If the watch-collecting world at large is collectively snubbing mega-complications in grande case sizes, Switzerland hasn’t received the email. At this year’s SIHH watch fair (Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie), I did see wonderfully refined and equally impressive technical watches, but the vast majority of talking pieces from the exhibiting brands were large, complicated and really, really expensive.
A. Lange & Sohne – in my opinion one of the finest watch manufactures in the world today – showed its hotly anticipated Zeitwerk Minute Repeater. A minute repeater is the most regal of complications, and yet here it is housed in a 44mm-plus case. The price tag? Close to half a million US dollars (£330,000), and with no set delivery date.
Over at the ever-chic Cartier replica watches, the halo piece for 2015 was the Rotonde de Cartier Grande Complication. The work demonstrated in this thin, self-winding, minute repeating tourbillon is truly exceptional, but – again – we see a watch that is 45mm in diameter and around £400,000. The chances that I’ll ever see one of these outside a Swiss exhibition hall? Not high.
Audemars Piguet replica watches, whose own minute repeater was dubbed the RD1 for the incredible amount of “research and development” put into its production, followed suit in a 45mm case. Though, in spite of its presence at this year’s Geneva exhibitions, it’s a concept watch and will not be sold in its present form.
Which begs the question: why show the world’s press something that isn’t even available for purchase? Are Lange and Cartier essentially doing the same thing as Audemars Piguet replica UK, but instead of not offering any watches for sale are offering only a few to nameless clients in far away lands?
There are so many wonderful things being done in mechanical watches well below £300,000, but an outsider wouldn’t know it based on the press schedules of exhibiting watch brands.
To me, the real story at Lange this year was its entirely new calibre inside the Lange 1, one of its entry-level models. Cartier, meanwhile, produced an in-house movement that will eventually sell in watches priced at less than £4,000, and yet this was hardly mentioned in the press releases. And Audemars Piguet had some unbelievably creative new titanium Royal Oaks that were not mentioned at all to most journalists.
Why? Because there is an overarching desire by all high-end watch manufactures to keep pushing higher, despite there being few watch consumers (you know, the people that make this entire industry go round) who care much for mega-complications in oversized cases.
Sure, I understand the desire to say to the world “hey, look what we did!”, but it is not by the biggest and baddest product that a brand is defined.
Consider some of the most well-recognised watches in the world: the Rolex Submariner (£5,000), the Cartier Tank (£3,300), and the Omega replica watches Speedmaster (£3,000). These have come to represent entire categories and drive the whole business; yet none of these timepieces broaches £10,000.
It is my hope that we will soon start to see a greater focus on replica watches that actually matter to real people; watches we can live with. In 50 years’ time, will we really remember the hyper-tourbillons that are locked away in the safes of millionaires, unworn for decades, or will we think back to the pieces that we wore every day for generations, the watches that held our hopes and dreams, our successes and failures?
The replica watches UK that we as a global community will surely remember are the watches that we live with, not those with a six-figure price tag shown once a year in a yellow-lit booth and never seen again.