High on Horol­ogy

What el­e­vates a watch from the sta­tus of use­ful wrist adorn­ment to ex­em­plar of haute hor­logerie? Sean Li ex­plains

Hong Kong Tatler - - Style -

ven those with just a pass­ing in­ter­est in watches will have no­ticed that there’s a dis­tinc­tion be­tween watch­mak­ing as a generic term, and “fine watch­mak­ing” or “haute hor­logerie.” The lat­ter may be seen as a buzz­word, but it’s a se­ri­ous dis­tinc­tion that sep­a­rates high-end time­pieces from run-of-the-mill, in­dus­tri­ally pro­duced watches. Un­der­stand­ably, many brands want to be con­sid­ered among the crème de la crème—or at least within the pe­riph­ery of high-end watch­mak­ing.

There’s no short an­swer to the ques­tion of what dif­fer­en­ti­ates a “fine” or “lux­ury” watch from a generic one. Nu­mer­ous fac­tors come into play. Take his­tory, for ex­am­ple. Many brands proudly state the year of their found­ing, but few can re­ally trace their lin­eage di­rectly back to the orig­i­nal cre­ators. Many a brand has lain dor­mant for years, if not decades, af­ter the orig­i­nal founders re­tired or went out of busi­ness.

That’s not to say a brand’s his­tory is ir­rel­e­vant, nor that it’s not pal­pa­ble in cur­rent col­lec­tions. New own­ers gen­er­ally do more than re­vive the name alone; with ac­cess to the com­pany’s ar­chives and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, their mod­ern col­lec­tions bear ev­i­dence of the lin­eage. Also, a long his­tory it­self isn’t a re­quire­ment to earn the ap­pel­la­tion “fine”— prac­ti­cally from their in­cep­tion, some very young brands have joined the realm of fine watch­mak­ing. The bar­ri­ers to en­try are high but not im­pos­si­ble to over­come.

An­other fac­tor to be con­sid­ered is how many of a watch’s com­po­nents are made in-house by the man­u­fac­ture rather than sourced from a sup­plier. Brands that make their own parts and don’t share them have an el­e­ment of ex­clu­siv­ity that gives them ca­chet among col­lec­tors.

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