Luxury watches seek solace in glamour of bygone eras

Thu Jan 19, 2012 7:02am EST
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By Victoria Bryan and Nathalie Olof-Ors

GENEVA (Reuters) - Simple elegance for debt-ridden Europe, glitzy diamonds and gold for booming Asia.

The pieces being unveiled by Switzerland's luxury watchmakers at the Geneva watch fair harked back to bygone eras with classic shapes, roman numerals and a good dash of gold to lend a sheen to troubled economic and political times.

"The high-end watch industry has a duty to make the world smile," Richard Mille, the founder and CEO of Richard Mille watches, told Reuters.

With 1920/30s fashion on the catwalks ahead of the cinema release of "The Great Gatsby", king of jewelers Cartier presented its first pocket watch in years, a limited edition 18-carat white gold piece with matching chain and stand.

Less of a trinket to be carried around and more an object of desire to be displayed proudly on a desk, the Cartier pocket watch is limited to 10 pieces.

Cartier declined to comment on how much the piece would retail for, saying it was priced on demand only. Watch blogs speculated it could be anywhere upwards of 500,000 euros ($640,800).

Many brands delved through their back catalogues from the 1940s and 50s for inspiration while Parmigiani, a newcomer among high-end watch brands , said a desire for old-style glamour meant its quietly elegant designs were proving more popular than ever.

"We lost out previously because we weren't so 'bling bling' but now consumers are returning to what is more simple and more discreet," the brand's CEO told Reuters.   Continued...

<p>Watches are pictured at the Jaeger-LeCoultre booth at the "Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie" at Palexpo in Geneva January 18, 2011. REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud</p>