Watch and Brand News Trends at SIHH 2018: Part 1—Visually Speaking

The industry’s first major watch fair has come and gone, leaving us with much ground to cover digesting the current trends that are sweeping their way through the industry. After a few years of quiet caution on the show floor, the energy was certainly up for 2018, and even at a product level it seemed that many of the industry’s major players were back in fine form.

After a solid four days on the show floor, an overload of social media wrist shots, and late-night debates with fellow journalists about this latest onslaught of new product, we’ve digested and distilled our analysis into this two-part trend segment, starting first with those of a more visual nature.

Seeing Green

Green dials have been rising to fame steadily since last year, and yet again we’ve been treated to a killer selection from a few interesting corners of the industry. Much like the seemingly never ending barrage of blue dials in recent years (because who doesn’t love blue), green has been making the rounds in a wide variety of forms. From divers, to dress watches, to more vintage-inspired pieces, there’s a healthy new smattering of green out there for all tastes and wrist sizes.

The first, and arguably most eye-catching green dial to strike our fancy came at the hands of Audemars Piguet. In celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Royal Oak Offshore, yet another punchy barrage of color has been released including a very Mil-Spec inspired shade of matte green. AP has labeled this color as Khaki Has Character, and though a little cheeky, they’re certainly right that this piece has a great “outside-the-box” vibe to it that will appeal to buyers wanting to stray a little outside the norm.

Taking things in a completely different direction, Piaget came to the table with no less than three vibrant green offerings, each using malachite stone dials. Obviously hiding in the shadows of the brand’s new record-crushing 2mm thick Altiplano Concept, the “hero watch” of Piaget’s green offerings is the new Altiplano Malachite Marquetry Tourbillon. The piece is powered by the extremely svelte 670P manufacture caliber, and measuring 41mm across, the metiers d’art-meets-haute horlogerie piece ticks all the right boxes for those looking for a watch that’s dressy without being conservative.

By far the most comprehensive offering of green came to us outside the halls of SIHH, from the hands of Hublot. An entire range of Classic Fusion models have been launched in 3-hand and chronograph configurations, available in either Titanium or King Gold in an assortment of case sizes (12 models, all told). Hublot opted for a warmer green tone of faintly military persuasion, though with a satin finished sunray dial and applied indices.

Attack of the Pandas

After all the hype through 2017 about Paul Newman’s Paul Newman Daytona Panda heading for auction (and shattering all conceivable records in the process), we were curious to see how many panda-dials—white chronograph dials with dark/black contrasting subdials—would be presented in the new year. While the result wasn’t staggering, there were still a handful of offerings that are leading us to believe that there will be plenty more to come as the year rolls on.

Though their offering in the panda category was technically first launched last year on a leather/rubber strap, Zenith has long had a panda dial or 3 in their catalog, and having seen their latest in the metal, this new addition of a titanium bracelet to the closed dial Defy 21 makes the new and innovative timepiece just that much more appealing. It features all the twin escapement, 50 Hz chronograph goodness we were first introduced to last year on a chunky bracelet that is thankfully devoid of heft thanks to its lightweight brushed titanium construction.

Audemars Piguet was once again on trend here, as amidst their sea of Royal Oak Offshore releases the brand played the panda card in an unexpected way. In their ladies’ offerings, a panda dial Royal Oak Offshore Self-Winding Chronograph appeared in a 37mm configuration with a diamond-set bezel. Parked alongside a slew of punchy neon colors, the white-on-white model—aptly dubbed White Wows—is highly anticipated to be one of the best sellers of the series. While not as “serious” as the supremely elegant Millenary collection, it will no doubt appeal to fans of the casual-yet-classic watch collection.

With the bulk of their focus on the vintage-inspired 1858 collection this year, we wouldn’t be surprised if you missed the brand’s additions to last year’s hero line: the Timewalker. New for 2018, a 3-register chronograph with date in a classic panda dial configuration set against an etched black ceramic bezel. While we loved the initial offerings in this collection, there’s something about the more traditional 3-6-9 subdial configuration of the new model that works exceptionally well, not to mention the fact that it’s powered by a self-winding manufacture caliber.

A Women’s Revolution

We said it last year, and we’ll say it again: proper women’s watches are back in a big way. “So long, boyfriend watch!” seems to be the slogan of Swiss watch design, and brands big and small are bringing back elegant (and sometimes quite complex) women’s watches in 2018. Sure, there are still many brands simply setting a watch with diamonds to try and appeal to the fairer sex, but many others are actually bringing proper haute horlogerie to the table this time around, and speaking to the many strong female voices of the industry we have to agree that it’s about damned time.

Cartier gave us so much to love in 2018, with a substantial chunk of their offerings falling perfectly into this category. Firstly, the thoughtful refresh of the Santos model arrived to much fanfare. Available in both medium and large case sizes (35.1mm x 41.9mm, and 39.8mm x 47.5mm), the understated line is now entirely powered by Cartier’s own automatic calibers, with a modest $6,250 price of entry.

They also feature a new quick-changing strap system, which adds yet another level of convenience and versatility. On the other end of the spectrum, the brand revealed a healthy smattering of metiers d’art pieces related to the Panthere, including a truly unique creation dubbed the Révélation d’Une Panthère. Beneath its crystal, and rolling atop a (very on-trend) green dial, 900 small gold balls roll around in what at first appears to be a fairly random pattern. Roll the watch backwards and then forwards (towards 12 an then towards 6), and suddenly these gold balls unveil a hidden pattern of a panther’s face on the dial for but a brief moment. The cost of all this coolness? A paltry $106,000, should you choose to be one of the lucky 100 owners of this special creation.

In an interesting turn, F.P. Journe dedicated nearly all of its attention at SIHH to their growing women’s model, the Elegante. Viewed as a bit of an underrated gem of Francois Paul’s collections, the smartly over-engineered quartz model has been on the market since 2014, and continues to find favor, especially amongst the significant others’ of Journe’s large collector base (according to Journe himself). While not a technical update, it was a refreshing change of pace to see an exhibitor in the halls whose ladies’ watches weren’t tucked away in a corner.

Yet again we’re finding Audemars Piguet on the leaderboard of this trend. All told, three new models landed in the ladies’ watch category from AP that deliver serious levels of high watchmaking. The Millenary collection that launched ahead of SIHH featuring partially skeletonized calibers and delicate opal and mother-of-pearl dials, new 37mm versions of the Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked in frosted gold were unveiled.

Most notably, the first ever women’s Royal Oak Concept watch was unveiled in 2018 in the form of the very three-dimensional Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon. Though heavily clad in either baguette or brilliant-cut diamonds, these new models further cement the brand’s promise to deliver high-level horology to the entire market at large.

About Justin Mastine-Frost
Bold, adventurous, and well-executed. This is the calling card of timepieces Justin will always covet. From the deepest depths of the independents realm, to the latest and greatest limited-release novelties from our favorite big guns, Justin has gone hands-on with them — and more than likely has an opinion.

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