Six classics to cover the bases and get you going.
Watch collecting is a deeply personal affair, and entirely up to the whims of the individual. When starting out, however, it does help to have a useful range of timepieces to wear.
Versatility is the key here.
You wouldn’t play a game of golf with nothing but putters, or head out to a photoshoot carrying just fisheye lenses. In the same vein, it is important to cover all bases when it comes to watches so that you will have the right one for each occasion.
By exploring each of the following six categories, you’d also get a better idea of what you like, and what to look for as you continue to grow your collection.
The Sports Watch
Most collectors will acquire a sports watch as one of their first timepieces, given their robustness and general versatility. If you haven’t, may we recommend the Omega Speedmaster?
This one needs no explanation. Designed and built to be tough, often with an eye for fulfilling specific functions, the sports watch comes in a bewildering variety of models, from oversized dive watches to ultra-legible pilot watches and everything in between.
Strip all the marketing and hype, and you are still left with one of the most iconic watches in history – this was the timepiece that was directly responsible for bringing the crew of Apollo 13 back to earth.
The Dress Watch
The modern dress watch traces its origins to the ultra-thin pocket watches that were developed in the late 18th century.
These timepieces were created in response to demand for slimmer, lighter watches that wouldn’t weigh down and distort the coats they were carried in, and became associated with gentlemen’s formal dressing.
When the watch transitioned from the pocket to the wrist, the requirements remained – a thin case that would slip under the shirt cuff effortlessly was de rigeuer.
Thinness aside, the archetypal dress watch is a simple time-only affair, and comes on a leather strap. These features aren’t formally codified, but simply another facet of sartorial norms that remain today.
The dress watch is the timepiece of choice at formal occasions. Ideally, it should be a two- or three-hand watch that eschews even a date window for an overall vibe that is understated to a fault.
Think of how an excellent pair of Oxfords speaks not with a loud design, but through its materials and craftsmanship.
Remember, a good dress watch is quietly elegant, like the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony shown above.
The Mid Complication
At a point in every collector’s journey, there arises a need to up the stakes and escalate his commitments. This supposedly “serious piece” is often judged to be so based on its price.
We’d like to offer an alternative opinion – price means little here, because the same watch can cost several times more simply by setting it with diamonds, or changing its case material to a precious metal like platinum.
Instead of focusing on the price, consider how watchmaking is, at its core, the search for mechanical solutions to keep time accurately.
Complications are an extension of this, so consider a mid complication that speaks to you.
Perhaps it is a flyback chronograph, a worldtimer, or a striking watch that chimes the passing hours.
Our pick for the next step up is an annual calendar like the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar – it’s a logical progression from a simple calendar, and reduces the hassle of correcting the date to just once a year.
The Shaped Watch
Why a shaped watch? Well, why not? Round watches are perennially popular, and have always dominated the market.
A shaped watch is a jaunt over to the less common side of things, and the recognition of the design and technical challenges that must be overcome for them to come to fruition.
They exude a different vibe on the wrist too – a shaped timepiece stands out immediately by virtue of its angles and curves, which differentiates its wearer immediately.
Options for shaped watches aren’t necessarily aplenty, but the right ones aren’t difficult to pick out.
Consider the iconic Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, for instance. A product of functional design – its reversible case protected the watch during polo matches – the timepiece also bears the hallmarks of the Art Deco style, for an effortless throwback to a bygone era in a stylish, modern package.
The work of art
Given their (relatively) small sizes, watches are difficult canvases on which to produce art.
This hasn’t stopped artisans from trying and succeeding though.
From staples like enamelling and guillochage, to rarer ones like marquetry and gold filigree, metiers d’Art techniques have been used to decorate various parts of a watch, down to even its movement components.
Metiers d’art timepieces represent yet another facet of watchmaking – the technical, functional object enhanced with a rare artistic side.
The Ulysse Nardin Classico Zheng He epitomises this with a dial dedicated entirely to cloisonné enamelling, while being powered by a COSC-certified movement.
Face it, your luxury dive watch may be water resistant to 500 metres, but it’s only going desk diving with you in the office.
There’s simply no reason to risk damaging it with actual rigorous activity – nevermind what it’s designed for and rated to.
The beater fulfils that duty. It is not necessarily cheap, but it is a relatively affordable alternative that will cause less of a heartache should anything happen to it.
The new Navitimer 1 Automatic 38 is that timepiece.
As the little brother within the restructured Navitimer 1 collection, it comes without the chronograph function but retains the general look of the iconic Navitimer, making it a fuss free addition to any collection.