When so-called Fashion watches were introduced in the 1980s, they were cheap and flashy, with quartz movements and producers that churned them out according to license agreements with various fashion brands. When the renaissance in mechanical watchmaking took hold in the 1990s, however, quartz watches were relegated to the background, high-quality finishing began to take on a new importance, and the term “fashion watch” became pejorative. This creates confusion when it comes to defining the watches made by top fashion houses that, today, produce their own watches, and some their own movements, in Switzerland, which rival or surpass the quality and prestige of what the heritage brands are making. Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Dior are among these brands, which, in my opinion, should be labeled “couture” brands rather than “fashion” brands.
The principles of couture dictate that a luxury product be made only of the finest materials, with extreme attention paid to details and finish – or habillage as it’s called in the watch industry. Dior in particular heeds the principles of couture construction in its latest collection. Like Cartier, it uses an “inverse” automatic movement that places the rotor on the dial side, solely for the purpose of decorating it. Dior calls this collection the Grand Bal in honor of Dior’s famed couture ball gowns. The rotor, as it swings back and forth, resembles the skirt of a Dior ball gown, hence the name of the collection. The crowning haute couture element is feathers. The rotors of the new Dior VIII Grand Bals are dramatically decorated with feathers tipped with diamonds and set against a black Vietnamese mother-of-pearl dial. Last year, the rotors were set with white feathers. This year the dial pops with luscious gold feathers. Another version is set with pink feathers. The watches, including the bezels, are set with over 200 diamonds.
Not bad, for a “fashion” watch.