Life moves in circles, and so does fashion and trends. Since watches are as much art as they are science, as much form as they are function, the same principle seems to apply. From the 1960s to 1980s, yellow gold was the choice for the vast majority of jewelry. It was deemed to be valuable and durable, a telling status symbol. Naturally, most wedding bands were fashioned out of yellow gold, regardless of which part of the world you were in. For those who were reaching adulthood in the 1990s, an unintended consequence of this popularity was that yellow gold jewelry became their parents’ jewelry. It became old fashioned and dated. That certainly was the case here in Asia. As we became less steeped entrenched in our cultural traditions and norms, yellow gold also lost somewhat of a footing as a symbol of prosperity and success. The “negative” reputation that yellow gold gained in the 1990s was also reinforced by its association with overly flashy artistes and riotous mob bosses (you’d be surprised to realise how similarly dressed mob bosses in the West and East were).
Since then, generation has passed, more or less. And unlike our parents, yellow gold was not necessarily our parents’ jewelry. Sure, we may have been brought up knowing of the ills of yellow gold as I described above, but it was not something that we eschewed because of personal encounters with it. So today, yellow gold is very much in fashion. Just look at Meghan Markle’s wedding band and engagement ring of choice.
The same phenomenon has been occurring in the world of watches. No doubt, yellow gold has long been a mainstay in the materials used to make watches. However, in the past couple of years, it has transcended the simple dressy watch category that it has for so long called home. This year, that has really been taken to a whole new level and basically invaded the realm of steel sports watches. In retrospect, it does seem fair. After all, it was steel sports watches that drew first blood with the Royal Oak blurring the lines between tool watches and luxury watches.
When Gerald Genta designed the Royal Oak in 1972, it was counter intuitive to price a steel watch at prices usually reserved for precious metal watches. However, it eventually took off as people were drawn to the appeal of the luxury design as well as the status message of being able to spend precious metal money on a steel watch. Today, the market is in a vastly different place. It is flooded with luxury steel sports watches, many of which are deemed to be luxury pieces. What then can send the same counter intuitive message that the Royal Oak did? Brands seem to think that it is gold sports watches. In some ways, it is the same concept but taken a step further. What does it say about you if you could afford to wear a gold sports watch?
Adrian, in his video on Bell & Ross here, said he didn’t get why Bell & Ross priced its rose gold piece the way it did. To me, it all comes down to what wearing a gold Bell & Ross says about a person. Sure, I might get scoffs or skeptical looks from members of the watch community. But on second thought, what does it say about me and my collection that I could afford to have this piece? What does it say about my collection that I didn’t use this money to buy a Day-Date, or a Royal Oak in precious metal? And even if it doesn’t send any other positive message, it would definitely be a conversation starter. On a separate note, I don’t like this release from Bell & Ross simply because it looks like it borrowed too many pieces from the Royal Oak and Nautilus. I also find the dial too small, but I digress.
Back to the topic at hand, yellow gold is very much in trend, and gold for that matter is very much in trend. Let us look at 7 of more outstanding pieces released this year:
Doxas are polarizing watches, at least aesthetically. One thing is for sure though, they are tool watches. They were designed for diving. The colours on the dial were chosen to maximise visibility, the minute hand was enlarged so that it could be seen underwater, and the bracelet featured a unique spring-loaded ratcheting clasp that allowed the bracelet to expand and contract as necessary depending on the effects of pressure changes. When Doxa reissued the Doxa Sub 300 in 2017, for the most part, it stayed true to its historical design. However, when it reissued its Doxa Sub 200 T Graph, which was basically the Sub 300 with chronograph functionality, it did so in solid gold, at least initially. It was a gutsy move though they also wisely limited it to 13 people. While I do not particularly favour the design of a Doxa, I would certainly respect anyone who loves the brand enough to drop USD 70,000 on one of these 13 pieces. After all, Doxa is not that widely known a brand outside of the watch community and you could buy two Rolex Day-Dates with that kind of money. In a way, it allows the buyer to have his cake and eat it given that no one would question you for buying that piece purely as a status symbol. I also have to say, the beads of rice bracelet looks gorgeously elegant and surprisingly, the bright orange dial stands out even more against the yellow gold case.
1969 was a year filled with remarkable achievements in the watch industry. Besides the moon landing, the development of the first automatic chronograph, there was perhaps a greater, more industry-shaking event that is less often spoken about today. That was the successful miniaturization of quartz clocks that allowed the technology to be used in wristwatches. This remarkable achievement by Seiko paved the way eventually for the quartz crisis from the Swiss watch industry’s point of view, and the quartz revolution from the Japanese point of view. Priced at USD 36,000, it seems instinctively ironic, therefore, to commemorate this event, with a release that costs way more than a quartz watch ever seems to be worth. That being said, this watch is a highly accurate watch (with its GPS time setting functionality) and based on the photos seemed to be finished to within an inch of its life and the detailing on the case is remarkable. Given that 50th anniversaries are usually referred to as golden jubilees, perhaps on second thought, this may very well be a fitting celebratory watch.
Zenith’s name was to some degree made on the accuracy of its chronographs, particularly from its El Primero line. In order to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the original El Primero, Zenith released what is basically an exact reissue of that original piece, but in gold, all three types of gold, 50 pieces each. To be fair, there is not much else Zenith could have done to commemorate this anniversary, short of releasing a brand-new watch design. After all, it had already released a steel version of the same in 2014. So, what was left for this anniversary was precious metals. However, that isn’t a knock on these three releases because the original was beautifully designed, and these are no different. In fact, in my opinion, there is something very charming about the warmth of both the yellow gold and rose gold variants that complements the tri-colored dials, more so perhaps than that of the white gold. All in all, a safe but great release from Zenith nonetheless that is also reasonably priced at CHF 19,9000.
Despite many clamouring for a steel Speedmaster with a 321 calibre movement, what Omega released was somewhat different. We got a platinum Speedmaster with the 321 movement, a steel Speedmaster with Buzz Aldrin’s ass, and this Moonshine Gold Speedmaster. It is this Moonshine Gold Speedmaster that, to me, was the best release of the trio. In fact, it might very well be my favourite gold watch released this year, if not for the fact that I still cannot wear 42mm Speedmaster Professional watches due to my wrist size. The Omegas unique colour of the moonshine gold contrasts against the eye-catching ceramic burgundy bezel and black onyx indices beautifully. The watch is based on the gold Speedmasters that were presented to various people involved in the successful moon landing that was Apollo 11, but also looks fresh and modern. On the flipside of the watch, the display case back also proudly shows off Omega’s latest incarnation of its chronograph movement, the 3861 calibre. Given that it is priced similarly to a Rolex, Day-Date at around CHF 32,000, this one watch is a relatively affordable all gold watch, and an easy choice when considering the history and innovation that has gone into this piece. If only it were smaller…
Well this watch is as quirky as they get. Zodiac released this as a reissue of the original Astrographic from 1969 and as a tribute to past missions to Mars. And in staying true to the original Astrographic, it bears all the same quirks that reminds you of the dreamy sci-fi era that was the 1970s. It features a UFO case, and a floating red ball (because of Mars) for a second hand. Made possible by using 3 translucent discs with the hour, minute and seconds hands applied on them, the concept is actually rather interesting if you can get past the retro-futuristic look of the dial. Ultimately, this is a fun watch to own and given that it is gold plated, would only set you back USD 1,295. Not a bad choice if you want to give that yellow gold trend a shot.
Now, I know that this isn’t a yellow gold watch, it is rose gold. And I know that this isn’t a sports watch as well. But it is telling that Nomos, long appreciated for its positioning as a producer of very affordable dress pieces that featured in-house movements would dip its toes into solid gold. And while this isn’t the first gold watch launched by Nomos, it seems significant that it would release this piece just two years after it released its first gold watch that was a mainstay in its collection i.e. the Nomos Neomatik 39. The size of this watch makes this seem more targeted at ladies, though I am sure men could also rock this given that these watches tend to wear larger because of how slim the bezels are. Given that Nomos also doesn’t really step on any other brand’s toes given its pricing of USD 7,200, this seems to be an appropriate venture into more regular solid gold offerings from the brand.
I saved this for last because this absolutely takes the cake. If this isn’t a testament to the yellow gold trend, I don’t know what is. Casio G-Shock is arguably the most utilitarian watch brand out there. It is hailed for putting their watches through vigorous tests, to ensure that it can hold up to punishing conditions. It is pretty unfathomable then that they would pick solid 18K yellow gold, as the material of choice for one of their watches. But that is exactly what they did. I find it hard to imagine the watch being put through the testing that their normal pieces go through but thankfully, G-Shock Japan put out a video to demonstrate just that which you can find here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFtP2cPpd4o&feature=youtu.be). This watch takes the concept of luxury sports watches and just runs with it. I for one would very much like to meet the 35 people who dropped the JPY 7.7 million (about USD 70,000) on the limited pieces of this watch.
So there you have it. 7 of the most outstanding gold watches that were released this year. One thing is for certain, the yellow gold is back in full swing. While I can’t afford a solid gold watch as yet, I find myself increasingly drawn to a certain 36mm two-tone Datejust that is the epitome of what is considered old-fashioned. What about you? Would you rock a yellow gold watch?