Collaborations can be hit or miss. Take the oft forgotten DMX and Marilyn Manson duet, ‘The Omen’. Or the mess that was Guess Originals x A$AP Rocky. Two handsome parents don’t guarantee a cute child.

But in 2016, watches (and Lily Rose Depp) prove that sometimes the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. And not just because there’s less room to muck up. For watch brands, there are more opportunities available than music or fashion. Better yet, they actually make sense. Take cars for example; both watches and auto manufacturers position themselves as arbiters of craftsmanship, with hook-ups between the two serving to bolster that image.

Then there are budgets. Thanks to their high-value product, watch brands often wield seemingly endless pots of cash – and big profits unlock big names, like Kobe Bryant for Hublot or Cara Delevingne for TAG Heuer.

However, that’s not to say every watch collaboration is a must-buy. To sort the non-starters from the genuine must-haves, we take a look at some of 2016’s best team efforts.

Baume & Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra

Race cars and wristwear have enjoyed quite the road trip. TAG Heuer named a watch after Steve McQueen, Zenith sponsored the Dix Mille Tours and Maserati even offers its own line of timepieces. But few are as podium-worthy as the Capeland Shelby Cobra.

Named after racer Carroll Hall Shelby, the design is more a vintage nod than a showroom Lamborghini, its chronograph windows and surprisingly cohesive colour palette (who knew green, black and yellow would work so well?) balancing collector’s novelty with a sports watch’s off-duty ease of wear.

 

Baume & Mercier Capeland Shelby Cobra

TAG Heuer Formula 1 The Watch Gallery Special Edition

Online retailer The Watch Gallery has a long history of brand collabs. But few are as accessibly priced as their latest hook-up with TAG Heuer. Limited to 200 pieces, this limited edition is a rejig of the classic Formula 1 model and eschews brash branding for subtle shades of the retailer’s signature blue instead.

That said, £1,250 isn’t exactly pocket change. Which is why design teams on both sides pushed versatility. The TAG Heuer Formula 1 fills the space between office, sports and off-duty with a piece that can flit easily between the three – a rare example of a Swiss timepiece that delivers on the cost-per-wear front.

 

TAG Heuer Formula 1 The Watch Gallery Special Edition

Timex x Red Wing Waterbury Chronograph Watch

If Timex is the cool kid of watch brands, consider its Red Wing collab the media agency-working, soy latte-sipping, check-shirted elder brother.

The leather strap comes from the same cut as Red Wing’s signature boots, while the Waterbury dial taps that Americana aesthetic. Plus, with an in-built Indiglo Night-Light, you can admire your New England trophy even at bedtime. Sweet dreams.

 

Timex x Red Wing Waterbury Chronograph Watch

Hublot Classic Fusion Limited-Edition Berluti

For all its innovation, Hublot has never been a dress watch brand. The old guard don’t take kindly to peacocking, after all. Which is why, in an attempt to bridge the gap, the Swiss manufacture partnered with Berluti to produce two limited-edition models.

If bridge-building entails distressed leather dials and a split-sewn strap, that is. Here, the automatic Classic Fusion (Hublot’s signature piece) has undergone a tailored facelift. And while the design straddles flamboyance, a muted colourway tightens the reins. Still not one for the top table, though.

 

Hublot Classic Fusion Limited Edition Berluti

Apple Watch Hermès

The Apple smartwatch made luxury wrist tech a thing (not to mention the centuries-old fine watch industry wake up). While there was (and still is) merit in haute horlogerie, the smart watch is recognised as a thing of beauty to many consumers. And judging by the Hermès collaboration, it’s easy to see why.

The dial itself has seen few changes bar the addition of Hermès branding. The real draw lies in the strap. Inspired by the label’s equestrian history, a double tour leather buckle comes in five shades outside the usual black or brown two-horse race. Plus, it’s not every bit of your designer clobber that can track a morning jog.

 

Apple Watch Hermès

IWC x British Film Institute Pilot Spitfire Chronograph Edition

There are plenty of seminal menswear moments onscreen. Watches, not so much. Unless you count the James Bond blink-or-miss-it carousel of Omega, Seiko and Hamilton.

But sourcing inspiration from celluloid needn’t mean defaulting to 007. Instead, IWC looks to the archives – quite literally. A partnership with the British Film Institute has birthed a cobalt Pilot model, limited to just 60 pieces worldwide. Featuring an engraved caseback and in-house 89365-calibre movement, it’s sharper than any MI6 gadget.

 

IWC Pilot Spitfire Chronograph Edition ‘BFI London Film Festival 2016’

Mondaine SBB Gottardo 2016 Stop2Go

The opening ceremony of a tunnel is hardly Rio 2016, but Mondaine has long celebrated the Swiss railway network. True to form, the Gottardo series commemorates the launch of the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland – one of the longest of its kind in the world.

Now, metal girders and poured concrete on a watch may sound duller than a Eurostar packet sandwich, but Mondaine makes it work – largely thanks to an earth tone bezel and an equally colourful caseback. And if the National Rail website is anything to go by, it costs far less than a last-minute train to Edinburgh.

 

Mondaine SBB Gottardo 2016 Stop2Go

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