Wristwatch Annual 2012
The Catalog of Producers, Prices, Models, and Specifications
By Peter Braun
Abbeville Press Copyright © 2012 Peter Braun
All rights reserved.
Excerpt from Wristwatch Annual 2012:
An art and a craft like watchmaking should, by rights, exist in a parallel universe where the tinkerer-geniuses can invent, create, develop, and decorate to their hearts content and the designers and philosophers can discuss and argue form and function issues without having to worry about financing. The reality, however, is that this industry, which kindles so much passion and feeds many a family, finds itself in a somewhat uncomfortable position at the intersection of multiple interests. It needs precious metals and stones to survive, it requires technically skilled personnel, it often must have the protection of the law, and it further needs buyers who are ready to part with money for the pleasure of owning one or many watches.
So whether form should follow function and ornamentation be a crime, as functionalist Adolf Loos suggested in 1908, is ultimately irrelevant. The industry as a whole has to follow the money, and that is in the East. While the deindustrializing economies in the West sputter on, hyper-industrializing China has taken their place in the driver's seat.
The industry lives
The news was already loud and clear in the run-up to Baselworld 2011, with the announcement that February had been a bumper month for sales. At the fair, every second booth, it seemed, had some information on Chinese operations, doors opening in Shanghai and Nanking; watches with Chinese ideograms, dragons, tigers, roosters, and dogs painted on dials. The record spike in sales, as it turned out, was not a flash in the pan. The most recent figures emanating from Switzerland’s Fédération Horlogére suggest that the momentum has slowed a little, but 2011 could still be a year to top the amazing 2008. This, in spite of the Swiss franc having reached record highsuntil August, when the Swiss National Bank floored” it at 1.20 to the euro. The business deals are not all one-way. Chinese investments have also begun flowing to the West. In June, Eterna became the second brand after Milus to be purchased by a Chinese company, when Porsche Design sold off all its Eterna shares to International Volant Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of China Haidian. And if the Western world’s watchmakers were wondering about a squeeze in the market for Swiss movements, it was not from Swatch holding back it's ETA offerings. Switzerland’s Competition Commission stalled that strategy in the spring. The dearth of calibers comes rather from record sales of those precious items to China (including Hong Kong). The dismay was quite audible.
Perhaps this is why Jean-Daniel Pasche of the Fédération Horlogére was so adamant that the subcommittees in Bern discussing the criteria for the label Swiss made” should adopt the association’s proposal that 80 percent of each movement’s components originate from within the country. After some deliberation, however, the government decided that 80 percent was a privilege suspiciously like protectionism and opted for a 60 percent rule. The final law for all Swiss products, including foods, has not yet been voted on.
What the real outcome of the current horological excitement will be, no one can really tell. Even with heavy blasts of optimism, few can truly forget the vigorous drubbing the financial world dished out to those wild and gaudy timepieces that appeared unconquerable just a few years ago. The figures are looking good, but the feeling is like that of crossing a ravine on a rope ladder. Some brands have been upping their prices, while others have dropped them. And that seems to be the cantus firmus of the industry today. The watches in this year's Wristwatch Annua
l reflect this caution. What continues to amaze us all, howeverfans, collectors, and journalists alikeis this: In spite of, and at times because of, market constraints, year after year, the genius-tinkerers manage to produce a wide variety of timepieces at their work benches. Their creative urges will fascinate, irritate, impassion, amaze, or simply leave one's mind boggled, but seldom are any of us indifferent.
You will find many of their creations in the A-to-Z section of the book. The big brands are present, but space is also been made for the smaller operations, like a Paul Gerber, Dodane, Linde Werdelin, Stefan Kudoke, and Itay Noy. American brands continue to expand their presence, too. In addition to some familiar dials (like Ball, Kobold, and notably RGM, which manufactures its own movements), you will also find Deep Blue, Kriëger, Montana, the King of Bling” Chris Aire, and those masterfully sober Towson products.
Who drives creativity in the industry? Essentially, it is the so-called independents, who toil relentlessly at the forefront of design and technology, often investing years of labor and phenomenal sums of cash to achieve results that are so ahead of their time, only a few can even think of catching up. Elizabeth Doerr, former editor of Wristwatch Annual
and a top expert in the field, provides our annual special on the independents (page 10). It is followed by a brief survey of some rising brands at both ends of the market. And Bill Yao of Mk II has written an informative piece on waterproofing (page 68). Rob Spayne, watchman and Internet expert, is back again this year, this time with a sweeping survey of the bands and straps available online (page 364). You may be able to drive a tractor over your watch without breaking it, but are you sure you know how to wind it? And can you really wear that flashy diver in a Jacuzzi? Collector, writer, and freelance publisher Gary Girdvainis reminds you what not to do with your watch on page 374. Finally, the terms revolving around mechanical watches can be confusing, so we have decided to bring back the glossary at the back of the book. Let me close on a few notes about this year's edition. First of all, if you wish to contact the brands, you will now find a quick and convenient reference right on each brand’s page. Second, since the world economy is less regular than clockwork and exchange rates are unstable, the price is given for the watches are subject to change.
And putting this book together, my thanks go to Peter Braun for his work on the German edition, and to all the contributors mentioned above for sharing their knowledge. Also many thanks to Ashley Benning for her invaluable work copyediting. Any constructive comments are welcome as they will help improve the book next year. Enjoy the reading. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Wristwatch Annual 2012 by Peter Braun. Copyright © 2012 Peter Braun. Excerpted by permission of Abbeville Press.
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