Watch talk: The revival of crisp, design-led modernism

Alex Doak

In our uncertain times, the Swiss watch industry itself still reeling from a rare downturn, it’s no surprise to find the windows of jewellers have developed a reassuringly sepia tint this year.

But, in parallel to all the nostalgic reissues and revivals of Fifties and Sixties classics (no bad thing, mind) a nice surprise has been a stylish new seam of crisp, design-led modernism. Welcome to horology’s brave new world

Fabergé Altruist

Luxury brands bearing names like Fabergé understandably lean on their heritage to convey the sort of art and legacy you’re buying into. So, given that just 10 years have passed since the Czars’ favourite purveyor of gem-encrusted eggs became a bona fide jeweller once again, rather than a logo slapped on Unilever fragrances, it’s especially impressive to see such forward-looking products as this – a watch that not only manages to accentuate contemporary looks with a subtle Cyrillic lilt, but houses serious horological heft, in the form of an “haute” movement from Vaucher, Parmigiani’s technological thinktank, no less.

Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Horograph

The term “Bauhaus” is usually reserved for minimalist, modernist masters of watchmaking like Nomos Glashütte, Junghans and Mondaine – the latter of which has exclusive rights to Swiss Railways’ iconic platform-clock design. Well, prepare to add a fourth to that list, in the guise of Bell & Ross, a brand that has always done pared-back and modernist, yes, but more “utilitarian” or “militant” than “designer”. Adding to the BR 03’s aesthetic roots of cockpit instrumentation, the Horograph takes inspiration from another public clock – the airport kind, appropriately.

Georg Jensen Koppel Grande Date Annual Calendar

The sleek Danish silverware designer does a decent line in proper mechanical watches, too, you may be surprised to learn. In fact, GJ’s Scandi-licious “Koppel” range has grown into a big highlight of the Baselworld watch fair every year – this particularly enduring model managing to arrange the complex annual-calendar function with economy and grace, throwing in a large date display for good measure. It’s a quirky arrangement, and a brave one by default, but in keeping with the brand’s off-the-wall steeliness it demands an involuntary double take for all the right reasons.

Related articles