Couture and watchmaking – Couture and watchmaking houses: What’s The Big Attraction – Trends & style

You don’t have to be crazy to enter the arena of fine watchmaking, but it helps. Breaking into this already crowded market – where expertise is concentrated in a few square miles, the cost of entry is prohibitively high, and the return on investment can take decades – is a Herculean task. This didn’t deter Chanel, Gucci, Hermès, Louis Vuitton or Ralph Lauren. All five think they have the answer to the only question that deserves to be asked: what is there to be gained by entering the watch market?

Chanel: perpetuating Coco’s legacy

Let’s start with the most “tricky” case. Chanel lives off the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel, a name closely associated with her couture brand. What many people don’t know is that Gabrielle’s talent has extended far beyond fashion. During her lifetime, she developed a much broader vocabulary of perfumery (1921), cosmetics (1924), skincare (1927), jewelry (1932), and leather goods (1955). When Jacques Helleu became Chanel’s creative director in 1965, watchmaking was clearly the next step in the brand’s journey. However, the project will remain more or less on hold for more than 15 years. After Gabrielle’s death in 1971, Chanel continued to focus on couture; a trend embodied and confirmed by Karl Lagerfeld (who joined the brand in 1983). Chanel Horlogerie only saw the light of day in 1987 with the aptly named Première collection. Watches gave Chanel the opportunity to expand into creative territory that Gabrielle Chanel did not explore during her lifetime, but if she had, she would no doubt have liked to challenge conventions. This is what the eponymous brand does today.

First © Chanel

Hermès: a creative outlet

Hermès is another pair of sleeves. The family business came to watches via the bracelet; specifically a leather case made in 1912 so that Jacqueline Hermès, daughter of Emile Hermès, could wear a pocket watch on her wrist. From a saddler, Hermès has become a craftsman of leather straps. It was Jean-Louis Dumas who in 1978 opened up the watchmaking horizons of the brand. Described by Laurent Dordet, CEO of La Montre Hermès, as a visionary curious about all cultures, and who conquered new markets with audacity and fantasy, Hermès marked Jaeger, Universal and Vacheron Constantin watches and clocks under his direction. Through watches, Hermès has developed a creativity already rooted in its original universe of leather goods, illustrated by its focus on artistic crafts and its work with wood, straw, glass and stone, for example. Laurent Dordet declares: “La Montre Hermès is now a Manufacture in its own right. We master all the specialties in-house and our production is 100% Swiss. At the same time, we remain faithful to the fundamental values ​​of the brand and to the authenticity that characterizes Hermès.

Fashion houses and watchmaking: What is the big attraction?

Arch Time Traveler © Hermes

Ralph Lauren: adding to a world of luxury

Ralph Lauren is more than just a ready-to-wear brand and has been for a long time. It’s a lifestyle. A world. The world of Ralph Lauren. The introduction of watches into the brand’s luxury portfolio in 2009 was seen as an opportunity to enhance the brand’s product offering for its international clientele. The watches are therefore an extension of the world of Ralph Lauren and its many incarnations. They also reflect Mr. Ralph Lauren’s passion for elegant and durable timepieces and refer to his well-known passion for beautiful cars. Ralph Lauren watches then embraced other themes, such as the Polo Bear and safaris. At the scale of this multinational brand, watches represent a niche activity that “yet elevates the customer experience through their aesthetics, quality and level of service”.

Fashion houses and watchmaking: What is the big attraction?

Polo ©Ralph Lauren

Louis Vuitton: a natural extension

Which leaves Louis Vuitton, originally a trunk maker. For a brand dedicated to travel, what could be more natural than to adopt this other travel accessory, the watch? While Vuitton could have made do with GMT and universal time, it has developed a watchmaking ease that transcends borders, aided in its expeditions by La Fabrique du Temps. Because Vuitton does not travel. He explores. Complicated watches, connected watches, jewelry watches, table clocks: time measurement is a playground for a serious brand for which nothing is forbidden, whether it’s a table football that costs as much as a car, a €37,000 hammock or a trainer. trunk at €165,000. That such a profusion of creativity extends to watches is really no surprise.

Fashion houses and watchmaking: What is the big attraction?

Tambour Slim Vivienne Jumping Hours © Louis Vuitton

Keith P. Plain