A fashion watch is one focused more on design than construction or history. Most fashion watches have a short production period and are not considered collectibles, and thus many cannot be serviced or repaired.
The concept of the fashion watch was created by Richard Loftus, heir to the English Accurist watchmaking company. Educated in England and the United States, Loftus saw the ephemeral nature of fashion and sought to apply that to watchmaking. He launched the Old England brand in 1967 and was proven correct when it quickly became the top brand in both the United Kingdom and United States by 1970.
This created a fashion watch revolution, with brands such as Mortima, Sheffield, and Royce creating popular but short-lived watch ranges. These were often sold in department stores and used less-expensive Roskopf movements, switching to quartz as soon as the technology became cheaper. Larger companies soon entered the fashion watch fray with more frequent model changes and cheaper ranges, often with alternate brand names.
In 1983, the fashion watch trend reached a new high as SMH introduced the Swatch. This was named “second watch,” a term originally coined by Loftus to describe the ephemeral nature of fashion watches. Other major brands jumped in to compete, notably Mondaine and Fortis in Europe, Timex in the United States, and Seiko, Citizen, and Casio in Japan. Perhaps the most successful fashion brand was Fossil, which started in Dallas, Texas and grew rapidly to top the American market.
Another major trend in fashion watches was licensing. Gucci was perhaps the first major licensee, but by the 1990s nearly every brand had a watch range, from Champion to Hershey's. Fossil soon produced watches under the Emporio Armani, Philippe Starck, and Burberry brands. This trend would peak around 2000 before declining as cheaper off-brand watches appeared.
Today, the fashion watch segment is divided along the lines of the entire watch industry. High-end brands like Coach, Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, and Ralph Lauren have become respected watch manufactures, licensed brands like Armani, Diesel, Guess, Hugo Boss, Michael Kors, and Tommy Hilfiger have gained respect, and Internet brands like Christopher Ward, Daniel Wellington, MVMT, and Paul Valentine are rising. Yet the majority of watch sales go to cheap, no-name fashion watches.