Chanel, Gucci and Hermès are some of the biggest names in fashion – synonymous with theatrical haute couture, coveted bags and iconic logos. But watches? Not so much.
And while the large mainstream fashion labels might not specialise in watches, they are a pretty standard part of the offering, with 'pretty standard' being the operative words.
Nine times out of ten, a 'fashion watch' is an exercise in outsourced design and franchising, with the famous name being printed on the dial of an otherwise off-the-shelf watch of middling quality, with the name itself providing the lion's share of the perceived value.
That's how it is the majority of the time, but once in a while a major fashion house decides to show what they decide to take wristwatches seriously, and the results can be very impressive indeed.
There's always time to be fashionable
This brings us back to Chanel, Gucci and Hermès. In addition to being powerhouses of the runway, these brands have also turned out some seriously top-notch watches that combine a sophisticated design aesthetic that sits somewhere outside of the traditional Swiss milieu with a level of technique and craft that's very in keeping with the values of luxury.
Take, for example, Hermès. The brand, most famous for its coveted Birkin bag, has been around since 1837 and has spent much of the last 180-plus years mastering the art of fine leather goods.
Hermès was also an early adopter of wristwatches, with examples dating back to 1912.
From 1978 the brand started releasing its own designs, like the Clipper, Cape Cod and the Arceau, all well-made watches with distinctive designs that epitomised a breezy, Hamptons-cum-equestrian sensibility that is very much Hermès' bag, so to speak.
In the mid-2000s, Hermès invested in respected movement-maker Vaucher, and the brand's watchmaking became even more sophisticated.
The best example of this is the Slim d'Hermès, released in 2015. The Slim is a deceptively simple watch: dressy and elegant. It stands out for its clean lines and custom-designed typeface.
It's also a serious piece of watchmaking and shows just what is possible when you combine big design budgets, technical competency and famously French good taste.
Get a grip
The global fashion behemoth that is Gucci has taken a different approach to watchmaking. For years the house was content to decorate comparatively simple watches with motifs likes its trademark bees and tri-colour stripe.
The Gucci Grip, announced last year is something new, and unique. Gucci bills the cushion-shaped Grip line as a unisex offering, and one inspired by the freewheeling world of 70s skate culture.
And while you can take or leave the design backstory, there's no denying that these watches are a very different look.
Hands have been replaced with digital-readout style time display and a predominantly closed-off face which allows for fashionable design additions such as Mickey Mouse of a repeated Double-G pattern.
The Grip is powered by a quartz movement, allowing for a price tag in that floats around the $2,000-$3,000 mark, depending on the version.
Premium pricing, to be sure, but that's not surprising given the name on the box.
The real takeaway here is that for Gucci, the Grip represents a distinctive, owned design that can serve as a versatile platform that can keep up with fashions famously fast-moving trends.
Black and white is the new black (and white)
At Chanel, black and white never go out of fashion as the J12 Paradoxe proves.
And finally, Chanel. It turns out that the Maison has had as much success with watches as it has with little black dresses and perfume. And the star of their horological line-up is, without a doubt, the J12.
Released 20 years ago the J12 was a smart play on the conventional dive watch design, with the case and bracelet crafted in monochromatic black (and later white) ceramic
While the use of ceramic in watch cases is far more common these days, at the turn of the millennium the material was novel, and Chanel did a great deal to popularise the super tough material.
The J12 is still a key model in Chanel's timepiece catalogue, (alongside more recent additions like the chic, rectangular Boy.Friend), and the family has recently been given an upgrade to an in-house automatic movement, but that's not the talking point on the J12 Paradoxe ($12,630).
That goes to the stark ceramic case which looks as if it's been dipped in black, creating an angular two-tone look where the line of the case, bezel and dial all sharply line up.
And if white ceramic isn't your style, there's always the black version, which has been dipped into a bath of diamond baguettes.
The J12 Paradoxe is another example of how much fun fashion can have in a watch. Taking a familiar form and playing with it in unexpected – and very appealing – ways.