Five watch trends Tom wants to see more of in 2024 Five watch trends Tom wants to see more of in 2024

Five watch trends Tom wants to see more of in 2024

Tom Austin

In response to my recent hit piece on the smartwatch, everything green and having to wait for everything, I thought it’s only fair we take a look at watch trends I think we should see more of for 2024. These are the things that I love seeing, and also enjoy seeing everyone else make the most of too. Styles are changing, we’re seeing fewer releases with gaudy colours now, and these changes are happening fast. New releases are constant, and we are beginning to call time on the AD games, with brands seeking new distribution methods and trying hard to get new watches onto your wrists, in the right way. I’m rather excited for 2024, and we’re only a few weeks in. Let’s take a look at what I think we could be looking forward to.

A sizing reshuffle

Baltic hermetique tourer beige

Whenever I see posts about watch trends on socials, a common theme is among us. For the last decade or so, despite us all begging for the opposite, watch brands have insisted on delivering bigger and bigger watches. In the past couple of years, we’ve even seen the biggest production Rolex ever released, the monstrous 50mm Deepsea Challenge, a watch nobody asked for and, even more importantly, no one in their right mind can actually wear. Watch catalogues are littered with 40, 43 even 45.5-millimeter pieces (yes, I’m looking at you, Omega) right now, and I fear unless someone says something, we’re going to end up in the oversized mess we found ourselves in during the early 2000s.

First of all, the luxury watch world is changing. Most of us these days, due to the horror stories of cities like London, don’t really want to have a massive clock on our wrist worth thousands, acting as mobile “rob me” signage. Recently, it’s been more about subtlety, the ability to comfortably hide your watch under a cuff, and for the sake of style, having something a bit more balanced. Think more about wearing a watch, rather than having a watch wear you. So for 2024, I want to see more realistically sized sports watches, pieces with a little less flamboyant and perhaps with a bit more of an understated look. Also, thinner, too; we know you can do it; we’ve seen what Bulgari is capable of, so why does everything have to be 12-13mm thick?

I’m not just on a mission to get us smaller watches either, oh no. You see, if you’ve read some of my other stories, you’d know that I have some pretty thick tree trunks for wrists. This poses a problem for me. Most will say these days that a 36mm watch is the perfect size for all, especially for a dress watch. I sincerely beg to differ. For me, and most watch enthusiasts with a 7.8, sometimes even an 8-inch wrist, 36mm watches can look like a button on the wrist. I’m not a large person by all accounts, but the balance of the watch on the wrist can tip too far the other way. In recent times, I’ve found myself lusting over some new micro-brand pieces, more dress-focused, such as the Furlan Marri Flybacks. Their relative affordability attracts me no end; as a simple dress watch to wear for formal occasions, they’re ideal. Alas, at around 36-38mm, they’re just that little bit on the small side. I know, everyone reading this right now is saying I’m wrong, but trust me, you only understand if you have hands the size of shovels.

Bigger dress watches don’t need to be gaudy. They can still be thin and slender, with clean dials and svelte lugs. You can even use all that space to pack in more complications and more power reserve, something we all love to see. Sadly, I’m not cool enough to wear a small Cartier on a leather strap unless it’s a 41mm Cartier Drive, which, for some bizarre reason, is no longer part of the current lineup. But trust me, a few more millimetres matters, or so I’m told.

Earthy dials

Furlan Marri time tide outback elegy

Are we done now? Have we got all the colours out of our system? Tiffany blue dials… who’s idea was that? Have we finally concluded that the Tiffany blue dial is the equivalent of the middle-aged guy who buys a sports car to feel young again? I’m proposing a motion to rename the colour to “Middle Aged Crisis Blue”, so if you’re under 35 and love your Rolex Oyster Perpetual in turquoise blue or even the now famed Bubble dial, then crack on, enjoy that youth while it lasts. Let’s be realistic now, though, for a moment. Retro style is IN, and I mean properly in, with subtle denim overshirts, chinos, textured garments with rich browns and taupes, and creams, symbolizing effortless modesty and simplicity. I feel like I should be writing for GQ here. But, seriously, darker neutrals are all part of the retro fashion trend right now, and nothing looks more silly with a well-put-together ensemble than a bright red wristwatch. Watches for both men and women are now a serious part of the entire outfit. A well-chosen watch can make or break it, and right now, we’re seeing a resurgence in these subtle tones for dials.

Watches such as the Furlan Marri x Time+Tide Outback Elegy with its metallic chocolate dial, finished with warm rose gold dial appliqués, or the new Zenith Chronomaster Original, featuring a slate-grey panda dial, almost giving it an aged look without taking it too far. Or perhaps the Baltic Aquascaphe Bronze Brown, with its, as Mitchell Barber put it, “Havana Tobacco” gradient dial. This is the kind of direction we’re heading in: more subtle, more subdued, and far less in-your-face. We’ve already got things like the Rolex GMT Master II Rootbeer, so I’d be surprised to see the Crown head in that direction much more, but I can’t help but think what a Submariner might look like with a gradient chocolate dial. Or instead of the green Omega Seamaster 300M, what about a new version more akin to the 007 edition, one of the best Seamasters ever made? Brown’s the way forward, kids!


Time Tide Studio

Much in line with my comments on waiting lists in the previous article, it has to be said that overall none of us like waiting for things, especially in 2024. There’s perhaps a difference when patiently anticipating the delivery of something special that you’re having custom-made, for example, that I can abide by. However, settling down for the lengthy entr’acte while your authorised dealer silently passes judgment on whether you are worthy enough is something entirely different. Thankfully, in recent months, we’ve seen the thermonuclear secondary watch market cool right off, meaning that backpack flippers are having a much tougher time turning a profit out of the doors of the AD. This has seemingly increased “got the call” posts shared online, so something must be heading in the right direction.

Nevertheless, the watch market is still growing considerably. More and more people are finding enjoyment in these little devices, and that just means that demand is forever increasing. It often exceeds what manufacturers can keep up with, irrespective of what you may have heard. Take Rolex as just one example, as we have a rough idea of how many watches they make, which was about 800,000 watches per year back when COSC certification used to be published in 2016. Let’s round up the estimate to 1 million, seeing as we’re a few years on now. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, if you consider there are around 62.4 million millionaires in the world as a rough metric, it’s fair to say a decent percentage of them are Rolex enthusiasts, but let’s be conservative and say that only 1% of them are. That already accounts for over half of Rolex’s entire year’s supply. And that’s not even taking into account the Rolex enthusiasts who are not millionaires, of which there are likely a hell of a lot more. Do you see where I’m going here? Even when churning out 1.2+ million watches a year, the brand still cannot keep up with the incredible demand year on year.

And yet, the word “Hype” seems to have been well and truly left in 2023. Across the board, most new releases that are considered hard to get ahold of are currently selling at or around retail prices on the secondary market. There’s certainly a shift happening, and if you’re in the position to, it could be a great time to be looking at trying to get that dream watch you’ve been lusting over. Also, we’re seeing brands take a different route when it comes to the distribution of more limited models. Timed releases, where you have a set amount of time in which to place your order, are becoming more commonplace. It doesn’t always negate the post-sale flipping, but it’s certainly doing more to get watches into the hands of people who really want them. Events and launches held at locations such as the Time & Tide Watch Discovery Studio are perfect, because not only can you access the watches you want, but you can meet like-minded watch nuts, too! We want more of this please watch brands!


Studio Underd0g 02 series innovation

We’re getting ever closer to that time of year. Watches & Wonders 2024 is merely weeks away and we will see what the biggest watch brands in the industry have cooked up for us to enjoy. What will it be this time? A jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring change from 40mm to 41mm? A GMT with an inspired black and red rotating bezel? A tool watch that’s 32% more expensive than last year’s model for no obvious reason whatsoever? Of course, I’m being facetious; we all love speculating what’s going to arrive just as much as we like tearing it apart once we see it. But one thing stands out as an overbearing generalisation every year: the lack of true innovation in the space from the biggest brands. Granted, I suppose one could argue that displaying the time is a fairly limited practice, and there’s only so much you can do with a watch.

However, I’d argue that there is so much more you can do with a watch. We could be seeing thinner dive watches with more interesting dials, turning functionality on its head, and exploring new avenues of design. What about bracelet design? Customisation is the new meta, with everyone wanting something special to make their own, so when are we likely to see more quick-release strap systems that are durable and don’t involve a spring bar that flies across the room? The 80s and 90s brought us watches that changed the landscape of watch design entirely. Arguably, we’ve been playing with these designs now for the last 30 years or more, so when are we going to see the next big change that doesn’t involve a digital screen? The basis for most watches on the market today came from the hand of Gerald Genta, whose classic visions paved the way for contemporary watchmaking. Who’s going to be the next Genta, to take us into 2030 and beyond with a genre-defining take on the modern wristwatch?

There are a lot of questions there, and not many answers coming, from what I can see. Watch brands often like to play things safely, and this is a pattern we’ve seen for decades. They tend to keep doing what they’re good at for several years before allowing things to settle in too much and become stagnant. We have a wealth of talent in this industry, and the success of micro brands is proving this. We’re starting to see these brands mature now, and they’re moving on from creating watches they know will sell because they’re in line with what the market likes to now heading in the direction of moulding their own identities and developing their own unique design languages. Take Studio Underd0g, for example, releasing their stunning 02 series with a wonderfully unique floating dial configuration not seen anywhere else before while remaining very “Underd0g”. Just wait until these companies start to roll out their own movement technologies. Then we’re really going to see the tides change.


Gold Watches

Whether you fancy yourself as a bit of an 80s Gordon Gekko or want to mark a special milestone in your life, nothing does it better than a gold wristwatch. With brands like Cartier to thank for refreshing classic designs with small tweaks to keep things fresh, we’re right in the middle of a golden renaissance. The success of Cartier has helped drive gold watches back into the headlines in the 2020s, bringing more and more brands along the way, and I’m all for it. There was a point fairly recently, especially in men’s watches, where gold was considered gaudy, too flashy, and a symbol of vulgarity. In many ways, at the time it was fairly true, most gold watches were large, cumbersome pieces and far from subtle. However, of course, trends change. Now the focus is on smaller, more delicate watches, usually on understated leather straps, looking to capture that quiet luxury, old money aesthetic. Social media influence runs deep, too, with the likes of Mike Nouveau running up millions of views and over 366k followers on TikTok. His channel is mainly focused on these smaller, niche golden objects, pulling in a monumental audience, often leading to prices going nuts for the things he finds.

If it’s affordability you’re after, even in gold, well micro brands have begun to reach into this field too, such as Baltic with their latest gold PVD MR01. Ok, so being PVD coated, it’s sort of gold plated, not solid gold, but that doesn’t really matter too much because it’s fantastically affordable, and the finishing is superb for a watch of this price range. Additionally, Tissot is another brand that has branched out into the affordable gold look, with the PRX quartz, automatic and digital, all being given the gold PVD treatment. This is bringing gold watches to the masses at affordable prices, and honestly, while it might not necessarily be your everyday wearer, there is now the possibility for a relatively cheap gold watch to be in everyone’s collection, and that’s a pretty cool prospect.

There are endless types of materials available to make watch cases with, to the point where it’s just not that exciting anymore to see a new watch release in steel. Gold watches evoke emotion, they can mean something more to someone. Yes, it can still evoke that feeling of being a little too brash or ostentatious at times, but I think that very much depends on the watch. A solid gold Rolex can give off the wrong impression in an interview, for example, but a simple gold Cartier tank with a suit can elevate things to the next level. It can add the kind of allure and sophistication you can never achieve with a steel watch, if that’s your thing, of course. Although, that said, a solid gold vintage 36mm Day-Date, with a champagne dial, can really help you channel those Tony Soprano vibes, and nobody ever told him it was too flashy, either. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t make people feel bad for liking gold watches anymore, we want more of them.