A good friend of mine is a serious watch collector. He has that dangerous combination of great taste and considerable resources, which means that everything he wears on his wrist is exceptional. But I remember him telling me that despite owning all the usual suspects, and fine examples of them at that, he felt his collecting really kicked up a notch when he got into the independents.
Not that long ago, being an independent watchmaker—that is, out on your own, usually under your own name, rather than making dials or cases for one of the larger manufacturers—was a labor of love. The upside was more philosophical than financial. Now? Thanks to a pandemic-driven thirst for rarity and novelty among collectors, indies are the rock stars of the industry, able to charge crazy prices for their wildly limited-edition designs, with high-profile connoisseurs clamoring for their attention, leading to waiting lists that are not just years, but sometimes a decade long.
So while it’s not entirely optimal for the client—particularly those going gray while their watches are being made, not to mention the significant number who can’t even get on a wait list—at least it’s good news for the watchmakers, right? Well, no, not entirely. Because the talent pool, those artisans who can guilloche a dial or polish a balance wheel or hand-carve numerals to such rarefied standards, is limited and shrinking rather than expanding. Just as in bespoke tailoring and the luxury-fashion industry, there’s a dearth of young creatives who are prepared to spend their time learning a trade, bent over a workbench fiddling with micro-size screws for years. Many already in the roles dream of breaking out on their own instead of studying at the feet of the masters, having seen the rewards on offer in the current market.
For this watches and jewelry issue, our watches and jewelry editor, Paige Reddinger (yes, she’s been busy lately), sought the opinions of those indies, to learn how they juggle the opposing forces of capitalism and craft. How can they expand to meet demand when productivity is so challenged? Do they even want to? And how do you advocate restraint to the young guns of the industry when they want to set out on their own so early? “Pressed for Time” begins on page 170.
Sticking with watches, we turn our attention to Breguet, as the storied marque is generating considerable heat on the secondary market, tipped as the next brand to see prices rocket. We canvassed well-placed insiders to suggest which references to buy now. But just as exciting is its latest release, the seemingly simple but devilishly complicated Classique 7637, a minute repeater that is the embodiment of elegance, with its black grand feu–enamel dial, rose-gold case, and—of course—Breguet hands, shielding the intricate chiming movement beneath.
Jewelry aficionados are well served this month, with the ever-entertaining Glenn Spiro the subject of The Answers, Chanel’s iconic tweed parlayed into a necklace of almost preposterous delicacy in Genius at Work, and a master class in how to style high jewelry in low-key fashion, pairing exquisite pieces from the likes of Chopard, Bulgari, Louis Vuitton, and Dior with T-shirts, denim, and leather jackets. That attitude chimes with the current mood of wanting to take joy from jewelry, rather than hiding it in the vault. Which brings me to our story on curating a collection for 2024 and beyond. Whether your aim is pleasure or investment (or most likely, both), you’ll want to know the stones to seek, the designers to favor, and the dealers to get close to in order to make your dreams a reality. Our guide begins on page 164.
There’s much else besides, as our test-drivers have been hard at it this month. We get behind the wheel of the new Porsche 911 S/T, possibly the most driver-focused 911 of all time. We dig deep into additive-free tequila in our Host’s Guide, try the latest antiaging products promising to bring science to our skin, and train in a somewhat silly/sinister-looking electro-muscle-simulation suit. Exhausting work, but someone’s got to do it . . .
Enjoy the issue.