Whenever watch enthusiasts hear the term “fashion watch”, they usually run away as fast as they can. Fashion watches have always been associated with either cheap, mass-manufactured timepieces with huge markups or excessively expensive watches from luxury fashion brands with no real watch expertise.
In recent years, however, the rise in popularity of mechanical watches, and even smartwatches, has pushed fashion watches to the sidelines. Therefore, fashion watch brands have turned to partnerships with Swiss watch manufacturers to produce high-end, mechanically-proficient watches.
So, is this a turning point for men’s fashion watches? Should you actually consider them over traditional watch manufacturers? And which fashion brands offer the best fashion timepieces out there?
Keep on reading to find out; some of the answers might actually surprise you!
What is a Fashion Watch?
Let’s start with the basics; a fashion watch is essentially a timepiece from a brand that doesn’t specialize in watchmaking. Fashion watches come in all shapes and sizes, from cheap watches sold by sportswear brands like Adidas to minimalist watches from accessories brands like MVMT and even expensive timepieces from luxury brands like Hermès.
Fashion watches became very popular during the 1980s with the so-called Fashion Watch Revolution. The leader of the revolution was actually Swatch, which created an entirely new watch category; an affordable and fun timepiece that could serve as your second watch (which is what the brand’s name originates from).
The next players to enter the fashion watch game were Guess and Fossil. These brands steered away from plastic construction and tried to give a more luxurious appearance to fashion watches. Together with their exceptional marketing, they established themselves as the go-to options in malls and department stores.
This pushed other fashion brands to sign licensing agreements with Fossil, and other watch manufacturers, to release their own fashion watches. The fashion watch frenzy continued throughout the 1990s and well into the 2000s but has significantly declined over the past few years in favor of mechanical watches.
What to Consider Before Buying a Fashion Watch
If you want to get your hands on a fashion watch, then there are a few things you need to consider.
There’s no doubt that most high-end fashion watches are very well-designed. And it makes sense; after all, who better to design a watch than the best fashion designers in the world, whose entire work is to produce appealing items for the masses?
You should take advantage of this and choose a fashion watch with a unique case or dial that you won’t find anywhere else. If it seems too simple and minimalistic, then there are probably countless similar watches from other fashion brands out there.
Also, try to pick a watch with good size proportions. Most fashion watches tend to be on the larger side, so try them on to make sure they don’t look too big on your wrist.
Build quality is usually a weak point for most fashion watches. The majority of them are very cheaply-made and can break down with a simple drop. You should ideally look for fashion watches with a high-quality stainless steel case and a sapphire crystal.
Another way to get a better-built timepiece is to look for ones with high water resistance. Even if you wouldn’t wear it on the beach, high water resistance will ensure your watch is well-built and can withstand a few bangs and drops.
A high-quality movement is always essential in a wristwatch. Unfortunately, the majority of fashion watches come with cheap, mass-produced quartz movements without any history or heritage behind them.
If you shop for affordable men’s fashion watches, try to look for ones with an automatic movement. These will usually have a good quality caliber from Miyota or Seiko.
Otherwise, if you want a luxury fashion watch, try to find one with Swiss-made calibers from reputable watch manufacturers. A great example is Ralph Laurent, who partnered with the Richemont group to utilize high-end movements from brands like Jaeger-LeCoultre.
Best Fashion Watches
Amid a sea of fashion watch brands who simply stamp their logo on cheaply-sourced low-quality watches and sell them for huge prices, a few strive to create great fashion watches.
Cartier is probably the first name that comes to mind when you think of fashion watches. Cartier is arguably the most famous jewelry manufacturer worldwide and also produces excellent luxury watches as a member of the Richemont Group.
The brand’s founder, Louis-François Cartier, established the Maison in 1847, but it was his grandsons that focused on expansion and marketing and lifted the brand to its current-day status.
Cartier is primarily famous for its square-shaped watches, a design choice that began in 1904 with the Cartier Santos and continued in 1917 with the Cartier Tank. These two collections include sizes for both men and women and are very highly regarded among watch enthusiasts for their elegant and sophisticated design.
Bulgari is one of the biggest jewelry and fashion watch brands in the world. It was established as a small jewelry shop almost 150 years ago by Greek silversmith Sotirios Bulgaris. The brand initially specialized in silverware but soon moved on to jewelry and, eventually, watches.
Ever since its acquisition by the LVMH group in 2011, Bulgari has established itself as a highly-regarded watch manufacturer. The brand’s constant strive for perfection is evident in its in-house movements and watches like the Octo Finissimo and the Serpenti collection.
The Bulgari Serpenti is one of the most unique fashion watches, thanks to its coil-shaped design that resembles a snake. The Serpenti first came out in 1948 and utilized mechanical movements from top watchmakers like Jaeger-LeCoultre and Vacheron Constantin. Throughout the years, the watch has evolved and become one of the best luxury watches for women.
In 1860, Swiss watchmaker Louis-Ulysse Chopard founded Chopard with the purpose of marketing and selling pocket watches and wristwatches. The company remained in the Chopard family for almost 100 years before German watchmaker and goldsmith Karl Scheufele III acquired it in 1963.
Up until the mid-1980s, Chopard focused on watches with third-party movements from reputable manufacturers. Then, in 1985, the brand decided to become a true watch manufacturer and craft its own high-end movements.
Similar to most fashion watch brands, Chopard focuses primarily on watch designs. One of its most iconic timepieces, the Happy Sports collection, includes diamonds underneath the sapphire crystal of a stainless steel watch.
Additionally, Chopard makes excellent men’s fashion watches like the Alpine Eagle 41, a stainless steel sports watch that even rivals the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak in quality.
Another member of the Richemont Group, Piaget, traces its origins back to 1874 when it was initially a watch movement manufacturer. However, during the mid-20th century, the brand registered as a watch manufacturer and began to craft its own timepieces.
Piaget is very well-known for producing some of the thinnest automatic movements in the world, like the Calibre 12P during the 1960s. Later, the brand survived the quartz crisis thanks to its great in-house quartz movements like the Calibre 7P.
Modern-day Piaget watches are famous for their top-notch diamond and enamel dials, which provide a unique style. One of its most popular timepieces, the Polo, is an excellent alternative to the elusive stainless steel sports watches from brands like Patek Philippe.
However, what made Piaget a true modern-day icon was the Altiplano Ultimate Concept. This watch came out in 2020 and is the thinnest hand-wound mechanical watch on the market at just 2 mm.
The True Fashion Watch Icons
Watch enthusiasts have always regarded fashion watches as inferior because they lack a horological heritage. While this is true for most, there are still a few outliers that strive to produce excellent luxury fashion watches.
At Operandi Firenze, high-end luxury watches are our driving passion, regardless whether they come from known Swiss brands, quirky indies, or surprisingly diligent fashion houses. That’s why we wanted to produce the best watch rolls in the market, to help keep your precious timepieces safe.
Our team sources the highest quality Italian leather. We craft our watch rolls with attention to detail and meticulous testing to ensure their safety and reliability. Consider purchasing one of our premium watch rolls to keep your fashion watches secure when they’re not on your wrist.
So, go out there, find your own fashion watch icon, and don’t forget to keep an eye on the time!