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Throwback Sundays: Six Recommendations for a Luxury Sports Watch, from Our Archives

Game's on!
by Robin Lim on October 27, 2019
Reviews

The biggest news in the horological world this week perhaps came from a town in Germany called Dresden.

It was the launch of an all-new sports series line by a famed watch manufacturer who is known to produce some of the finest dress watches that world has ever seen. Yes, we are talking about A. Lange & Söhne, and its brand new Odysseus.

Luxury sports watch is nothing new – in fact it is probably one of the most popular “genre” of watches, for its versatility and its great looks (for most of them). Of course, more recently, they are most-known for holding their values rather well (or even appreciating in multiple folds, like the Nautilus).

For this week’s Throwback Sundays, we shall take a look at some of the most memorable luxury sports watches that we have featured. What have we selected?

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (Ref 15202)

We begin this week’s column with the grand-daddy of luxury sports watches. The one who started it all. Cue the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.

Launched in 1972, the Royal Oak is a bold gamble for a watch manufacturer who was on the brink of collapsing. The watch was met with success, and the rest is history.

Our favourite within the collection is perhaps the Reference 15202, which is the 39mm version with an ultra-thin case. We think that the case profile is very elegant, and the movement used – Calibre 2121, which was based on the Jaeger LeCoultre variant – is one of the most prolific and well-crafted ultra-thin self-winding movement that have graced the “holy trinity” of watchmaking.

The example pictured above is the limited edition Reference 15202BC, with a special pink gold-toned “Petite Tapisserie” dial. Priced at US$55,400 (S$75,521), the white gold timepiece is certainly a tad more unique than its popular blue dial counterpart. This is surely a great addition to the venerable Royal Oak collection.

Patek Philippe Nautilus (Ref 5711)

Following hot on the hills of the Royal Oak, we have the equally compelling Patek Philippe Nautilus Reference 5711.

The Nautilus was Patek Philippe’s answer to Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak. The watch, which was also designed by the legendary Gerald Genta, had captured the attention by many over the years for its interesting design cues and exclusivity. Similarly, its simple and clean design allows some of the watch’s interesting elements to shine, such as the horizontally embossed dial and rounded octagonal bezel.

While the 40mm Nautilus is available with different complications, but we reckon the base model (Reference 5711) is the most highly sought-after piece within the collection. It is the one that remains the closest to the original iteration, and we really feel that the minimalist design really makes it an excellent choice for a dressier piece. The stainless-steel variant is priced at S$40,000, but do be prepared to stay on the waiting list for an extended period of time.

Vacheron Constantin Overseas (Ref 4500V)

Often overlooked by many, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas presents one of the best offerings that this genre has to offer.

The new Overseas collection, which was launched in 2016, had certainly impressed many. The new design is simple, and yet it exudes a quiet sense of class and elegance. It is also coupled with various dial colours (brown, white, blue, and black), with each exuding a different vibe to the timepiece. The end result of the new collection is simply immense.

While there are many brilliant variations of the Overseas available, our pick will be the base model (Ref 4500V). We reckon the simple dial design brings out the design elements of the timepiece, such as the Maltese-cross bezel and the multi-faceted watch case. The in-house movement – Calibre 5100 – is brilliantly produced and finished as well. It features a date complication, haute horlogerie finishing techniques, and a stunning 22k gold winding rotor. It definitely combines both form and functionality together seamlessly.

The 41mm timepiece is priced at S$30,800 for the stainless steel model, and it includes three different strap options (the metal bracelet, leather strap, and rubber strap) in the package. The Overseas, in our opinion, is one of the best offerings from Vacheron Constantin in recent times; we foresee that this will be a classic in time to come.

A. Lange and Söhne Odysseus

The A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus is definitely the talking point in the industry this week. The timepiece, being the Glashütte-based watch manufacturer’s first ever sports watch, was certainly met with equally polarising views.

Premiering just a few days ago, the Odysseus is a 40.5mm timepiece that has broken its own rules. As we have mentioned, this is a luxury sports watch – and one that is constructed in stainless steel. For the uninitiated, this is the first regular production timepiece that A. Lange & Söhne is producing in stainless steel (with an integrated metal bracelet).

Powering the Odysseus is a totally new manufacture Calibre L155.1, a self-winding movement that is known as the Datomatic. The movement features a large date and day display, and in addition a power reserve of around 50 hours. The watch is also fitted with a new in-house free sprung balance spring, secured by an engraved balance bridge. We reckon that the is meant to make the movement more shock resistant, considering the nature of it.

The Odysseus is priced at S$40,800, which we think is priced decently for a top-tier luxury sports watch that perhaps has one of the best finishing touches around. This watch certainly gives the “holy trinity” a run for their money, although we have yet to see if the positive reception translates into sales figure eventually. We guess only time will tell.

Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Automatique

Over the last few years, Bvlgari had constantly impressed us with its Octo collection. Its relentless pursuit of making ultra-thin watches had yielded some interesting results, and these pieces had certainly differentiated itself against some of the counterparts in the same category.

The 40mm Octo Finissimo Automatique is one of our favourite pieces from Bulgari just yet. While there are many other more complicated pieces (such as the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon and the Octo Finissimo Répétition Minute), we pretty much like the clean and sophisticated looks of the Automatique itself. Besides, the price point is also much more accessible, and that its simple aesthetics really brings out the case and bracelet construction (which we reckon is the main attraction of this piece).

The Finissimo Automatique is cased with Bulgari’s Calibre BVL138. The self-winding movement comes with a platinum micro-rotor, and it has a power reserve of around 60 hours. This is even more impressive considering that the movement is only 2.23mm thick – which is even thinner than Piaget Altiplano’s record of 2.35mm. Finally, this incredible titanium timepiece is available from S$17,700 onwards (with the leather strap option), and we feel that this is excellent value for an ultra-thin luxury sports watch which is constructed beautifully and coupled with excellent finishing.

Richard Mille RM53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough

We round up this week’s article with Richard Mille, a brand that had constantly fascinated us in the most mind-blowing (and slightly nerdy/geeky ways). The eponymous watch manufacturer is most known for its bold and striking designs, as well as its relentless pursuit in R&D for its case compositions and movements.

Amongst the Richard Milles that we have reviewed thus far, the RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough is certainly one of favourites. This watch challenges Richard Mille’s engineers to create a tourbillon that is virtually indestructible, as Pablo himself is a professional polo player. The watch is cased in Richard Mille’s signature Carbon TPT case, and the pièce de résistance is undoubtedly the movement. In order to allow the movement to resist up to 5,000G worth of shock, the manufacturer leveraged on the use of a double skeletonised baseplate in Grade 5 titanium and tension from a cable-suspension mechanism to ensure the stability of the movement itself.

Priced at US$900,000 (approximately S$1.23 million), the RM 53-01 easily costs as much as an Italian exotic car, or even a nice apartment in the city. It is extremely over-engineered too, especially since we doubt that any collector who owns this watch will use it for its intended purposes (sans Pablo Mac Donough himself). But if one is looking for a sports watch that makes a powerful statement, then this Richard Mille is might just be the right watch for that.

Concluding Thoughts

The genre of luxury sports watches is an interesting one. It is quite ironic considering that the timepieces are called “sport watches”, and yet we can confidently say that almost most of the collectors and/or owners will never wear such timepieces to do sporting activities. Or at least that was what we have observed thus far.

However, this does not reduce the appeal of such watchers. We do think that these watches are rather versatile, and it does look good on a casual weekend with T-shirts and bermudas/jeans. There is just something attractive about this combination, and we are admittedly suckers for it as well. In addition, due to the warm climate at our side of the world, wearing a sports watch (with metal bracelet, or rubber strap) also makes more sense too.

So, what are your thoughts on this category of watches? What are some of your favourite luxury sports watches that you have (or wish to own) in your collection? Let us know in the comments section below.

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