Inspired by the Californian surf and skate scene, and transformed by early hip-hop culture, streetwear is a rapidly developing trend within fashion culture, and in its current state is diverging into a multitude of sub-styles and micro trends. As this style builds in popularity, luxury fashion labels are no longer turning their heads away, but instead actively embracing streetwear and integrating it into their identity. We are in the age when you wouldn’t be shocked to find Givenchy, Gucci or Louis Vuitton showcasing a streetwear-esque range down a catwalk – taking inspiration from the godfathers of streetwear – Supreme, Alife and Stüssy.
Despite streetwear becoming increasingly diversified, watches have never truly been appreciated as staple apparel. But could this change? As key sources for inspiration, streetwear could be drastically affected by the shift in hip-hop culture, with complicated luxury watches becoming greatly appreciated and admired. And as streetwear aficionado and Breaks Magazine editor Tom Kirkby highlights in streetwear culture, the actual clothes can be quite plain and simple, with a greater emphasis on accessories – “Keep it simple and concentrate on accessories. A nice quality plain white tee with good selvedge jeans is always a winner, then spend on everything else – shoes, watch, a tasteful bracelet.”
Learn from sneakers… Go all-white.
There is an uncanny similarity between watch collectors and sneaker collectors (better known as Sneakerheads). As a loyal and active collector, these individuals have a rich knowledge about the sneaker industry – always be on the hunt for unique, one-offs. In 2015, nothing was bigger in the sneaker scene than all-white. The clean and crisp all-white sneaker is now iconic in the streetwear scene, and while in the watch industry the trend is more towards all-black timepieces (Tag Heuer’s reissue of The Heuer Monza, Breitling’s Avenger Hurricane and Hublot’s All Black collection), there are some notable white ceramic timepieces that have the sporty vibe to match with sneakers.
A Chanel J12 White 33MM to match with your Adidas Superstar sneakers, a Tag Heuer Aquaracer to go with your Nike Air Force 1s or a white Christian Dior Dior VIII with your Stan Smith’s. And although all-white watches are typically for a female market, even men could sport a white Hublot Big Bang or Tag Heuer Formula 1 with their white Nike Air Jordan’s. Despite the all-white ceramic watch not being as trendy as it was during 2011 to 2013, the wave of popularity of white sneakers demonstrates that a notable market is moving away from the previously dominant all-black, low-key stylings, and opting for crisp accessories that have a fresher vibe.
Appropriate a military style.
Borrowing style cues from traditional military apparel is nothing new for either watch design or high-end fashion – in modern streetwear the MA-1 flight jacket (known as a bomber jacket and originally issued to U.S. Air Force and Navy pilots during the 1950s) has become staple wear. Plenty of watchmakers have been designing pieces for military usage for decades (with the first photographic evidence of the British Empire military forces wearing wristwatches dating back to 1895), and as their passion for their rich military heritage grows, they begin to incorporate a military styling to their more commercial pieces. For instance, Urwerk’s EMC Time Hunter, the Romain Jerome Pinup-DNA and the Avenger Bandit by Breitling evoke a military aesthetic.
A recent piece by Tom Stubbs for British newspaper The Telegraph, highlighted how watch design was also mirroring the desert chic trend that has become popular among luxury fashion houses. Timepieces like Panerai’s Radiomir 1940 3 Days and Tudor’s Heritage Black Bay in Bronze (with a greeny brown khaki strap) match the light brown, rugged aesthetic of luxury desert chic fashion – and wouldn’t look out of place in either Ice Cold in Alex (1958) or Flight of the Phoenix (1965).
Can The Big Watch Remain Trendy?
While in previous years the tailored style of clothing had dominated, streetwear has shifted perceptions, making loose-fitting, oversized clothing popular. A similar trend emerged in the watch industry in previous years, as the number of watchmakers opting to design a timepiece above the traditional 40mm size exploded – with Zenith’s Pilot Montre Type 20 (48mm), IWC’s Aquatimer Deep Three (46mm) and the Panerai Luminor Marina (47mm) gaining notoriety.
While many have claimed that this trend is well and truly dead – highlighting how watch brands showcased smaller, more delicate timepieces at this year’s watch and jewellery shows – there could still be some life in the ‘oversized’ watch style. In 2016 we’ve seen Hublot launch a 45mm Unico Chronograph Retrograde UEFA Euro 2016 model, Breitling’s 46mm Chronoliner Red Gold Limited Edition, and IWC’s new Big Pilot Heritage models, available in 48mm or a heftier 55mm.
With quality watchmakers reluctant to fully pull the plug on big timepieces, the oversized watch could find a new home within the streetwear scene. And as there is a greater blur between menswear and womenswear in streetwear culture, there could even be an uptake of female watch buyers opting for male timepieces.
The culture of streetwear today demonstrates that everyday fashion and luxury culture can unify. While high-end fashion labels perhaps don’t entirely welcome all associations with street culture, there is now a greater understanding of the benefits of embracing parts of it.
While the dominant trends within watch design aren’t necessarily perfectly mirroring what’s currently happening with streetwear, there are enough niche styles of design and previously popular trends to suggest that the watch could become more dominant in the scene in the future.