The Watch Column: Why less is more in today's luxury timepieces

From left to right:
Tag Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 Monaco Grand Prix, £3,995
Breitling Superpcean Heritage 46, £3,170
Omega Speedmaster 56, £7,210

 

Design trends come and go slowly in the world of watchmaking, so you'd be forgiven for thinking nothing ever changed at all.  But you'd be wrong.

Think back to the early Noughties, when hefty, complex, sho-offy timepieces were the conspicuous order of the day, weighing down wrist and crippling bank accounts. Blame the financial crash if you like, but recent watch designs have begun to favour a pared-back and slimmed-down approach.

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A similar period of economic constraint in the post-war Fifties produced two classics now celebrating their demi-centenaries: Tag Heuer's Carrera and every self-styled watch expert's must-have, the Rolex Daytona.

Back then, wrist chronographs were quite novel, at least at the relatively accessible prices that the likes of Tag Heuer, Omega and Breitling. The brands' designers wanted you to know all the exciting things you might do with your new toy without scaring off more conservative buyers.

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The resulting watches featured wildly complex dials, shoe-horned into existing case shapes. In typical watchmaker fashion, the solution emerged slowly. There's a clear minimalist thread that runs from the 1957 Omega Speedmaster and Breitling's Superocean through to the Tag Carrera, a growing purity that was anything but accidental.

Now, much like half a century ago, watch designers are beginning to take a simpler approach, with much less information on the dial, better use of space, tachymeter scales moved to the bezel and hour numbers dispensed with. A of which are small details but in combination, they have a strong impact on the final overall look.

Photography:  Dan McAlister