10/20/2023
 6 minutes

Haute Couture Meets Haute Horlogerie: A Fashionable Affair

By Kristian Haagen
Haute Couture Meets Haute Horlogerie

Haute Couture Meets Haute Horlogerie

In recent years, more fashion houses have hopped on the watchmaking bandwagon, ensuring that they don’t miss out on the success enjoyed by mechanical timepieces.

Fashion is a dynamic and multifaceted concept, encompassing clothing, style, culture, creativity, and industry. It reflects individual and societal values, is a platform for artistic expression, and represents an ever-evolving aspect of our daily lives. Fashion allows individuals to express themselves, adapt to changing circumstances, and participate in the cultural dialogue of their time. But it’s also an industry that overproduces and often leaves waste behind in the form of unsold clothing.

The contrast between the high-end haute couture garments produced by select luxury brands and the timepieces they bring into existence is sometimes striking. But it’s no wonder that numerous fashion houses are drawn into the realm of wristwatches, given that watch prices and profits surpass those of shirts, shoes, or pants.

When meticulously crafted, these watches can last a lifetime, and often far beyond, with proper maintenance. This longevity renders wristwatches an embodiment of sustainability, setting them in a league entirely distinct from textile-based products.

To quote Ralph Lauren in The New York Times in 2021, “I never liked fashion. I like things that get better with age.” And with that, Lauren somewhat explains why he, an avid watch collector, got into the watchmaking business in 2009 when he launched a collection of timepieces as a joint venture with Richemont.

Are fashion houses gaining a foothold in the luxury watch world?

A polo shirt from Ralph Lauren exhibits a durability that extends beyond a single season, thanks to its quality. However, it falls short compared to the enduring longevity of a mechanical Stirrup timepiece from the collection of exquisite Ralph Lauren watches. This highlights a pertinent sustainability dilemma that plagues the fashion industry.

Before Ralph Lauren’s venture into watchmaking, another notable figure, Tom Ford, made a significant mark by delving into the creation of timepieces within the domain of a fashion house.

Ford was responsible for overseeing the creation and design of the iconic Gucci G-watches during his tenure as Gucci’s creative director in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Ford was widely recognized for helping revitalize and rejuvenate the brand during that time, with watches being an essential product in re-establishing Gucci as a luxury fashion powerhouse. These watches were not mechanical, but nevertheless extremely important to Gucci‘s resurgence.

G like Gucci: the G-watch had a huge impact on the fashion as well as watch industry.
G is for Gucci: the G-watch had a huge impact on fashion and the watch industry.

Aside from two of the most famous names in modern fashion, many other Maisons have had success with their timepieces, while still maintaining a focus on high-end couture.

Hermès

Hermès has collaborated with some of the industry’s most respected watchmakers, such as Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, to create innovative and technically advanced timepieces that push the boundaries of watchmaking.

Hermès’ watches are characterized by their distinctive and often whimsical design elements. These timepieces frequently feature playful and artistic dial designs that enable them to stand out from your average luxury watch.

Given Hermès’ origins as a saddlery and leather goods company, many of their watches pay homage to the company’s equestrian beginnings. The brand incorporates horse motifs, stirrup-shaped lugs, and leather straps into their designs.

The Maison’s timepieces reflect the brand’s commitment to luxury, artistry, and innovation. These watches go beyond mere timekeeping; they are wearable works of art that appeal to people who appreciate both aesthetic beauty and horological excellence. With a rich heritage and a dedication to quality, Hermès continues to make a mark in the world of haute horlogerie, creating timepieces that are as distinctive and timeless as the brand itself.

Dare to wear a watch with an artistic dial design, like the Slim d'Hermès.
Dare to wear a watch with an artistic dial design, like the Slim d’Hermès.

Underscoring the seriousness of their timepieces, Hermès owns a significant share in Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier S.A, a renowned movement manufacturer. In addition to supplying Hermès with movements, this manufacturer is responsible for crafting calibers for esteemed watch brands like Richard Mille, Parmigiani, Gérald Charles, and Audemars Piguet.

Whether you’re drawn to the classic elegance of the Arceau or the artistic flair of the Slim d’Hermès, there’s a collection to suit every taste.

Chanel

One of Chanel‘s most iconic timepieces is the J12, first introduced in 2000. The J12 revolutionized the industry by introducing a ceramic case, a previously uncommon material in luxury watchmaking. This watch seamlessly blends sporty elegance with a high-tech aesthetic, making it a symbol of modern luxury.

As classy as the brands namesake: the Chanel J12 convinces in a white ceramic case and black details.
As classy as the brand’s namesake: the Chanel J12 turns heads with its white ceramic case and black details.

Chanel’s timepieces testify to the brand’s unwavering dedication to style, quality, and innovation. A notable illustration of their commitment to high-end watchmaking can be found in their collaboration with renowned movement experts, Renaud et Papi, back in 2012. This collaboration gave rise to a delicate and sophisticated tourbillon timepiece, the exquisite Première Camélia Skeleton, which showcases the Maison’s ambitious strides in the realm of luxury watchmaking. A watch that clinched the prestigious Ladies’ category at the esteemed Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève award show in 2012, 2017, and 2018 was the “Boy·Friend,” featuring the same Place Vendôme shape as the aforementioned models.

These are far more than just timekeeping instruments; they are portable masterpieces that encapsulate the very essence of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel herself – timeless, elegant, and forward-thinking. Chanel’s watches stand as a testament to the brand’s remarkable capacity to transcend the realm of fashion and leave a lasting imprint in the world of horology. Interestingly, they remain closely aligned with the brand’s couture heritage, often featuring classic black or white color palettes, echoing the founder’s preferences for her own outfits.

Dior

Dior‘s jewelry timepieces stand as highly coveted treasures within the world of horology, with their rarity and artistic prowess making them objects of desire for collectors and connoisseurs alike. Beyond their role as timekeeping instruments, these exceptional creations are often revered as wearable works of art, with the potential to accrue significant value over time.

Dior’s jewelry timepieces in particular epitomize the pinnacle of luxury, artistry, and elegance. They transcend the conventional notion of mere accessories, emerging as veritable symbols of sophistication and style. Dior’s unwavering dedication to craftsmanship and innovation is at their core, a heritage that finds its ultimate expression in these exquisite timepieces.

A minimalist: the Dior Octagon
A minimalist that strikes the eye: the Dior Octagon

Whether adorning the wrist as a striking statement piece, or cherished as a family heirloom passed down through generations, Dior’s jewelry watches are meticulously crafted to captivate the beholder and inspire awe. Their timeless beauty and inherent craftsmanship reflect the essence of Dior’s enduring legacy, where the realms of horology and artistry converge in a harmonious union of elegance and innovation.

A majority of Dior’s watch movements are crafted by ETA and Zenith. Notably, Zenith shares its ownership with Dior under the LVMH conglomerate.

Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton Tambour watches are a testament to the brand’s dedication to luxury, innovation, and artistry. They are more than mere timekeeping instruments; they are symbols of sophistication and style, and have been so for more than 20 years.

The Louis Vuitton QBB201 Tambour Street Diver with an automatic movement.
The Louis Vuitton QBB201 Tambour Street Diver with an automatic movement

Louis Vuitton watches cater to a discerning clientele who appreciate not only the heritage and craftsmanship of the French Maison, but also the fusion of fashion and horology that defines the Tambour collection. Whether worn as a statement piece or an everyday accessory, Louis Vuitton Tambour watches are designed to leave an impression.

Louis Vuitton is elevating its stature in the world of horology through the recent overhaul of their Tambour collection, as well as by presenting extraordinary timepieces that stand at the zenith of watchmaking craftsmanship and innovation. By assembling a team of the most seasoned specialists to showcase their unparalleled expertise at La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton in Switzerland, the Maison continues its relentless pursuit of excellence in the realm of high-end watchmaking.

Want to read more from Kristian?

Are watches still a good investment in 2023?

Watches and Wonders 2023: What I Saw and What I Liked

Marvelous Horology: Audemars Piguet and Spider-Man Web the Watch World 


About the Author

Kristian Haagen

I've been collecting watches since I was about 20 years old. I like vintage watches most; they often come with a fascinating history or a cool provenance. Provenance makes a watch far more interesting than any brand-new watch.

Read more

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