You can’t see us, but we’ve got our party hats on. This September, WatchTime magazine celebrates its 10th birthday. To mark the event, we’re publishing in our September-October issue (on newsstands now) a 38-page special section on the wild, wacky watch decade that just ended. The bulk of the section is a rundown of the top 10 watch-related stories from 1999 until now. Here’s a glimpse at that top 10 (for a fuller view, you’ll have to read the magazine).
1. Maverick Mechanicals. Green liquid, tiny drive belts, entire movements that rotate inside their cases: it’s amazing what got into luxury mechanical watches. What would Thomas Mudge say?
2. Making it on Their Own. Mechanical-watch companies were gripped by the urge to go it alone, movement-wise. Now, many in the watch industry regard designing and making an in-house movement a rite of passage into the world of haute horlogerie.
3. Reinventing the Wheels. The escapement has fascinated and frustrated watchmakers for centuries. This past decade brought a flurry of unorthodox escapements: Omega’s Co-Axial, the Ulysse Nardin Dual Direct, Girard-Perregaux’s constant force escapement, and many more.
4. Brand Bonanza. In the 21st century, everyone will have his own watch brand for 15 minutes. Or so it seems now, as new brands, especially high-end mechanical brands, keep on coming, recession be damned.
5. Buy-Out Blowout. Wanna buy a watch company? It was a rare luxury-goods group that didn’t, particularly in the decade’s first years. The sale of the decade was the Richemont Group’s purchase of Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC Schaffhausen and A. Lange & Söhne for a whopping $1.7 billion. There were other major acquisitions – TAG Heuer, Breguet, and Ebel, to name just three − and a slew of not-so-major ones as well.
6. New-Metal Mania. Kryptonite’s probably next, now that watch companies have exhausted every earthly material for use in cases and movements. Ever hear of Hublonium, Zenithium or Ultimum? No one had, until watch companies became obsessed with making their products lighter, stronger, and more resistant to corrosion.
7. A Torrent of Tourbillons. Round and round it goes, and where it stops. . . .The tourbillon craze kept getting crazier, defying not only gravity but, some would argue, logic.
8. Net Gains. The watch world and World Wide Web got ever closer as the decade progressed. Watch companies that once shunned the Web now think it’s just swell.
9. Uncommon Quartz. Motion-powered, light-powered, spring powered, as accurate as an atomic clock: the already awesome quartz watch got better as companies strove to eliminate its few flaws.
10. To Boldly Grow. Just when you thought watches couldn’t get any bigger, they did, hitting 50 millimeters and ultimately 60.
There’s more in our recap of the decade: a fold-out timeline, a tribute to the watch legends who have died and a review of the decade’s roller-coaster economic rises and falls. Our editor, Joe Thompson, has also compiled a list of the top 10 surprises of the decade. Don’t miss any of it in WatchTime’s 10 Anniversary issue.