After years of excess and euphoria, the order is to slow down, appreciate, return to the origins. A trend that is not limited to the watch industry, but extends to all markets at a time when legitimacy is sought, not only aesthetic and technical, but also environmental, historical and cultural. The desire for excess is over, giving way to a return to simplicity.
In recent years, across markets, we have been witnessing a kind of return to the origins. A strong trend that has led consumers to look for authentic and differentiated products and experiences that allow them to express their individuality, reevaluating consumer habits, moving from open materialism to simplicity, authenticity and individuality and starting to value more quality and unique offers.
According to Euromonitor International’s report on consumer habits in 2019, consumers will favor products that are positioned as simplified, back to basics and better quality. From the desire for authentic travel as an alternative to package holidays, focusing on locality and authenticity as well as ecotourism, to handcrafted drinks, to organic food, this shift in consumer values favors a return to origins and simplicity in virtually every sector of society.
And High Watchmaking is not immune to this trend. After years of excess and euphoria, we have witnessed a return to greater moderation, both technically and aesthetically. Gone are the days when windows cluttered with huge watches with avantgarde designs and full of complications, whose indications overlapped, making the passage of time very difficult to read. By this we mean that complications have died and that, from now on, we will only have models with hours, minutes and seconds? Of course not. Complicated watches continue and will continue to exist. The way complications are displayed is what has been changing, being much more sober and clean.
It is, in the end, a kind of “neoclassical” trend, based on much more discreet and, above all, much thinner designs, which has been gaining popularity for some years and which has led the watch brands to present models based on simplicity, purity of lines and a restricted choice of materials. It will probably be more than a need for simplicity, a search for the perfect balance, where simplicity is more of an aesthetic facade that hides technical complexities.
Practical examples abound in the collections of the most reputable brands. This is the case of Breguet Classique Decentralized Seconds, whose white enamel dial raises the purity of the design to a maximum level of sophistication; or Vacheron Constantin Patrimony, whose sober and simple face lends it a timeless elegance. Bolder for the colors he wears, the Glashütte Original Sixties Annual Edition also keeps the dial clean, betting on a vintage sobriety in warm tones. And of course Cartier’s classic Santos Dumond and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak, two examples of simplicity with a sporty twist.
This return to the origins of watchmaking also brings with it another return, this time to the old glories of the golden age of watchmaking. The heroic products of this era – from the forties to the seventies (ie post-industrialization and before the quartz crisis) – are being re-imagined and, in some cases, recreated ipsis verbis for a new generation in love with a great design with a vintage feel.
Also in this category there is no shortage of noteworthy examples. Take, for example, the icon of the icons, the Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch, whose design has changed little over the years and a model frequently revisited by Omega, which remains timeless to this day. Or Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms, which in 2019 gets a reissue of a late-1960s model, the Barakuda.
Breitling also plunged into the brand’s historical archives to retrieve and reissue the Premier line, a collection of everyday watches originally launched in the 1940s. IWC dedicates 2019 to the Pilot family. An icon among the brand’s historic collections since the mid-1930s, the Pilot line has developed in parallel with aviation, inspired by pilots’ precision and readability needs, and remains one of the pillars of IWC to this day.
Whether they are vintage-inspired models or sober and elegant pieces per se, the time for watchmaking “excesses” seems to be behind us, giving way to a return to origins where – as Leonardo Da Vinci said – “simplicity is the maximum sophistication ”.