I must say that when my editor asked me to examine whether there’s such a thing as a winter watch, it had never really occurred to me that watches could be seasonal. At least, not proper watches, and not in the way we understand fashion to be.
Granted, Swatch and its kind do sunny-side-up watches in the summer, and can match a plastic strap to a particular trend (Taupe! Chestnut! No wait, purple!) even faster than a fashion blogger can Instagram it. But at the higher end, where watch designs roll off the line at the same pace as an elephant’s gestation, seasonal demands don’t really come into it.
Or do they? Winter does pose questions to the watch wearer — questions of the practical, sartorial, and sometimes technical kind.
Take as an example the hibernal benefits of leather straps over metal bracelets. A leather strap works much better in winter than in summer, just as a metal bracelet is a better fit for the warmer months. In summer, wrists swell and sweat, and sweat is a leather killer, which is why a lot of watch owners flip-flop — a strap for a bracelet when the sun is high in the sky, and vice versa when it gets nippy.
With leather comes color, and for the sartorially minded, a chance to be more playful — navy blues, grays, browns, dark greens. Admittedly, pairing can be a minefield, particularly if your watch collection is still pupating. Does your green dial go with everything? Probably not. (Which is why your first luxury watch should always have a black or a white dial.)
Otherwise, the simple rule of thumb when adding a watch to your get-up is to match your leathers. Black shoes, tan strap? No, never. Instead, pair those smart new black oxfords you bought to go with your new winter suit with some black crocodile leather. Zenith’s steel Elite 6150 will do the trick nicely.
And while you’re at it, approach your watch’s dial in the same way. Blue and gray dials are in vogue at the moment, joining standard blacks and whites as options for daily wear. Jaeger-LeCoultre just launched a boutique edition of its Master Memovox alarm watch, picking up from an early ’70s piece made by the brand called the “Snowflake.” It’s blue-dialed and blue-strapped, and it’s up there with the best of this winter’s crop of new watches.
Both blue and gray are winningly versatile, too. See: the gray-dialed Piaget Polo S. It only comes on a bracelet (which still works just fine in winter) and it looks wonderfully louche paired with a gray flannel suit.
The brown-shoed have always been well catered to with straps, but we’re starting to see more brown in watch dials, too. Chopard released an 18-carat rose gold version of its L.U.C GMT One at the beginning of November, a watch with a brown sunburst dial that radiates the fortifying tincture of a russety firewater. I’m sure we can call its second time zone a wintery feature, too – handy for that essential escape to warmer climes.
Speaking of which, winter often calls for a watch that’s serviceable well below room temperature. Breitling’s Emergency II is a personal locator beacon as well as a watch, and powered by a state-of-the-art battery that will transmit a signal for 24 hours at -20 degrees Celsius. Pray you’ll never need it (and be insured to the hilt if you do), but those inclined to head off-piste this winter could do worse than to add one to their kit list.
Batteries aren’t for everyone of course, so if you’re set on taking a mechanical watch into the frozen wilds, it would be a good idea to make sure it has a silicon hairspring. Hairsprings sit in the beating heart of a movement and keep them regular. Conventionally, they’re made of robust metal alloys, but those are trumped by silicon, which is particularly resistant to extreme fluctuations in temperature (as well as magnetism and friction, incidentally).
Tudor’s North Flag, a watch inspired by the British North Greenland Expedition of the early 1950s, has one. It proved its sub-zero credentials at London’s SalonQP last November when it was frozen in a block of ice for 72 hours, losing just one second during that time. Happens to look good, too.
What do you know? Seems there is such a thing as a winter watch, after all.