Watch Talk: What are Fashion Watches?

 In Collecting Watches, Watch Talk

If you mention the word “fashion watch”, every self-respecting watch enthusiast will most likely freak out. The internet, especially watch forums, is full of rants and discussions about them. But why is that and is it justified?

In this article, I’ll explain what fashion watches are and what you can expect from them.

The Usual Context

A “fashion watch” is a watch that’s branded with the name of a company that doesn’t specialize in watches. Usually, this means the name of a fashion house.
I’ve also seen the term “undie watch.” This refers to the trend for a part of the boxer shorts to stick out above the pants. That’s the part that usually has the name of the company on it.

The negative sentiment is, to a certain point, understandable. I mean, it isn’t flattering to have a watch with the same brand as someone’s underwear. Therefore, many people are negatively set towards seeing brand names like Calvin Klein, Armani, or Boss on the dial of a watch.

Back in the Day

Outfitters/retail chains having their brand put on a watch made by someone else is nothing new.

Longines and Cyma used to make watches for Harrods. Heuer and other companies made watches for Abercrombie & Fitch. Jewelry stores without a watchmaking background, like Tiffany or Turler, ordered complete watches from brands all across the price spectrum, ending on Tiffany ordering watches signed by them from Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe.

This had a lot to do with the fact that the customers’ loyalty was often to the shop and not to the actual maker of a product.

But Who Makes The Modern Fashion Stuff?

Fashion/apparel brands don’t make these watches themselves. They have no facilities for that, and they don’t aim to produce their own watches. Usually, they’re made by specialized holdings.

Hugo Boss and Tommy Hilfiger have their watches made by the Movado Group. Movado doesn’t need an introduction.

Armani? These are made by the Fossil Group, which also owns Zodiac and the STP ebaucherie.

What are fashion watches?

Emporio Armani chronograph.

What are they like?

Mostly, we’re dealing with Miyota quartz movements in steel cases, with a mineral crystal. Some also use Seiko ebauches. Kenneth Cole, an American clothing company, relies on Chinese movements by Sea-Gull (Tianjin Watch Factory). Of course, this doesn’t end on Japanese and Chinese movements. Calvin Klein, for example, has watches made for them in Switzerland, using ETA and Ronda quartz movements.

If the watch is plated, that’s usually IP coating; far less durable than PVD. So, whoever buys one with a black, gray, or gold-colored coating needs to be careful. Of course, if a watch isn’t going to be a daily beater, this doesn’t matter so much.

The one thing about these watches that doesn’t exactly scream quality is the bracelet design. There’s nothing wrong with a mesh; these are usually decent quality. The ordinary three-link bracelets, though, are a completely different story.

The cotter-pin design isn’t bad; at least it’s not that hard to adjust. Still, the manufacturer usually cuts corners on the clasps. Some use twin-trigger release clasps, although the majority still uses a friction-fit spring, with a security latch (also friction-fit). The finishing usually feels lacking, and these clasps often don’t have any micro-regulation. Not even a spring bar with a few adjustment positions. The only way to adjust a link bracelet in these things is to add or remove links.

The movements usually limit the practicality of a fashion watch. It’s usually a day-date with a useless 24h indicator, disguised in a faux-chronograph layout. And that’s often seasoned with a tachymeter scale, completely useless without a chronograph. Now, these aren’t bad movements. Miyota, after all, belongs to Citizen and Citizen is more than trustworthy. All in all, it’s not bad quality, it’s just that the design promises more than the watch delivers.

Don’t count on these watches as holiday beater material. Normally, they have a WR rating of 30m. Seen ones rated to 50m, but they’re in the minority.

What's a fashion watch?

Esprit chronograph.

What Are You Paying For, Then?

The brand. I wouldn’t demonize that as a typical evil of fashion brands, though. Loads of watch companies do the same thing – jack up the price over and over, without delivering anything more than they used to before the price increase.

Besides, for many people, the brand tag and the design from their favorite fashion brand is what matters. There’s a demand, so, therefore, there’s supply.

What about the ones priced at more than a few grand?

Brands like Chanel or Hermes have their watch divisions by now.

Historically, Hermes only ever had watches made for them. Chanel, focusing on fragrances and ladies’ clothing, never really was into watches in the first place. These companies are fashion houses, outfitters.

Only Hermes ever had more to do with watches, because they were a big-time watch retailer. In the last few years, they have heavily invested in developing their watch departments. Some of them have outstanding movements. If they’re not made from scratch for them, then at least they use ebauches from the likes of Vaucher or Technotime.

It wouldn’t be fair to put them in the same category as Armani, for example. Technically, they fit the description of a fashion watch, but they’re too far ahead of what’s usually meant by the term.

What's a fashion watch?

Daniel Wellington dress watch.

All in all

Fashion watches are made for a target dem very different from the WIS. Even if the manufacturer adds a GMT function to a fashion watch, the target customer will likely never use it. It’s just a design that has to stand out and highlight the designer’s label on the dial.

They’re not bad watches. Of course, there are exceptions. A fashion watch that feels like it’s about to fall apart doesn’t surprise me. Still, they’re not the sort sold on TV shopping channels, notorious for leaking or having parts fall off – that’s Invicta territory.

Manufacturers of fashion watches make little – if any – promises. They aren’t designed to be field watches or dive watches, so they don’t have to be extremely rugged or have decent water resistance. All they have to do is stand out and complement an outfit.

What’s your take on fashion watches? Let me know in the comments below.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Avatar
    Chayal M L
    Reply

    Very informative as always.
    Thanks.

    Chayal.

  • Avatar
    Remo Peter
    Reply

    Do you have an idea who made the Carrera (the goggles brand) watches? Heavy steel, TV screen shape, ETA 2824 inside, “Murat Yakin” edition. I need additional links to lengthen the strap. Carrera aftersales seem to have no clue, so maybe contacting the actual maker could help me.

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