In Focus Watches

Celebrating 35 Years of the Herbelin Newport

Herbelin Newport 35th Anniversary

For over three decades, the Newport has been the epitome of versatility and it continues to be the rock supporting Herbelin . As one of France’s largest watch brands, it’s not too big a surprise to see that Herbelin have a finger in more pies than an upscale patisserie, applying their same distinctly Gallic, value-for-money approach to an incredibly diverse roster of designs. Some might say a little too diverse.

Yet there’s one collection that has come to define Herbelin and while it is a chameleon of a watch, it’s unmistakable in all its guises. That watch is the Newport.

Herbelin Newport Case

The first Newport was designed to signal a changing of the guard at Herbelin. Back in the early 1980s, Jean-Claude Herbelin (the second most important Jean-Claude in the watch world) took over the family business. As the second generation, he needed something that he could call his own, something that would not just be his personal stamp on the company, but define the new direction of the brand.

To do that, he leaned heavily on the family’s love of sailing, in particularly the legendary America’s Cup, which starts on Rhode Island at the city of – you guessed it – Newport. There was a good synergy there; after all, chronometry was to thank for the conquering of the high seas and in a regatta especially, timing is everything. It’s no surprise then that the original Newport took a fair bit of inspiration from marine chronometers. It had a clean, classical dial, nautical details like a 12 o’clock ship’s wheel and central lugs that emphasised the round case.

Herbelin Newport 1988 Advertisement

Herbelin Newport (1988)

Herbelin Newport Royale Advertisement

Herbelin Newport Royale (2003)

And so, in 1988 the first men’s Newport was launched. Water resistant to 50m and fitted with a quartz movement (automatic calibres had yet to make their modern comeback), its gold-plated case measured in at a svelte 34mm. In short, it had everything most people wanted from an affordable watch in the 1980s – impeccable style without the price tag.

It did very well. Between 1991 and the early 2000s, a huge part of Herbelin’s success both at home and abroad can be attributed to the Newport. The collection quickly expanded, welcoming automatic movements, ladies models, different case metals and a particularly handsome indigo colour that’s become the collection’s signature hue. All of those however were in the same look and design as the original and by the early 2000s it was time for a bit of a change.

Herbelin Newport J Class

Herbelin Newport J Class

Herbelin Newport Trophy Grand Sport

Herbelin Newport Trophy Grand Sport

The first big new addition to the collection was the Newport Royale, a distinctive watch designed exclusively for women. Where previous ladies models had just been downsized or feminized men’s, the Newport Royale was a ground-up approach, lavished with mother-of-pearl and diamonds. Then, at the other end of the horological spectrum, came the Newport J-Class, a collection that amped up the handmade, artisan nature of proper watchmaking, including some respectable complications: a flyback, GMT and Power Reserve. Still though, both watches were slight variations on the theme, not dramatic departures. That came in 2007 with the Newport Trophy Grand Sport.

The Offshore to the original’s Royal Oak, the Newport Trophy Grand Sport embraced ceramic, chronographs and proper dive watches for a more intensely sporty vibe than the seafaring yet surface-dwelling Newport original had ever achieved. It shared some aesthetic similarities, but for the first time was very much its own distinctive take on the Newport.

Herbelin Newport Slim

Herbelin Newport Slim

After a much-needed revamp in 2010 (the collection had gotten a bit unwieldy by that point), things continued as they were until Herbelin’s phenomenal 70th anniversary in 2017. To coincide, they launched the Newport Connect, a connected timepiece that was the first French smartwatch. A year later the Newport celebrated 30, leading to a modernist reimagining of the design that took elements from both the 1988 original and the intensely modern smartwatch. It was cool, stealthy and nailed the idea of a contemporary successor to the Newport.

By now, Herbelin had realised just how versatile the Newport was. In 2020 they turned it back to the 1970s with the cushion cased Newport Heritage; in 2021 they slimmed it down to just 7.30mm; in 2022 they introduced titanium and carbon into one watch.

Herbelin Newport 35th Anniversary

Herbelin Newport 35th Anniversary Limited Edition

Now the Newport is celebrating its 35th anniversary and what a three-and-a-half decades it’s been. There are a good double-handful of collections that have lasted the same amount of time, but few have seen as many different iterations, as many different personalities as the Newport.

Over 500,000 Newport watches have been sold in that time and it continues to be the driving force behind Herbelin’s watchmaking. Given the brand’s recent solo boutique opening recently in Paris, they have a lot to thank Jean-Claude Herbelin’s penchant for nautical design for. In short, the Newport’s not going anywhere – nor should it.

More details at Herbelin.

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About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.