Sunday, January 3, 2010
Perrelet Turbine Watch Collection Recap
It was almost a make or break design for luxury watch maker Perrelet. A new sporty watch with a turbine styled dial was hoped to hail in a strong level of acceptance for the brand that was treading its way into the United States. While the brand would have been fine if the Turbine collection was a flop, it would have lost that valuable "good first impression" it needed with US watch lovers. A second look at a brand in the US once it has already been dismissed is a tough, and expensive marketing endeavor. Future plans for the brand include making its own movements and competing head-on with the already mainstream luxury watch brands in the US. Perrelet had the product and the quality, but not the notoriety yet.
Earlier in the year I was one of the first people to break news about the Perrelet Turbine watch. The relatively wild design has an obviousness to it. "Why hasn't anyone done that before" was a perception I recall having. For years before that Perrelet was known for its double rotor designs. A system where the automatic rotor in the rear of the watch was connected to another rotor in the front of the watch. The idea was to showcase what Perrelet debuted long ago - the first automatic watch.
The concept of extending the front rotor into something more whimsical wasn't too difficult from a technical standpoint. Some clever designer eventually obliged the idea that a spinning rotor could be part of a jet engine style turbine look on a watch face. A mass of concept art and meetings likely resulting in enticing images, and the project was green-lighted. When the final production ready images were completed more than a few people at Perrelet knew they struck gold with the Turbine watch - but would finicky US watch buyers agree? It has been true for a long time that one could make that argument that European and Asia watch consumers are more forgiving when it comes to "freshness." Avant garde design in the US - no matter how novel or genius - can fail without cause.
Thus it was that the Perrelet Turbine watch needed a positive reaction in the US for the brand to establish a sure footing in the important market. Bloggers such as my self were relied upon to break the news and offer our educated insight into the new collection. In June of 2009 I got to see prototype models of the watch. Functional pre-production mock-ups that communicated what the watch would be like. Three initial models were made available. An all DLC black model, one in black with a red trim behind the turbine rotor blades, and a steel version. Each very well made and on sporty rubber straps.
Watches like this haven't been done before. The reaction on the Internet was impressive. Even before real life images of the Perrelet Turbine watches were posted by the likes of me, plenty of new fans pledged their vows to buy the new watch collection once it was available. This would be months from the time of their announcement. Feedback was looking good for Perrelet, and the watch looked to be slated for success.
Perrelet Turbine watches are luxury timepieces through and through. Priced at about $5,000 to $5,850- these are unlikely to be someone's "first luxury sport watch." Also, due to high demand and new ways to internally make parts, the prices of these Turbine watches are actually lower then initially reported last year when the watches were announced. Still, part of the allure of the item is the straight forward nature of its operation. Maybe luxury sport watches require an entire debriefing to understand what they do, and why you should be impressed with them. Perrelet managed to make these concepts self evident with the Double Rotor Turbine collection watches.
At 44mm wide, the watches are a good sporty size. The watches all start with a smoothly tapered titanium case meant to look like a jet engine structure. To suggest a seamless look, Perrelet designed the crown to be flush with the case. There is a little handle the folds out, and then pull out to operate the watch. A strong point of the design is that the hands aren't too difficult to see - meaning that you don't need to sacrifice comfort for style.
It is easy to appreciate the Perrelet P-181 automatic movement. It is visible through the sapphire caseback window with a level of decoration you'd not expect from a sport watch. One area that I can easily say Perrelet excels at, is attention to detail and decoration. The Turbine collection features two watches that Diamond Like Carbon (DLC) coating. The trendy application of a very hard, and very scratch resistant black coating makes a good deal of sense when trying to protect an expensive investment against wear and tear. This materials is quickly supplanting PVD as the black application of choice. Only high-end makers like Perrelet have a good grasp of how to work with the coating still. Don't expect to see DLC in too many lower end watches for a few years.
Once the Perrelet Turbine watch became commercially available it was clear to Perrelet that they had a hit. My understanding is that the watch now leads their US sales, and it is a welcome chore for them to keep up with demand. US watch lovers are charmed with the luxury, the novelty, and the clear "gee whiz" nature of the innovative watch that feels so obvious in design. It goes to show that with a good design, something that hasn't been quite done before can still feel natural. The Perrelet Turbine watches are a good example of how a watch brand can penetrate a market with a single good item. Better yet, is that Perrelet has a whole collection of impressive timepieces to show off now that they have more attention.
By Ariel Adams