By Christine Coates
For many men, the watch they choose makes a statement about who they are. The “right” watch is researched ad nauseam. Once decided on, the buying process is a source of great pride and the choice of where they obtain their watch is also considered with great thought. What makes these a man choose a certain time piece? I polled a group of five men, each of whom consider themselves expert watch aficionados. Each one argued passionately for his brand of choice and none seemed to agree on a clear “winner” in the luxury watch category. However, they all agreed on two things: 1) that a watch is an indication of status and success, and 2) owning a luxury watch shows a deep appreciation for the artistry involved in the making of a precision time piece. Here are some of their favorites luxury brands:
Audermars Piguet is a family-owned Swiss watchmaker founded by childhood friends Jules Lois Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet in 1875. The brand gained prominence with the introduction of their Royal Oak wristwatch in 1972, considered to be the first luxury sports watch in the world. Immediately recognizable from its octagonal design, these watches demonstrate a connection with culture, art, architecture, sports, and science. Combining their timeless, unique design with a rugged high-end look, these pieces command attention. Notable owners of Audemars Piguet watches include LeBron James, Lionel Messi, Tom Cruise, Jay-Z and even Juan Carlos I (the King of Spain). At a recent event celebrating Audemars Piguet’s collaboration with Marvel, a limited edition “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon was put up for auction. All proceeds were donated to Audemars Piguet established program with two non-profits, First Book and Ashoka, dedicated to giving students from low-income communities the resources to drive change in their community.
Rolex is the absolute benchmark when it comes to luxury watches. Known by collectors, enthusiasts and novices, the name Rolex is recognizable, implies status and screams “success”. This luxury brand watch tends to be a milestone piece for many. And with Rolex, the value of your watch increases over time. The two fan favorites of the Rolex seem to be the Submariner (waterproof to depths ranging from 100ft – 1000ft in a dive, depending on model) and the Daytona (which has a stopwatch that can time your lap speed while racing and makes you feel like a cool race car driver). Many have notable owners – James Bond (the character), Steve McQueen, Jack Nicklaus, Eric Clapton, Marlon Brando… and the list goes on and on. The most expensive Rolex ever sold was the Paul Newman Daytona (given to him by his wife, Joanne Woodward), sold at auction for $17.8M. The sequel to the famous Newman movie should be called Cool Wrist Luke!
Omega is another brand that signifies cool. Compared with Rolex, the Omega is more affordable, yet equally distinguished. Our panel of owners all agree that the Omega is great looking, symbolizes success, and has an amazing history. Some Omega Seamaster models can go down to 35,000ft underwater. James Bond has deeped dived with the Omega for just this reason in multiple films. The Omega also has a very popular Olympic Games collection. The Speedmaster model series takes it up a notch, with the most notable of the line being the Moonwatch. This 1966 model was worn by Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11 and worn when he walked on the surface of the moon (Neil Armstrong also wore one, but left his inside the lunar module when taking his giant leap for mankind)! Worth knowing, the Speedmaster worn by Jack Swigert on Apollo 13 was used to time the critical 14 second burn that ultimately led to the astronaut crews safe return to Earth. Omega was given the Silver Snoopy Award by NASA, honoring their contribution and outstanding achievement relating to flight safety and mission success.
Patek Philippe is one of the most recognized Swiss watch brands in the world, and one of the last remaining independent luxury watchmakers. The Patek Phillipe brand has a long lineage, having planted its roots in Geneva 1839. Often included in lists of top 10s (and definitely on our panel’s list), this timepiece brand is known for their extreme level of craftsmanship and finishing, creating some of the finest super-high complication watches. Probably most known for their Complications and Nautilus lines, this watch is pure class and is the perfect accessory to rock a suit! The Grandmaster Chime in steel created quite a buzz at the November 2019 Only Watch auction, where crowds speculated it could fetch upwards of $20M. When all was said and done, the watch commanded an impressive $31,194,370 officially making it the most expensive watch in the world.
Jaeger LeCoultre (JLC) is a Swiss horology brand that dates back to 1833. Although not as commonly known as others, JLC holds its own being able to claim 1000 hours of control testing as marked on their watches. Those in the watch world would call this an excellent choice, an iconic Swiss dress watch showcasing a generally thin width, combined with a smaller diameter than its “show off” competitors. Another unique feature of Jaeger LeCoultre is that the generally feature a leather strap to ensure a perfect fit under a dress shirt cuff or sportcoat. The JLC emits an air of elegance when worn. Also known as the Watchmaker’s Watchmaker, JLC makes their high-end watch movements entirely in-house, and have been the supplier of high-quality calibers to other prestigious brands such as Vacheron Constantin, Cartier, and even Patek Philippe. This watch was featured as the watch of the lead character in Marvel’s Dr. Strange.
Panerai started as a watch retail and repair facility in Florence, Italy. In 1916, the owners of Panerai filed a patent for Radiomir (a paint/paste made from a mix of radium bromide, zinc sulfide and mesothorium) that provided excellent low-light visibility and strong underwater adhesive qualities. Little did they know that this would literally change the face of watch making! Originally presented in 1936 in a watch designed for the Royal Italian Navy Frogmen, Panerai partnered with Rolex to deliver a hand-wound caliber with bright glowing indices that could be read in underwater missions. After ending its partnership with Rolex, Panerai fell on hard times, but in 1993 orchestrated a major comeback. Maintaining focus on diving tools and aerospace instruments, they introduced the Luminor, Luminor Marina, and Mare Nostrum watches. Wearers were ecstatic that they could see the time, legibly, in any light conditions both above and below the sea. More recently, the chatter about this brand really picked up when fanatics, known as Paneristis, formed blog groups and forums sharing pictures and stories about why they love their Panerai. The 2011 introduction of the PAM 321 Bronzo put them over the top, and landed Panerai on many collectors Wish Lists.
IWC is another mainstream Swiss brand with a history dating back to 1868. IWC has been branded as having a classic simplicity and contemporary vibe. Certainly a more affordable brand (entry costs starting around $4,000), an IWC watch is absolutely recognizable and respected by watch collectors around the globe. The Aquatimer series boasts superior water-resistant depths (up to 6000 ft), and this high-complication manufacturer often includes minute repeaters, perpetual calendars, depth meters. An IWC watch can certainly be a centerpiece in any man’s watch collection. The Pilot collection is quite trendy with luxury watch wearers. But holding the high spot for IWC is the Portugieser collection, originally built at the request of two Portuguese merchants who wanted a large wristwatch with the precision of a pocket watch. To this day, a Portugieser watch is available in many colors, maintains a clean and clear design, Arabic numbers, and remains an unrivaled style icon.
It all started in 1884 with Leon Breitling and his passion for chronographs. Breitling is a Swiss based watchmaker, best known for making luxury quartz watches that offer more precision and requires less maintenance than its more mechanical competitors. Breitling is much more affordable than say, a Rolex, but it is equally recognizable amongst watch connoisseurs. Claiming the “Pilot’s watch of Choice”, Breitling targets the professional. Breitling offers multiple series like the Navitimer (Navigation + Timer) or the Aviator, each containing tools that are useful for pilots, astronauts, military personnel, search and rescue operations specialists. One of its models, the Breitling Emergency, is even equipped with a distress beacon and sonar locator should the need arise. Breitling has taken a bold step in the world of watch wearing. This past March, it introduced a program called #BreitlingSelect, in which, for a one-time fee of $450 and a monthly rate of $129, you can enjoy 3 Breitling watches of your choice (based on availability) in rotation over a 12 month period. And similar to cars, there is an option to buy if you really fall in love with one. With a Breitling Watch – You TOO can look like Brad Pitt!
Members of our panel also gave shout outs to Casio (the G-Shock), Seiko (SKX007) – only available via resale, and the Apple Watch. Each of these styles are affordable, stylish, sturdy and can be worn daily. Though, unlike their much more expensive counterparts, none are Swiss or Italian made!
Overall, all five men queried agreed that what you wear on your wrist is definitely an indicator of status, sophistication, style, and success. Use this as a starting point for your watch research. Don’t be afraid to dive deep into this process, these watches can definitely handle the pressure.