A lot has changed since the first pocket watches of the 16th century, but the watch industry is still one built on slow gains and not one reliant on an ever-changing conveyor belt of new pieces. That’s not to say there haven’t been changes in recent years, especially now a new upstart has been chucked into the market, the smart watch, its influence on the industry yet to fully take shape.
And so with the help of four leading brands and watchmakers, including bastions of the British watchmaking scene Bremont and Farer, Swiss heritage innovator Rado and celebrating its 35th birthday, Casio off-shoot G-Shock, we discuss what trends we could possibly expect over the next watchmaking year – and, of course, whether those smart watches are causing any sleepless nights.
Rose Gold Bracelets And Blue Dials
“We’ve been seeing warm tones for a while and I think these will continue to be of interest in the year ahead,” says Matthias Breschan, CEO of Rado. “The popularity of rose gold as a colour is well documented and we’re also seeing lots of browns, bronze and amber colours too. By contrast, there’s also a continuation of the cool, soothing and calming colours such as greens and blues of all hues.”
A Watch For All Occasions
The rise of blue as a key embellishment to look out for could be down to the smart-casual nature of the colour according to the co-founder of Bremont, Giles English. “I think a lot of people think a blue watch not only goes with their suit but also works at the weekend. We’re seeing, especially from our perspective, people actually want to go out and use their luxury watches and not just wear them as a dress watch or to show off and that’s why we try and create a watch that can be used as much in the boardroom as it can up mount Everest.”
Breschan agrees, suggesting that people leading busy lives are less inclined to swapping their watch around and are more likely to look to change their style through a change of strap or bracelet. “They offer a range of looks in one watch and have an element of personalisation that makes them stand out.”
“The larger brands have obviously all recently launched their latest blue dials but we believe it’s just the start,” says Jono Holt, co-founder of Farer. “People are bored of the usual. We believe unique and different colours will reign supreme in the future.”
This is a point echoed by Kikuo Ibe, founding creator of G-Shock, who believes basic colours will still be popular but brands will look to diversify. “For example the plastic will be black, and the metal will be white, silver, gold and black. But people are looking for hints of bright, unique colours blended with the basics for a bit of an extra spice on pieces that will come out as limited editions. Expect things like faint rainbow colours on the plastic and pink gold on metals to increase in popularity.”
Small Packages Come Vintage
“Vintage-style watches have been making a comeback for the last few years and I don’t imagine that will change any time soon,” says Breschan. “The difference in appeal seems to be how true the new versions are to the original, particularly in size.”
This could be leading into the trend English is seeing with smaller watches more accurately evoking the smaller cases of the 1950s and 1960s and tapping into an audience desire for vintage-style watches from the era.
“I think the trend over the last few years going towards smaller watches, will stay at that size,” he says. “I don’t think they’ll get any smaller, but there is now far more demand for 40mm watches as opposed to 42- to 45-type watches.”
Smart Watches Will Not Take Over
“In direct reaction to the growth of tech wearables there is also a huge surge in people becoming more and more interested in mechanical watches and the craftsmanship that goes into making them,” says Holt.
Although Ibe believes that smart watches have become a huge part of the industry already, he doesn’t think they’ll take customers away from the more traditional watches. “There are officially three groups of watches now, smart watches, mechanical and quartz. Those groups will co-exist though and you can’t compare them. If you want a mechanical watch you won’t buy a smart watch instead.”
English partly agrees but does think smart watches could cause a dent in the lower end of the market. “We’re seeing big pressures on the fashion brands market at the lower price points, where the smart watches are really making some head way into that space. But we’re not clearly seeing it eating into luxury watch sales at the moment. We have a lot of customers who own our watches, but will also have a smart watch in rotation as opposed to either or.”
Low End Struggles
“The lower price point in our space is having a lot harder time than the premium,” English continues, “so the limited edition watches at a high price point are going almost easier than the watches at the lower end.”
This is a continuation of the long held belief that a watch is for life, not just the season according to Holt. “Increasingly as consumers we are buying products that can last a lifetime,” he says. “We’re not interested in constant upgrades and we don’t want to put anything to waste. Guarantees and servicing support increasingly matter.”
Watches That Tell A Story
“The way a watch looks is usually the first reason someone buys it. The story behind a watch is often the reason they keep wearing it,” says Breschan. “How many conversations about watches have started when someone tells you, ‘I like your watch?’ More often than not, you start to tell a story about what it’s made from, how it was made, which person also wears it. As we continue to look for ways to make personal connections with people, these stories will continue to hold importance for us.”