Daring Deco Designs
The Art Deco period welcomed a new era of watches as fashion items. In the 1920s and ‘30s, new models took the movement’s love of bold geographic design and lavish ornamentation to create styles that remain highly coveted. Today, makers continue to delight fans with modern interpretations of these classic timepieces.
The 20th century may have begun quietly for the watch industry, but by the 1920s, rapid change was afoot. In a few years, the wristwatch — once the preserve of women — had become ubiquitous, spurring great advances in horological craftsmanship. Meanwhile, the Art Deco movement inspired makers to experiment with daring designs. Art Deco, which lasted from the 1920s until the early 1940s, had a profound influence on watches. For the first time, they became fashion pieces to be displayed proudly, rather than items to be hidden away in a pocket.
Watchmakers and watch aficionados remain deeply enamoured with Art Deco. Collectors pay handsomely for specimens from the period, while manufacturers continue to produce contemporary timepieces that pay homage to the era. The following watch lines help demonstrate why, for horologists, the Art Deco years remain one of the most significant periods in the industry’s history.
The Reverso made its debut in 1931, marring Art Deco aesthetics with unique functionality. Developed for polo players who wanted to protect the faces of their watches, this fully reversible timepiece – the first of its kind – became popular with style-savvy customers looking for a watch to suit multiple moods. It was so influential that other big-name brands followed suit with their own versions. Jaeger-LeCoultre still makes its classic Reverso designs, as well as later versions such as the Grande Reverso Ultra Thin with a silvered dial accented by blue hands.
Patek Philippe Gondolo
In the 1920s, Patek Philippe was at the forefront of wristwatch design, debuting a number of elongated tonneau-shaped cases that were onsidered radical and are now some of the most sought-after Art Deco pieces among collectors. Today, the Gondolo line keeps this cutting-edge spirit alive: its tonneau-shaped and rectangular watches directly reference the company’s groundbreaking 1920s work. The latest Gondolo which debuted at Baselworld 2015, is crafted from white gold and features a striking blue dial and a blue alligator strap with square scales.
Panerai takes many of its design cues from the ARt Deco er, a prime example being its Radiomir Firenze 3 Days. The watch features highly decorative engravings on its case and crown and is available only at Panerai’s flagship boutique in Florence, in a run of 99 pieces. Each watch is hand-etched by Italian craftsmen and is adorned with typically Florentine patterns that take more than a week to finish. At 47mm in diameter, the Radiomir Firenze is the same size as Panerai’s first watch, which the company created in 1936. The hand-wound, in-house P.3000 calibre can be seen through the sapphire case-back.
By Dan Stapleton.
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