Does sport-chic still have a future?

Is it a catch-all word that means everything... to say nothing? Sport-chic is a concept created in the 70's, mainly around the Royal Oak (which is celebrating its 50th anniversary!). A few decades later, does it still exist?

A steel watch, but a luxury watch. A city watch, but which can also be used for sports. When it came to defining the main driving forces behind the Royal Oak, the marketing department took up the subject with a certain perplexity. It was necessary to combine opposites, to create a concept as new as the piece that embodied it. That's when a new word was born: sport-chic.

Today, the concept is established, widely used, not to say worn out. It no longer seems surprising to anyone to associate a sports watch with a certain level of elegance. The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, the Omega Speedmaster and the Royal Oak are all iconic creations that are equally at home in the city and on the sports field.

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

A concept that has become global...and therefore useless?

However, it is precisely because the two worlds are merging that the concept seems somewhat outdated today. It would be like defining a city-sports car: everyone wants a minimum of power, while still being able to drive around town easily. The concept would have no contemporary relevance!

The same thing happened in the watch industry. The boundaries between work and telework, between personal and professional relationships, are tending to blur. Work is nomadic, the rhythm of life is stretched over seven days instead of five, the timetable is shifting and the boundary between the "chic life" and the "sporting life" is blurring. There is no more sport, no more chic, everything is sport-chic. De facto, this concept can encompass just about any watch. Is it destined to disappear now that it has become irrelevant?

Watchmaking Phoenix

The question is really this: does sport chic have the capacity to reinvent itself? To find a new lease of life in the 21st century? Well, recent technological developments in watchmaking seem to prove that it does!

Chopard Monaco Historique
Chopard Chronometer

The advent of inherently sporty materials

One example is the development of alloys and composite materials that form cases and glasses. Fifty years ago, the dichotomy between sport and chic was mainly superimposed on that between gold and steel. Today, this distinction is no longer valid, but it is being renewed quite spectacularly between traditional materials and new generation materials: Sedna gold, recycled gold, recycled steel, carbon, TPT, graphene, Ceragold, ceramics, etc. It is these new ultra-technological materials that once again allow the sporty-chic watch to play on both elegance and resistance.

Ulysse Nardin Blast Hourstriker
Ulysse Nardin, Blast Hourstriker. Its movement incorporates a high-tech titanium membrane.

The miracle of silicon

Another example is the massive adoption by industry of the silicon spiral. Here again, its non-magnetic properties and resistance to temperature variations mean that it can be used for both high-intensity sporting activities and office activities where there are very high magnetic fields, with the immediate presence of computers, tablets, smartphones, headphones, speakers, etc. A single watch can now survive both worlds. This was not the case 50 years ago.

Patek Philippe Advanced Research Aquanaut Travel Time
Patek Philippe Advanced Research Aquanaut Travel Time, spiral Spiromax® in Silinvar®

One strap for all purposes

More recently, the deployment of the new generation of rubber wristbands also makes it possible to ensure a certain level of elegance with the requirements of a sporting practice. Texture, imitation of leather or carbon, touch and feel, are areas that rubber has widely invested in, notably under the impetus of companies like Biwi. The collector who wishes to wear a prestigious piece with a rubber strap, while giving the illusion that it is made of leather or carbon, can now easily do so.

The considerable progress of the movement

Finally, one must obviously keep in mind the tremendous developments from which the movement itself has benefited. In the past, there were calibres dedicated to sport, such as chronographs, alongside other more sophisticated calibres dedicated to the city, such as the first extra-flat pieces from Piaget in the 50s and 60s, or like the complications dear to Patek Philippe. So there were sporty movements on the one hand, and chic movements on the other.

Royal Oak Self-Winding Chronograph Limited Edition
Royal Oak Self-Winding Chronograph, limited edition.

The Royal Oak unified the two, but the trend has accelerated considerably in the last 20 years. The emergence of brands like Richard Mille has definitively erased the boundaries between the two worlds. It is thanks to them that sport-chic is regaining momentum, even if the name itself, "sport-chic", now seems obsolete. What should be invented to replace it? Trendy-sport? Techno-chic? Urban lifestyle?

What do you think? The debate remains open...