• The History & Art of Luxury Watchmaking
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The History & Art of Luxury Watchmaking

“A fine timepiece is part of dressing like a gentleman. When I first made a little money, I bought my first watch, which was a Rolex Daytona. It was just one of those things that said I was successful.” - Brian McKnight - Singer/Songwriter

When it comes to emotionally charged purchases, there is nothing quite like a watch. A fine timepiece completes a gentleman's ensemble and should be chosen carefully to suit both the individual and their wardrobe.

Often passed from generation to generation, a well-made timepiece earns a heartfelt place in family history leaving an unforgettable mark. With that in mind, it’s understandable that when the time comes to invest in a new watch, it needs to tick all the right boxes.

Step into the world of Haute Horlogerie and you’ll unveil centuries of unbelievable craftsmanship, feats of engineering and countless hours of dedication by artisans who painstakingly create astonishing timepieces, elevating the humble wristwatch to the symbol of status and luxury it is today.

The story is a captivating tale with a myriad of different twists and turns, and one that continues to beguile watch lovers around the globe, however, it’s fair to say that the contributions of three pioneering characters are crucial to setting the scene.

Peter Henlein Peter Henlein (1480 - 1542) - Karl Gebhardt Horological Collection

Delve into the history of watchmaking and the name Peter Henlein (1480-1542) is sure to make an appearance. A German locksmith widely regarded as the first person to produce timekeepers small enough to be portable, his watches were the size of tuna cans and their mechanics were so agricultural as to require regular readjustment by sundial.

John Harrison John Harrison (1693 -1776) - Science Museum, Science and Society Picture Library, London

Yorkshireman John Harrison also made the history books when he proved that a precision timekeeper (rather than celestial observation) was the way forward in determining longitude at sea. This established the humble watch as an infinitely more portable (and crucially, personal) alternative to the clock. Simply by comparing midday at sea to the time back at port per your on-board ‘chronometer,’ the difference would give you how far east or west you had sailed. Harrison’s pioneering efforts paved the way for London’s world-leading watch industry, but it was goldsmith Daniel Jeanrichard (1665-1741) who in a moment of genius was the first to formalise a division of labour, with his system of ‘établissage’ - independent workshops and a horizontal cottage industry structure, which still survives today in the folds of the Jura Mountains, right on the French border.

Daniel Jean Richard Daniel Jean Richard (1664-1741) - www.notrehistoire.ch

The art of luxury watchmaking involves remarkable expertise that has been passed through the hands of skilled artisan watchmakers over the centuries. Watches are a true symbol of luxury, with talented artists spending their lives tirelessly crafting objects of outstanding beauty and workmanship. The fruits of their labour are lauded and many of those that acquire their products are praised for their excellent taste.

Not sure where to start? For those looking for a little expert guidance when it comes to putting together a solid collection of watches to suit any occasion, here are some suggestions:

THE VERSATILE ALL-ROUNDER - Slightly retro, military-styled watches work well here – opt for a brown leather strap, like the Bremont Airco.

Crombie Bremont Airco Bremont Airco

THE DIVING WATCH - Epitomising both durability and style, divers are the most reliable and sturdy timepieces available on the market. Why not opt for the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver?

Crombie Audemars Piguet Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver

THE DRESS WATCH - What it says on the tin, these watches offer perfect classic formality for a boardroom meeting or cocktail hour. The Chopard L.U.C. is a great choice here.

Crombie Chopard L.U.C. Chopard L.U.C.

THE SPORTS WATCH - Usually this means a chronograph in the mix – probably with either a rubber strap or a metal bracelet. The Hublot Classic Fusion fits this category nicely.

Crombie Hublot Classic Fusion Hublot Classic Fusion

Many thanks to ROX for putting together this exclusive article. For more on the art of luxury watchmaking, including expert advice on the best watches to invest in, plus a list of the world’s most expensive timepieces visit ROX.

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