There are many watch designs out there: from different case designs to even varying dial patterns. Aesthetics is a realm littered with the corpses of dated designs with time’s passage, while others remain as classics. Few are the designs which remain fashionable after decades of existence, and these legends of timeless design have become horological icons as a result.
In the modelling industry, the breadth and longevity of a model’s appeal is defined as the “X” factor. In truth, there is no equivalent definition exists in the watch industry, heck, unique case shape alone doesn’t even determine if a watch becomes a classic. However, a mature (or maturing watch fan) might notice that over the course of history, a few watches fit into the bill. While there is an “X” undefinable factor to watches, there are quantifiable common aesthetic values: these timepieces are usually simple yet elegant, and of course one that survives numerous fashion trends over the years despite the initial hesitation.
At this juncture, you must be wondering if you might have selected the same timepieces as we did. Do we have any surprise inclusions? Let’s find out!
When it comes to watches, the Rolex Datejust is probably one of the most recognised timepieces in the world. Naturally, this also means that that facsimiles and homages abound. This is not a surprise, considering the rich heritage and iconic look that the Datejust possesses.
Launched in 1945, the Datejust retained its aesthetics over the last six decades. Its iconic design includes the fluted bezel, as well as the two-toned Jubilee bracelet. Interestingly, the Datejust had graced the wrists of many personalities, including former U.S. Presidents Reagan and Eisenhower. As a result, the Datejust transcends its raison d’etre as mere timepiece – it has become a sign of power and status.
Originally available in only 36mm, Rolex added a 41mm Datejust in the recent years. Although the Datejust has earned the reputation for being an “old man’s watch”, we reckon (despite the misgivings of our relative youth) that is nevertheless an iconic timepiece; likely to remain classic in the future. The new Datejust 41 retails at €11,650 in steel/gold (approximately S$17,400).
Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso
The Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso is a perennial favourite amongst the editorial team at Deployant, and it is not difficult to see why. By itself, the tank is a classic design, add an intriguing reversible case and you pretty much increase the novelty factor beyond its dressy aesthetics; the Reverso steals our hearts with its elegance and ingenuity.
Conceived in 1931 after Cesar de Trey was challenged by British colonial officers to produce a timepiece that is capable of protecting the glass during polo matches, the timepiece with a unique reversible case (named Reverso for obvious reasons) was born. The concept allows the case to be reversed, and hence protecting the glass. It’s a simple idea with brilliant execution.
Fast forward, the Reverso has evolved from sports watch to quintessential dress watch. Over time, the Grande Maison has used the Reverso as a canvas to showcase its horological expertise, expanding the range beyond its original time only edition but into a full collection with variety of design, complications and sizes to suit varying needs and tastes; case in point: It ranges from the simple Reverso Classique, to the highly complicated Grande Complication à Triptyque. Prices start at US$4,500 (approximately S$6,060) for the basic Classique Quartz variant.
Omega Speedmaster Professional
The Omega Speedmaster Professional, nicknamed affectionately by watch aficionados as “Moonwatch”, shot to fame when it became the first watch on the Moon. The association is not purely a commercial one per se – the Moonwatch, in fact, was instrumental in saving the lives of the crew during Apollo 13 when it was used to time the Mid-Course Correction.
Over the years, Omega produced many different variants of the Speedmaster, which include the CK2998 Reissue and the Grey Side of the Moon. They are fine watches, but to us the original Moonwatch is the one to go for, especially if you are looking to buy your first Speedmaster. Not only does it feature a classic “tricompax” chronograph layout, but comes with near peerless provenance to boot, no other watch can claim association to such a momentous occasion in human history.
Retailing at S$6850, the manual-winding Moonwatch is a timepiece we consider essential in any serious watch collection. While Omega has produced many varients of the Speedmaster, the Moonwatch retains its looks over the last half a century. If it’s good enough for pioneers of our space age, it’s definitely good enough for Omega (and her obsessive fans).
Patek Philippe Nautilus
As far as watch designers are concerned, the late Gerald Genta is probably one of the most revered personalities in the trade. He is the man behind some of the most recognised (and aesthetically iconic) timepieces in the world, including the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the Bvlgari Octo, and of course, the legendary Patek Philippe Nautilus.
The Nautilus follows Audemars Piguet’s successful launch of the Royal Oak in 1972, paving the way and legitimising the genre of luxury sports watches as a mainstream collection rather than cyclical trend. Like the Oak, the concept was a novelty thanks to its provocative design (given mainstream penchant for round cases) and high price point for a stainless steel timepiece. However, thanks to its conversational design and its characteristic as a status symbol, it’s become a grail for many collectors. With exponential popularity, its status has cemented ever since.
Similar to the other icons, the Nautilus is available in different case material and functions. The most popular variant is the basic stainless steel version, fitted with a matching integrated bracelet and an alluring blue dial (Reference 5711/1A-010). It is said that there is a long waiting list for this particular model in Singapore, which is priced at S$32,700. But then again, there aren’t many watches out there that are capable of making your heart skip a beat like the Nautilus. It’s a Patek Philippe after all.
A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1
The A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 needs no introduction. It debuted in 1994 with three other models to a select audience but become instantly recognisable with its signature asymmetric design via off-centre dial and big date indicator.
When different elements combine seamlessly in a seemingly proportional dial, what ensues is intrigue and appeal (consider how Cindy Crawford’s beauty mark might not be so beautiful on somebody else). Mathematically, we understand the reason for the appeal of the Lange 1; it was actually designed with the golden ratio and “Rule of Third” in mind. This ensures that each individual element is placed strategically, allowing the different elements to look well-balanced when the timepiece is rotated 90° clockwise. We highly recommend this article for more information on the Lange 1, as well as the watchmaker itself.
Like the perfect wife, her attractiveness outside extends to her beauty within- the finishing. The attention to detail, as well as the skills demonstrated by the craftsmen, ensures that the movement is decorated to the highest standards. As a brand, Lange’s perfectionist attitude put Saxony watchmaking on the map comparable, if not outright surpassing, the Swiss at their own game.
The Lange 1 retails at €29,800 (approximately S$44,500) for the basic model in gold. There are other interesting variants as well, but we reckon the basic model (if you could ever call a Lange, basic) – with the big date and a power reserve indicator – will suffice for most collectors.
Philippe Dufour Simplicity
We end off this week’s article with one of our favourite timepieces of all time – the Philippe Dufour Simplicity.
The Simplicity is perhaps the timepiece that captures the essence of watchmaking. The time-only timepiece features a rather simple yet undeniably elegant lacquered dial completely devoid of any complications or distractions. What follows is the challenge to perfect a canvas where the smallest flaw is magnified in light of total simplicity, imagine black bear on a snow covered landscape.
Originally priced at CHF42,000 (S$57,600), the value of the 37mm Simplicity fetches good returns and increasing value on resale. However, its price does not deter collectors simply because it is one of the best-finished timepieces of all time.
This week’s Throwback Sundays article covered six watches that we reckon will stand the test of time. Naturally, most of them have already exhibited that trait, since some of these pieces have already existed for quite some time. However, we have also included a few “newer” watches, such as the Lange 1 and the Simplicity, which we feel that they have potential to become timeless classics in time to come.
Do you agree with our curated selection? What are some of the watches that you think should be included in the list? Let us know in the comment section below.
We hope that you have enjoyed this week’s episode of Throwback Sundays, and till the next article, ciao!