Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of new editorial columns by our senior editorial staff. Every Monday, aBlogtoWatch aims to bring you a more personal, eclectic editorial expression than our usual news and hands-on reviews. We really enjoy creating these columns. This is the second installment of David’s column, “Grinding Gears”.
In the first installment of “Grinding Gears,” I promised to address systemic issues linked to not only looking at design and execution, but also buying trends and wearable habits. Here’s a good one for us to discuss: Are there too many steel bracelet sports watches and dive watches out there? More to the point, do we enthusiasts always see “luxury sports” watches completely outfitted in cold steel? Or do we want a watch that can go anywhere and do anything without compromising on our needs?
The Swiss Watch Industry Federation (FH, sometimes called FHS) published this chart via material on Swiss watch exports, and frankly, these figures should all be taken with a generous pinch of salt as they believe they are being sold. -in (watches exported to distributors) and unsold (watches actually purchased and worn by end customers). If the stocks fail to sell, the former is returned to the manufacturer in bulk, but we are not aware of the export numbers adjusted with the inventory buyback. A better indicator is the trends that brands are setting. No spoiler alert necessary: Brands make more of what they think they can sell — and what they know others have been successful selling. The slow-to-react, risk-averse Swiss watch industry showed unusual haste when launching steel sports watches fitted with engineering and steel bracelets — see that collage above.
Why is that? Perhaps the attention of consumers has shifted towards this type of watch. Much can be speculated about the main driving forces behind this, from people discovering a more outdoor lifestyle over the past few years to the skyrocketing values of trend-setter models like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Patek Philippe Nautilus and countless Rolexes. , attracts hordes of customers looking to pose with their own slice of the freshest “hot stuff.”
The question is, will the community repeat itself even if the product behind it all is really good? Is this really the best solution to our problems?
Steel is not a great material for watches & especially watch bracelets
I mean, what is it that we’re fascinated with steel? Is it really a great solution to our problems and expectations? Well, expectations vary among us, and yes, steel is durable, it’s corrosion-resistant and smooth, so when you bump or drop your watch it’s more likely to ding than shatter. However, having owned watches with cases and/or bracelets in steel, titanium, rubber, and ceramic (and many more that have been reviewed long-term), I can say that even a big knock can keep a ceramic case completely intact, but a steel part is very noticeable. And if you subject your watch to impact hard enough to crack the ceramic case, it’s likely to ding your metal case so badly that it becomes impossible to polish — it’ll have to be replaced if it’s cracked. Ceramic case.
If we look at watches as practical objects rather than objects of fantasy, we might ask, “What if I’m an astronaut floating in space and my watch doesn’t break?” — An argument is made for hesalite front crystals used in place of virtually scratch-proof sapphire, which can also be made for steel versus ceramic.
Worse, the steel bracelet isn’t as durable as most mid-to-high-end watch customers would probably expect. A key factor in narrowing down one’s shopping list for their next watch is certainly the quality of the bracelet – and that includes not only fit, but also finish. However, if a well-finished bracelet is of considerable importance, so is its desirable luster and durability of lustre. Now, even if a quality steel bracelet is structurally intact for decades, it only takes a few months of daily wear to show countless ugly scratches and tarnish its once fine and shiny polished surfaces. Refinishing is always an option, but a watch is only original once, and wouldn’t it be better if it stayed in that condition for longer? Well, steel doesn’t.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’d all love a bracelet that shows patina as easily as luxury steel bracelets to retain its original glory. No matter how careful you are, it’s only a matter of time before your precious steel bracelet loses its original luster — and, let’s be honest, an “emotional attachment” to a ding or scratch doesn’t completely replace genuine enjoyment.
Even worse, steel bracelets are not that comfortable no matter how many decades it takes to perfect them. We’ll put aside the fact that the majority of bracelets have links or clasps or latches with inexplicably sharp edges or corners and focus on what they all have in common: steel is heavy and cumbersome. To its credit, today’s steel bracelet is so strong and well-made that you could probably hang a washing machine with one – but there’s no use for that; There is a bracelet to fasten the watch to your wrist. No one wants to easily lose a watch because it gets tangled in something and the bracelet fails, but you certainly don’t want to lose your hand when your watch gets stuck somewhere in an accident.
Steel bracelets are engineered more for strength and less engineered for comfort.
Steel is heavy, much heavier than titanium (which is 40% lighter) and ceramic (about 30% lighter), but aside from meeting one’s personal preference for heft, the extra weight adds no value in wearing comfort or durability. It might be fair to say that those looking for that extra heft are oversupplied with options (to the point of choice paralysis), but those looking for a metal watch that’s as lightweight, yet durable, as possible will do. Choose from a partially small selection.
In cold weather, if you have a watch on a steel bracelet, you’ll be wearing a freezing cold metal ribbon – a first world problem, but annoying if you’ve just spent your hard-earned money. Your greatest watch yet. Ceramic and titanium, in my experience, are the most comfortable to wear in inclement weather. But what’s the point of a steel bracelet if we don’t need its powerful strength and can’t enjoy its beautiful finish for long?
The steel bracelet has changed the meaning of the luxury watch
The original Royal Oak was a resounding success, as it brought clear utility to a level never before managed. Audemars Piguet wouldn’t put it this way, I’m sure, but a 1970s Royal Oak means, “I’m so rich, I can pay more for steel than value-driven idiots pay for gold, and I can afford to wear it all the time without a care in the world. This was Royal Oak’s original message and it worked because it presented it in a language that everyone could understand: its screws were on display through a brutal but instantly recognizable design and its case size exploded.
The original message of a luxury sports watch on a steel bracelet is exquisite wealth and conspicuous utility. Today’s message is the opposite: I can only afford one nice watch, and I hope it does. Everything. I want to wear it to the office, to a pool party at the neighbors, and to a fancy gala dinner with a rented tux. No watch (or other object) can tell you everything you need to know about someone (not even naturally), but since we see watches as one of the few commonly used tools for self-expression, we might as well take an honest look at what a watch tells others about us. And no, your luxury dive watch isn’t telling anyone that you’re an avid diver because non-WIS people don’t know or care about what makes a watch a dive watch.
Are there many steel bracelet sports watches on offer?
Let us be very clear: the point here is that steel bracelet sports watches are not to be had or enjoyed. If people want them, they should have a wide range of excellent options to choose from. However, even the most elegant watches have a metal bracelet because they cannot be sold without one. Consider the beautiful Parmigiani Tonda PF as the most apt example: a slim and neat watch whose official press material is all about “sartorial” and “elegant,” yet a wide and extravagant steel bracelet dangles from it. The bracelet undoubtedly surpasses the delicate details of the thin case, two-step, hand-made platinum bezel and impossibly subtle guilloché dial. It’s a watch-head that never needed a steel bracelet, at least not from a design perspective, and yet it started with one — because it’d be a dress watch without one, and nobody wants one of those. right?
Steel bracelet watches are not as elegant as we like to think
Matching the color of my belt with my brogues or the lining of my jacket with the pattern of my socks or such sartorial pleasures, even for a basic person like me, a steel bracelet watch looks great when worn in an elegant setting, not to mention pairing it with a suit or a tuxedo. Some things belong on the silver screen and nowhere else: how you don’t say your last name, first name, last name when introducing yourself (unless you’re a desperate Bond-cheat), wearing a dive watch to dinner and the idea that you’re blowing something by turning the dial on your watch. .
In a way, and especially to people who aren’t looking, wearing a steel bracelet sports watch to an elegant dinner sends the message, “This is the only good watch I own…”.
…and the message isn’t that you’re an avid diver (which you probably aren’t), and certainly not that you’re the next Bond, ready for action right down to his chosen watch. No need to rock a platinum Vacheron, dig out a cheap vintage watch, put it on a nice leather strap, wear it with pride and see how well it suits those special occasions.
It’s hard not to see steel bracelet sports watches as a pose that’s really out of reach. Too often, steel bracelets hang from watches that will never experience a quick splash from a tap, and many dive watches hang on people who don’t dive or don’t dive regularly. It could be argued that wearing a dive watch to work because you’re a hobby diver is like wearing chest waders to work because you’re fly fishing. It was out of its element.
To close on a personal note, I like to own and use and wear highly engineered things as much as anyone – but a material that at any point loses its intended aesthetic properties and provides wearable comfort that is heavily compromised is not on the rough edge. Modern engineering. It was time to embrace watches on better bracelets made of ceramic, titanium or rubber (check out this Jaeger-LeCoultre review for a great example on a rubber bracelet) – which offered greater comfort, a more durable finish and came with more unique, expressive or interesting link designs. We’d love to hear your thoughts, and there are no good or bad answers: Are you excited to splurge on a steel bracelet sports watch soon, or are you looking forward to something new?