A watch is a very personal thing. There is absolutely no question about this. However, as with so many things that we enjoy in life, our pleasure in watches is enhanced when we get to share it with friends and loved ones. My family aren’t actually very keen on watches, which means they’re frequently mystified by some of the things that I’m most passionate about in life. I don’t really know how to sort it out, but I’m working on it.
Those of you who’ve been fortunate enough to hitch up with someone who understands and occasionally abets your horological interests — do you find that it helps expand your appreciation of watches? Suppose you’re not really a dress watch kind of guy, but then one day you see the 37mm Saxonia through the lovestruck eyes of your better half… Would that be the kind of thing to change your mind?
I mean, it happens in all other areas of personal interest. The relationships we cultivate introduce us to new books, movies, bands, cuisine and all sorts of things that we never would have ventured into on our own. Why should it be any different with watches?
One thing I just noticed at Watches & Wonders 2015 was the emphasis there seems to be in the North Asia market on paired watches. Couples will walk into a watch boutique and pick up a “his and hers” dual purchase — it’s totally a thing and it’s really popular too. It’s pretty logical, if you think about it. Couples already wear complementary jewellery in the form of rings. Watches are simply the next step.
I really like this idea of having both feminine and masculine interpretations of the same watch. It showcases the robustness of the watch design, the versatility of its aesthetic message, and it also ties very neatly into one of my pet theories about gendered watches (essentially that they are conceptual fallacies). Here are some of the watch pairings that we came across at the recent edition of the Hong Kong fair — some were kinda obvious, but there were others that we had lots of fun matching up. Have a look and let us know what you think!
A Lange & Söhne — Sleepless In Saxonia
I realise this isn’t really a paired set, but the new 37mm Saxonia is balanced so finely between the masculine and feminine ends of the watchmaking design spectrum that you can’t in all good conscience leave it out. A good friend of mine, who is also a prolific watch designer who’s worked with some of the most outstanding watch brands in the industry today, remarked to me during the fair that it was one of the most beautiful pieces he’d seen at Watches & Wonders. It’s impossible not to agree with him. The size is confident on a small wrist and elegant on a larger wrist. The grey dial, matched with the pink-gold case or white-gold case, is not as imperious as a full black dial (the black enamel dial is an exercise in intimidatingly flawless artisanal virtuosity) but less austere than the traditional silvered dials. The Saxonia also comes in a 38.5mm case and a 35mm case, but we predict that the 37mm version we see here will be the true cause for insomnia in Lange lovers.
Baume & Mercier — After Dark With The Clifton
The Clifton has always leaned heavily on the more masculine side of things, so this year’s introduction of a 30mm piece with anthracite-grey dial is extremely welcome from my perspective. I’m a great admirer of Baume & Mercier’s designs — simple designs are often the hardest to get right, and yet the Clifton is a complete pleasure in terms of how it addresses the wrist and appeals to the senses. Design director Alexandre Peraldi once told me that his approach to the Baume & Mercier spirit was built around three pillars of comfort: for the eyes, for the wrist and for the pocket. This is the underappreciated genius of this company, that it cohesively captures the needs and desires of the practical yet aesthetically discerning watch buyer. The 30mm Clifton is most obviously paired with the 41mm steel-and-gold Clifton automatic, but somehow I find a greater kinship between the 30mm and the 2013 Clifton automatic in stainless steel with black dial, despite the differences in dial colour palette. Perhaps it’s because of this difference that I find them more complementary, but this is the beauty of Baume & Mercier — consistently timeless.
Cartier — Turning The Key
I talked a little bit before about how incredibly versatile I find the Clé de Cartier, and it’s hard to appreciate this when you’re only looking at the design one watch at a time. It’s only when you look at the collection as a whole that you start to realise how well put together it is. Look how well it contains a simple automatic movement with no other indications than the hours, minutes, seconds and simple date. Compare this with how the Clé looks when frosted in diamonds and housing a flying tourbillon, or a mysterious time indication. Both these watches were unveiled at Watches & Wonders, and the part I love best about these two is how they are neither strongly for men nor for women. They are for people who understand power, who appreciate understatement, who know that these two qualities can be contained in the same object.
IWC — Leisurely Living
Some people like the dark-dialled Portofino watches. It’s true that these have a very strong contemporary flavour and I definitely appreciate the appeal. However, I still feel that the romance surrounding the design and the spirit of the Portofino is best conveyed by the pink-gold, white-dial watches. To be frank, I never realised what a fan of classic design I was until I came across the IWC Portofino. Both the case dimensions in the paired Portofino for Two watch sets work wonderfully, because of that incredible affinity between round case, straight lugs, light dial, gold case, streamlined hands and minimalist markers. The Santoni strap just adds a finishing gloss of hand-made elegance. I can see couples expressing their shared taste in watches by adopting this smartly paired set. If I may, I’d also suggest that it’s possible for one person to own both — wearing each watch as a reflection of one’s mood and which aspects of one’s personality are being expressed on a particular day. (Today’d be a 40mm day for me, in case anyone’s wondering.)
Panerai — A Transitional Time
I always thought I was a Radiomir girl. Call me sentimental, but there’s something about those wire lugs and onion crown that — from where I’m standing — goes perfectly with the smoothly cambered cushion-shaped case and the whole philosophy of design they used to have in the past. You know, the one where even tool watches could still look elegant. In comparison with today’s sports watches, the rugged watch of yesteryear can look positively restrained. So anyway, I always saw myself wearing a Radiomir. The thing is, I don’t have one. I have a Luminor Marina, and I wouldn’t give it up for any money, cause it’s pretty special. And then I went to Watches & Wonders and kinda fell pretty hard for the Radiomir 1940 42mm. These things happen to me; I can’t explain it. The Radiomir 1940 works really well across a range of sizes, which is not something you can say about every single Panerai design, necessarily. Take a look at the new 48mm Lo Scienziato — a beautiful beast of a tourbillon — and the new 42mm. See what I mean?
Vacheron Constantin — Present And Future
I feel very strongly about this pair of watches. Quite honestly it’s something I’ve been waiting for, even though it was completely new to me when it was introduced at Watches & Wonders. A little context seems to be required now. For years (not exaggerating), I have been extremely vocal about the restrictive barriers placed between watches that are made for men and watches that are made for women. I don’t think it makes any sense. We shouldn’t be thinking of feminine timepieces as being for women only and masculine timepieces as being for men only. Earlier this year when I had the privilege of speaking with Christian Selmoni, he spoke about his conviction that it would be a personal goal of his to create a metiers d’art collection for men. I really believe that the less boundaries we place on ourselves when deciding what watch a man should wear and a woman should wear, the more pleasure and enjoyment we’ll all get out of these incredible works of art. I love these watches because they are beautiful and I admire them because of what I think they stand for.