In the blink of an eye, we’ve now entered March. Bulgari, Hublot, Zenith and TAG Heuer had given us a taste of what’s to come for this year during LVMH Watch Week in January. And Watches & Wonders, to be hosted digitally this year, is just around the corner. What can we all expect?
We ask our industry experts to give us their take on what happened last year and what watches they’re hoping to see in 2021. Carson Chan, Consultant for FHH for Greater China; Barbara Palumbo, a veteran watch journalist; and Peter Speake, an independent watchmaker and founder of The Naked Watchmaker, share their outlook.
How did you feel about 2020’s watch offering and what do you hope for in 2021?
Carson: 2020 was a challenging year for everyone, including the watch industry. We (the industry) had to face multiple challenges including not having regular physical exhibitions, learning to present the novelties over the internet and spreading the launches throughout the year. All in all, it was difficult for almost everyone. The collection, however, is still quite decent – although many feel that 2020 novelties were less impressive – I believe this is due to having these launches spread all over the year, we don’t get this punch in the face effect. But looking back, I’d say we have a nice collection under the circumstances. I hope 2021 will bring us more products that are in touch with collectors’ desires/wishes. I dare to say, today, no one buys a watch because they need it, everyone buys watches because they want it, I wish brands can expand the consumers’ “want”.
Barbara: Personally, I felt that both indie watch brands, as well as the big players, provided the watch enthusiast community with a lot to be excited about in 2020, which, with most of the world on lockdown, was a welcomed emotion. Rather than drop the ball, brands like Breitling and Tudor found ways to make the releases of their novelties exciting, and with everyone already glued to their laptops and phones, it made it easy to see those releases quickly via various social media channels and websites.
What I hope, in 2021, is that some of the ways the watch community had to adapt to be able to stay in contact with one another don’t go away entirely once the vaccinations happen and everyone heads back out into the world. 2020 provided us a glimpse into the personal lives of some of the biggest names in watches. We got to see icons like Jean-Claude Biver and Maximilian Büsser talk to us from their living rooms via Instagram Live, and we witnessed collector groups such as RedBar or folks from popular watch podcasts such as Scottish Watches, gather and discuss the state of the industry via Zoom sessions. The watch community felt connected more than ever before, and in a global way, and I hope that it figures out how to keep that vibe going for 2021 and beyond.
Peter: For 2020 despite all of the problems companies suffered, many produced extraordinary products. The recent and future reality I believe will be that given the magnitude of the issues created by the situation, most companies will be forced to increase the value and creative aspect of products in general.
What emerging trends do you see (if any)?
Carson: Trends – under 40mm is arriving. Green is in. Salmon color is next.
Barbara: It appears that more brands are finally embracing using more responsibly sourced materials in the manufacturing of their watches, the straps they use, and also, the packaging. This should be a trend that every brand is on board with. Ethically mined gemstones exist, and the companies that use diamonds and/or gems in the creation of their dials, cases, and bezels, should seek those out. Fair mined gold and responsibly made steel has been used by Chopard for years now, and companies like H. Moser & Cie have made clear they are going to do all they’re able to leave a zero-carbon footprint. What I hope, is that while this may seem like a trend right now, it eventually becomes the norm. We watched Mother Earth heal a little during the pandemic. It would be great to keep that healing process alive.
It also seems that fewer brands are labeling their watches by gender, which is a good feeling, especially to those like me who are comfortable wearing a watch likely designed with a man in mind. I hope that’s a trend that will be around a while.
Peter: I don’t follow trends as a whole, what I have noticed from my own looking glass, is an increasing number of watches in the sport-chic sector, I assume attracting a newer and younger clientele and a slowly growing top-end technical part of the market with products of ultra-high cost and extremely high technical and artisanal value.
What brand are you most excited for in 2021? Why?
Carson: This is tricky, all the brands I like excites me! Moser, AP, FPJ, Rolex, JLC, IWC, Omega, TAG, Bulgari, A. Lange & Söhne!
Barbara: Probably the brand I’m most excited about year after year, and that’s MB&F. While on a writer’s salary, I may never be able to afford one of their “machines,” they are, by far, the most exciting brand in modern history in my opinion. They create watches that, 30 years ago, no one would have ever had the guts to make, or even think about making, for that matter. And after their collaborations with H. Moser & Cie in 2020, they threw the door wide open for potential collaborations with other interesting brands. I mentioned to Max Büsser recently that getting his various press releases in my inbox during the pandemic where like little unexpected packages being delivered to me. I couldn’t wait to open the emails to see what exactly was inside.
Peter: So many to mention, ranging from micro-brands to the established brands. Parmigiani Fleurier, their Hijri QP was incredible… we are eager to see more from them, also Girard-Perregaux.
What do you want to see less of in 2021?
Carson: Less watches that uses “new age” material, where they just change the case into some “made up” material but its actually existing material. Or launch a new collection just using a different colour dial or hands. Definitely less Rainbow…..(please, enough Rainbows already).
Barbara: I may get myself in trouble for this, but the answer is most certainly that I’d like to see fewer stainless steel sport watches with blue dials (which is bit ironic, because I gifted my husband a stainless steel sport watch with a blue dial in 2020, but only because he asked for it).
I’d really love to see more brands do what Rolex did and get more creative with their dial colors. Blue was big, for a number of years now, but there’s a point where something that’s popular steps over the line into the realm of boring.
Peter: Less transient brands that bring little to the table but exist because they ‘can’ given the tools available to everybody today. More transparency from brands of all sectors and a growing appreciation of the need for education on all levels to assure coherent and informed understanding of the products the client is offered.