The worlds of watches and fashion overlap in one mission, which is to give its patrons an outlet for identity via beautiful wearables, but they are for the most part, separate entities with different priorities, audiences and seasons. Haute horlogerie values craftsmanship, technology and tradition, while fashion favours boundless expression, trends and influence.
But when the two domains join forces, the results are as electric as you’d expect, birthing an entirely new class of products that can appeal to both watch lovers and fashionistas. The trick though, is for brands on either side to to find collaborators that don’t just share an aesthetic goal, but similar values, too. When they do, well, magic happens, as this year’s matchups prove.
Audemars Piguet X Ralph & Russo
There is no lack of men’s sports-chic watches on the market, and among the most famous ones is Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak. While that iconic model needs no introduction, its ladies’ editions do, and the manufacture is going about it with a bang this year by making its debut on the fashion runway.
Four new references were on the wrists of models dressed by British fashion house Ralph & Russo at this year’s Paris Fashion Week. These comprise the 34mm Royal Oak with a diamond bezel, and the 34mm Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon. Both are available in pink gold or stainless steel, and the latter is the first women’s model in the Concept collection.
It was an easy pairing considering both Audemars Piguet and Ralph & Russo are family-owned brands that pride themselves in simplicity, authenticity and quality. The watch CEO Franois-Henry Bennahmias even noted that the fashion house’s clients had long been pairing their couture with Audemars Piguets watches anyway, which added to the fun.
Chopard X Kiton
If you’re looking for something slim, stylish and a little unexpected, this collaboration between Chopard and Italian tailor Kiton is worth a look. The L.U.C XP watch, Chopard’s in-house answer to ultra-thin watchmaking, gets a sharp new livery with Kiton’s fabrics, patterns and colours. The 100-piece limited edition L.U.C XP II Sarto Kiton features a dial with a houndstooth pattern (a Kiton favourite), the Chopard and Kiton logos at 12 and 6 o’clock respectively, and a fabric strap made of cashmere, wool and flannel lined in red alligator leather with a bit of red topstitching near the lugs.
The grey and black strap, dial and DLC case provide an elegant backdrop to contrasting gold indices and the red accents. While its 40mm case diameter implies it’s a men’s watch, the overall thickness of a mere 7.2mm (thanks to the automatic calibre L.U.C 96.53-L) should make it just as wearable for women. The watch will be available at Chopard boutiques and to Kiton’s private clients.
IWC X Orlebar Brown
Before Orlebar Brown, men’s swim shorts were in dire need of elevation. Thanks to founder Adam Brown’s frustration with sloppy, boxy shorts, that has since changed with the launch of his shorts and swimwear brand in 2007. Brown’s flair for adding elegance to sporty leisurewear is in line with what IWC has been doing with its Portugieser Yacht Club collection since the late 1960s, and so a natural alliance was formed. The collaboration is wonderfully synergetic, resulting in both a watch and a capsule collection of resort wear. Brown was highly involved in the design of the Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph Edition “Orlebar Brown” — a stainless steel flyback chronograph with a marine blue dial, and white white and red accents — and the teamwork continued in Brown’s capsule collection, which includes pieces like a white and blue towelling blazer and a photographic swim short depicting a Solaris 55 sailing yacht, the latter celebrating the recent partnership between the watchmaker and the yacht brand Solaris.
Jaeger-LeCoultre X Mr Porter
Men have never been as invariably dapper as they were in the early 1900s. Director Matthew Vaughn agrees, as he’s taking the slick Kingsman series’ upcoming origin film a century back in time. So does Jaeger-LeCoultre, which had been making some of its most beautiful pocket watches in that period. Where these three elements overlap is Mr Porter, online retailer of posh menswear and accessories.
To celebrate the The King’s Man, scheduled for release next year, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Mr Porter have jointly launched the Master Ultra Thin Kingsman Knife watch, inspired by an early pocket watch by the Swiss watchmaker. Knife-like bezel slopes, narrow indices and a 12 o’clock-positioned crown protected by a triangular bow are the obvious references to the past, but historically driven or not, this amazingly slim 4.25mm thick rose gold watch is a keeper in any age. This 100-piece limited edition was previously offered exclusively on Mr Porter, but is now available directly from Jaeger-LeCoultre online and in selected boutiques.
Hublot X Yohji Yamamoto
If there’s only one thing you need to know about Yohji Yamamoto, it’s that the man really likes the colour black. From Mikimoto to Adidas, his collaborations are almost always on the dark side. So it was all but guaranteed that the Japanese designer’s first partnership with Hublot — to celebrate the watchmaker’s new Tokyo flagship in May — would conclude in a stealthy watch.
That’s not to say the Hublot Big Bang GMT All Black Yohji Yamamoto is a boring watch. The Big Bang GMT is itself a useful traveller’s watch that shows two time zones at once; the fact that you can barely see them is the quirk Yamamoto fans will enjoy. The ceramic case also happens to be bead-blasted, which is a finish not often seen on ceramic watch cases.
A (slightly) more colourful take was released recently in September: the Hublot Big Bang Camo Yohji Yamamoto. The beefy chronograph borrow’s Yamamoto’s camouflage motif for its dial and strap, and is anchored by a matte black ceramic dial. The All Black edition will be available at the Hublot Boutique Ginza in Tokyo, while the Camo version is a boutique exclusive that is limited to 200 pieces.