As a result of the economic crisis, many watch brands have revisited their collections and refocused on traditional values – elegant, timeless, traditional timepieces that are thinner and smaller.
However, that doesn’t mean that big watches are depassé. In fact, big watches are alive and well and selling strongly – as long as they are big for a reason.
BIG FOR A REASON
The bigger watches that are succeeding are big for a reason – sports watches with great features, watches with incredible compli-cations or watches with high water resistance, for example.
Audemars Piguet introduced the new Royal Oak Offshore dedicated to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Legacy (48mm). “A brand has to stick to its values and to what it believes in,” explains Octavia Garcia, Designer, Audemars Piguet. “We’ve been established in big watches since 1992 with the Royal Oak Offshore. It’s always been part of the way we develop things. It’s not about what’s in and what’s not, it’s about who we are. And these are still selling.
“The Legacy is really a powerful watch,” Garcia continues. “The basis of this piece is the T3. We have been playing around with ceramics and we thought this piece was appropriate for a full ceramic body, as it’s light but really robust. We wanted it to be finished like our steel pieces, which are polished and sandblasted, but ceramic is seven times harder than steel, so it was a real challenge.”
DeWitt has seen no downturn in interest in bolder timepieces. “The very, very large and heavy-in-look watches are of less interest, because they were like prototypes almost,” acknowledges Jerome de Witt of DeWitt. “We can’t continue to make watches that are too large. Our 46mm watch isn’t too large, they are still in very high demand. People have not stopped buying these watches. Our Academia line is a very Dewitt line, big, bold and strongly styled.”
Franck Müller was one of the first brands to capi-talize on the larger watch trend. “Franck Müller watches have always been about design,” says Ron Jackson, President, Franck Müller North America. “We are succeeding with design watches. We’re not doing well because we have big watches, we are succeeding because we have design watches that feature great shapes and interesting complications.”
Big watches are not dead, in fact, they are still selling strongly. Today’s normal sized watches, 42mm – 45mm, would have been considered oversized ten years ago. Sure, the 50+mm watches are losing steam, but large, impress-ive, bold watches are still quite popular.
“Being a global brand, successful across the world, it’s logical that TAG Heuer needs both large and small watches,” says Jean-Christophe Babin, President, and CEO, TAG Heuer. “44mm is our biggest watch. We never went to 48mm because it’s not serious. We have a duty to be timeless and a 48mm timepiece will never be an every day watch.”
AQUARACER 500M by TAG Heuer – Ø 43mm, PUZZLE by Ritmo Mvndo – 34 x 48mm, RM027 by Richard Mille – 48 x 39.70 x 11.85mm
BIG AND BOLD
Truth be told, big for big’s sake is pretty much over, aside from a few notable brands. U-Boat was one of the leaders of the big watch trend and they continue being oversized and bold. Ritmo Mvndo has recently introduced a few watches, like the Persepolis Dual Time and the Puzzle, that are big yet very interesting. Makers of technical sports watches, like Reactor and Luminox, have seen no downturn in sales of their larger watches. In fact, as customers demand more performance, more water resistance, more shock absorbance, these watches have to be bigger to accommodate these features.
“I think it is just beginning, because big and bold makes a statement and better manufacturers put more quality into their sport watches so they stand up better against shock and an active lifestyle,” says Jimmy Olmes, President of Reactor. With this being said I do believe that watches have to be wearable — once you get over 50mm they tend not to be very comfortable, especially when you have a 50+mm case with a large crown on the traditional right hand side.”
Bigger watches also fit more people’s lifestyles, as the trend around the world is to dress casually most of the time.
SR-71 BLACKBIRD by Luminox – Ø 44mm, POSEIDON by Reactor – Ø 48mm, ENGINEER HYDROCARBON MAGNATE GMT by Ball Watches – Ø 40mm
“We’ve witnessed an obvious trend towards a more casual lifestyle that is clearly demonstrated in the attire people wear for work these days versus some 25 - 30 years back,” says Barry Cohen, President, Luminox. “Suits have almost become the exception. As a result, watches have moved towards a larger more robust casual watch style. This casual sport watch trend gained steam until it became very much the norm. But today we’ve even seen way oversize watches become so common that the average wearer began to wear larger and larger watches too. The very oversized watch remains for me a bit of a mystery as it is so large that it is rather cumbersome and uncomfortable. But people can be slaves to fashion, and so this look is still seen today.”
Certainly, the big just to be big watches are less popular today. “While the monster-sized 49mm to 60 mm level has reached the point of ridiculousness, we still see a favourable activity in the 42mm to 46 mm sizes,” says Jeffrey Hess, President, Ball Watches. “One of our surprise hits this year has been our entry level Fireman Racer at a mere 40mm. One of our biggest sellers has been our cornerstone Engineer Hydrocarbon series, which is indeed a bigger bulkier watch. There is a market for taller, thicker watches, although our second biggest seller is the Engineer Hydrocarbon Magnate, a slimmed down version.”
From a retailer’s standpoint, it only makes sense to have a selection of sizes so that customers can choose what they want. And in today’s world, with watch wardrobing and multiple watch purchases, sometimes during the same retailer visit, having big and small, thick and thin, is the right way to go.
Source: Europa Star February - March 2011 Magazine Issue