Every brand is a fashion brand Every brand is a fashion brand

Every brand is a fashion brand

Buffy Acacia

The term “fashion brand” is thrown around in a near-derogatory way constantly by watch enthusiasts. Even though there have been plenty of proven success stories, there seems to be an attitude that companies who specialise in fashion or clothing can’t truly produce good watches. Well, I’m not going to start listing off the “good” fashion brands as if they’re an exception to the rule. I’m going to tear down the very notion, and prove that either all watch brands are fashion brands, or none of them are.

Louis Vuitton Tambour Fiery Heart Automata 5

The first complaint thrown towards companies like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermès and Bulgari is that they overcharge purely based on their brand name. Have you ever heard of Rolex? Even microbrands are regularly reaching levels of desirability which can skyrocket their prices. The Atelier Wen Perception has increased in price by US$1,000 in just one year, and customers are still more than happy to pay. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Monoface Small Seconds launched in 2021 at A$12,900, and now that they’ve reduced the thickness by 0.94mm, it costs A$17,000. I’m not saying that these brands are putting their prices up arbitrarily just for profit, but the fact is that brand power exists in all corners of watchmaking from budget to luxury.

Chanel J12 Eclipse Boxed Set 1 e1680059205818

If you criticise fashion brands for their lack of quality, you’re clearly not looking closely enough. Of course there are some brands who slap their name on top of a mass-produced watch with few redeeming features, but there are Kickstarter watches which do that too. In reality, most fashion brands actually do hold themselves to the highest standards that they believe in, and it’s all adjusted by price range. For example, if you don’t expect to buy a $3,000 piece of clothing from a brand, then you shouldn’t expect the value of a $3,000 watch. Armani Exchange is a great example of this, because you read the Armani name and expect something lavish. But, Armani Exchange is the budget end of their operation. Their watches fit that bracket, with quartz movements and relatively basic designs. It’s more than enough for someone who just wants “a nice watch” without thinking as deeply about it as enthusiasts do. Bulova make some watches with the same general vibe, does that make them a fashion brand?

Bulova Marine Star 1 e1686700669106

We’re familiar with the likes of Bulgari and Louis Vuitton doing incredible things in watchmaking these days, far exceeding what any other watchmakers would have to do to be taken seriously. Sometimes they’re still dismissed, but for the most part, enthusiasts can at least appreciate their technical prowess when it comes to their in-house movements. They are extreme cases though, and not every fashion brand can afford to go all-out on R&D for their movements. Whenever they use something off-the-shelf, it draws criticism. That’s not something that happens to other brands, even though they use the exact same calibres. If your problem is that a $10,000 watch is using a $500 movement, then there are a lot of Swiss luxury brands who do that too. Using those calibres allows them to explore more creative possibilities in the case and dial, and their proven reliability is also a benefit for their watchmaking reputation.

hermes h08 carbon

Finally, when there’s nothing else left to pick at, people will attack the looks. Whether or not those fashion brands base their watch designs in the same realm as their clothing, jewellery or otherwise, cynical watch enthusiasts will say that they’re designed wrong or that they’re ugly. Well, that may be true to your eyes. All watch design is entirely subjective, and just because something is different from the prescribed taste of dive watches or panda chronographs, does not make it wrong. Personally, I hate date windows at 4:30 on the dial. It’s a fairly common feature on fashion watch brands, but it’s also common on fan-favourites from Grand Seiko, Zenith, and Hamilton. They may not be designing the watches for your tastes, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for them.