You know exactly what period of history someone is talking about if they mention drop waists and Evelyn Waugh, or baggy jeans and grunge. Fashion, literature and music are the cultural touchstones by which we navigate our recent history. This doesn’t really hold true in the world of watches, though; the best ones are timeless. Maybe it’s because the essential details never change; sheer practicality demands they need a dial, case, hands and some way of adhering to your wrist. Or perhaps it’s because the prevailing sartorial idiosyncrasies of each decade just don’t find their way into watch design.
Take, for example, Tiffany’s return to watchmaking. Having extricated itself from its deal with Swatch Group, it returned to the scene with a stunning collection based on the brand’s heyday of horological prowess: the 1920s. Despite the obvious nods to the decade, the watches don’t look dated or like imitations – they’re contemporary and, in the case of the women’s East West, where the dial is read across the wrist, downright revolutionary. While Tiffany’s watches are reissues, there is a lot to be said for seeking out actual iconic pieces from decades past, most of which still look as relevant as they did when they were first launched.
TAG Heuer’s Aquaracer is an obvious example. Two years ago, a picture resurfaced of Bo Derek as a nubile young 20-something on a beach wearing an Aquaracer and nothing else. Once you’d gotten over the initial shock, you noticed that the Aquaracer was a piece that could quite easily have been purchased yesterday, not 30 years ago (OK, maybe you need to be a watch geek to realise that, but you see my point).
The same can be said of Chopard’s Happy Sport, which launched two new iterations at Baselworld this year. The original hails from 1993, when Caroline Scheufele, the brand’s co-president and creative director, decided to challenge conventional wisdom and put diamonds in a steel watch – prior to this diamonds were only ever seen with precious metals. Young, professional women approved of Scheufele’s decision and the Happy Sport, whose design has remained relatively unchanged to this day, was a massive success for the brand.
This is why you can always justify shelling out on that watch you’ve had your eye on: choose carefully and it will never age, never go out of style. I wish the same could be said of the records I picked up in the 1980s.