There’s a new sheriff in town. That was the message gleaned from the massive images of the Michael Kors Jetmaster Automatic plastered all over Baselworld this year: on billboards, the sides of buses, everywhere. This campaign looked expensive and confident, even bold amidst the natural high-end habitat of Rolex, Omega, Patek, et al. It seemed to be intentionally placed in the absolute heart of the watch industry, at the exact moment when it had the unwavering eyes of the media on it. Michael Kors, which is sold and manufactured by the dominant Fossil group, was letting the world know it had arrived, and with a “real” watch to boot – “real” being a watch-snob synonym for a mechanical, automatic watch you might not be embarrassed to be seen on your wrist around other enthusiasts.
Funnily enough, one would think Michael Kors had nothing to prove to the greater watch industry. Kors is, by a large margin, the most successful name in the United States in terms of sheer sales, and is beginning to become a global powerhouse. Indeed, it has become a kind of default symbol for timepieces in the non-watch-nerd population. And the Michael Kors Jetmaster is one of Kors’ true success stories: getting our hands on one proved near impossible for some time – it had sold out in stores across the nation and depleted warehouse reserves.
It was one of the biggest watch releases of 2014, but one you didn’t read about in the “mainstream” watch media and blogosphere. Still, the Michael Kors Jetmaster is, in my opinion, an important release, and a bit of a weather vane. It remains an interesting watch to wear and contemplate, largely because of the tropes of the “fashion watch” it sidesteps – and it also, in this moment of relentless forecasting in the wake of the Apple Watch’s release – leads the way to some key developing trends across the entire watch industry. The Michael Kors Jetmaster has proven kind of ingenious in its own way – and its popularity should have some pointed lessons for the more traditional watch industry
It’s particularly significant which watch trends the Michael Kors Jetmaster pays fealty to: this is defiantly not a smartwatch, but a fully mechanical creation that intentionally hearkens back to the glamorous era of aviation and space travel that produced horological classics like the Speedmaster “Moonwatch.” (Really, how is it possible that Omega missed nabbing the very cool Jetmaster name?) But does it earn a place in that legacy? Especially considering the hardcore watch geek hive mind may never entirely accept what is sometimes derisively referred to as a “fashion watch.”