Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting master watchmaker Christian Laurent at the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacture in Le Sentier. He recalled the challenge of building the brand’s first minute repeater within the Reverso’s rectangular case. In the early ’90s, high complications were a rarity: The quartz crisis of the previous two decades had crippled the Swiss watch industry, creating a subsequent vacuum in mechanical watchmaking.
He explained: “During these years, there were few high complications and watchmakers who could make them. We had to learn everything ourselves. But this motivated me – when I was working on the Reverso minute repeater, I would come to work seven days a week.”
Today, the industry faces new challenges, from global socioeconomic instability to new technologies fighting for space on consumers’ wrists. But it is precisely these trials that are leading companies to sharpen their focus on what they have to offer.
For some, this means creating compelling timepieces that even increasingly price-sensitive consumers will find hard to resist. Our cover star, the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon by A. Lange & Sohne, is the kind of timepiece that watch lovers’ dreams are made of. Handsomely combining three high-end complications, it brings the much-loved Datograph family to greater heights.
For other brands, seeking out new audiences is key. While most ladies’ watches were once simple quartz accessories, more brands are putting mechanical engines in women’s timepieces to court an increasingly savvy female audience.
In 2016, a number of companies launched more-affordable steel models housing covetable features such as the perpetual calendar – good news for prudent watch buffs who appreciate top-flight complications.
Yes, times are tough. But the watch industry has been through worse, and come out stronger for it. For those who see the current challenges as motivation to do even better, there is no reason not to look forward to a brighter future.
Signed, Lynette Koh