Disclaimer: this is no way is a diatribe against this industry we love so much. Most watchmakers, whether independent ones or those under the aegis of a parent company, are doing a stellar job and releasing exciting novelties. The numbers are proof, as Swiss watch exports increased by 10 per cent in 2018. No, this is simply a friendly nudge to remind our favourite watchmakers that change is the only constant.
Thou shall make more gender-neutral watches
2018 was the year where we rejected labels, and this ideology pervaded the world of watches as well. Many brands dispelled gender labelling, a move that was largely due to the fact that watch sizes for both men and women are finally finding some common ground. As women move towards androgynous dressing, they’re opting for a more relaxed aesthetic and larger sized watches.
Alternatively, after a decade of men wearing outrageously ginormous watches measuring up to 50mm, smaller watches are now gaining traction. The norm, as we’ve seen in the past year, has been 39 to 40mm, sizes that both men and women can pull off comfortably. This opens up a world of possibilities for women collectors, who have a wider range of timepieces to choose from.
The fact is, labels are distracting and alienating, and watch brands that are no longer pigeon-holing their products by gender will certainly see benefits in the long run.
Thou shall make design decisions devoid of the marketing considerations
This quote by Steve Jobs sums up my statement most succinctly: “Some people say, ‘Give the customers what they want.' But that's not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they're going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, 'A faster horse!'"
It’s an open secret in the watch industry that the design team works collaboratively with the marketing and sales team to come up with new designs. Market research often reveals what people are asking for, and product development teams find solutions to those demands. But what if the next big thing was not a product of demand, but rather, the result of an imaginative mind that's not controlled by market forces? Imagine the creative possibilities of this freedom.
Thou shall explore more exciting case shapes
Round cases. How ground-breaking. While independent watchmakers such as Urwerk and MB&F are pushing the boundaries in case design, traditional watchmakers are unwilling to take any such risks. By imprisoning themselves in the cycle of perpetuating tradition, they’ve resorted to ‘safe’ round watches that do not deviate from the norm. For sure, round watches are evergreen and probably make up the bulk of the sales, so the decision makes sense from a commercial point of view. But seriously, how many different ways are there to make a round watch? At this point, I can almost hear the cacophony of collectors, telling me that the devil is the details. “It’s all about the hands, the logo, the dial decoration, the numerals, the lugs, the bezel. They’re what set each round watch apart.” Fair enough, but yawn. Let’s shake things up a bit in 2019, please?
Thou shall make things complicated for women
Kudos to watchmakers who’ve been focusing on making complicated watches for women in recent years, including the likes of Jaeger-LeCoultre, Jaquet Droz, Bvlgari and Chanel. But if we had just one, tiny, niggling complaint? Why are complicated watches for women often dressed in such feminine garb? Maybe we just want a tourbillon framed by a minimalist white enamel dial, encased within a rose gold watch, with no bells and whistles. Sure, the combination of metiers d’art, precious stones and a compelling complication makes for quite the artwork, but it also sends the price sky-rocketing. Can this be the watch industry’s version of pink tax? Why can’t a woman simply buy a stainless steel watch with a solid movement within, but without having to shell out for those ubiquitous diamonds on the bezel?
Thou shall make watches for the 21st century, and not solely bank on your archives
Yes, you have a legacy that spans more than a century, and you’ve withstood wars, economic downturns and the quartz crisis. But your ancestors built their business by always moving forward, so maybe it’s time to do the same? The biggest trend in recent years has been the revival of vintage collections. Seasoned collectors are chuffed, but constantly looking back over your shoulder hampers your vision ahead. We’d love to see more designs rooted in 21st-century aesthetics, and a more definitive road plan for the future of watchmaking. Take a leaf out of Jean-Claude Biver’s tagline for Zenith: “The Future of Tradition.” Deep.