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Reworked evergreens a sign of the times

There is no apparent cutback in production despite the dip in global sales of luxury watches. Plenty of new models are still launched this year.

“Most talked about watch” of the year – Rolex’s new Cosmograph Daytona

NUMBERS are hard to come by, but more stainless steel watches were spotted in 2016 than in 2015 at the two launch pads for luxury watches – the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie and Baselworld watch fairs in Switzerland. There were enough new steel models this year to start a new trend.

Also more reissues than usual were on display and women timepieces were given a higher profile. The 31 pages that follow provide a snapshot of the new timepieces.

Steel is cheaper than gold or platinum and in lean times, it makes economic sense for watchmakers to turn to the less expensive metal to trim production costs.

For buyers, steel watches offer more affordable alternatives to those made of precious metals. They may even end up to be good investments in the long run.

Market voices on:

As our story on stainless steel timepieces noted, some of the record high prices fetched at recent watch auctions were for rare complications in steel cases.

Indeed, the most expensive wristwatch in the world is a steel grand complication which combines a tourbillon, perpetual calendar and minute repeater. It’s one of the most complex timepieces made by Patek Philippe and was offered for the “Only Watch” charity auction last year.

The one of a kind watch, Ref 5016A, was sold for an all-time high price of 7.3 million Swiss francs, or just over S$10 million!

The reissues are mostly old iconic timepieces given a new touch in design or some subtle upgrades. Watch brands are playing it safe by reviving such old models which were popular and sold well, rather than take the risk with new models in uncertain times.

Collectors love these reworked evergreens even more, according to another story in this supplement. For proof, look no further than Rolex’s new Cosmograph Daytona. The watch is basically the Daytona model from 1965, powered by a six-year-old movement and fitted with a ceramic bezel that’s already put on the rim of the rose gold and platinum versions of the chronograph. Yet, it was the most talked about watch at Baselworld 2016.

When the watches hit the shops recently, they flew off the shelves – even when retailers charged a premium for them, far more than they did for past Rolex models.

Finally, the women. Watchmakers are not pushing new models for them at the guys’ expense; there are still plenty of new timepieces for men.

But when sales are bad, watchmakers would want to seek out new growth markets – and the buying power of women is still not a fully-tapped source.

Even those with a macho image to protect have gone soft on the ladies. IWC, which prides itself for making watches “engineered for men”, has launched a pilot watch with a 36mm case – a size that’s just comfortable on a woman’s wrist.

Interestingly, watch brands popular with the ladies are looking in the opposite direction, paying more attention to men. Chanel presented its first male watch model this year – an in-house-built jumping hour-retrograde complication to boot. Cartier unveiled a new collection of watches in a case with a new shape for men.

While caution has become the watchword in the current soft market, there are still some bold moves made in the watch world. Apart from Chanel and Cartier, there are also other examples.

Panerai introduced its first minute repeater, while Bulgari presented the world’s slimmest version of it. Seiko put the Swiss watch industry on notice with a new rival line of mechanical timepieces. In case the message is not registered, the Japanese watchmaker also unveiled its first tourbillon.

Supplement editor: Chuang Peck Ming Sub-editor: Vivien Ang Cover Design: Jennifer Chua Graphics: Andrea Lee Advertising sales: Lina Tan 9620 1355; Tom Yuen 9623 1128