Luxury watches were once modest, unassuming and esoteric. Photographs and information of top tier timepieces were inaccessible to most, and were only in the reach of those truly privileged.
But today, the proliferation of the internet and social media has turned tables for the once exclusive sport. Aside from the most well-known Rolex and Patek Philippe watches, many other brands have become more easily recognized by the man on the street. The ideal of ‘those who know will know’ has become even harder to attain, yet its appeal to true watch connoisseurs is ever increasing.
Most seasoned watch collectors will easily recognize the usual culprits, the Pateks, Rolexes, APs, Richemont/Swatch/LVMH brands from a distance. In order to make this list of watches that qualify as stealth wealth, we have chosen timepieces that are ‘unexpectedly’ expensive, yet not instantly recognizable. They look simple on the dial side, yet have hidden complications and/or ‘insane’ finishing.
Laurent Ferrier joins the ranks of the luxury sports watch world with an entrant worthy of the reputation – the Tourbillon Grand Sport, with the coveted LF Tourbillon in a new sporty case. It marks the brand’s tenth anniversary and also the founders’ motorsports careers.
Laurent Ferrier was once a race car driver in the 70s and also a pioneer watchmaker that worked on Patek Philippe’s Nautilus prototype. Cased in an unassuming stainless steel case and rubber strap, the tourbillon is only visible from the back. On the dial side, a simple time-only configuration is displayed. The watch is priced at S$280,000.
While it could pass off as a regular $18,000 1815 timepiece, the PLM is anything but the base model. The Pour le Mérite collection from A Lange & Söhne is considered to be the pinnacle of watchmaking for the Glashütte-based watch manufacturer. They are considered to be some of the most well-made, stunning, and complicated watches to be produced by the maison, and they are certainly one of the most desirable series of watches to collect for the longest time.
The 40.5mm Richard Lange Pour le Mérite is one of the five watches from the exquisite collection. While it might be the least complicated one (it is the only one without a tourbillon regulator), there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Beneath the stunning enamel dial lies an incredibly finished movement that houses a fusée-and-chain mechanism. The mechanism, which is made up of 636 components in this particular watch, allows the constant force to be supplied to the escapement as the mainspring (or fusée) unwinds itself. This prevents the loss of torque from the conventional mainsprings, which may affect the accuracy of the timepiece as it progresses towards the tail-end of its power reserve.
The newer Richard Lange Pour le Mérite, which comes with white gold case and a black finish silver dial, is priced at US$82,500 (approximately S$113,636). However, the original version with the white enamel dial (as seen in the picture above) has long gone out of production and is expectedly more desirable than the newer model.
The new Grand Seiko Elegance collection which marks the 20th anniversary of Spring Drive, reveals a new manual-winding thin dress series. The collection is made up of four different models, with the most talked about model, the Platinum SBGZ001 with a hammered case and snowflake dial.
All the watches in the collection offer one-second-a-day precision and a long power reserve, thanks to the dual mainspring design of both calibers; namely the Caliber 9R02 used in the Platinum models and the 9R31 in the other metals. This time-only watch is limited to 30 pieces and priced at US$76,000.
The watch features a patina bronze case with an unusual off-center time display in the front. A constant force chain-fusee movement powers the watch with a tourbillon that is only visible from the rear.
Only 5 of these were made in bronze, and the watch is priced at CHF241,500.
Rexhep Rexhepi might not be a name that many have heard of, but he is in fact one of the most talented watchmakers in the industry today – just ask Kari Voutilainen. You may have even heard of his brand, AkriviA. Rexhepi is what many consider to be prodigious. At the ripe old age of 14, he joined Patek Philippe’s watchmaking school as an apprentice for three years where he honed his skills. He continued working for Patek Philippe for two years before moving on to BNB Concept where he worked on highly complicated movements and was put in charge of a team of watchmakers after just a year in – mind you, he was only 21 then.
The AkriviA Chronomètre Contemporain represents the very best fine watchmaking and in particular, independent watchmaking. The watch pays tribute to the ancient art of watchmaking and does so by executing each technique and skill to the absolute highest level. The Chronomètre Contemporain in red gold is priced at CHF55,000 while the platinum comes at CHF58,000.
This is possibly the least expensive watch in the list, yet the most accurate of them all. When it comes to stealth, it’s difficult to name a more stealth-wealth item than this US$16,800 quartz watch in white gold. While it’s not an exorbitant 6 digit timepiece, it must say a lot of its owner, who is willing to foot the bill for a timepiece that has a cousin that looks 95% alike and priced at $50 or less. This may just be the timepiece of choice for politicians in public settings.