TRENDS: Horticultural Horology

This vibrant floral bouquet of hand-painted watches from Arnold & Son arrives just in time for summer but is limited to just eight examples of each.

In the June issue of WatchPro, Sarah Louise Jordan examined the market for flower-inspired watches and why it has sprung into bloom in recent months.

When it comes to fashion watches, female consumers have been asked to jump a somewhat masculine hurdle in recent years. The initial offer presented by Michael Kors, for example, included a more oversized, edgier aesthetic than the average female customer was used to.

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Of course, this wasn’t a bad thing and the resulting combination of rose gold and chunky design led to market-leading sales and a plethora of copy-cats looking to capitalise on the boyfriend watch trend too.

But now in 2015 the atmosphere has markedly changed, with established brands introducing a far greater array of softer shapes, saturated hues and floral adornments that put a feminine twist back into the world of watch design. This isn’t to say that garish prints or tea-cosy style blooms are being plastered onto watch straps, in fact the reference to florals is being done in more subtle and imaginative ways – proving that the once underestimated female watch buyer is not in the market for a patronising ‘ladies 101’ timepiece.

This also coincides with the 1970s revival seen on the catwalks, where clashing patterns and prints play a starring role in the overall vision. For the trend-conscious customer, a watch with a rich, jewel-toned colour palette, a smattering of blooms and a sleek yellow or rose gold finish could offer the ultimate combination; a tie-in of long-standing trends and an immediate wardrobe update for SS15.

At Olivia Burton, the emphasis on flowers is just as much a part of its core, design-DNA as it is a seasonal update. As founder Jemma Fennings explains: “Floral prints consistently dominate the catwalks, from rich foliage images in dark prints for autumn/winter, to lighter more romantic blooms for spring/summer. At Olivia Burton we have seen a huge increase in customers who wish to purchase a number of watches to wear with different outfits, so tapping into current trends is key.”

The brand’s current offer includes the Enchanted Garden Mirror collection, with Sleeping Beauty-style blooms, vines and butterflies; the Painterly Prints Hummingbird offer with pastel hues; and the Flower Show, Parlour and Woodland Bird ranges. Each offers decorative dials and simple, almost minimal, hands and cases – a reflection of the brand’s modern-vintage approach. Significantly, retailers agree that the brand is excelling, with one Brighton-based boutique owner commenting that the brand is a tear-away success, largely down to the fact that Olivia Burton is “designed by women, for women”.

If you need further evidence of the brand’s success, simply tap your Instagram app and scroll through its profile. Its expertly staged photos are a lesson in branding, style and ingenuity, but they also highlight the continuing influence of floral prints, with roses, dried petals, leaves, butterflies and vintage playing cards used to showcase watches in the most eye-catching of ways.

Elsewhere, Ice-Watch has offered up a fresh floral design for SS15, balancing bright, busy blooms with block colour straps. Its Ice-Flower concept, unlike Olivia Burton, takes a tropical Hawaiian approach, fusing pink, red and orange flowers with black and white cases and rose gold accents. Elsewhere in the Ice-Flower collection, a stand-out deep blue watch pops with white daisies and twisting stems.

In contrast to Ice-Watch, Ted Baker’s floral offer combines details, with details and then more details, tapping into the tastes of its clothing customers. Highlights include flowery satin straps, detailed rose gold-tone cases, pearlised dials and crystal hour markers. Unlike Olivia Burton and Ice-Watch, the Ted Baker offer has an evening-ready feel and would look more comfortable next to a cocktail dress than a pair of jeans. Fortunately, the brand has created this look at an accessible fashion-focused price, giving consumers the option of owning multiple pieces.

Returning to a more relaxed vibe, leather goods brand Radley has excelled with its range of flower power watches, including its signature dog logo crafted out of blue and violet blooms. Its designs are classic and paired back with stark dials and classic leather straps, but some of its pieces take a more adventurous approach, like an asymmetrical garden scene with golden hour details.

Lifestyle brand Orla Kiely debuted its first watch collection earlier this year and the resulting pieces are an impressive combination of 1970s-inspired neutrals, prints and unusual-shaped cases. Stand-out pieces offer a classic four petal flower-shaped case with small dials – a style that will undoubtedly prove popular across age ranges.

And even more brands have this year turned to flowers, including Komono, which uses minimalist cases and dials to accentuate the eye-popping busyness of its floral straps. Kahuna has jumped on the trend with block colour watches studded with leather flowers, and white dialled designs with 3D hibiscus flower motifs. Both offer almost unbelievable prices for designs that show a keen sense of brand identity and trend watching; the 3D hibiscus detail piece with a raspberry leather strap and rose gold coloured case has an RRP of just £35.

For this writer, Folli Follie offered up one of the highlights of Baselworld 2015 with its Swiss-made Santorini Flower collection. The rose gold-plated stainless steel designs are available with leather straps and chain-link ceramic bracelet, offering up a soft, rounded case with a three dimensional overlapping petal and mother-of-pearl centre. And the details just keep on coming, with an almost skeletonised see-through dial, jet black hands or stark white hands, textured leather straps in white, black and raspberry and a crystal accents. Although slightly more expensive than your average fashion watch, Folli Follie has created a collection that looks twice its RRP. It is almost guaranteed to be on the wish-lists of fashion conscious customers, who will be more than willing to save to reach the price tag.

From a haute horlogerie perspective, both Chanel and Vacheron Constantin have embraced flowers in their timepieces. Chanel’s Mademoiselle Privé collection is directly inspired by Gabrielle Chanel herself, and includes a particularly stunning 18ct ‘beige’ gold design, set with 60 brilliant-cut diamonds and topped with an embroidered dial threaded with pearls. The embroidery itself was done by the Maison Lesage – a famous name if you work in the world of haute couture fashion in Paris – in the shape of camellia flowers. What is perhaps most remarkable is the level of detail contained within such a small space, especially considering the 37.5mm dial. The story is completed with a high precision quartz movement, beige silk dial, white satin strap and an Ardillon buckle with 80 brilliant-cut diamonds.

The Mademoiselle Privé collection also includes the Mother of Pearl timepiece, crafted in 18ct white gold with around 390 brilliant-cut diamonds across the case and dial. The highlight is a camellia flower set into the dial, crafted in mother of pearl marquetery for an attractive shimmer. The piece also boasts a self-winding, mechanical movement with 42 hour power reserve and an onyx cabochon crown, finished with a black satin strap and diamond-studded Ardillon buckle.

Finally, Vacheron Constantin has just unveiled three new models in its Métiers d’Art Florilège collection. The new designs follow-on from the brand’s presentation two years ago, offering up beautifully enamelled scenes with exotic flowers combined with horological finesse. The latest additions, dubbed the Renealmia, the Rose Centifolia and the Tulip watch, are inspired by the 1799 publication of The Temple of Flora by John Thornton, using figurative guilloché, Grand Feu cloisonné enamelling, and gem-setting to recreate his flowery folios. Pieces are available in two styles; the first offers a bezel set with round-cut diamonds available numbered in a 20-piece limited edition, while the second features a bezel with baguette-cut diamonds with just five of each design available.

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