Minutes & Seconds

Watch brands persevere despite pandemic

1 AUDEMARS PIGUET ROYAL OAK OFFSHORE SELF-WINDING CHRONOGRAPH
1 AUDEMARS PIGUET ROYAL OAK OFFSHORE SELF-WINDING CHRONOGRAPHPHOTO: AUDEMARS PIGUET

Like many industries, the luxury watch sector has been battered and bruised by Covid-19.

Lockdowns, border closures and travel bans have dealt it a big blow to the gut. Organisers were forced to cancel two of the world's biggest watch fairs: Baselworld and Watches & Wonders Geneva.

Some watch brands closed factories and halted production. Others furloughed their workers. Swatch trimmed its network of shops and cut 2,400 jobs, one of the most brutal culling exercises it has carried out.

In a recent statement, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH) warned of a market contraction of around 30 per cent for this year. Compared with last year, watch exports in the second quarter of this year fell by nearly 62 per cent.

Recovery, the FH added, would be a medium-or even long-term process. However, the industry is hopeful that things will get better as more countries cautiously ease travel restrictions.

Retail sales data for June this year, released by the Singapore Department of Statistics a couple of days ago, showed that while the watches and jewellery sector is down 53.5 percent compared with June last year, it went up 1,236.9 per cent compared with May this year.

Watchmakers are also not resting on their laurels. Geneva Watch Days, for instance, will be held from Aug 26 to 29, an initiative organised by 17 brands including Bvlgari, Breitling and Ulysse Nardin.

This will be followed by Watches & Wonders in Shanghai from Sept 9 to 13. Held at the city's West Bund Art Centre, the by-invitation-only event hopes to draw media players, retailers and clients and will feature talks, workshops and showcases.

Meanwhile, there appears to be no let-up in the number of new releases by watch brands. Here are five notable recent releases.


1 AUDEMARS PIGUET ROYAL OAK OFFSHORE SELF-WINDING CHRONOGRAPH

Already available in various hues, the sporty Royal Oak Offshore Self-winding Chronograph gets three colourful new iterations.

Each model boasts a new dial design, black ceramic case and textured rubber strap. Available in smoked blue, green (above) and grey, each of the dials incorporates the waffle-textured "Mega Tapisserie" pattern and has new Arabic numerals instead of the traditional baton indexes.

Powered by the Caliber 3126/3840, the 44mm-sized watches are water-resistant to 100m.

2 TUDOR BLACK BAY 58 NAVY BLUE


PHOTO: TUDOR

When it was released two years ago, the 39mm Tudor Black Bay 58 became an instant object of lust.

This new model is equally, if not even more, covetable - with a dial and bezel in a glorious shade of blue.

It is a loving throwback to the aesthetic hallmark known as Tudor Blue, which started when the brand launched a diver's watch with a blue dial and bezel in 1969. This navy blue livery was adopted by the French for its Tudor dive watches in the 1970s.

Water-resistant to 200m with 70 hours of power reserve, this new timepiece sits lightly and beautifully on the wrist. It is especially fetching when paired with a silver-striped blue fabric strap.

3 TAG HEUER CARRERA 160 YEARS MONTREAL LIMITED EDITION


PHOTO: TAG HEUER

Earlier this year, the brand launched the Tag Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver Dial Limited Edition to commemorate its 160th anniversary.

It is continuing the celebration with a second collector's edition: the Tag Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition. "Montreal" refers to a collection of Heuer automatic chronographs launched in 1972.

The bright colour palette of red, blue and yellow on the dial is pleasingly retro. The heart of this 39mm beauty is the Heuer Calibre Heuer 02 manufacture movement with 80 hours of power reserve.

Limited to 1,000 pieces, the watch is paired with a striking blue alligator leather strap with folding clasp and double safety push-buttons.

4 ZENITH CHRONOMASTER REVIVAL 'SHADOW'


PHOTO: ZENITH

Last year, the Zenith team stumbled upon a black box on its premises which contained the prototype of an oft-talked about, but rarely seen, black chronograph.

Produced in 1970, not long after the brand debuted its groundbreaking El Primero calibre, the model was never officially produced or commercialised.

Instead of a reproduction, the Chronomaster Revival Shadow is a sleek reimagination of the protoype. The 37mm watch is fashioned from microblasted titanium, which accentuates the metal's dark grey nuances.

The manual-winding chronograph movement of the original has also been replaced with the El Primero movement. The watch - boasting SuperLuminova hands and applied markers which glow green in the dark - is paired with a textured black rubber strap.

5 HUBLOT BIG BANG UNICO SKY BLUE


PHOTO: HUBLOT

It has been a colourful time for Hublot, with the brand trotting out models in black, turquoise and "millennial pink" in recent months.

Leveraging its forte with coloured ceramic, the brand's latest release is in a summery shade of powder blue. The Big Bang Unico Sky Blue boasts a case and bezel made of polished, satin-finished light blue ceramic, and a skeleton dial in a matte blue colour scheme.

The 45mm timepiece is paired with a white fabric strap. The look may be casual, but the machinery is not. The watch is powered by the HUB1242 Unico Manufacture self-winding chronograph flyback movement, which boasts a column wheel and 72 hours of power reserve.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2020, with the headline 'Watch brands persevere despite pandemic'. Print Edition | Subscribe