Although the luxury watch market has been booming for years, it may not be as recession-proof as many had hoped. According to a recent study by luxury trade association Altagamma, sales of fine jewelry and watches are predicted to drop nearly 13% this year, the second biggest decline of any luxury category. But those who are putting their Cartier dreams on hold for a few years needn’t abandon their fantasies of time-keeping elegance. We’ve put together a list of design-led, yet reasonably priced watch brands to enjoy in the interim:
From furniture to lighting to jewelry, designer Pierre Gonalons’ annual collections aim to make the purest connection between form and function, without excess frippery or fanfare. Ascète’s line of watches is a perfect embodiment of this concept: simple and symmetrical, made from ionized steel in shades of matte black, silver or gold. And with an edition of just 500, this timepiece is just as exclusive as its pricier counterparts.
Digital watches may seem positively retro by today’s standards, but not so in the hands of New York-based artist and designer Matthew Waldman. He’s chosen to forgo watchmaking standards like minute and second hands, instead devising other interpretations of telling time. The sporty Zub ZenH ($130) uses bars that shade in increments to denote hours, minutes or seconds, while the more classic AL Series features actual numbers in their own dedicated boxes. And if a polyurethane timepiece isn’t your thing, never fear: the Zoc ZenV places the same innovative face on a genuine crocodile band ($395).
Multi-talented designer Crispin Jones designed his first watches in 2004—a small series of handmade timepieces that were featured in a series of exhibitions shortly thereafter. They were so well received that Jones soon began working on a line to put into production, marked by cheerful graphics and unexpected phrases (“Remember You Will Die,” “The Future Is Now”). We’re particularly into the limited edition pieces, created in runs of 100, which come with a specially commissioned work by artist Kate Street ($145).
Although it’s been around for over 140 years and has collaborated with countless architects and designers, French wristwatch brand LIP is perhaps best known for the Mach 2000 series designed by Roger Tallon (mastermind behind the TGV). To mark the brand’s recent entry into the US, current design director Prisca Briquet is re-introducing and updating these famed ’70s timepieces. The new versions include the futuristic Darkmaster Chronograph ($450), the stainless steel Mach 2000 Square Series ($275) as well as the Big Fridge ($325) and Big TV ($295) watches, which are apparently inspired by those ubiquitous household appliances.