— Twenty years ago, distressed jeans and the grunge look were in vogue. Today scuffed cases, scratched dials and worn straps are overturning preconceptions about the perfect finish in watchmaking.
In the end, collectors always return to their point of departure. After the wealthiest and most enthusiastic collectors have acquired countless Swiss replica watches stamped with the Geneva Hallmark, there comes a time when the need for a more light-hearted, quirkier watch emerges. Sometimes this means something a bit less perfect, but with more personality.
A number of brands have begun to dip their toes into the emerging wave of neo-grunge. First there was the discreet but highly successful Terrascope with 39 mm bronze dial by Jeanrichard. Its main feature was a generously scratched dial that combined an “unfinished” look with a metal that tends to oxidise. The dial of the Terrascope, nevertheless, remained protected from atmospheric assault behind a sapphire crystal.
More recently, Anonimo’s Militare models were subjected to the same rough treatment. Panerai was not so protective. The Luminor Submersible 1950 Bronzo PAM 382 has its entire case made of the alloy. The timepiece, which came just lightly polished, was unlikely to retain its lustre for long in contact with the sea air for which it was destined. Nevertheless, two limited series were not enough to satisfy the thirst of Paneristi.
If there is a bridge between these two worlds, it must be the Excalibur 42 mm with bronze dial by Roger Dubuis. It has the aged patina of bronze with the protection of a sapphire crystal, producing a distressed material, like the Panerai, which is unlikely to age further, like the Jeanrichard.
Bell & Ross recently took the concept a step further, offering a BR01 Skull Patine produced in partnership with Chronopassion. This timepiece, also produced in a limited edition (50 units), has been deliberately subjected to corrosion. The bronze has a natural verdigris patina, making each piece truly unique.
But despite their superficially logical relationship, these Replica Watches UK all follow a different ethos. The former subvert the concept of finishing by celebrating their absence of finish. Defects are no longer not tolerated, they are positively encouraged; but once secured they are frozen and preserved.
Bell & Ross, on the other hand, opened a creative door, creating a timepiece that ages with its owner, its appearance changing gradually over time. The approach is more personal, more intimate, but also more unpredictable, which adds to the timepiece’s whimsical appeal.
The test of time
Bronze is far from being the only material capable of providing an aged finish. Hublot showed its understanding of this with the Jeans model, which reminds us that true luxury means being able to buy a pair of pre-worn vintage jeans, rather than picking a new pair off the shelf! Hublot developed a series of Big Bangs with a faded and threadbare denim dial and strap. Ever keen to cultivate a paradox, the company also offered several diamond-set versions.
There’s a fine line between trashy and grunge. In fact, one brand has erased the line altogether: OOO Cheap Copy Watches (which stands for Out Of Order). Its byline is “Damaged in Italy”! Its timepieces are burned, scratched, dented and crushed, but they all work perfectly. Strange it most certainly is, but the brand at least offers the virtue of consistency, taking things to their logical conclusion.