Trend forecasting is no mean feat. Pinpointing what’s superfluous and what’ll stick involves considering hundreds of brands and designers, not to mention potential political and financial shifts. Changing attitudes, changing faces, celebrity endorsements – you name it, trend forecasters consider it.
Yet while fashion has its year-round conveyor belt of collections, the watch world has one drop. Just one. And its production rate is almost an eighth of the fashion industry – two things that make divining clear trends in watches particularly difficult.
Difficult, but not impossible. As we look to 2017, the watch industry is in a state of flux; sales are down across the board and Richemont (one of the biggest fine watch groups in the world) is slashing over 200 jobs. It’s the kind of climate that forces manufacturers and design teams to get creative.
Granted, we won’t get a first look at any new models until Baselworld and SIHH early next year (the watch world’s two big tradeshows), but that doesn’t stop the experts speculating. Here, we ask the industry’s linchpins for their two cents on what’s what in watches.
Founder & CEO Of Watchfinder
“We’re seeing a massive lean towards […] niche brands like Richard Mille. Unlike the more traditional labels, they often [offer] more avant-garde designs like the RM 11-01. It’s this statement approach that will undoubtedly influence other manufactures this year.”
Buyer At Fraser Hart
“At Baselworld, I’d like to see further development of ‘connected’ watches and of course, limited-edition collaborations.
“That said, it’d be more advantageous for brands to improve current lines that they know work – newness is expensive to develop, and can always be a bit hit-and-miss with customers [often] preferring signature pieces.”
Head Of Buying At Watches Of Switzerland
“We’re likely to see manufacturers refocus their new product launches towards a more European, domestic palate. I’d be surprised if we didn’t see a move back towards sportswatches in steel, as these tend to do well with western customers.
“I also think the traditional brands will include a sportswatch in their line-up, with more innovative case materials – bronze and the like.”
CEO Of Farer Watches
“I expect to see some of the bigger, older brands look towards the archives and present some braver dial designs. Watches of the 1980s had a bigger handle on colour, and were much more impactful as a result.
“Also, fewer smartwatches – we get the idea, but they’re a completely different ballgame (and customer) to the traditional Swiss industry.”
“After a good 15 years catering to the smaller wrists of customers in the Far East, the industry will re-focus on Western tastes again. Watches will be bigger with more heroic pieces made in steel – a material that has always played well with European buyers. Everything else will be a sideshow to that.”
Head Of Retail At Watchfinder
“If the popularity of the stainless steel ceramic Rolex Daytona is anything to go by – they come and go very quickly – then we’d like to see a stainless steel version of the ‘Pepsi’ ceramic bezel GMT-Master II.”
Accessories Buyer At Mr Porter
“I feel sports and pilot watches will go big in 2017, with a continuation of smaller case sizing. Design-wise, we find men prefer watches that go from day to night, so we can expect these models to have an all-round appeal.”
“Given the Swiss industry’s downturn in 2016, things are likely to be played very safe: the continuation of colour updates, retro reissues, celebrity endorsement, little actual technological or mechanical innovation.
“Also, I expect a better attempt at tempting younger customers into investing in a mechanical watch over, say, an Apple Watch. Better value, more honesty, not being afraid to talk up the ‘science bit’ of automatics.”
Buyer At The Watch Gallery
“2017 is Cartier’s year. It’ll be the centenary of the iconic Tank model and I can imagine the brand making a big statement with a commemorative, anniversary limited edition.”
President & CEO Of Timex Group Luxury Division
“Brands are likely to place more focus on the connected watch, and also improve mechanical models to compensate. Millennials are the next generation of watch buyers, so it makes sense for manufactures to court them for 2017.”