These are, in my opinion, five of the most iconic watches available and whether you’re a novice or a serious collector, you should plan to own, have owned or do own one of these beauties.
This list leans towards the sports watch, however, that is not because I am biased towards sports watches (which I am) but because these are truly some of the best from the Horology world.
One of the most popular luxuries watches around; they are known as a benchmark for durable luxury. Rolex has different models but undoubtedly the most popular is the Submariner. Introduced in 1953/54, it is a diving watch, but it’s estimated that less than 5% of the tens of thousands of these watches sold since its introduction are used for diving. Why is it so popular? It’s a well-made watch, very tough, can be dressed up or down (moves from a suit to t-shirt easily) and like the Porsche 911, looks the same after 60 years: only a watch aficionado could tell the difference between a submariner from 2016 & one from 1970. There are different variations from steel to gold although purists gravitate to the steel version. Fun Fact: Sean Connery wore a Submariner in his 1st 4 James Bond movies. Prices in the current line up are from $7,500 to 40,000.
Jaeger Le Coultre Reverso:
Invented around 1931, the JLC reverso’s unique feature is that you can rotate (or reverse) the dial so that the solid case back of the watch is facing up. The watch’s development was influenced by British Army polo players in India as a player had the glass on his dial broken during a match, so the watch was made so polo players could protect their watches again knocks while playing polo.
The watch was originally rotated or flipped to expose the solid caseback as stated above but over time variations were developed so you would have the reverse side showing the movement of the watch through a clear caseback or another dial altogether so you would get two watches for the price of one.
JLC is one of the top watchmakers in the world, so their craftsmanship is well recognized in the world of horology (many argue they are in the top 5) and this particular watch combines a unique feature from a well-respected manufacturer. Prices range from approximately $5,000 to over $250,000 for the Reverso Gyro Tourbillon.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak:
Invented Gerald Genta in 1973, the AP Royal Oak is widely considered the 1st luxury sports watch made of steel. Instantly recognisable by its octagonal bezel with eight hexagonal screws, the guilloche on its dial, a textured blue “tapisserie” motif and its integrated bracelet this watch although steel cost more than some solid gold watches when introduced.
As with many successful lines, many variations were introduced and in 1992 the Royal Oak Offshore was introduced, at 42mm which is a somewhat regular size now, back then it was considered huge. Today, both the Royal Oak & Royal Oak Offshore are one of the most recognisable watches in modern horology. Prices range from approximately $15,000 – 750,000 (No, that isn’t a typo).
Patek Philippe Nautilus:
Patek is undoubtedly the top watchmaker. Don’t argue just accept it. I struggled over which PP to go with, but I think most watch lovers would agree this is the most versatile Patek.
Now before we go into this, Patek Philippe is the number 1 watchmaker in the World (Part of the “Big 3” being Patek, Vacheron Constantine & Audemars Piguet; if you’re doing a “Big 4” most people add Jaeger Le Coultre). Still, family owned and controlled to date, they are known for their superlative watches and most of those with the wow factor are dress watches, not sports watches.
There are so many Patek Dress watches that picking just one would be impossible. They cover every budget starting from approximately $25,000 or so to well over $1 million but at that range, even if you have the money, Patek have to vet you before they let you buy certain watches, now that’s gangster.
To the Nautilus: also designed by the Late, Great, Gerald Genta (you can similarities with the Royal Oak) in 1976, this is another sports luxury watch on a whole different level. Although it comes in gold and gold/steel combinations, most people prefer the steel version. The steel non-chrono nautilus (Reference Number 5711) has a waiting list of 2-3 years from authorized dealers while the chrono versions cost around $50,000 officially, for a steel sports watch, you can see that Patek is next level.
The watch itself wears well at 40mm with the integrated bracelet that looks like high-end jewellery, even though it’s steel, it has a transparent case back where you can see the solid gold rotor and fine watchmaking that went into this movement. Prices range from approximately $25,000 for the steel 5711 to about $85/90,000 for the discontinued full gold 5980. There are some super rare, bejewelled Nautilus with factory set diamond/rubies/sapphires/emeralds that go as high as $250,000 and more if you can find them.
Another Rolex you ask? Yes indeed. While Rolex may not be part of the “Big 3” (or even 4 or 5) they are one of the most influential luxury watch brands around. They produce the most by way of number, spend the most on marketing and a Rolex is still deemed the watch one first buys when you “made it” by a lot of people. The Daytona (or Cosmograph Daytona as there were “pre-Daytona” being manufactured from 1953) was originally introduced in 1963 and was a failure from a sales and marketing point of view for many years. This Rolex Chronograph was not immediately referred to as the Daytona. In fact, initially, Rolex used the name Le Mans in some advertisements before finally opting for the Daytona legendary name.
Since 1972 and until his death in 2008, the movie star Paul Newman was often photographed with a Rolex Daytona on his wrist. His very first Rolex Daytona was a ref. 6263 with black dial and white sub-dials (a standard dial, not an exotic one), a gift of his wife Joanne Woodward when he started his racecar driver career in 1972. The Paul Newman Daytonas are amongst the most sought after models by Rolex collectors. In 2013, auction house, Christie’s sold a rare Rolex Daytona Ref. 6263 in steel, manufactured in 1969, for the amount of 989,000 Swiss Francs (approx. 1,089,186 US Dollars).
Current model Stainless steel Daytona’s (considered the purist’s Daytona have a waitlist of 3-5 years from authorised dealers depending on your relationship with the dealer although they can be sourced at a premium for immediate purchase. Prices range from about $11,000 for the stainless steel version to around $60,000 for the Platinum version. Bejewelled versions including the rainbow Daytona (Gold or Platinum with rainbow coloured jewels around the bezel fetch as high as $170,000, and as mentioned above the Paul Newman dial Daytona range from as high a $1,000,000 down to about $50,000-75,000 starting range depending on the condition of the watch.