January to the mechanical watch lover is akin to the opening of the season for baseball fans or the Daytona 500 for those endeared with NASCAR. This is the month of the Salon International de la Haute Horology (SIHH) where many of the top luxury watch brands release their newest offerings. Soon after, in April is the Basel Fair where the remaining brands, particularly the mighty Swatch Group show their latest creations. From elegant 2 hand dress watches to diamond encrusted showpieces to the ultimate in complicated horology, these events pique the basest instincts of watch enthusiasts the world over.

In 2012 we saw releases of the Rolex Sky-Dweller, the massive Zenith Pilot Aeronef Type 20, the Girard Perregaux 1966 Minute Repeater, the Audemars Piguet 15400 Royal Oak, a completely revamped IWC Pilot collection and the awesome Lange Datograph AUF/AB. These are but a small fraction of the significant pieces shown last year. A watch lover’s dream!

Hold on. Not so fast! For every person who drools over the latest Hublot Big Bang release there is a dyed in the wool traditionalist decrying the trend towards larger and more complicated watches. For every person lusting over the latest 47mm Panerai there is another saying a 36mm Rolex Explorer is plenty of watch. And for every 46mm Breitling Superocean Heritage there is a call for the brand’s discontinued 38mm Navitimer. Many of the brands represented on Timezone.com have rabid fans that embrace the manufacturer’s tradition and feel that they are being ignored in the quest for larger watches that stray further from what initially attracted them to the brand. And as mechanical watches themselves are in theory homage to an earlier era of timekeeping, perhaps this makes sense. But in defense of the watch companies, the larger market is not interested in smaller, simpler wristwatches. Thus the conundrum, which can manifest in heated battles and the occasional outburst. Watch lovers like other hobbyists are passionate and enthusiastic. That’s what makes being here so much fun!

IWC fans in particular, at least in this author’s experience are rabid about their chosen brand. IWC has been around for about 150 years and their pilot line is perhaps most closely associated with this history. From the B-Uhr of the 1940’ s to the Mark XI through the current Mark XVII, the iconic Big Pilot, and the various Fliegerchronographs, IWC’s pilot watches identify the brand. As mentioned above, this product line received a thorough facelift in 2012. The 39mm Mark XVI grew to 41mm in becoming the Mark XVII and received a triple date window, the 3717 chronograph grew from 41 to 43mm, also receiving along with most of this product line the triple date window. Many watches such as the new Top Gun Miramar, the World Timer and the Dopple (double) chronograph live in thick 45-46mm cases. These new pieces did not sit well with many on the Timezone IWC board and complaints focused on the large cases and the triple date window. Tradition dies hard for the enthusiast and many feel that IWC has abandoned them in their desire for more traditionally sized cases. Of course IWC is not alone in having fans that feel this way. There are Patek Philippe fans who suffer that the 36mm chronograph perpetual calendar 3970 grew from 36 to 40mm in the more recent 5970 model and Rolex fans who prefer the 40mm Sea Dweller to the current 44mm Deep Sea. And who can forget the uproar over the direction taken by Zenith in the last part of the previous decade? Larger watches with highly decorated cases and dials and fancy complications gave the brand its identity at that time.

So what is the answer to this problem? There are two solutions, which may satisfy the traditional watch enthusiast. One is to buy a pre-owned model in the style and size he or she prefers. The second and long-term solution is to be patient and wait. If there is one thing that is certain about this industry, it’s that trends change and some day simpler watches in smaller cases will once again be in fashion. As Coco Chanel famously said: “Fashion is made to become unfashionable”. So sit back and see what our favorite watch companies have for us in 2013. Without doubt there will be many exciting and interesting watches and just as certain, there will be much debate and gnashing of teeth. Good for us! We are watch fans first and foremost and it’s that passion that enriches our lives.

Timezone Feature