Black is a colour worn to blend in, to slip through the crowds unnoticed but it also equates to luxury – the slickest cars, designer stiletto heels – and when it comes to watches an all-black timepiece is the ultimate in understated luxury.
The number of all-black timepieces on the market is on the increase as brands begin to work the trends link between fast cars, fashion and watches. Car manufacturers such as Lamborghini and Bentley have already worked with matte black finishes on their luxury cars and as this trend has filtered into timepieces a spectrum of brands have embraced this.
Panerai’s Tuttonero Luminor 1950 was released this year with a black ceramic case and bracelet – said to be five times harder than stainless steel – and a black PVD-finished buckle. The overall effect, teamed with the 44mm case size, makes the Tuttonero a standout watch and something different among the round cases and chunky bezels of many other black timepieces on the market.
Montblanc has also branched into the all-black realm with its Sport Chronograph Automatic, a DLC-coated stainless steel watch with a black alligator strap. This watch represents a wider trend among all-black watches for that sportier, chronograph style with chunky bezels and stand-out sub dials.
Other brands offering sportier all-black models include Bulgari, Bulova and Swarovski, which recently-launched its men’s automatic line, the Octea Abyssal.
The Octea Abyssal is said to be “distinguished by its sporty design and emphasis on performance”, and with its dark and handsome features bridges the gap between fashion and functionality. It has a Swiss mechanical movement, a 44mm case and a faceted bezel made of a single block of black ceramic. The matte black dial is complemented by its black rubber strap, which references the popular women’s Octea model.
Bulgari meanwhile has taken the notion of an all-black watch to a new level through its collaboration with New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team. The fine watch and jewellery brand last year launched its Endurer Chronosprint All Blacks special edition timepiece, said to have “sturdy yet smoothly integrated lines” while the case has a DLC coating and the dial is decorated with a motif designed to represent a Maori tattoo. Bulgari recently announced that it is continuing its partnership with the rugby team for a further two years.
At Bulova, the sporty look is captured by its Marine Star 98B159, which has a bright blue touch on the bezel, referencing its diving watch style. The brand is growing in the UK with its offer of watches that cover the entry-level market through to its Precisionist line, with designs that fit all types of styles such as the Marine Star.
On a similar vein, Raymond Weil’s typically traditional Freelancer line has had a contemporary all-black makeover for 2012, with the arrival of the PVD Freelancer Urban Black, a new model that should introduce the brand to a younger, trends-conscious market. It references motorsport with its speedy red details on the chronograph dials and tachymeter scale. Even the oscillating weight is embellished in black to match the PVD case and semi-matte calfskin strap.
At multi-terrain watch brand Luminox, the use of black is standard across its range of models where only the dial – or women’s models – might have coloured elements. This goes back to the brand’s roots and its links with SWAT teams, Navy SEALS and stealth fighter pilots in the US, who needed a watch that was hardwearing but also visible in all lights, which the brand delivers through special light technology powered by gas canisters.
The brand has worked with Scott Cassell, a Counterterrorism Combat Dive Instructor to the Special Ops community in the US, to promote a range of special-edition Deep Dive black timepieces, which Cassell has put his name to. It has also steadily grown its Blackout series in a range of incarnations in recent years but for 2012 Luminox has gone right back to its founding designs, releasing an entry-level Blackout with a carbon reinforced case and bezel, a black PU strap and a Ronda quartz movement.
Keeping the look much more classic, Uniform Wares’ newest release, the 302 Series watch is its first with a Swiss-made movement, and a new route for the British-designed brand which to date has created sub-£500 quartz timepieces with little obvious branding and more focus on minimal design.
This latest model is an update to its 300 Series chronograph with a matte-black PVD case and a design said to “echo the utilitarian beauty of mechanical stopwatches”.
Patrick Bek, co-founder of Uniform Wares said of the new model: “The 300 Series illustrates very well what the brand’s USP has been from the very beginning – designing and producing a great product to create a watch that is both desirable and accessible.”
The accessibility of this trend is key and many fashion watch brands have jumped on PVD bandwagon, giving watches that luxe edge with a price tag suited to more modest budgets.
Among Fossil Inc.’s licensed brands Armani Exchange (AX) and its own Fossil fashion watches have this year launched black timepieces with plenty of commercial appeal and a nod to utility and industrial-inspired accessories with features such as rugged, textured bezels, oversized crown protectors and rubber straps.
The USP for many of these watches is that they will be a stand-out among a collection of steel or gold watches and will give that edge that fashion-conscious shoppers are sure to love. The sporty connotations are also an important selling point.
This article was taken from the July 2012 issue of WatchPro magazine, out now. To view a digital version of the magazine click here.