Watch Styles: Fashion Watches

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In a world of luxury watches, the term "Fashion watch" can feel confusing or even derisive. But, in reality, the fashion watch played a huge role in returning mechanical watchmaking back to popularity and reviving the industry overall.


In the late 1970s, it seemed as if mechanical watchmaking was done, with the days of hairsprings and balance wheels a thing of the past due to the modern quartz oscillator and battery-powered movement. Traditional watchmakers struggled with this quick transition to digital technology. But, it also opened the door for the Swiss (and some creative Americans) to found their own revolution: the fashion watch.

Nicholas G. Hayek was a key figure in this revolution. A Lebanese-American Swiss businessman with a background in management consulting, Hayek was asked by a group of Swiss bankers to oversee the liquidation of ASUAG and SSIH, two major Swiss watchmaking conglomerates whose days seemed numbered. In these apparently doomed companies, Hayek saw an opportunity. He streamlined the two operations, bringing brands such as Blancpain, Omega, Longines, Rado, and Tissot under the same leadership for the first time. 

In 1983 Hayek oversaw the foundation of Swatch. The Swatch watch, which takes its name from a contraction of "Second Watch," was designed to be a cheap, fun watch to be worn on holidays or days off. Crucially, it was designed to be collectible and trendy and priced so it was replaceable. The idea of having multiple watches in one's wardrobe had never existed before. It was a stunning and audacious move that rebranded not just a single company, but the potential of an entire industry.

Before the stunning turnaround was complete, however, American brands such as Fossil and Guess had their say. Built around a "seasonal release" model, these brands upped the ante even further. With releases coming every few months, consumers were bombarded with new looks and layouts that vastly expanded the idea of what a watch could be in terms of personal expression. Watches were now a statement of identity, and status symbols more powerful than even their precious metal forebears.

The wristwatch has long since ceased to be essential. Now seen as the epitome of luxury, the wristwatch is all about the person to whose wrist it is strapped. It is a personal choice like few others in the world of fashion, and one that should be appreciated and celebrated for that fact.

Important "fashion" brands that you can find on include Swatch, Guess, Gucci, Diesel, and Fossil.