If this issue seems heavy with military overtones it is not because Switzerland has adopted a more war-like mood or that brands have become more belligerently competitive. Prosaically, the apparent vogue for military watches is really just the spotlight being turned on what has been a constant in watch design for decades. Modern military timepieces are mostly unaffordable by anyone living on a military wage, the word association is instead used as a short-hand for all sorts of desirable and marketable qualities including technicality, high-precision, ruggedness, reliability and simplicity of design. And, rather than referring to suitability to today's flash-points, military in horology terms generally means conflicts past and a point in history when watchmakers had to innovate under real pressure - all of which represents another step away from the over-complex excitability of watches such as Zenith's Defy Extreme of late and unlamented memory.
As it happens, no company has moved away from this territory faster or more radically than Zenith, whose pocketwatch movement-based Pilot graces this issue's cover, and is a sign that Zenith in particular, and the watch business in general, has settled into a less frenetic groove.
How much renewed design and communication translates into the watches people actually buy is a moot point. In raw volume terms there is simply Rolex and then everyone else, and the best selling Rolex models are determined by price and availability more than any other factor. However, researching a report on the UK retail market's top performers for a Swiss magazine threw up an encouragingly diverse set of results. Naturally Rolex is the strongest performer, while Omega, Patek Philippe and Cartier were mentioned frequently, however less obvious names such as Jaeger-LeCoultre and Panerai were also praised, as was Bell & Ross.
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