It wasn’t so long ago that watches with fashion brand names on their dials were routinely dismissed as pretenders, mere arm candy for people with more money than good sense or taste. Sure, Michael Kors, Calvin Klein and Guess watches still twinkle obscenely from jewelry store counters, but other brands — ones just as often associated with jewelry, luggage and trench coats — have quietly elbowed their way into loftier company. Most of these companies don’t have their own manufactures devising the next triple-axis tourbillon. In many cases, the movements and sometimes the entire watches of these fashion brands are derived from corporate stablemates like Girard-Perregaux or Jaeger-LeCoultre; some brands have leveraged corporate expertise to build their own watch maisons.
At BaselWorld last month we saw a handful of incredible mechanical timepieces from brands we wouldn’t have looked at twice a few years ago. Here are a few examples. Never again will we take so-called fashion brands lightly.