3 Contemporary Watches
Not every watch should look like an old one. Vintage styling is nice and all, but choice is even more so. The world would be a boring place if we all liked the same thing, etcetera, etcetera. And so, for those looking for something a touch more contemporary, here are three different avant-garde alternatives for three different budgets.
JeanRichard Aeroscope 60650-21G612-FK6A
The cushion case shape may be a staple of Italian watchmaker Panerai, but its prevalence is actually a little more widespread than that—at least it was back in the 1920s. This was an era that sat between the downfall of the pocket watch and the emergence of the wristwatch—the very first of which were no more than just pocket watches with wire lugs soldered on.
Manufacturers like Rolex and Omega got a little more inventive with these rudimentary wristwatches, giving the cases soft corners to make the lugs shorter, less vulnerable and easier to place. Eventually the wire lugs turned into the integrated ones we know today, and the cushion shape was no longer needed.
There are a few brands that still embrace the cushion case look, some of which, like this JeanRichard here, that have evolved it even further. Under the guidance of parent brand and watchmaking giant Girard-Perregaux, JeanRichard has developed the Aeroscope, an aviation-inspired iteration of its base Terrascope line—here with the addition of a chronograph.
Contemporary usually goes hand-in-hand with exotic, and the Aeroscope is no exception, making good use of aeronautical favourite, titanium. It can be found in brushed, polished, bead-blasted and DLC guises, the modular case separated by finish for maximum impact. At 44mm, the weight reduction of titanium is a welcome side effect.
Power comes from a Dubois-Depraz moduled Sellita SW-300, but considering the £1,500 price point, plus details like the dual-finish crown, skeletonised hands and bevelled case edges, the Aeroscope has a lot going for it to make it worth consideration.
Bell & Ross BR-X1 Titanium BR X1-CE-TI-RED
As far as contemporary watchmakers go, Bell & Ross is already well up there—but that’s not to say the brand can’t go even further. So, take the square, aircraft instrument-inspired BR-01, give it a generous dose of sci-fi paraphernalia, and what you’re left with is the appropriately futuristic-sounding, £9,000 BR-X1.
The BR-X1 could be lifted straight off the set of Alien—had the props department not already chosen a Seiko, and had it not been shot forty years ago—what with the red-accented, industrial design clad in rubber and titanium. This 250-piece limited edition is industrially sized as well, 45mm case standing tall at 15mm thick, feeling every bit as imposing as the Nostromo commercial hauler that led Ripley and the crew to LV-426.
Staring down into the guts of the watch, it’s clear there’s been a lot of work done to the Dubois-Depraz module sat on top of the ETA 2894—what Bell & Ross is calling the calibre BR-CAL.313—to make it look like it does. There’s a stark severity to the skeletonisation, much like a Richard Mille, layers of blacks and greys descending into the chaos below.
Rather unexpectedly, readability doesn’t suffer at the cost of this complexity. Designs like this are often created at the expense of functioning like an actual watch, but the thick, luminous markers and hands, surrounded by the solid chapter ring and tachymeter do a sterling job of reporting the time cleanly. It sounds like damning the BR-X1 with faint praise, but really it’s the appreciation of a design that lets fans of modern styling have their watch and read it.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph 26405CE.OO.A002CA.01
You can’t talk about contemporary watches without mentioning the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore, and although the original was first revealed way back in 1993—to much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I might add—it remains famous as the textbook rendezvous of both tradition and avant-garde.
Like its granddaddy, the Royal Oak, the Offshore was very much ahead of its time; however it has had a facelift since it first started frightening children and small animals with its aggressive angles and intimidating heft, plus it also shares its niche with a few more competitors now, so we’ve all had a bit of a chance to get used to it.
With its 44mm, 15mm thick black ceramic and titanium case, it’ll still give even the big Bell & Ross a run for its money when it comes to imposing silhouettes, especially with the updated flared pushers taking up even more wrist real estate. Even the appropriately named Méga Tappisserie dial takes the delicate texture of the Royal Oak’s and pumps it up until it looks like an aerial view of Manhattan.
For £25,000 you get a level of quality commensurate with Audemars Piguet’s impressive back catalogue, especially in the traditionally decorated calibre 3126/3840—that’s an in-house 3120 mated to an Audemars Piguet-finished Dubois-Depraz chronograph module—which has been lavished with 356 parts—59 of which are jewels—a variable inertia balance and a solid gold rotor weight. It’s proper, and is best appreciated under magnification.
This extreme amalgamation of exquisite craftsmanship dressed in brutalist robes may be akin to holding a thrash metal concert at a library, but it’s what made the Royal Oak Offshore such a statement in 1993—and it’s a statement it very much continues to impress today.
The exploration of watch design has led to some positive developments—and a few abominations—and it’s always exciting to witness the cutting-edge of an industry pushing expectations, regardless of whether or not it’s to your liking. If it is, then it’s good news, because there are even more options than ever before.
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