How do you recognise a four-year-old kid in a forty-year-old’s body? Easy: he’s wandering round the Richard Mille booth at January’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, a huge grin on his face at the sight of the sweetest ever collection from one of the most virile, respectable, high-mech watchmakers of his generation.
In an age when everything goes too fast but nothing is ever certain, it seems childhood is the only refuge. In which case, what better than reassuring references to simpler times. Dads are borrowing their sons’ pedal scooters, mums are wearing candyfloss perfumes, and after dinner the entire family gathers round the PlayStation. And what about the way we dress? Adidas Stan Smiths adorn the feet of three generations (Stella McCartney does a vegan version). Hoodies are a staple of Casual Friday (imagine half a dozen Marty McFlys sitting round the meeting table) and watches have become the equivalent for the wrist of Proust’s madeleine – a sweet taste of nostalgia. So Richard Mille hit the nail on the head when it applied materials science and textured ceramic to its Bonbon theme. Marshmallow, Cupcake, Sucette, Réglisse… the brand has imagined a mouthwatering, powerfully evocative line that’s destined for success. We all saw the crowd milling round the entrance to its booth, waiting for… a packet of Fraises Tagada (the candy every French person ate when they were a kid).
Back in the day
Surfing the “it was better when we were young” trend, other brands have jumped in sneakers-first. RJ, for one, has caught on to the fact that adults like to read something other than anxiety-inducing novels (the latest Houellebecq isn’t likely to send serotonin levels soaring) and is playing around with comic-book heroes. Its Villains collection, which came out of the brand’s partnership with Warner Bros, features two of DC Comics’ legendary bad guys. The Arraw Joker, an automatic chronograph, and the Arraw Two-Face with manual-wind skeleton movement will bring these characters to life for watch-loving comic book nerds.
Linus had his security blanket for reassurance. Women have the Possession watch by Piaget and the soothing sensation of turning its bezel around and around. Which is when the dam holding back the years breaks and school days come flooding back. Remember how you’d sit twirling your pen for hours during class? Well it’s been replaced by the casual, almost instinctive gesture of spinning diamonds at your desk. It’s as though the fidget spinner had broken out of the playground and into the boardroom. Knowing how to nail a twisted sonic, a wiper or a double charge won’t get you a promotion, but there’s an irresistible appeal in a gadget that allows us to experience fun and spontaneity.
In a similar vein, Christophe Claret takes us back to seventh grade. Its Margot Velours features a daisy-petal “loves me, loves me not” mechanism – or in typically French style, loves me a little, a lot, passionately, madly. Think back to the screaming and giggling that erupted between girlfriends when the last petal was plucked (WhatsApp emojis hadn’t been invented yet!).
For those who don’t chime with this childish frivolity, hang on in there! There are watches that suggest a regressive vibe in a more subtle way. Very much in keeping with the current environmental trend, the Moser Nature concept watch will appeal to those of us who, in a not so distant past, grew lentil sprouts on damp cotton wool. It’s made from succulents, moss, mini Echeveria, cress, spiderwort and onion sets. The dial is in natural mineral stone and lichen from the Swiss Alps. Did we mention you’ll need a tiny lawnmower to cut the grass strap?
Another big hit right now: rainbow gem-setting, as seen on the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Rainbow with its cascade of sapphires, amethysts and tsavorites. Officially, we’re excited about its extra-thinness. Secretly, we love it because it reminds us of Ginger Spice in sequins. It is the perfect symbol of a certain whimsy made credible by serious mechanics and, by extension, the desire kidults may have to distance themselves from a Peter Pan syndrome they only half own up to. Is this a question they’re willing to answer? Whatever!