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Watch Trends 2020: What Will We See This Summer?

It hasn’t been easy for the watch industry – like all other industries – this year. But that doesn’t stop the brands from releasing new and exciting timepieces that will set the watch trends this summer.

With so many events and workplaces put on hold this year, the watch industry included, we weren’t sure if we would have enough new products to spot the watch trends. Earlier in the year, we didn’t. But now, as the Swiss watch manufactures head back to work – under new social distancing rules – they are also releasing new watches. After all, it takes years to build the new tooling necessary to create new timepieces, so many of these watches have been years in the making.  So, what are the key trends we can expect to see this summer?  Everything from vintage fine to big and bold, sporty, and, for women, beautiful yet highly functional. 

Vintage Watches

A watch trend that has been on the rise for the past few years remains a hot topic: vintage-inspired watches.  As more and more brands try to reconnect with their roots, we are seeing re-issues of vintage pieces, reimagined styles, and in some cases replicas but with an updated movement. Taking a cue from yesteryear, brands are turning to different decades for design cues.  Many of the sporty watches and military-inspired pieces are turning to the 1940s and ‘50s, where silver- and salmon-colored dials reigned and where numerals were larger and watches were highly legible. A lot of the more casually elegant watches take inspiration from the classic looks of the ‘60s and the jewelry inspirations from the ‘70s. Generally, a vintage-inspired watch boasts minimalistic looks, colors that were prevalent in the respective era the watch recalls, historic hands, and retro-styled straps with perforations or padding.

Three-D Watches

Another key watch trend taking form this summer is the move to more three-dimensional watches. This is especially true as many of the independent brands regularly push the envelope of watch design – opting for bigger, bolder, and more 3D than the traditional 2D. Sometimes this is achieved by resorting to bubble- or box-shaped sapphire crystals that allow for viewing inside the watch. A great example of this is the Jacob & Co. Astronomia watch, where a variety of rotating elements on the watch dial can be viewed thanks to sapphire cases. Hublot is also a master at this. Other times the look is accomplished by creating different and unusual case shapes. MB&F regularly wows the world with its unique cases, including the recently released Bulldog watch – man’s new best friend.

Women’s Watches

Women are going to love the watch trends emerging this summer, especially since there are so many great new pieces geared specifically for ladies. In the past, watch brands would simply scale down existing men’s watches – make them smaller in size – and offer them to women. However, today, more than ever, women want function as well as style and savvy watch brands are complying. Several companies have unveiled watch collections specifically made for women. What’s more, they are adding useful functions. There are great watches with calendars, chronographs, multi-time zones, and more. And on the complicated watches side, we are witnessing more women’s watches with tourbillon escapements (that compensate for errors in timekeeping when the watch is in certain positions on the wrist,) minute repeaters (that chime the time) and perpetual calendars (that track day, date and other information automatically for decades to come).

 Chronographs

Always an in-demand feature, chronograph watches are enjoying a heyday this year – most likely because of the functional aspect of the watch. Essentially, a chronograph measures continuous or discontinuous intervals of time — such as laps run — much like a stopwatch. Depending on the chronograph, it can track those intervals for a set number of hours, minutes, and even fractions of a second.  As people are living more active lifestyles (COVID-19 aside), watch brands are creating chronographs with new layouts and time displays.  This year is no exception. One of the beauties of a chronograph is its distinctive look. It features subsidiary dials on the main face where the tracking information is displayed. A chronograph watch can boast two or three subsidiary dials, and in a few instances, even more. Some luxury brands are also releasing more complicated versions of the chronograph known as the split-seconds or Rattrapante chronograph.  While a simple chronograph can time an event, the split-seconds chronograph can time multiple events with the same start time but different finishing times, such as timing more than one runner in a race. These chronographs have a second hand so that when the first event ends, one hand stops but the other continues to time the second event.  All of the functions for a chronograph work off of pusher on the case side.

Sports Watches

Even despite COVID-19, sports watches are a growing segment of the market and will be a huge contributor to the summer watch trends.  This direction comes as a result of more and more active, outdoor lifestyles, wherein people are indulging in mountain climbing, hiking, biking, diving, and more. There is even an interest in learning to fly and in auto racing. Naturally, watch brands go the distance, producing timepieces that can accompany you up the mountain, under the water, or on the racetrack.

One of the most popular trends this summer will revolve around the car/watch theme. Since cars and wristwatches both grew up in the same time frame (early 20th century), they have kept pace with one another. Many a watch brand over the years has partnered with racetracks,  acted as the timekeeper of races, and even brought on racecar driver brand ambassadors. As such, watches that boast colorful dials (with rally and vintage car colors and accents) or perforated leather straps them emulate driving gloves are emerging strong. Additionally, some watch brands have partnered with car brands to collaborate on entire collections. Examples include Hublot with Ferrari, Breitling with Bentley, Jacob & Co. with Bugatti, and so on. The watches that are the fruits of these collaborations are often incredibly high-tech, high-mech.

Another big trend – especially amongst watch collectors – is the tool watch.  Essentially a tool watch is a watch that performs a specific function, like a dive watch, a regatta watch, a pilot watch, and the like. These watches are generally very clean in design, very rugged, and highly functional. A dive watch might be equipped with a helium escape valve, for instance, and high water resistance. A watch designed for hiking may have a compass built into it, while a pilot watch will have strong luminosity for reading in the dark. The list goes on but suffice it to say that if there is a specific sport you want to indulge in, there is a watch on the market to go the distance with you.

Ulysse NArdin Diver Deep Dive "One more Wave"
Ulysse Nardin Diver Deep Dive “One more Wave”

About the Author

Roberta Naas - Watch Journalist
Roberta Naas

Roberta Naas is a veteran watch and jewelry journalist who began her career in the early 1980’s, and was the first female watch journalist in the United States. She is the editor and founder of the authoritative watch blog, ATimelyPerspective, has written six books on watches, writes for numerous consumer publications (including Forbes and Elite Traveler) – and always brings forth in her work the essence of what makes watches tick. She tirelessly travels the world in search of watch news and stories that she turns into compelling and enlightening articles.

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