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Watch bracelet - Integrated Done Right

Watch bracelet Integrated Done Right

If I hear one more watch lover saying, “Oh, great, another integrated watch bracelet… everybody is copying each other,” I will scream.

Seriously, everyone thinks that the watch brands are jumping on each other’s coat tails – riding some great train to success with a new integrated watch bracelet or strap (and often, with a blue dial).  The truth is, this is not a recent phenomenon.  Today’s brands aren’t looking at what each other is doing and emulating it. They’re looking to their roots. Integrated watch straps and bracelets – and blue dials – were a hot trend in the 1970’s, and – like all trends – they’re being revisited.

I remember just having joined the wonderful world of watches in the early 1980’s and the trend was all about lug-less bracelets. The savvy brands that could implement a seamless case-to-bracelet attachment and toss out the spring bars – especially in sporty chic watches – were in hot demand. Those included, of course, Audemars Piguet with the Royal Oak designed by Gerald Genta (which – after a slow start, actually took the American market by storm). 

Integrated Done Right

Royal Oak, 1972 © Audemars Piguet

Generally, Genta is credited with starting the craze for integrated bracelets thanks to the Royal Oak design, but it took several years before other brands jumped on the bandwagon. However, by the mid to later 1970’s, companies such as Vacheron Constantin, Girard-Perregaux, Omega, Patek Philippe (with the launch of the Nautilus in 1976), and Piaget (with its famed Polo watch) were all on board. The craze lasted more than a decade before eventually giving way in the early 1990’s to a renewed interest in regular spring-bar-connected bracelets and straps as another trend – interchangeable bracelets – came into play. Still, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, among a few others, smartly kept the integrated bracelet as a signature look in their lines.  

Enter: modern day. As watch brands have been revisiting their core values, searching their archives and re-imagining the greats, integrated bracelets emerge strong again. Granted, not every interpretation is a success, but here we highlight five recent launches that bring the case and bracelet together exceptionally well.

 

Chopard Alpine Eagle

Intégré comme il se doit

Alpine Eagle © Chopard

By recalling its beloved St. Moritz watches of the 1980’s, and totally updating it for today’s contemporary spirit, Chopard brings integrated to new heights. The bracelet of this watch – particularly in two-tone sustainable Lucent Steel and ethical gold – has a luster with its own special shimmer. Additionally, instead of large chunky links, the bracelet is a three-row span with elongated rectangular matte-finished links on the side, and a high-polished square link in the center. The look, especially juxtaposed to the intricately worked dial (designed to reflect the Eagle’s iris), offers sophisticated appeal. 

A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus

Intégré comme il se doit

Odysseus © A. Lange & Söhne

The sixth collection launched by the brand, A. Lange & Sohne’s Odysseus is a stunning example of integrated done right. This sporty chic 40.5mm watch, with large day of week and date display, was designed as an elegant sports piece, and the stainless steel bracelet with matte links and polished edges is simply sublime.  That combination of brushed and polished surfaces gives the watch depth and dimension.  

Hublot Big Bang Integral

Intégré comme il se doit

Big Bang Integral © Hublot

Just unveiled, the new Hublot Big Bang Integral marks the first time since the collection launched 15 years ago that the Big Bang gets an integrated bracelet. The watches are being made in a host of materials including titanium, King Gold and black ceramic, and each looks dynamite thanks to the juxtaposition of bold center links and intriguing matte and polished finishes between those links. These are definitely not your grandfather’s integrated bracelets.

Patek Philippe Nautilus

Intégré comme il se doit

Nautilus 5726/1A © Patek Philippe

Nearly 45 years after its introduction to the world in 1976, the Patek Philippe Nautilus with integrated link bracelet remains an icon. Crafted in steel or in gold, the bracelet has been so perfected over the years that the seamlessness of it has become a benchmark standard.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

Intégré comme il se doit

Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar © Audemars Piguet

The watch that started the trend nearly 50 years ago in 1972 remains a leader in the field of integrated bracelets. While the initial concept was a little slow to take hold, once it did, it became an evergreen statement championing the “We belong together” case and bracelet cause. Thanks to the octagonal bezel with screws, and the horizontal bar lugs, this combination is timelessly bold and daring. I especially love it in black ceramic matte-finished form.

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