In a world gone virtual due to the pandemic, the craftsmanship, artistry and beauty of a luxury watch can stand out more than ever, says Zach Udell, vice president of London Jewelers.
“A watch is an extension of being human and of your personality,” he explains. “Yes, it’s a good investment, but it’s also physically and intrinsically emotional in a time when human connections are important.”
Today, he says, luxury watch consumers are showing their true colors.
“Vibrant shades are huge right now, particularly green. It’s trending for both men and women,” Udell says, pointing to the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore, which comes in hues ranging from khaki to lime. At London’s brand-new Bulgari boutique, a glistening iteration of the Bulgari Bulgari watch boasts a bottle-green face.
Earlier this month, Rolex added some serious flash to its Oyster Perpetual lineup with several new colors, including a verdant shade along with turquoise and coral red. The demand is “overwhelming” for these bright shades, Udell says. Blasts of color have turned up in Audemars Code 11.59, too, he notes. “They offer new dials in surprising shades, such as purple and royal blue, and it’s very in tune with high style.”
Why the clamor for color? “People have been stuck inside for months and color is happy and uplifting,” he explains.
For women, he suggests vibrant watches that can be worn every day, including Patek Philippe’s new Twenty~4 with its smart steel case, blue sunburst dial and diamond-set bezel. “We’re seeing an uptick in their interest for mechanical or hand-wound watches instead of quartz, and somewhat larger sizes ranging from 34 mm to 41 mm.” (All the better to stand out on your next Zoom call.)
On the flip side, the new normal has lessened the need for dress watches. “Men are leaning towards luxury timepieces that are sporty, like the new Rolex Submariner or Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo. And there’s more demand for complications.”
But just because there aren’t as many fancy fêtes these days, there are still plenty of milestones to mark with timepieces — including weddings, christenings, graduations, and bar and bat mitzvahs.
“A luxury timepiece is the kind of gift you remember,” Udell says, whether your grandfather gives it to you on your 21st birthday or your mom slips it to you on your wedding day. “It’s a gift that celebrates the human experience. With proper care, it can last forever — it can have its own history.”
History is something Udell — part of the fourth generation in the family business, along with his cousins Randi Udell Alper and Scott Udell — knows quite a bit about. In 1926, his great-grandfather, Charles London (inset), opened his business on School Street in Glen Cove, LI, where the shop still exists. London wound the clocks, sometimes 50 per home, on the opulent estates of wealthy Gold Coast families such as the Vanderbilts, Pratts and Whitneys.
These days, the premier family-owned jewelry and watch retailer boasts a dazzling Manhasset flagship — with its expansive collection of more than 40 luxe watch brands — and outposts in Southampton, East Hampton, Glen Cove, downtown Manhattan and Wheatley Plaza in Greenvale, LI.
Udell says some of the progeny of those legendary early customers still visit and shop at London Jewelers. “It’s an emotional thing for us.” He also keeps his great-grandfather close to heart. A photograph of Charles London hangs at Udell’s front door. “I see him every morning as I leave and every evening when I come home.”
Best men’s luxury watches of 2020: London Jewelers’ vice president Scott Udell
Patek Philippe: “It’s tasteful and luxurious: a major statement maker for the classic man.”
Rolex: “These have just launched with fun colored dials in green, navy blue and mustard yellow. But the one that catches my eye is the turquoise. It’s a new-age version of a vintage look, and it’s going to be on fire.”
Tudor: “This is a great workhorse; it’s very durable, so you can swim and dive in it. It’s the perfect piece for a young person starting a collection.”
Omega: “It’s a true heritage piece with a distinctive retro flair. The Speedmaster is timeless and sporty with a really identifiable look.”
Best women’s luxury watches of 2020: London Jewelers’ vice president Randi Udell Alper
Audemars Piguet: “Making strong watches for strong women has been top of mind for Audemars Piguet over the last few years. It really shows in the artistry of their newest launch, the Code 11.59.”
Patek Philippe: “Patek makes the world’s finest timepieces, and they go to great lengths to ensure that women have timeless, well-crafted options that also happen to be beautiful. Their ladies watches never feel like an afterthought to the men’s collections.”
Bulgari: “A tubogas Serpenti wraps around your wrist and hugs your curves. You won’t find a more comfortable watch, yet it’s still feminine and elegant.”
Rolex: “This watch is a truly wearable everyday piece that goes with anything. It will take you from tennis to errands to a night out without missing a beat.”