When Chanel pick up on a timepiece trend, you can pretty much guarantee that it is one that will explode throughout the rest of the industry so when curb link chains hit the brand’s stand at BaselWorld earlier this year the game was on.
The trend has been shaping the fashion market for some time with brands such as Michael Kors producing timepieces with curb link bracelets for the past couple of years, and now the luxury houses are moving in to tap into this accessible trend.
Chanel’s latest hero watch is the Première. The octagonal case of the watch is based on the silhouette of the brand’s No.5 perfume bottle and the geometric proportions of the Place Vendôme and has been fitted with faceted sapphire crystal that creates a beautiful window to a dial of either black lacquer or mother of pearl.
While the case itself is a work of beauty, not to mention the clever attention to detail evoked by the onyx cabochon crown, it is the strap that makes this watch stand out. The chain-inspired strap is made up of links of either 18ct yellow gold or steel, created to resemble the heavy curb link chains that are working their way back into vogue in jewellery, not to mention in fashion as clothing adornments.
The marketing collateral created to support this new launch is of a woman enjoying an easy, breezy moment with a coffee and a newspaper. The smart but casual luxury style that the curb link chain bracelet communicates is perfectly mirrored in the campaign – this style is for fashion-conscious women of substance.
While Chanel has been busy dominating the women’s luxury watch market with its J12, Bulgari has been having it own successes on and off the red carpet with its Serpenti collection of timepieces. And now, like Chanel, it too has zoned in on curb link chain as the next hot trend.
The Bulgari Catene was unveiled at BaselWorld this year and carries with it echoes of the Serpenti with its double wraparound strap. But rather than a coil of snake-like articulated links, the new launch has traditional curb link chain, some sections of which have been dotted with diamonds.
Bulgari has described the watch as “as much of a jewel as a timepiece”. The 18ct rose gold links have each been crafted by the maison’s craftsmen in Italy.
Just as the casual elegance flows through the Chanel marketing material, Bulgari also suggests that this is a serious watch, but one that should be easily carried on the wrist. “Daring but sensual, elegant but extravagant, Catene gives women a new way to wear time like a second skin,” says a statement from the brand.
Both Chanel and Bulgari have kept the colour scheme of the curb link chain bracelets simple with yellow gold, rose gold or stainless steel, each mimicking – or replicating – the colours of gold that would have been used to make these chains in jewellery, but this direct inspiration is not essential to follow this trend.
Karl Lagerfeld is known for innovation, so it’s unsurprising that the designer’s watch brand has put a spin on this trend by using black chain. Chain has been used throughout the brand’s first two collections of watches to gain an edgy, high fashion aesthetic.
Perhaps the best representation of the trend within that range is the double strap plain black chain watch, that echoes Bulgari’s Catene but in a much cooler way.
Michael Kors has also explored the curb link chain trend with alternative materials. The brand has plain metal examples of this trend in its collection but new incarnations include watches that mix rose gold-coloured metal links with acrylic links that mimic tortoiseshell. The effect gives a more relaxed twist to the trend.
Glam Rock has likewise mixed metals with alternative materials, weaving leather through some of its curb link chain straps. It has also gone for double strands of links but has combined the two into a single strap rather than creating a wraparound.
One brand that has gone in heavy for the layering effect created by wraparound bracelets is Armani Exchange. Its use of curb link chain, however, is subtle. The majority of its the watch’s strap is made of buttery leather but this has been string with gold tone curb link chains that are much thinner than those used by the other brands.
With wraparounds, chunky chains, sublte accents and mixed materials, this trend has proved itself to be versatile when applied to watches, and easy to wear and thus sell. But then that should of course come as a given seeing that it has been a jewellery box staple for as long as there have been jewellery boxes. We expect to see many more of these smart luxury timepieces to hit the market in the coming months.
This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of WatchPro.
To read a digital version of the magazine in full online, click here.