Ask a watch manufacturer about it and they are non-committal. ‘We did notice a trend,’ is all a Rolex spokesman would offer.
Marie de Pimodan-Bugnon of industry bible World Tempus is more forthcoming. ‘The big blue wave continues to surge across the watchmaking planet,’ she says, describing the current horological buzz colour as a ‘universal hit’. And the key word in her summary is ‘continues’. Because, although 2013 undoubtedly is the year of blue, this particular trend has been percolating through the cultural bedrock for some time now.
Perhaps James Cameron’s 2009 movie Avatar signalled the breakout of the colour. Since then we have had Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj showing off the blue-haired look. The Duchess of Cambridge has flown the flag for blue, royal and otherwise, in her outfits.
And, at the end of last year, the Pantone Color Institute, which is to colour what the Pope is to Rome, declared the shade Monaco Blue, to be its No1 shade for Spring/Summer 2013 – a ‘wonderful, calming and anchoring colour’ said Pantone’s executive director Leatrice Eiseman.
The catwalks agreed, with everyone from Ferragamo and Paul Smith to Gucci and Prada kitting out their beautiful boys and girls in blue’s many shades and hues.
Even in gardening, blue is making its mark. Particularly in the UK as the cottage garden is rediscovered; its blue flowers, such as lupins, delphiniums and sweet peas that are seeing a renaissance. Such concepts of retro charm and anchoring perhaps get to the heart of blue’s popularity right now. ‘We don’t always think of blue as a neutral colour,’ says Pantone’s Eiseman, ‘but it can be.’
When the times get skittish, people seek out the familiar, the trusted, the eternal. And blue – of the sea, the sky – says all these things. The colour also symbolises loyalty, trust and control. Blue is the colour of many a police uniform and numerous business suits.
There’s also blue’s exotic, mysterious side. It has always been devilishly difficult to extract as a colour. So when the Persians managed to do so, from the ore known as smaltite, the intense cobalt colour became a marker of excellence – that smaltite of the ancient Persians can be seen in a Ming vase, the stained glass of Chartres cathedral, the mosaics of ancient Rome and the paintings of Titian. And the fact that extracting the colour involved releasing poisonous arsenic gas only made it more sought after.
Things worth having are worth a struggle. And with that sort of backstory, allure, mythical cachet and cultural resonance, no wonder so many watch brands are wheeling out blue this year. Here are a few of our favourites.
Chronoswiss Blue Flinqué Enamel Artist’s Collection
For the 30th anniversary of Chronoswiss, the company created this gorgeous watch, with a face in the most cobalt of blues.
The ‘flinqué’ technique sees transparent coloured enamel melted over a surface which has been previously engraved (guilloché). This can take five to six firings to get right and the reject rate is not for the faint-hearted watchmaker. Through the transparent back can be glimpsed the historical, manual-wind movement which has been skeletonised with a goldsmith’s saw and file. It’s beautiful, both inside and out.
Louis Vuitton Tambour Twin Chronograph
To celebrate the Parisian luxury label’s 30-year association with the America’s Cup, this twin chrono is specifically made to time a head-to-head yacht race – that’s one chronograph for each boat and one to display the difference between the two.
It takes 437 individual components to deliver that sort of complexity with accuracy and the whole thing is finished in simple classic lines – blue dial, black strap, red and white accents all offsetting a simple 47mm white gold case. Only 30 are being made so anybody who wants one is going to have to act fast.
Tudor Heritage Chrono Blue
Tudor references its own past with this new iteration of the Heritage Chrono. It is a spin-off of the successful 2010 series, which came in black or grey. But the blue version takes its design cues from 1973’s 7169 (the Monte Carlo) – the blue and orange styling, the 45-minute counter.
As for that multi-colour fabric strap, it is woven by the same concern that makes robes for the Vatican. Or you can go with the retro steel bracelet. As any vintage collector will tell you, this is no copy of the original (why muddy the water?). Instead it’s billed as a reinterpretation. But you still get a solid case-back, though the case, at 42mm, is 2mm bigger than the 1970s original.
Never mind the watch, let’s look at that name. Put simply it is a way of reminding us what a regulator is – a watch where the hours, minutes and seconds function each has its own separate, single dial.
Meistersinger has made an elegant watch with what, in some companies’ hands, becomes problematic, thanks to beautiful proportions and a striking contrast between the white of the hands and the blue of the dial. The maker has also reversed the function of the normal regulator. With Meistersinger’s Singulator, the big hand counts the hours and the 12 o’clock sub-dial handles the minutes. It is bold and different and this chunky (13mm thick), but classy item is also Meistersinger’s most expensive watch.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
So how was Rolex going to mark the 50th anniversary of one of its most famous watches, the Cosmograph Daytona, as worn by Paul Newman when he took up racing in the 1970s?
The answer was with this platinum-cased Oyster-style watch in ice blue and chestnut brown – as a colour scheme that’s a complete departure for the company. The price is a little beyond the Daytona’s normal range too, at around $75,000. But then the bracelet is solid platinum too, and the materials that went to make the watch include white gold, platinum, zirconium and niobium. The original came in humble steel and was a manual wind.
Tag Heuer Monaco
The Tag Heuer Monaco is probably one of the most famous timepieces ever made. The world’s first square-shaped watch first saw the light of day in 1969 and its fiendish accuracy and novel automatic movement made it an instant hit.
When the actor Steve McQueen decided to wear one in the film Le Mans, its status seemed assured. It was a typically perverse choice by McQueen, the watch being named after a different race entirely, and the company has decided to continue with that line of logic with its 2013 edition. In the year of the blue watch, Tag Heuer give us a new version of the world’s most iconic blue timepiece, the Tag Heuer Monaco 24. It is black.