Neon red lipsticks, fluorescent pinks and more than a touch of the blues for the watch industry. The ’80s were a time of contradictions for those who lived through them. Aesthetically, the era of style crimes and improbable geometrical motifs has left virtually no trace. The music videos of Robert Palmer and Brian Ferry, and the advertisements created by Jean-Paul Goude, celebrated powerful and sexy women, as epitomised in the photographs of Helmut Newton. But the era of cheap pop also gave us Sheena Easton, the Renault Fuego and the white Ferraris of Miami Vice. As far as watches were concerned, it was a nadir. This was when the crisis caused by the Swiss watch industry’s failure to compete with its Asian competitors (often referred to – not entirely accurately – as the quartz crisis) reached its peak. But the decade also marked the beginning of a number of success stories. Cartier exploded onto the scene with the Must, along with Bulgari and the Bulgari Bulgari. Raymond Weil also found its feet. It was a time when watches could be both small and ostentatious, and the two-tone gold and steel look – a combination to be handled with care – was ubiquitous.
Whether it’s just the pendulum making its inevitable return, a lack of inspiration, the general malaise of today’s uncertain and destabilising times, or a bit of all three, it’s clear that, following the nostalgic return to the style of the 1950s, then the ’60s and ’70s, the 1980s watch is making a comeback. The Panthère de Cartier, launched in 1983, is once again available, completely unchanged and in its original form. Cartier saw no need to revise or modernise it, judging it completely in tune with contemporary sensibilities. Bulgari has never stopped working on the Bulgari Bulgari, today familiar in its Roma version, as well as the Octo, a watch whose powerful geometry is a reminder of the bold shapes used in both architecture and fashion.
Raymond Weil has always had the Tango, an iconic ’80s watch – but let’s have another look at it anyway. It still has its nail-head screws around the bezel, its baton hands and two-tone bracelet to match the gold bezel (gold-plated in this instance, given the target market). Gold was in fact an essential component of ’80s style. That’s yellow gold, of course – no variations permitted. A certain taste for ostentation and contrast cemented the popularity of the precious metal in its native colour, which more recently was rejected in favour of the warmer and more prestigious rose gold. So, obviously, yellow gold is back. And if it looks a bit dull or cold compared with rose gold, well, that doesn’t matter. Audemars Piguet has made it a core element of its range. Which is as it should be, given that the Royal Oak was also an iconic watch of the 1980s.
It was hot like hell and turned into the most edited opinion. It was likewise that opinion that made me interested in the background of this brand, because the seller explained that the design was inspired in the first men’s wristwatch, launched by Cartier at 1904. So you can imagine it did not take long before I became obsessed with chains in general, particularly with Cartier.At that time see forums were just becoming popular, watch magazines were rare and watch blogs like Fratello and Hodinkee didn’t exist yet. All these GTG’s were organised by collectors themselves and were always very amusing. Everybody brought a few pieces in their collection and also heaps of wine and beer, we chatted about the several models before late in the day. But always the very same brands got all of the attention and for me it was quite frustrating that you only paid attention to my Cartier watches, to be considerate. The term ETA was constantly mentioned as if these were inferior movements and too frequently I heard quotes such as; ‘my spouse would love them’