38mm case comes in steel coated in gold PVD and matches the gold hands and buckle. The fabric strap is also a winner, and has the words “L’Aveugle Par Amour” (“blind for love”) inscribed on it. The ETA quartz movement inside is nothing to shout about but keeps the price at a tempting HK$6,700. Beep, beep indeed.