Watches are getting a lot more edgy

Forget the classic round watches. The shape of things to come seems to be more sharp edges than smooth curves.

And the humble part of the watch that makes it all possible? The bezel, the part that rings the dial of a watch and holds the crystal protective glass in place.

In line with the continued popularity of luxury sports watches, brands are increasingly asking for metal sports models with faceted bezels, said Eric Giroud, a Swiss watch designer who has worked with more than 60 brands. And the requests, he said, often cite the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Girard-Perregaux Laureato, both of which have octagonal bezels.

“They are seen as icons and very successful models,” said Mr. Giroud, who added that the Royal Oak is particularly “seductive because it has a very strong identity and there is a very nice coherence with the whole parts of the watch”.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Royal Oak, and the introduction of commemorative designs began in January with the 39-millimeter Royal Oak Jumbo Extra-Thin in gold with dial finishes like smoky gray and yellow gold ( price upon request).

“The intention of watchmakers in the 1970s was to stand out,” said Clémence Dubois, product and marketing director of Girard-Perregaux, maker of the Laureato (which first appeared in 1975 and was reintroduced in 2016). for the 225th anniversary of the house). ). “So it was really important to play around with different elements to make sure the watch was recognizable and could speak for itself.”

The Laureato features a round dial in an octagonal bezel, all on a round case, with alternating brushed and polished finishes for added contrast. This interplay of shape and texture really makes the facets of the bezel stand out, Dubois said, especially compared to conventional round watches.

But because the dial is round, the wearer tends to forget about the octagonal bezel so, she says, the designer has to find tricks, like alternating finishes, to highlight the octagonal effect.

Girard-Perregaux has continued to introduce new Laureatos every year, most recently the chunky 44-millimeter titanium Laureato Absolute Gold Fever ($17,900), introduced in November.

Zenith is also set on the 1970s, which in January revisited its first Defy model in the Defy Revival A3642 ($7,000). The watch’s octagonal case has a 14-notch bezel, with the contrast between the facets further offset by the unusual square hour markers and chunky hands, all set against a brown gradient dial. It followed the titanium Defy Extreme Desert ($22,000), introduced last fall, which had a 12-sided bezel handcrafted from hawk’s eye, an unusual blue-gray semi-precious stone that appeared also on the watch pusher guards.

But not all faceted designs are tales of rebirth: Seiko recently remodeled its round, solar-powered Astron GPS Solar as an angular polygon, complete with matching bezel, while the new G-Shock GM2100 featured a slim octagonal case and bezel. In January, Hublot unveiled additions to its Sang Bleu collection, with ceramic and gold cases and bezels that have been sliced, sculpted and beveled in alternating hexagons, diamonds and triangles.

And independent watchmaker Romain Gauthier — who has built a reputation for painstakingly chamfering or beveling his designs — recently introduced the titanium Continuum (at $42,550, significantly cheaper than his other timepieces). The bezel of the watch has been machined to a circular bevel and then faceted with six indentations, each hand polished to contrast with the satin finish of the bezel. The same process was then repeated on the back of the watch, an effort he described as “purely a matter of design”.

Mr. Gauthier said it took time to perfect every facet. “The facet design depends on the shape and design of the chamfer,” he said. “The facets don’t touch – and my thought was to play around with different levels of finish.”

The bezel has been polished by hand — a welcome contrast to machine polishing that often looks too harsh and perfect, Mr. Gauthier said. “You see curves and it’s not perfectly clear. In the end, I think people love it.

While faceted bezels have aesthetic appeal, some brands are banking on their functionality, especially to improve the grip of dive watches. In November, Tudor, a historic supplier to the French Navy, unveiled the Pelagos FXD technical diver’s watch ($4,450), developed with the French Navy’s combat swimmers, and whose 120-stop bidirectional bezel was designed to optimal underwater navigation.

TAG Heuer’s key reintroduction last year was an ergonomic pinch on its Aquaracer diver, which led to more tactile fluting on the 12-stop bezel, a treatment the brand first introduced in 1995. And the Aquaracer Professional 200 collection (starting at $1,950), which debuted in January, has downsized cases to 40 and 30 millimeters from 43 millimeters, the size used last year. The collection is now marketed as off-road watches for extreme sports.

Tactility and precision were the starting points for military watch brand Vertex, which in December unveiled its first diver ($3,250), with a bezel inspired by the rear sight adjustment of a Bren gun from the Second World War. “They’re designed to be easy to grip and turn, which is exactly what you want for a bezel – especially a moving bezel,” said Don Cochrane, the brand’s founder, who used the spacing of the sight adjustment and distinct knurling design to create the scalloped edges and grip pattern of the M60 AquaLion.

Despite their rugged and rugged style, notched eyeglasses can also be feminine.

Bulgari recently unveiled the first female model in its faceted Octo collection, the skeletonized Octo Roma Tourbillon Lumière (price on request), offered in a compact 38 millimeter case and set with 239 diamonds totaling 12.5 carats.

And eight asymmetrical facets anchor Dior’s Gem Dior watch collection, which is inspired by the shape of rough gemstones. A new model ($77,000) with an aragonite hardstone dial is surrounded by a diamond bezel with a single slice of carnelian, a dark red semi-precious stone, highlighting the multifaceted beauty of the watch.

About Robert L. Thomas

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