Time no longer the essence for luxury watchmakers

Fri Mar 25, 2011 1:04pm EDT
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By Astrid Wendlandt and Silke Koltrowitz

PARIS (Reuters) - Time is up for oversize and flashy luxury watches that actually tell you the hour.

The new status symbol for bankers and Russian oligarchs is a sober, featherlike timepiece made from carbon fiber, magnesium or aluminum, executives at Basel's annual watch fair said

Real luxury is now the ability to stop time. This week Perramond presented the "temps suspendu" (suspended time) model, starting at 18,000 Swiss francs ($19,700), which stops time at the press of a button and brings it back again.

For 240,000 Swiss francs you can pick up an Hublot watch whose time can be slowed or sped up and another which is all black, making it difficult to tell the time at all.

That luxury can set you back upwards of 15,000 Swiss francs.

"The value of a watch is not to give you time," Hublot Chief Executive Jean-Claude Biver told Reuters.

"Any five dollar watch can do that. What we are offering is the ability for example to stop time or make it disappear... Time is a prison and people want to get out of it sometimes."

Those embracing the trend for new materials include Hublot, one of the fastest-growing brands, and its younger rival Richard Mille, whose barrel-shaped watches, starting at 60,000 euros ($85,000), are regarded as some of the most expensive.   Continued...

<p>Visitors walk past the Chronoswiss showcase at Baselworld fair in Basel March 24, 2011. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann</p>