It’s funny to think that Victoria Beckham’s “entry” into the fashion business started with a denim line named VB Rocks in the early ’00s. The brand gained infamy by pricing its jeans at $300 a pop. Early aughts designer denim brands like Diesel and True Religion were already charging triple digits for jeans. Beckham’s price point, however, was leaps higher than the rest, leaving customers bewildered with sticker shock but also paving the way for what was to become an aggressively profitable segment of the industry. We laugh in hindsight, given the current pervasiveness and frankly exorbitant prices of today’s designer denim. This was before Balenciaga or Gucci or Bottega Veneta was making and incorporating entire lines of denim into their commercial collections. How very prophetic of Beckham.
VB has always been slightly ahead of the curve. A main staple of the cultural lexicon since the ’90s, Beckham’s career trajectory began as one-fifth of the most famous girl band to have ever existed (fight me on this, I dare you) and parlayed into her becoming the matriarch of a global Beckham dynasty. Today, Beckham is also known for being a legitimate force in the fashion industry as the founder and creative director of her eponymous fashion label. Victoria Beckham presents its ready-to-wear collections every season in Paris and retails in 230 stores in 50 countries worldwide.
Last week Beckham presented us with her latest design conquest by releasing a collection of watches in collaboration with Breitling. The Breitling Chronomat Automatic 36 Victoria Beckham collection includes six variations and is limited to 1,500 pieces. It’s quintessential Chronomat with its vertebrae-like rouleaux bullet bracelet that makes you want to run your fingers across the polished grooves every time you come close to touching it (maybe that’s just me?), and has the traditional raised rider tabs at the 15-minute mark. The limited collection comes in two metals: stainless steel and yellow gold – a metal which was brought back from the dead for Breitling, specially for VB. Swiss watch brands, please take note!
The new dial colorways are inspired by Beckham’s own Spring/Summer 2024 palette, including peppermint, midnight blue, dove gray, and sand. The watches feature the Breitling logo on the dial and Victoria Beckham’s initials on the seconds hand. The watches are equipped with self-winding Breitling Caliber 10, which features a date window at six o’clock. The movement has approximately 42 hours of power reserve and is COSC certified.
Despite being a very modest 36mm, the Breitling Chronomat Automatic 36 Victoria Beckham watch still has a lot of heft. It’s chunky in that perfectly ’90s Breitling way – a look we know Beckham aligns with when wearing her personal watches: “Typically I do like a more masculine watch,” she says, “but one that does have a sense of femininity, a sense of elegance.” I can relate to Beckham, as I too prefer a watch with more heft, but it has to be that perfect meet-in-the-middle proportion, that balance of heft and legibility but also of curvature and wearability. The contrast of wearing a larger, more “masculine” watch a little loose on your wrist could in turn make you feel more feminine. Like wearing oversized clothing to make you feel smaller: it’s the boyfriend jean effect.
The watch is by no means a total redesign – it’s a revamp of a classic. Which by the way is fine, Breitling is not looking to reinvent the brand, they’re looking to appeal to a new demographic by tweaking the existing offering. “It was just taking what Breitling does so well and putting my little spin on that,” explained Beckham, “you know, ultimately making the watches that I as a woman desire to wear.”
This partnership isn’t as unlikely as it seems. VB has been wearing watches proudly since her early days of pop stardom. What started as a stainless steel Cartier Tank Française worn in tandem with her then boyfriend David Beckham’s matching Française, developed into a yellow gold Yacht-Master (again, matching with Becks). Then came the countless diamond-set Jacob and Co. Five Time Zone, which eventually, with time, snowballed into a pretty serious watch collection.
VB has always been part of the pop-culture and watch Venn diagram. Given gen Z’s obsession with rehashing ’90s visual cultural ephemera on Instagram, her watch choices from decades past have been immortalized online. The now very famous airport paparazzi pictures of Victoria and David Beckham in 1997 wearing the aforementioned matching Cartier watches even served as inspiration for Gucci’s most recent Creative Director Sabato De Sarno debut campaign for the house late last year. This is the power of the Beckhams. In recent years we have come to know Beckham as a bonafide watch collector; she has been spotted wearing a Nautilus Ref. 7118/1300R-00 and a ref. 116505 Everose Daytona, amongst others. Now Beckham has come to create her own line of watches. Because surely making, not just wearing the product is how you wield real influence in 2024? It’s interesting to note that her new collection of watches is actually a partnership between Breitling Chronomat Automatic 36 Victoria Beckham and her ready-to-wear brand, not VB the woman. Which makes total sense. It’s a way for Beckham and Breitling to cross pollinate watches and the wider world by focusing on design and not just celebrity. Victoria Beckham seems like an obvious choice, but by using her brand as the platform and eliminating herself as the focal point (note, she is not featured in the campaign), it becomes a slightly more earnest and almost more respectable way of speaking to the woman consumer. This is not a collaboration-cum-ambassadorship style gimmick but a fully fledged fashion brand collaboration with a heritage Swiss watch brand.
To be frank, Breitling Chronomat Automatic 36 Victoria Beckham would need to pull a stunt like this because I personally don’t know any women purchasing Breitling watches in 2024. This is a topic brand CEO Georges Kern is very transparent about: “We are predominantly a male brand but why should we close ourselves towards 50% of the market? But we want to be the cool and relaxed alternative in this male [dominated] market and we want to have the same positioning with women’s watches… [A] relaxed alternative to the very conservative and classic Swiss watchmaking.” Beckham understands how to speak to women. Today her look is polished and pristine. Her ready-to-wear line consists of relaxed, slightly deconstructed city tailoring, perfectly cut wool coats and fluid, ankle-grazing silk dresses. It’s for grown-ups. And with a luxury fashion brand comes highly sophisticated campaign imagery – a tactic that Beckham clearly carried over to Breitling for the release of this collection. It seems she was vehemently in control as creative director too, choosing Mario Sorenti to shoot the campaign. Sorenti is a highly esteemed fashion photographer who has spent the last three decades capturing fashion campaigns (with clients including Calvin Klein, Chanel, Saint Laurent) that are forever imprinted onto our memories, by choice or not. Beckham also brought on one of her model-muses to star in the campaign and used full Victoria Beckham looks and accessories to style the shoot. Why waste a perfectly solid marketing opportunity that benefits both brands? And what’s more, why not cultivate imagery that a modern woman with spending power can identify with? I scrolled through countless pictures of VB in multiple listicles all titled something along the lines of “75 best Victoria Beckham outfits of all time.” It became clear to me that despite a few wild card choices in the ’90s (matching his and hers sarongs anybody?), her style has remained consistent since the turn of the millennium. Beckham has, for example, always understood the power of a simple Alaïa dress or the routine of sticking to the same black bug eye sunglasses. It’s her take on a uniform, and often that uniform includes a watch. All of this to say VB’s power in fashion is omnipotent. This may only be a small 1,500 piece dent for now. but let’s see if this yields as much influence as VB is truly capable of.