What spindle pricked them, that they should have slumbered for so long? What good fairy was missing from their cradleside to bless them with a long and successful life? They had everything they could wish for – beauty, grace, intelligent design and manners to match their era – yet were cut down in their prime when the cold laws of marketing met harsh economic reality. Like a fairy-tale heroine, such is the life of a horological princess! Some live while others fade away. Now IWC’s Da Vinci, Cartier’s Panthère and Girard-Perregaux’s Laureato have broken the spell and returned to the fore, full of vitality, at SIHH 2017. A trio of collections from the 1970s and 80s whose resurrection confirms three trends: vintage is all the rage, ladies’ watches deserve to be more than pale variations on men’s styles with diamonds thrown in, and brands are bringing their past back to life with all the potential this implies.
Appropriately in this context of revivals, IWC is reprising a collection that takes its name from a Renaissance genius. Classical and round with harmonious proportions, the Da Vinci advocates a return to the discreet elegance that was already in evidence when it made its debut in the 1980s, with models such as the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar, launched in 1985. Now, after a prolonged absence, the Da Vinci returns fresh as a daisy.
Of the five models on display at SIHH, two are specifically for women. They are the Da Vinci Automatic 36 (with four variations) and the Da Vinci Automatic Moon Phase 36 (three versions). Joining them is the Da Vinci Automatic (two styles) whose 40 mm size and sophisticated but simple aesthetic are equally suited to male and female wrists. In all, nine watches with everything it takes to win her heart. “With the new Da Vinci collection, we are consciously trying to anchor the brand in the minds of women, who account for a significant proportion of watch lovers,” explains Franziska Gsell, CMO at IWC Schaffhausen. “Here in Schaffhausen, the company has been manufacturing watches for women since the very beginning. In that sense, we are remaining true to our heritage.”
What's new, pussycat?
Equally respectful of its hallmarks, Cartier took advantage of this year’s SIHH to sharpen the claws of its favourite feline, not as one of the lifelike renditions for which it is famed but with the “new” Panthère watch. First introduced in 1983, the collection had totally disappeared from the trends radar since the early 2000s. Now it returns, with the same powerful silhouette and roaring personality as the original, ready to pounce on female devotees of Cartier’s distinctive brand of elegance.
A softened square case, a bracelet so supple as to caress the wrist or nestle in the hollow of the hand, elongated Roman numerals, a blue cabochon set in the crown… Clear, simple, legible, unmistakably Cartier, the original design is almost untouched. Proposed in two sizes, 22 mm and 27 mm, in white gold, yellow gold or pink gold, with diamonds or unadorned, in stainless steel, even a gold and steel version, the Panthère watch mirrors the many faces of femininity with no fewer than 17 different styles. A sparkling version in white gold set with diamonds, the panther’s precious fur rendered in black lacquer spots, and another in pink gold with black lacquer catch the eye.
At Girard-Perregaux, 2017 sees the revival of a collection whose original design and positioning probably weren’t sufficiently well-honed to withstand the test of time. Reinstated, and widely applauded, in 2016, the Laureato makes a powerful comeback this year with a good thirty renditions in four sizes (34, 38, 42 and 45 mm), four metals and with four new movements, including a tourbillon and an in-house quartz calibre. “We want to reconnect the brand with its history and heritage,” says Antonio Calce, appointed CEO of Girard-Perregaux two years ago. “We must draw on its 225 years of history to propel ourselves into the future.”
Beyond the vintage look inherited from its 1975 predecessor, the new Laureato stands out for its ability to win over a wide and varied audience. Every segment has its place in the collection, from entry-level to the prestigious tourbillon, styles for men, for women, and unisex models, mechanical movements as well as quartz. “We were the first to produce a quartz movement in Switzerland,” notes Antonio Calce. “and it was this movement, which was awarded numerous quartz chronometer certificates, that equipped the first Laureato. It seemed only logical that we should propose a quartz model this year.” Ladies are first to benefit, as this in-house quartz movement powers the Laureato 34 mm. A repeat performance for Girard-Perregaux which, like Cartier and IWC, has written a new chapter for collections that were left dormant for too long. The moral of these horological tales: patience is a virtue, and everything comes to she who waits!