Trends really don’t show themselves in watches the way they do in, say, clothing. The lead times are too long, and the investments too great to take such risks as “orange is the new black.”
But, as British watch industry watcher James Gurney pointed out a few weeks ago, they do happen. They simply happen more glacially, with bets hedged against customer backlash by keeping true to other brand values of style, quality, and materials. Dials get simplified, but retain brand recognition. Dress watches get simpler, but you can still recognize the Patrimony Contemporaine Ultra-Thin Calibre 1731 as pure Vacheron-Constantin. The thin get thinner, perhaps even setting records as the Piaget Altiplano 900P did last fall, but you still know a Breguet or a V-C when you see one.
A few years ago, Rolex went with the then-recent trend toward larger watches with the DateJust II and the Day-Date II, both tipping the caliper at 41mm, up from the 36mm of their elder bretheren. The Sky-Dweller was introduced at 42mm. Explorers and Yacht-Masters with the ‘II’ designation have grown as well (the Yacht-Master II is a gargantuan – for Rolex – 44mm). The relatively petite 40mm GMT-Master II is the exception that proves the rule.
Stay alert as SIHH opens in a few weeks, and Baselworld follows in the spring. See if you don’t notice a glacial trend speeding by.