2013 in review (part 3) A watchmaking year summed up in another turn of the dial
Because it was definitely not easy to sum up an eventful year in the watchmaking industry, a third part of the 2013 retrospective was needed. Here it is.
Ok, I must confess: I thought I would be able to wrap up a fascinating year of 2013 in 24 paragraphs standing for 24 hours, but I wasn’t quite able to – there were simply too many interesting items left on my notepad that demanded to be used before 2014 really gets under way with the so-called Geneva Wonder Week in a few days’ time. So, after the first chapter of the review (here) and what was supposed to be the final part (and here), here is another trip around the dial with assorted titbits and food for thought in order to definitively wrap up 2013.
01:00 Power of the Narrative
Which stories will be told at the upcoming Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie? Some brands opt to highlight the new models in a simple way and put the emphasis on the art of watchmaking, but others – more specifically those under George Kern’s umbrella at Richemont (IWC, Roger Dubuis, Baume & Mercier) – usually choose to tell a story as a way of capturing the imagination of media and retailers through spectacular settings in their respective booths. Perhaps this is taken too far, as seen at the SIHH 2013: Roger Dubuis seemed a bit lost and not too happy in his new role as photo model, posing for hundreds of pictures with an eagle by his side. The IWC booth looked like a pit box. And Baume & Mercier ‘s collection was yet again shown in a Hamptons seaside setting.
02:00 The Missing Link
No-one was expecting it, but history was re-written in 2013: Jean-Marie Schaller, Louis Moinet’s CEO, stunned the world by staking a claim on the most popular of mechanical complications: the chronograph. By announcing that master watchmaker Louis Moinet (1768-1853) was indeed the inventor of the stopwatch with the advent of the compteur de tierces in 1816, the brand thus obliged everyone else (and Montblanc in particular) to re-write all those resumés crediting Nicolas Rieussec (1781-1866) with the invention of the first chronograph in 1821.
03:00 Smurf Syndrome
Was it a mere coincidence in time… or the award-winning Avatar movie really triggered an epidemic of blue dials that seemed to gain momentum when The Smurfs premiered and become stronger than ever in 2013? Even a traditional paragon of sobriety usually immune to mainstream trends such as Patek Philippe equipped its Perpetual Calendar Chronograph ref 5270G with a blue dial in 2013! From Vulcain to Graham, and not forgetting Hublot’s blue jeans timepieces, most brands invested in blueness – but the most spectacular blue dial of the year was probably De Bethune Skybridge’s, boasting stars scintillating against a beautiful pristine sky.
04:00 Extreme Diet
Slim is in – and I definitely love to wear a slim tailored suit with a skinny tie. That trend can be felt in watchmaking as well, with a couple of brands boasting new records: the year started with Jaeger-LeCoultre claiming a world record for its 4.05mm Master Ultra-Thin Jubilee and ended up with Piaget’s remarkable Altiplano 900P setting new standards at 3.65mm! One thing is certain: overall, prestigious brands are launching timepieces that are smaller, thinner and more elegant than those ostentatious ‘technorological’ (my own neologism, the combination of techno aesthetics and horology) beasts launched during the second part of the last decade.
Though classy streamlined models have become a clear luxury trend, there were highly complicated masterpieces launched in 2013 – A. Lange & Söhne, for instance, caught everyone by surprise upping the ante and attaining stratospheric level with the introduction of the 2 million-euro Grand Complication, while Patek Phillippe adorned its complex Sky Moon Tourbillon with an extraordinary case engraving. On a more contemporary aesthetic level, Audemars Piguet launched its most complicated Royal Oak Offshore ever, the 650,000-euro Grande Complication.
06:00 Blast From the Past
After establishing Chopard as a haute horlogerie brand through the Manufacture L.U.C and paying hommage to founder Louis-Ulysse Chopard with the creation of a museum (the L.U.CEUM), German-born Karl-Friedrich Scheufele did another favour to the history of Swiss watchmaking and the Fleurier/Val de Travers region: he announced the revival of highly respected master and horologist Ferdinand Berthoud (1727-1807) via the creation of La Chronométrie Berthoud, a new brand destined for the very high end of watchmaking.
07:00 The Power of the Pleonasm
Downsizing men’s watch to make a ladies’ version is a thing of the past. More and more feminine mechanical timepieces, appealing not only to the Chinese market, but also designed to satisfy growing interest among western women, are hitting the market – with dedicated collections boasting specific complications. After all, didn’t presenter Frédéric Beigbeder point out at the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix that “combining the words ‘complication’ and ‘ladies’ within the same sentence is a pleonasm”?
08:00 Unlimited Limited
How much is too much? The limited edition craze is like a Pandora’s Box and is turning the Limited Edition tag into a commonplace one. Yes, limited editions have added value and are usually a better investment; but, along with regular worldwide limited editions and specific national limited editions, several established brands are also launching limited editions just for their own boutique chains. Fans and aficionados are getting confused and lost amid all those references.
Once again, the prominent vocabulary in 2013 revolved around the same theme – the past: ‘heritage’, ‘classic’, ‘tradition’, ‘historic’, ‘tribute’, ‘patrimony’, ‘vintage’… the nostalgic inspiration has been quite successful lately in watchmaking, and some brands are making an art out of revisiting the past. Hence a new ‘revival’ category at the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix.
10:00 A Random Top 10
Another year, another crop of excellent masterpieces. It is almost impossible to choose a 2013 top 10 ‘watch industry hits’ launched by the watch companies – from the independent brands to the most established ones belonging to powerful luxury conglomerates. This is mainly because there are simply too many parameters involved, ranging from innovative significance to price. But a few ones captured the attention of the specialized media for one reason or another: Romain Gauthier Logical One, Girard-Perregaux Constant Escapement, Jaquet-Droz Charming Bird, Urwerk EMC, A. Lange & Söhne Grand Complication, Konstantin Chaykin Cinema Watch, Romain Jérôme Spacecraft, Breva Génie 01, Jaeger-LeCoultre Gyrotourbillon 3 Jubilée, Audemars Piguet Grand Complication… and the list goes on.
Unfortunately, it’s not about the infamous Katy Perry song: the watchmaking year ended on a sad note with a fire that destroyed an ETA workshop in Grenchen, thus causing production delays of up to two months; estimates put the overall cost of the fire at around 20 to 25 million Swiss francs. How will the Swatch Group deal with the situation? Time will tell – no pun intended.
12:00 Gulliver’s Place
To round off this retrospective, while we’re in the middle of the European winter and preparing to brave the winter cold of Geneva for the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, why not reminisce about a trip to sunny paradise? Several brands promoted highly interesting cultural, sporting or purely horological events to introduce new timepieces or announce new sponsorships in 2013 – but one stood out: Richard Mille invited a selected group of journalists to the Caribbean island of St. Barth (a destination favoured by the rich and famous) during the Voiles de St. Barth. We got to sail with a professional crew and actually compete in the regatta; there was also a five-hour lunch at Nikki Beach; but most of all, the fabulous beaches and the Gulliver-like town of Gustavia left us humming Coldplay’s tune ‘Paradise’ the entire time we were there.
Following the vision of Ferdinand Adolph Lange to build the world’s best watches, A. Lange & Söhne strives for ultimate precision and explores new avenues in order to advance the art of fine...Find out more >
Audemars Piguet is one of the few independent family-owned watch businesses and has been based in Le Brassus, in Switzerland's Vallée de Joux region, at the heart of the fine watchmaking industry,...Find out more >
The Baume & Mercier watchmaking Maison has always had powerful emotional and celebratory connotations, while expressing watchmaking excellence in all its creations. Since 1830, it has embodied a...Find out more >
Maison Chopard epitomises the alliance between watchmaking and jewellery. It has always known how to meet the expectations of its day, relying on four essential values: expertise, tradition,...Find out more >
De Bethune embraces the wealth of the watchmaking knowhow of the past in order to design the watches of the future. This combination results in timepieces with all the attributes and technical...Find out more >
Ever since 1791, Girard-Perregaux has been pursuing its course in the best tradition of Fine Watchmaking. The Maison’s history has been characterised by legendary timepieces that combine...Find out more >
From the outset, Hublot has embodied design and innovation that differ markedly from the established watchmaking order. With the impetus provided by Jean-Claude Biver, by 2004 these values had...Find out more >
With a clear emphasis on technology and development, IWC Schaffhausen has been manufacturing timepieces of lasting value since 1868. Its philosophy, based on a passion for watchmaking, aims to...Find out more >
Ever since the brand was established in 1833, Jaeger-LeCoultre has been enchanting lovers of beautiful objects. Its craftsmen and craftswomen, the guardians of the inventive spirit of company...Find out more >
An elegant, outward-looking philosophy that dates back to the Age of Enlightenment is still at the heart of Jaquet Droz's identity. The fine and rare handcrafts practiced at the company’s workshops...Find out more >
Ateliers Louis Moinet was born out of the passion of one man, and this is clearly to be seen in each of its creations. The Maison takes the concept of exclusivity to its height, producing only...Find out more >
Patek Philippe enjoys outstanding renown and rare prestige, due to the constancy with which the Manufacture has applied its philosophy of excellence ever since it was founded.Find out more >
One hundred and forty years’ worth of uninterrupted history have allowed Piaget to forge its unique jewellery and watchmaking expertise. The Brand is a genuine Fine Watchmaking manufacture that...Find out more >
Richard Mille did not simply try to find his place in the watchmaking world – he carved one out for himself, constantly striving not to take anything for granted, and to make innovation and extreme...Find out more >
The Roger Dubuis Manufacture was founded on the desire for independence and watchmaking excellence. With remarkable dynamism, Roger Dubuis quickly ignited the world of Haute Horlogerie and has...Find out more >
Romain Gauthier is a firm that has been built with care and patience. Using his knowhow learned over some 20 years in his native Joux Valley, and with his manufacture named after him, Romain...Find out more >
Few brands are as closely associated with the rise of avant-garde independent horology in the new millennium than URWERK, the Geneva-based brand with Swiss-German mechanical foundations.Find out more >
Producing watches fit for their time since 1858, Vulcain now occupies a mansion in Le Locle. In this cradle of Swiss watchmaking, the Firm has brought together the best watchmaking skills to...Find out more >