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Next Big Thing - Watches With Steel Bracelets
LUXURY watch brands are steeling themselves for the next design trend - literally. In the past year, many familiar names in timepieces - H Moser & Cie, A Lange & Sohne, Chopard, Bell & Ross and Laurent Ferrier - have been rolling out new stainless steel watches with matching integrated bracelets - just when California banned the sale of all goods using crocodile and alligator skin.
It's a new direction for Moser, which has produced only classic timepieces with non-metal straps - mostly leather - in its 192-year history. The Swiss independent brand has launched the Streamliner Flyback Chronograph Automatic to kick off a new line of all-steel watches, including bracelets.
Similarly, A Lange & Sohne has introduced the Odysseus, a "sporty elegant" watch in stainless steel that features an integrated steel bracelet - the first steel, series-produced timepiece of the German watch company owned by Swiss luxury group Richemont.
Family-owned Chopard, where leather straps are a fixture of its men's watches, also revived its St Moritz model which was first created in 1980 and now updated with the new, sports chic Alpine Eagle collection.
Bell & Ross's new BR 05 steel timepiece is also designed to fuse seamlessly with a steel bracelet. It features "a remarkably flexible" integrated steel bracelet with "alternating satin-finished and polished surfaces".
Offering its first model fitted with an integrated stainless steel bracelet, independent watchmaker Laurent Ferrier, better known for its classical creations, traditional watchmaking crafts and mechanical excellence, has presented a more contemporary Grand Sport Tourbillon. The gravity-defying complication watch features a double balance spring and Laurent Ferrier's legendary finishing.
Whether they saw the California ban coming, the brands didn't say. According to Lange, its customers have been hankering for a steel sports watch with bracelet ever since the brand was relaunched in 1994 - long before the animal rights movement grew to be as big as it is today.
Moser started developing the Streamliner five years ago. It didn't want to just make a steel bracelet similar to those already in the market and put it on its existing models. It wanted "an entirely new and unique product line" but which would still be recognisable as a Moser.
Moser's chief executive Edouard Meylan is very proud of the new timepiece, especially its bracelet. "Highly complex in construction, the bracelet has an extremely fluid line based on organic forms," he says. "All the links are articulated and feature a gentle wave combining a vertical brushed finish with polished surfaces."
While they are made of steel, these new watches are still priced in the same price range of gold timepieces. The Streamliner chronograph, with flyback function and powered by an automatic movement that boasts a double barrel, retails for S$60,700.
Lange's Odysseus, which features a new outsized date in the classic double aperture, is priced at S$40,700.
The chronometer-certified and environmentally friendly Alpine Eagle by Chopard - which launched its new commitment to protecting the Alpine environment with its new Eagle Wings Foundation - goes for S$17,200. The watch comes in new Lucent Steel A223, which has the properties of surgical steel, making it 50 per cent more resistant to abrasion than normal steel.
Bell & Ross's BR 05 is priced relatively more down-to-earth at S$7,300. The watch harks back to the Seventies, while offering "a resolutely urban look and feel". The lines of its case combine round and square, the basic geometric shapes that form part of the brand's identity.
Laurent Ferrier's Grand Sport Tourbillon, which is a limited edition of 12 pieces, carries a hefty price tag of 172,000 Swiss franc. The timepiece prominently features circular satin-finished elements and a 44m case which has a barrel-shaped outline in the middle and a cushion-shaped bezel.