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Two-tone watches - Two-tone, setting the tone

Two-tone watches Two-tone, setting the tone

Two-tone watches are pushing the boundaries. The two classic combinations of yellow-and-white, and yellow-and-pink are giving way to new, more retro and more masculine pairings.

If you’re not into two-tone watches, it’s easy to dismiss them as belonging to one of two categories. First, there are the watches made for Chinese clients, who go mad for gold/steel combos. And then there are the watches for women who want gold, but don’t want to pay too much, and don’t particularly care if it’s not the only metal. While both these markets exist, they are not the only ones. The worldwide success of two-tone watches was built upon the appetite of US customers in the 1980s and 90s which, given that this market was both predominantly male and rich, proves that they can be both macho and pricey.

Two-tone watches are now reaching for new modes of expression. In these more horological, more masculine, sometimes more technical and also more extravagant iterations, they are targeting a wider public that is not afraid of clichés. It begins with small details, such as gold accents on a steel watch – a decidedly on-trend vintage look – like the hands and dial markings on the Seiko 1968 Diver’s Re-Creation. The growing demand for bronze has also changed perceptions of golden hues and how they can be used. Oris produces a version of its Divers Sixty-Five with a discreet bronze bezel on a steel case, which also has a vintage feel.

Deux tons, de bon ton

Santos de Cartier © Cartier

Superstar watches have a different approach again. These highly visible models by powerful brands tend to be produced in dozens of variations, and gold and steel are naturally on the menu. This is what you would expect for, say, a Panthère by Cartier. But Cartier has extended the treatment to its Santos. Given that the model was a favourite child of the 1980s, it is a logical candidate. The same applies to Bulgari’s Octo, which features steel and rose gold links down the entire length of the bracelet, a clear indication that economy is not part of its raison d’être.

Deux tons, de bon ton

Bulgari Octo © WorldTempus / David Chokron

Then there are the unapologetic, classic two-tone models. Longines, with its commercial centre of gravity closer to Asia, is something of a specialist. The Record has a two-tone variant which, with this model’s international reach, hints at expanded ambitions for the colour combination. This year, Chopard’s Mille Miglia comes in a Racing Edition with bezel, pushers and crown in rose gold, paired with a carbon dial – a first.

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Longines Record and Chopard Mille Miglia 2018 Race Edition © Longines/Chopard

And finally, some watches defy the historical definition of two-tone. Although traditionally centred around white and yellow, and more recently, white and pink, the range of colour combinations has expanded considerably. The development of more technical watches, often in black cases, that play around with a wide variety of colours, has created a new sense of chromatic freedom. Richard Mille has its Quartz TPT, a material it can tint to whatever hue is desired, and which can be combined with Carbon TPT to create unique colour combinations like the black and orange of the RM11-03 McLaren, which is just one of countless examples.

Deux tons, de bon ton

RM11-03 McLaren © Richard Mille

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