“The holidays are meant to be a special time when you bring out your Christmas sweater — and why not your special watch?” asked Summer Anne Lee, a fashion historian and adjunct instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
“Seasonal watches are not over-the-top like the ugly Christmas sweaters,” she said. “But the seasonal aspects of these watches are hard to miss.”
That was the thinking, at least in part, at the Swiss watch brand Maurice de Mauriac.
“We love Christmas sweaters, so we wanted to make Christmas sweater watches that are unique, colorful, warm and comfortable,” said Massimo Dreifuss, who, with his younger brother, Leo, runs the family brand, which was founded in 1997.
On Nov. 11, the brand presented holiday-inspired versions of its L series watches at its boutique and atelier in central Zurich. Red sapphire crystals and red, blue and green tartan bands had been added to the L1 Red Lighting, a time and date model priced at $4,320; the L2 Red Sea, a diver’s watch selling for $5,420; and the L3 Sees Red, a chronograph listed at $5,980.
“We love the color red,” Massimo Dreifuss said. “In these cold times, red is a very strong color — it is about heart, love, family and it is a perfect collection for the Christmas markets where we participate.” The watches, he added, are meant to reflect all the season’s holidays, regardless of their religious or cultural connections.
The watches’ debut was met by smiles from the customers and friends of the brand who had gathered at the big table in the shop, known for its customizable collections and an extensive strap selection.
“This would the perfect watch for — a family man who gets in trouble on Christmas,” the Danish actor Peter Mygind said as he looked at the L3 Sees Red, pausing dramatically midsentence. “He has bought a gift for his wife, but inside it has the wrong name, the name of another woman when the wife opens it. And there the action starts!”
Mr. Mygind, who was to be the face of the brand’s December campaign, is no stranger to Christmas movies, having appeared with Emilia Clarke and Emma Thompson in the 2019 romantic comedy “Last Christmas.”
Nor is he a stranger to Maurice de Mauriac. He was introduced to the brand in 2017 by the Swiss film director Bettina Oberli, and wore one of its watches in the Swiss TV drama “Private Banking,” which Ms. Oberli directed. Two years later, he began collaborating with the brand.
Another guest at the shop was Fabio Don, an Italian architect and watch collector who lives in Zurich. “I love the domed red crystal of the L3,” he said, adding that the tartan strap transmitted the idea of warmth. “But it is wintry, not only for Christmas.”
As for seasonal watches in general, Mr. Don said the category was very niche and watchmakers could explore it further. “To have an item that is coming along for a certain time of year, or a season of our life, will also make it a collectible item,” he said.
Looking at some images of recent holiday timepieces, Mr. Don said, “If I need to pick one more specific Christmas watch, Swatch is the funniest one.”
He was referring to Wondrous Winter Wonderland, part of Swatch’s “The Simpsons” collection introduced in November, with a dial showing the yellow TV cartoon family singing Christmas carols in the snow and a red band with gingerbread figures, stars and snowflakes ($110). “It is not expensive, not posh or showing off, and it is funny,” he said. “This watch is really Christmas.”
Chopard’s Happy Snowflakes watch, an 18-karat white gold timepiece introduced in 2018, features snowflakes of a completely different kind. Its icy effect comes from white diamonds, and the right side of the dial is dominated by a snowflake in mother-of-pearl marquetry. A more subtle snowflake floats above the dial among single diamonds, sandwiched between two sapphire glasses.
Caroline Scheufele, the house’s co-president and artistic director, created the design. “Christmas without snow is not Christmas to me,” she said of Happy Snowflakes, the 25-piece limited edition available at Chopard boutiques ($85,100). “I love skiing, I love the snow — it is one of my favorite elements.”
Ms. Scheufele acknowledged that she is a big fan of Christmas sweaters for the holiday season, when the Scheufeles gather at the family chalet in Lauenen, Switzerland, just outside Gstaad. “I am super traditional about Christmas — and this includes the traditional Christmas sweaters,” she said. “It is the best thing to get warm in front of a cozy fire in a sweater with teddy bear or tartan patterns.”
A teddy bear wearing tartan, with a cocktail in hand, is the dial image on the Ralph Lauren Tartan Tuxedo Polo Bear watch, which is available in stainless steel ($1,750) or 18-karat rose gold ($16,500). The brand has featured the teddy bear in the past.
“It makes sense for a brand like Ralph Lauren to play on the American tradition, the holiday, the party,” Ms. Lee, the fashion historian, said.
In 2021, Konstantin Chaykin, an independent watch maker in Moscow, released a limited-edition Santa Claus watch that emphasized fun rather than luxury. The glasses that framed Santa’s googly eyes were subdials for minutes and hours, and his tongue, which moved behind a smiling mouth, indicated the moon phase. The design belonged to the brand’s collection called Wristmons, short for wrist monsters, and sold out at $19,470.
Michal Dunin, who is the founder of the digital marketing agency WebTalk in Warsaw and an active watch collector, couldn’t hold back a laugh when he looked at an image of the Santa watch during a video call. “It is not for me — even though I am all for the uniqueness of watches that tell a story,” he said. “But it would take a special person to put on such a watch. It kind of speaks of somebody’s character; you need a sense of humor for a watch like that.”
For Anita Porchet, an enamel dial artist, the challenge in creating wintry themes is working with the naturally restrained palette of the season. “You have to bring life to a dial with only a few different colors; you have to work with great subtlety and nuance,” she wrote in an email.
A recent example of Ms. Porchet’s work is the Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse 5738/50G-026 “White Egrets” ($177,419). Her cloisonné enamel dial decoration depicted five egrets, long-necked birds, huddling together as snow fell around them.
She said the technique required creating tiny portions of the images with gold wire, then filling the cavities with glass powder paints and firing the dial at 1,472 degrees Fahrenheit (800 Celsius).
It takes about a week to create such a dial. “But for me, that’s not what’s important,” she said. “What is important is the emotion released by the watch, and that doesn’t depend on the time taken to make the dial.”
As Ms. Lee said, “The Patek is not at all part of the ongoing minimalist and understated luxury movement. No, this is a statement piece for winter — but not only at Christmas. I bet you could still wear it in January.”