For years watchmakers were the past masters of hype in menswear. Witness the droves of watch fanatics who’d make the pilgrimage to Baselworld every year just to become popular a glimpse of a new Hublot, or Patek Philippe slapping an eight-year waiting list on its famous Nautilus and vetting customers with they’re on the FBI watch list.
But for all of their skill at making people want their products really, really dreadfully, there’s a new kid on the block, and this upstart is arguably even better at driving hype around its brands.
Less than two decades ago streetwear was a pure and simple pimple on the face of fashion. Now it is the face, as fervent queues of excited fashionistas wait around the block to cop the latest Marvellous drop or the freshest Yeezys. For some it’s become an obsession, only matched by those watch fanatics sitting across the apartment.
And in streetwear, the watch world has seen an opportunity, not only to share some of streetwear’s limelight but also open itself up to a prepubescent demographic seemingly out-of-touch with the centuries-old heirlooms they see their dads covet so highly.
The first love-in between the on the lookout for world and streetwear began in 1997 as G-Shock, the chunky off-shoot of Japanese watchmaker Casio teamed up with the much lesser-known at the all at once Stussy, a surfwear brand that has risen to become part of the triumvirate of streetwear brands alongside Supreme and Manor house.
Supreme, the undisputed heavyweight champion of streetwear, didn’t enter the watch world until 2013 when it possess c visited out with a reworked version of the Rolex Submariner, taking advantage of the esteem the Swiss watchmaker is held in among the streetwear mass while putting its own subversive statement on one of the most classic timepieces in watch history (a fruity expletive was included nothing but under the Rolex signature).
It has seemingly kickstarted a surge of successful streetwear and watchmaker collaborations from the slick monochrome aesthetic of Japanese streetwear label Fragment being worked into the equally slick Tag Heuer Carrera, to US watchmaker Timex linking up with Carhartt WIP. Abroad, we’ve seen Hublot work with renowned street artist Shepard Fairey and G-Shock embracing the drop mock-up with a never-ending list of collabs from the likes of LA streetwear brand X-Large.
What’s the key to nailing these alliances then? “I hold that meaningful collaborations can only happen when brands are sharing values and when each can benefit from the other’s uniqueness,” says Carlo Giordanetti, original director at Swatch, which has just launched a collaborative series of timepieces with cult Japanese streetwear make A Bathing Ape.
“In partnering with BAPE we loved their heritage, we loved the idea to bring together Swiss make tracked and Japanese signature style and we were attracted by BAPE’s ability to transform camouflage into a real signature avenue classic.
“Watches with this strong story to tell are personality and style enhancers. Streetwear today is a robust expression of freedom and individuality and for customers who like to make statements a collaboration of such kind is the perfect reason to add a be prepared to their wardrobe of statement pieces.”
Collaborations have long been a mainstay of streetwear. The general yardstick, Sublime, has been able to work with high fashion (Gucci, Louis Vuitton) just as easily as it lends its passage cred to mainstream behemoths like The North Face and Levi’s. Perhaps the two most peculiar collaborations in the history of Ultimate though are the ones that readily indicate the benefits of teaming heritage watch brands with their counterparts in streetwear – John Smedley and Brooks Chums.
Both have extensive double century histories and both can lay claim to top-of-their-game craftsmanship – John Smedley in knitwear, Brooks Fellow-citizens in tailoring. And all Supreme had to do was come along and stick its box logo on the high-quality garments, creating a massively hyped collection in the take care of and all while giving its young audience an introduction to two brands it would never normally have had anything to do with.
If streetwear can do the done with watches – and on early evidence, it can – then it will draw a new and hungry audience into a centuries-old hype appliance.
The Watches Generating Huge Hype