There is little doubt that the relentless cycles of fashion trends affect us all, no matter if we are ‘fashion conscious’ or not. While some people worship the current tends, trading colours as the seasons progress, noting what hairstyles footballers and celebrities bear so they can mimic them, others claim to have no interest in the passing styles that grip catwalk and pavement alike – yet there is no escape. Whether we like it or not, the clothes, shoes, belts buckles and accessories we wear depend on a select few – those that decide what the shops will sell, and there is no denying that this is a decision based entirely on what is ‘in’ this season.
Watches are no exception to this consumptive force; at the moment a rich, vibrant blue is making a comeback in watch dials right across the market – a pleasant cooling sensation to counter the hot summer perhaps. With so many people influenced by high-profile celebrities that cannot afford to be ‘unfashionable’ (think snide remarks from women’s magazines), fashion is a force to be reckoned with; one that few manufacturers can risk ignoring.
Of the major watch manufacturers, few can safely bypass fashion trends if they wish to survive. Of those that can, the name Rolex instantly springs to mind. Rolex watches are a marvel to look at. Part of the reason that they are so iconic is the fact that the company has found an enormously successful design and stuck with it; a Rolex made thirty or forty years ago is not worlds away from its modern counterpart. The subtle differences in a Rolex’s appearance as it morphs over the years have as much to do with security and technology as to do with aesthetic improvements.
The biggest challenge that Rolex faces is not the endlessly changing (yet, ultimately, endlessly repeating) fashions, but endlessly inventive counterfeiters, desperate to cash in on the golden reputation that Rolex has developed. Over the years, Rolex has tried a number of different security measures, from holograms to laser etched crystal, and as these methods have superseded each other, they have left a minefield of mistakes for counterfeiters to fall into, which can help in their identification. Anyone trying to mimic an older Rolex has to get the security feature correct, as well as the watch’s design.
The subtle design changes that Rolex make every year merely nod in the direction of current trends – the new Submariner has a blue dial and bezel, but an updated model of the classic black version is its counterpoint, and few of the other new models feature much blue at all. The 2009 version of the Cosmograph Daytona is diamond studded, and its only homage to blue are the subtle, tasteful blue numbers around the dial.
While many watch manufactures appear to lead the way in terms of fashions, with new designs that show off technical prowess rather than pure aesthetics, the constant changing designs and appearance of these watches, in size, shape and materials reflects a deeper concern over their image. When a company’s more vintage models look ‘dated’, it is certainly a sign that they have moved with the ebb and flow of fashion, and not, like Rolex, created an utterly timeless fashion of their own.