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Is that a dinner plate on your wrist?

Local retailers talk trends and the timelessness of a timepiece

By: Amy Crofts

  |  Posted: Saturday, Apr 05, 2014 06:00 am

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  • IN YOUR FACE – Big, bold, flashy and brimming with functions are the hallmarks of today's watch fashions.
    IN YOUR FACE – Big, bold, flashy and brimming with functions are the hallmarks of today's watch fashions.
    APRIL BARTLETT/St. Albert Gazette
  • IN YOUR FACE – Big, bold, flashy and brimming with functions are the hallmarks of today's watch fashions.
    IN YOUR FACE – Big, bold, flashy and brimming with functions are the hallmarks of today's watch fashions.
  • IN YOUR FACE – Big, bold, flashy and brimming with functions are the hallmarks of today's watch fashions.
    IN YOUR FACE – Big, bold, flashy and brimming with functions are the hallmarks of today's watch fashions.

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Nothing says superb “wrist presence” like a colossal chronograph strapped to your forearm.

And it’s presence, rather than time-telling utility, that body-borne timepieces are all about, say many of today’s style gurus. What the gurus have been saying lately is that big is good but massive is awesome.

Bold colours and bling are in, confirms Cathy Duggan of Paris Jewellers in St. Albert Centre, even if it looks like you’re sporting a small clock on your arm.

In the jewelry business for 36 years, Duggan has seen watch trends come and go with what’s hot – or not – in fashion.

Big coloured faces, ceramic bracelets (think lightweight and shiny) and colourful bezels (the ring that surrounds the face of the watch) are trending in wristwatches for young women, she explains.

With men, a chronic favourite is watches with lots of gadgets, such as analog watches with built in GPS, depth gauges, perpetual calendars and driven by solar power (such as Citizen Eco-Drive).

Aviator or pilot watches (think mini computer, cockpit instruments like fuel gauges and distance converters) are always a favourite, as is black ceramic, especially with “a nice gold bit going through the bracelet which really makes it pop,” Duggan notes.

Watches in midnight blue and luminescent green are big in Europe right now, Duggan says, and she expects them to catch on with North Americans soon.

“We’ve sold a few here, but it’s still not going over as I think it might in a couple of years,” she says.

Citizen and Bulova are two prominent watch brands carried by Paris Jewellers. Duggan says both companies – typically known for their conservative style – have come up with less expensive lines with “styles that are more snazzy” to attract younger consumers.

“I think what has happened in the watch industry is they’ve had to come up with something really fantastic because the younger generations seem to use their cellphones (to check) the time.”

She notes there was a drop in watch sales when cellphones became commonplace. Younger people now regard watches as more of a fashion accessory rather than a piece of jewelry.

A 2011 article in the New York Times stated that wristwatches were being rediscovered by the supposed “lost generation” of cellphone users, the “heritage-macho types in their 20s and 30s who are drawn to the wristwatch’s retro appeal, just as they have seized on straight razors, selvedge denim and vintage vinyl.”

But the interest runs deeper than simply possessing a timekeeper, or keeping abreast of fashion fads.

“In a world surrounded by ever-glowing LCD screens, there’s an analog chic to wearing a mechanical instrument,” the author surmised.

Erosion of quality

Luc Guillemette, owner of Gemport Gemcutters & Designers, sticks to carrying watch collections based on quality craftsmanship rather than fashion.

“We tend not to follow the usual trends, because trends tend to be very short. I would rather go with a brand that promotes quality, durability and a good price for what you’re getting.”

Gemport sells Pierre Laurent, French-designed and Swiss-made timepieces.

The most significant change Guillemette has seen in the industry, of which he has been a part for 38 years, is the dip in quality.

There are more and more knock-offs, he explains. A lot of brand name watches he gets in for repair have cheap “movements,” or interior mechanisms.

“It’s kind of disappointing for me to see a massive men’s watch with a 50 cent movement in it. If the mechanism is mostly plastic, I can’t see them having a very long lifespan.”

Plastic parts are being integrated into mechanical and quartz movements, the latter powered by a combination of battery and quartz crystal. Guillemette says there is less that can be repaired in modern watches.

He believes there is still a market for quality, because big faced and blingy watches just aren’t his thing.

“To me (it doesn’t mean) a whole lot. It might mean you need more exercise on a certain wrist,” he laughs.


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