Women's watches: fashion houses

Laura McCreddie-Doak
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Chanel J12 White Classic, £3,300, chanel.com

There are many subtle nuances of snobbery in the world of watches. One particular favourite is when a group of watch journalists gather and someone inevitably asks: “what are you wearing?” Those with Swiss-made, in-house movements look down on those whose watches contain an off-the-peg one. Those wearing something a little bit off-the-beaten track heap scorn on those whose wrists sport a name the average woman on the street would recognise, and everyone looks down on those whose dials bear names more readily associated with clothes than co-axials.
Those in the know understand that these houses do actually have provenance when it comes to watches. Hermès made its start in the mid-1930s when it employed Swiss watchmaker Universal Geneve as its exclusive timepiece designer, producing art deco cuff watches. After that partnership ended in the 1950s, it decided to set up its own watch making division – La Montres Hermès, which was founded in Bienne, Switzerland and continues to produce the brand’s more conventional pieces, such as the best-selling Cape Cod.
Dior, meanwhile, started its watchmaking business in 1975 with the Black Moon, which it launched with licensee Benedom, a Paris-based watch manufacturer and distributor that became a part of LVMH in 1999. Since then it has worked hard to incorporate the design codes and couture methods of the fashion side of the house with serious horology; a marrying that has led to such breathtaking watches as the Dior VIII Grand Bal collections, with its dial-side rotor, or the recent Dior VIII Montaigne, which premiered at BaselWorld this year.
Chanel is another serious player. The first Chanel watch debuted in 1987 but it wasn’t until the J12 came out in 2000 that people really started to pay attention. Also worthy of mention is the Chanel RMT-10 movement, housed in its J12 Retrograde Tourbillon Mysterieuse, which was made exclusively for the house by renowned movement designers Renaud et Papi, while Audemars Piguet was kind enough to exclusively personalise its selfwinding movement for the brand. If that isn’t playing with horological heavy weights then what is?
And the Burberry Britain, which came out in 2012, was created by Antima Watches. This fourth-generation watchmaker based in Biel-Bienne and now owned by Fossil, has been creating timepieces since 1919, both under its own name and under private label brands.
So next time someone derides you for wearing a watch from a fashion house, tell them to go and brush up on their horological history.