Old-school rules maintained that when denuded of your traditional signs of wealth and ebullience – a well-cut suit; a seven-fold silk tie; whole-cut Berlutis in a shade of tobacco no one would dare inhale – the only way of showing the world your worth was to wear a large, preferably bling watch.
Well, guess what, the world is looking elsewhere for its fun, which means the traditional “beach watch” – pressurised to 300 metres, fitted to a garish green rubber strap and potentially containing three or more complications no one needs while paddling in the Med – is currently surplus to requirements.
Instead, for the ultimate evocation of upscale down timing this summer, invest in that perennial partner in time, the white-dialled watch. For starters, it earns its keep on an otherwise bare wrist (mangles are so Desert Trip), but better still, it departs from the current trend of dark and moody dials (green, navy, meteorite) in favour of something much more redolent of rambunctious days on the Riviera. Water resistance at this level is a conversation starter rather than a Top Trumps priority: aim for something svelte and suitably sun and sand proof and leave the rest to fortune. After all, what is life if not a series of happy incidents?
Designed to be visible from the far end of a Swiss station platform, the iconic Mondaine SBB models have never been bettered for dial-based legibility. The smooth-operator-with-a-hint-of-mitteleuropean-cool style choice. Mondaine Essence, $185. At johnlewis.com
Tissot operates an if it ain't broke, don't fix it rule with its super-svelte Heritage collection. Bold, era-correct numerals and the original logo elevate this bright spot on the horological horizon – as does its brilliant silvered dial. Tissot Heritage Petite Seconde, $1,030. tissotwatches.com
The talk has been all about its Speedmaster Moon Watch this summer (for obvious reason) but don't forget Commander Bond currently wears a Seamaster, the original sea-going vessel for Omega's ever-improving (now Metas-certified) movements since 1948. Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M Co-Axial Master Chronometer, $5,000. omegawatches.com
Few will voyage above (let alone beneath) the waves with this grand complication from the world's oldest watch brand in continuous production, but we can vouch for its ability to turn heads on land – it was one of the stars of this year's SIHH. Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin, $82,000. vacheron-constantin.com
Ushering a new dawn for the Le Brassus manufacture, this year's major launch at the Swiss watch fairs was an audacious bid to put its patrimony at the heart of an entirely new collection. Running from a three-hands with date model to a superlative minute-repeating supersonnerie, expect further iterations to follow in the years to come. Audemars Piguet Code 11:59, £30,000. audemarspiguet.com
Words: Bill Prince