Looking cumulatively at this year’s new-watch introductions, it might be tempting to declare that the recent revolution in watchmaking—the one that was supposed to take us to a future of daring designs and materials—has definitely sputtered to an untimely close. Without the impact that the rest of the world felt during the recent economic crisis to dampen the development process, the Swiss have been free for some time to once again unleash their creativity, but their response, at least on first impression, has been muted. With fewer statement pieces and no pervasive design influence across the industry, most companies have focused inward, creating pieces that are carefully considered reflections of the brands that produce them. With few surprises and less visible risk taking, some collectors might easily be underwhelmed by the offering.
There is reason, however, to be optimistic about these developments. For all the excitement delivered by the outstanding pieces of the last decade like Max Büsser’s HM1, there were many other modernist pieces that fell short. In trying to match the creativity shown by the best independent watchmakers, developers even at major brands fell into a lemming-like tendency to be part of a larger design movement even at the expense of their own history. Thankfully, this is no longer the case.
This year’s design spectrum extends farther than ever before. Hublot’s Masterpiece MP-05 LaFerrari is as bold and unusually complicated as anything from the last decade. At the same time, brands like Chronoswiss and Blancpain continue to produce their historically informed designs with no loss of relevance. For collectors this means more choices than ever before, and a little more confidence that personal tastes will continue to be served in upcoming products and to some extent in aftermarket value as well.
Creativity, which in recent years has become an important yardstick of watchmaking value, is also in abundant supply, if perhaps less overt than in years past. Design may be more subtle and rooted in brand history, but as in Bulgari’s rich offering this year, it can be as prolific as ever. Mechanical innovation may be smaller in size and lack the scope of past contraptions, but it can ultimately offer more value. The convergence of elegant proportions and sound horological innovations seen in large brands like Breguet and small ones like Laurent Ferrier promises wearable, unique timepieces that we will all enjoy exploring in seasons to come.