The worlds of skiing and watches have long been fertile ground for collaborations, with their Swiss roots and shared affinity for high-octane glamour and sport. But this winter the synergies are reaching new heights with watch brands tapping on the post-lockdown popularity of active living and the outdoors.
Escaping a drab city winter for a skiing holiday in Gstaad, Cortina, St Moritz or Aspen has long been a winter tradition for the wealthy, but the sector is now resonating with a wider audience. Research by Future Market Insights found that the skiing holiday sector is expected to grow from $5bn in 2022 to $15bn by 2032.
To draw in adventure-loving clients, brand ambassadors are taking on more active roles. Next February, buyers of a special Panerai Submersible Mike Horn VIP edition (£35,800, panerai.com) will be heading to Svalbard for a four-day North Pole experience with the explorer and adventurer Mike Horn, where collectors will be scaling ice caves and racing on snowmobiles to wild fjords. At French luxury ski resort Courchevel, watchmaker Richard Mille will offer clients special one-on-one clinics with French skiing champion Alexis Pinturault, Olympic skier and snowboarder Ester Ledecká or Olympic biathlete Johannes Thingnes Bø.
A focus on skiing, adventure and winter sports has helped four-year-old Norqain cut through the noise in a crowded horological landscape. Conceived by Ben Küffer in Zermatt with the idea of offering independently made Swiss watches below CHF10,000 (around £8,970), today Norqain has 165 points of sale in 25 countries, with sales for the period between January to October 31 up 110 per cent compared with the same period in 2021. Küffer credits the clear messaging around adventure, from collection names such as Neverest and Wild One to young, edgy “Norqainers” who front the brand, such as Switzerland’s freestyle skier Andri Ragettli and ski racer Michelle Gisin.
“We have a niche, but hopefully it will be a very clear one,” says Küffer. “We love what we do and people feel it in our small world. We’re a small brand, but it’s a big part of our story.”
Meanwhile, heritage watch brands are partnering with storied skiwear brands on collaborations that riff on their shared history and codes. That’s the case for French skiwear house Fusalp, which in 1966 invented the first competition ski suit and Swiss watchmaker Zenith, which around the same time was putting the final touches on the world’s first automatic chronograph.
“Zenith’s headquarters is around 100 miles from ours [and] those guys were developing state of the art products in their business at the same time,” says Fusalp’s chief executive Alexandre Fauvet. In its first collaboration with a fashion brand, Zenith has created the unisex Defy Classic Fusalp, with a graphic, openwork dial punctuated with a special snowflake star design, in either black or white ceramic (priced CHF 9,900 and CHF 10,900, and limited to 300 and 100 pieces, respectively).
The design echoes Fusalp’s accompanying seven-piece, all-black capsule collection. The ski jackets — priced from £1,570 — feature a specially designed “storm cuff” sleeve that can be zipped open to reveal a watch. Stylishly designed with blue, white and red stripes to match the watch dial, this technical collaboration should appeal to both Zenith and Fusalp’s functionally minded clients, as well as lovers of good design, says Fauvet.
Other brands are teaming an outdoors focus with an eco-conscious edge. Breitling recently signed the 22-year-old, two-time gold Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim as ambassador, with Breitling chief executive Georges Kern saying he chose Kim for her “gutsy vibe and drive for constant improvement” as well as her work with Protect Our Winters, a climate advocacy group. In the campaign, Kim sports the new Super Chronomat Automatic 38 Origins (from £16,400, breitling.com), the watchmaker’s first fully traceable gold and diamond watch. The gold hails from Colombia’s artisanal Touchstone mine, which is accredited by a Swiss non-profit, while the diamonds around the bezel are lab grown by a certified New York City-based supplier.
Family-owned outerwear label Norrøna and Swiss watchmaker Ulysse Nardin are also merging eco credentials with an adventuring spirit, in Norrøna’s first watch collaboration. Ulysse Nardin’s new Diver Norrøna Arctic Night features various upcycled materials, including carbonium taken from offcuts of aeroplane parts, Nylo, which is crafted from recycled fishing nets, and steel from recycled automotive materials.
Buyers of the watch will also receive a special edition arktis Gore-Tex Pro Norrøna jacket (£10,460, limited to 29 pieces, ulysse-nardin.com), a water and windproof jacket that features a 100 per cent-recycled nylon face.
First developed in 2005 with the Norwegian explorer Børge Ousland and perfected over the years on his polar expeditions, this special edition version features both the Norrøna and Ulysse Nardin logos, and comes with the same host of technical bells and whistles, from customised 3D pullers for easy gripping with mittens to a specially designed hood that transforms into an air pillow for extreme weather conditions. Proper adventuring stuff.
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