ART OF AN ICON
Top watchmakers and creative heads weigh in on what makes a timepiece iconic. nic.
Adistinctive style; an inimitable identity – true horological icons brandish instantly recognisable virtues that echo through time. Creating a watch that becomes an icon is something that watchmakers work tirelessly towards. An iconic timepiece can elevate a brand and make its fortunes soar. Without one, watch companies risk mediocrity.
But what makes a watch iconic? History tells us there are some key virtues. An unforgettable design is one of them. It could be the profi le of the case, the markers on the dial, or the shape of the crown – distinctive features that make the brand and model instantly recognisable.
No self-respecting watch lover, for instance, could mistake the airplane instrument panel-like square case and dial of Bell & Ross’ BR- 01, or the reversible case of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso watch, for any other timepiece.
“Distinctiveness is the key element of an iconic timepiece. That’s what we focused on when we relaunched the brand in 1994 with the Lange 1 watch,” says Anthony de Haas, A.Lange & Sohne’s product development director.
Apart from their design, iconic timepieces may also be distinguished by the technical achievements that go into their making. In the horological realm, this means complications that become entwined with the legacies of their brand.
For example, mention the term “perpetual calendar”, and IWC springs to mind, thanks to the breakthrough the brand had in the 1980s when its proprietary single- crown adjustment simplified the use of the complication.
“The company took a gamble on my research and introduced the perpetual calendar at a time when the watch industry wasn’t doing too well. It was a gamble that paid off. Today it is one of our most well-known complications,” says Kurt Klaus, inventor of the IWC perpetual calendar mechanism.
In reflecting on the birth of his now-legendary creation, Klaus incidentally describes the process of making an iconic watch – it almost always happens by chance.
“An iconic watch isn’t created by the watchmaker or the watch brand, it is determined by consumers and the cultural mood of the time,” says Janek Deleskiewicz, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s artistic director.
Using his company’s experience as an example, Deleskiewicz says that their Reverso collection became popular only during the 1950s, despite being launched in 1931. This was helped by the growth of commercial air travel, which led to a demand for dual time-zone watches – a feature of the Reverso’s reversible dials – as well as a sudden surge of interest among women watch consumers, who took to the versatility of style that the collection offered.
Stefano Macaluso, general manager of GirardPerregaux, a company that boasts a strong line-up of famous timepieces such as the Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges and the Cat’s Eye range for ladies, agrees that making iconic watches is something that cannot be planned.
“All the right elements – the design, the technical innovations, the style impact – have to come together in the right combination and at the right time,” he says. “We can try to be intuitive and sensitive to what the market wants, but there is no secret formula. We simply do the best we can and hope for the best.”
BBee My Love, CChaumet
Ingenieur Perpetual Calendar Digital DateMonth, IWC Schaffhausen
Four Seasons Cerisier, DeLaneau, L’Atelier by The Hour Glass
HM3 Poison Dart Frog, MB& F, L’Atelier by The Hour Glass
Cartier Calibre de Cartier
Chronograph De Ville Ladymatic, Omega
Cartier Crazy Hours, Franc Franck Muller
Ladies First Chronograph Ref. 7071R, Patek Philippe