While such august names as Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet continue to inspire reverence among collectors, newer watchmakers are garnering attention as well. Here's a look at some insiders' favorites.
Richard Mille: Frenchman Richard Mille has commanded attention from collectors for his starkly modern approach to a tradition-bound craft. In creating watches with pieces inspired by Formula One auto racing or high-tech aeronautics, Mille in many ways helped catapult Swiss horology into the 21st century.
"My objective was to look into the future," said Mille, 57, who founded his business in 2001. "I found horology was using methods that belonged to the 21st century — computers and advanced machinery — to create watches that belonged to the 19th century. It's like using today's automobile technology to make a Model T Ford."
Mille calls his approach antimarketing.
"I don't give myself any price restrictions," he said. "When you do that you have to compromise. For me, it's only the end result that counts."
Nonetheless, Mille recognizes that his approach has tapped into the trend for ultimate luxury with pieces that speak to collectors obsessed with owning the ne plus ultra.
"There are more connoisseurs today," he said. "There are more billionaires. People who buy a Mille are not interested in social acceptance through a brand. They've gone beyond that."
Though the average price of a Mille is around 70,000 euros, or $110,468 at current exchange, the designer said he doesn't consider his watches destined for the bank vault.
"I'm not about gimmicks," he explained. "All of the materials I put into my watches serve a function. They are watches to be worn."
But not by many. Mille estimated that there is a more than 10-year waiting list for some of his creations, like the RM 004, a chronograph that has a movement base plate in carbon nanofiber.
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“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia