All posts in “Watches”

A Monochromatic Finish Gives This Sporty Chronograph Watch Its Best Look Yet

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Bell & Ross BR V3-94


Editor’s Note: Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) and Baselworld 2020 are canceled but that hasn’t stopped watch brands large and small from debuting their new wares. To stay on top of this year’s best new watch releases, visit our tag page.

There’s more to the French brand Bell & Ross than its famous square pilot watches based on cockpit gauges. Take the newest BR V3-94 Chronograph models: for starters, they’re motorsport-inspired and feature traditional round dials. What they have in common with so many other Bell & Ross watches, however, is refined details and a remarkably balanced design.

The new models offer an aesthetic update to the existing BR V3-94 watches, and the result is something quite different. Whereas previous versions had a strong racing theme with plenty of bright yellow and sporty Arabic numerals, the new models have gone monochrome. The numerals are replaced (mostly) with stick markers and the handset has been switched up too, so what you’ve got is considerably more traditional and handsome. Of course, it also has a distinctly retro feel (but, thankfully, without the all-too-common “aged lume” effect).

Other basic elements remain consistent with the collection, including its 43mm-wide steel case and unidirectional rotating bezel with an aluminum insert. Like other chronographs in Bell & Ross’s collections, the BR V3-94 is powered by an ETA 2894-2 automatic movement. It’s available on a leather strap for $4,300 or steel bracelet for $4,600 directly from the brand.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.
Zen Love

Zen Love is Gear Patrol’s watch writer. He avoids the snooty side of the watch world, and seeks out food in NYC that resembles what he loved while living in Asia for over a decade.

More by Zen Love | Follow on Instagram · Contact via Email

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A Brief History of Patek Philippe’s Perpetual Calendar Watches

Most people around the world track time using the Gregorian Calendar, brought to public use in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, as it was (and remains today) far more accurate than previous calendars. In the Gregorian Calendar, leap years compensate for the Earth’s fractional 365.2425-day trip around the sun. Leap years effectively average out our years to a tidy 365 days, but even this system is not exact, because the actual solar year is 365.24667 days. Because of this slight inexactitude of the Gregorian Calendar, after 400 years our timekeeping ends up three days ahead of the sun’s actual rotation. So, we drop those extra three days by skipping the leap year every 100 years, meaning we only do this three times in 400 years.

You follow all that? Given the complex anomalies of our calendar, fashioning a tiny mechanical device that can track all of this information accurately is an incredible accomplishment. Timepieces that incorporate this information are called “perpetual calendars,” and it was Patek Philippe that led the development of fitting this feat of human engineering into small wristwatches.

To better understand perpetual calendar watches, consider the following diagram. You’ll see that as watches extend the time interval that they track from seconds to minutes, all the way out to leap years, the complexity of the movement advances from the simplest mechanical timekeepers like stopwatches to the perpetual calendar, with a number of increasingly complex mechanisms in between.

Mechanical watches consist of a power source (the mainspring and barrel), the transmission that controls the rate at which the hands and other indicators move (the gear train), and a power distribution and regulation device (the escapement). To appreciate what goes into a perpetual calendar watch, we’ll focus on the gear train.

The mainspring (our power source) turns the barrel cog that drives the gear train. By varying the size of the subsequent cogs in the gear train, the ratios work out to produce the movement of the various hands that subdivide time into seconds, minutes, hours, days, and so on. The video below shows the barrel cog (purple) driving the seconds hand (silver), which drives the minute hand (gold).

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As we add longer and longer subdivisions of time, the gear train grows more and more elaborate. As you can imagine, the gear train of a perpetual calendar is one of the most complex ever devised. But far more than mere gear ratios are involved when a movement compensates for the variances in month length and leap years. To accomplish this, myriad clever sub-mechanisms allow the watch to run perpetually without adjustment for up to 100 years, at which point it needs to be adjusted by one day (see above for a more detailed explanation).

Notable Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Watches

The British watchmaker Thomas Mudge built the first working perpetual calendar pocket watch in 1762, and then watchmakers ignored (or avoided, perhaps) the grueling complication until Patek Philippe executed one for a pocket watch in 1864. In 1898 the maison built the world’s first compact perpetual calendar for a woman’s pendant watch, and in 1925 — after wristwatches had become in vogue for men — Patek used the same compact movement inside the world’s first perpetual calendar wristwatch, a one-off produced for a wealthy collector named Thomas Emery.

Below we take a look at some of the mainstays of the Patek Philippe perpetual calendar lineage. In all, there have been 27 different perpetual calendar references to date from Patek, so we have picked a few as milestones in this field of rarified timepieces.

Patek Philippe Reference 1526

It wasn’t until 1941 that Patek began to produce a series of perpetual calendar wristwatches, an unexpected product as WWII was raging across Europe. Nonetheless, the elegant 1526 came in a solid yellow gold Calatrava case measuring just 34mm. Its relatively blank dial belied the incredible complexity of the movement inside. Foregoing a year and leap year indicator on the dial but including a traditional moon phase complication, this watch set the understated tone that would persist in Patek’s perpetual calendars.

Where some brands today make a show of every possible complication of their perpetual calendars — and sometimes the movement itself via skeletonized dials — Patek continues to prioritize elegance over complexity, as is the brand’s wont. The 1526 was produced until 1952, with only 210 examples leaving the manufacture, most in yellow gold, a few in pink gold, and just one (that anyone knows of) in stainless steel.

Patek Philippe Reference 1518

In 1941 Patek also released the first serially produced annual calendar with chronograph and moon phase complications. Sometimes considered a “grand complication” — a watch that, most agree, features three or more significant complications — the 1518 is a true mechanical marvel at just 35mm.

Among the gold models were a few exceptionally rare stainless steel models, one of which held the record for the most expensive wristwatch until Paul Newman’s Daytona supplanted it. Among Patek collectors, students of horology, and even watchmakers, the 1518 is an oft-cited holy grail, especially in stainless steel.

Patek Philippe Reference 2499

In 1951, Patek Philippe brought out the venerable 2499, a perpetual calendar with full chronograph function and a moon phase complication, and the successor to the famous 1518. At 37.6mm in diameter, the 2499 was a little large for its day, but given the machine running inside it is still considered a marvel of micro-mechanical engineering. The 2499 was in production until the mid 1980s, and only 349 examples were produced. Patek updated the 2499 from time to time, changing the shape of the chronograph pushers, replacing numerals with stick markers, and so on, but the movement inside remained largely unchanged.

Patek Philippe Reference 3449

In 1961, Patek Philippe issued only three examples of the 3449. As always, its plain dial hides the mechanical prowess inside, as this is the world’s first automatic winding perpetual calendar wristwatch. Exceptionally rare, elegantly understated, and often overlooked, the auto-winding perpetual mechanism as found on the 3449 rises again in modern models.

Patek Philippe Reference 3970

As the 2499 ended its run in 1986, the 3970 took its place. Amid the downturn in interest in mechanical watches during the Quartz Crisis, as well as the upturn in popularity of larger watches, producing the 36mm reference 3970 was a curious move for Patek. But this independent brand has seldom bent to market trends, instead sticking to its core philosophies and whetting the appetites of its core collector base.

Like its predecessors (the 1518 and 2488) the 3970 houses perpetual calendar, chronograph, and moon phase complications, though for reasons that are hard to comprehend, it has never held the appeal of its siblings. Perhaps it’s the size, or the busy dial? Perhaps it’s that the 1980s just weren’t booming years for mechanical watches? It’s hard to say, but it carried the torch lit by the venerable 1518 through an era when quartz watches threatened to douse the flame.

Patek Philippe Reference 5207

We jump to 2008’s 5207 because — despite the myriad perpetual calendars that came out before it — the 5207 features a patented perpetual calendar mechanism that jumps instantaneously, as well as a minute repeater, a moon phase, and a tourbillon. This is a serious grand complication.

Building a mechanism that jumps instantly requires that each display’s gear “stores up” energy and then releases it in an instant, whereas previous mechanisms took many hours to use up that energy and rotated their discs slowly. That means more R&D, more parts to produce and assemble, and, of course, more of what some watch lovers crave most: complexity. The 5207’s understated dial continues the stylistically conservative approach Patek has always taken with its perpetual calendars.

Patek Philippe Reference 5208

Using the 5207’s platform, in 2011 Patek released the 5208, featuring a minute repeater, a monopusher chronograph, and the 5207’s instantaneous perpetual calendar. Foregoing the tourbillon, the 5208 instead features other serious tech, including a Silinvar® oscillator with a Spiromax® balance spring and a Pulsomax® escapement, all proprietary silicone-based technologies that Patek has been incorporating into their watches as of late.

We included the 5208 partly because it’s one of the most complicated watches available in serial production, and represents cutting-edge technology. Most grand complications like this are reserved for one-man haute horlogerie houses taking commissions from wealthy collectors before the work begins, and the work is often quite traditional, even done by hand. Patek may not make a lot of these watches, but they produce them right along with the rest of their catalog, thus continuing the spirit of the very first serially produced perpetual calendars from 1941.

Patek Philippe Reference 5550

The 5550 of 2011 again sees Patek hiding its high technology behind traditional dials, perhaps more so than with any other watch to date. The 5550, produced in just 300 examples, is an automatic perpetual calendar with moon phase, harkening back to the automatic 3449 of 1961. Its traditionally styled silver dial sneakily conceals a cutting-edge oscillating system with Pulsomax® escapement, Spiromax® balance spring, and the new GyromaxSi® balance in Silinvar® and gold. As part of the Patek’s Advanced Research program, the 5550 represents Patek’s ongoing commitment to using modern technology in traditional watches.

Patek Philippe Reference 5204

Pushing the complications further than ever, the 5204 of 2012 offers a split-seconds chronograph and perpetual calendar mechanism that is entirely new for Patek. Handsome, traditional-looking, and highly complicated, the 5204 sees the maison flexing its manufacturing muscles.

Current Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendars

The three watches below represent some of the best from Patek’s current catalog. These are serially produced perpetual calendars that represent the culmination of 80 years of getting it right.

Patek Philippe Reference 5327G

This self-winding perpetual calendar in white gold is surprisingly sporty despite its italicized Breguet numerals and gleaming blue dial. The compounded subdials include a leap-year indicator (numerals 1 through 4 on the 3-o’clock subdial), which feels decidedly modern. This detail also lets fellow watch enthusiasts know that you’re “rocking a perp.”

Patek Philippe Reference 5320G

Where the 5327G feels modern and bold, the 5320G looks like it’s straight out of the 1940s catalog. That’s because Patek used vintage museum pieces to derive the 5320G’s design. The cream dial with applied, lume-filled numerals in gold takes the vintage vibe way back.

Patek Philippe Reference 5270P

The salmon dial and platinum case with its fancy lugs give the 5270P a very dressy Swiss visage. The chronograph features a more traditional column wheel and horizontal clutch, while the watch is also hand-wound. This model is all about traditional mechanics executed with modern materials and know-how.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Panerai’s New Blue Dials Recall the Beautiful Mediterranean Sea

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Radiomir Mediterraneo


Editor’s Note: Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) and Baselworld 2020 are canceled but that hasn’t stopped watch brands large and small from debuting their new wares. To stay on top of this year’s best new watch releases, visit our tag page.

Across Panerai’s collections, its winning formula and iconic look is regularly tweaked to offer a seemingly endless range of variations and options. Now, the brand’s relatively conservative and retro-styled Radiomir is getting two new additions, both with gradient blue dials.

Both new models have the same “Mediterraneo” dial treatment and the familiar Radiomir look. At first glance they might be almost indistinguishable from one another, but Panerai wants you to look closer. In fact, they come in two case sizes and materials: one is 42mm wide in steel, and the other is a bold 45mm but in lightweight titanium. But that’s not where the differences end.

The 42mm PAM1144 has a hand-wound P.1000 movement, while the PAM1078 has the P.4000 automatic movement with a micro-rotor. Utilizing the same base calibre, these are in-house Panerai movements, both offering a solid three days of power reserve. They’re visible through sapphire crystal display case backs, partially obscured by a wave pattern.

All this Italian flare and Mediterranean vibes don’t come cheap, but as is always the case with Panerai, you’re buying serious quality: The Radiomir 42mm Mediterraneo Edition PAM1144 is priced at $7,900 while the titanium Radiomir 45mm Mediterraneo Edition PAM1078 is $11,200.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.
Zen Love

Zen Love is Gear Patrol’s watch writer. He avoids the snooty side of the watch world, and seeks out food in NYC that resembles what he loved while living in Asia for over a decade.

More by Zen Love | Follow on Instagram · Contact via Email

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The First Pilot’s Watch Ever is Also One of the Best Dress Watches Ever

Welcome to Watches You Should Know, a biweekly column highlighting important or little-known watches with interesting backstories and unexpected influence. This week: the Cartier Santos.

At the turn of the 20th century, wristwatches were women’s jewelry and “aviation” referred in no small part to airships. With the advent of the first aircraft and a watch made for a fearless pilot and inventor, however, all this was about to change.

Before the first airplanes, the Brazilian-turned-Parisian Alberto Santos-Dumont designed and built flying machines of the ligher-than-air, gas-buoyed variety. Somewhat eccentric and certainly not risk-averse, he was also famous for publicly demonstrating his inventions himself. And he was buddies with jeweler-to-royalty Louis Cartier.

This era often looks stiff and unsmiling in its sepia photographs, so it can be easy to forget that men like Santos-Dumont were nothing short of daredevils. Exposed to the elements high in the air, he could be found at the helm of experimental contraptions often filled with explosive hydrogen. You wouldn’t want to have to fish a handheld watch from a pocket in this kind of situation, right? Wanting a timepiece that would leave his hands free for the controls while flying, he went to Cartier.

The year following the Wright Brothers’ famous flight, the first pilot’s watch was born in 1904: Dubbed by Cartier the “Santos,” the watch was small (by modern standards) and square. The exact watch worn by Santos-Dumont himself is lost, but surviving early examples show basic elements that are present in today’s Santos and other Cartier watches.

Original features included the famous cabochon crown as well as Roman numerals and railroad track-style markers. The distinctive exposed screws on the bezel (preceding the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak by many decades) could be seen to reference airplane rivets. At the time of its introduction, its square shape helped emphasize its wrist-worn purpose and set it apart from round pocket watches.

This is the watch that would have been on Santos-Dumont’s wrist as he made the 1906 flight of his 14-bis Oiseau de Proie aircraft, considered by some to be the first “true airplane,” rather than the Wright Flyer. This is just part of what makes Santos-Dumont, who never patented his inventions in the belief that they would benefit humanity, a significant and truly fascinating character.

Cartier Santos from 1912

The Cartier Santos’s most unusual feature, however, was that it was a men’s wristwatch. Though uncommon, the idea wasn’t altogether unheard of. Soldiers at the time are reported to have been repurposing pocket watches for use on the wrist, and there were even some companies that sold them that way from the factory. However, many early wristwatches were essentially just pocket watches with wire lugs soldered on, whereas Cartier’s out-of-the-box, integrated design was built from the ground up as a wristwatch — and this was game-changing.

Alberto Santos-Dumont

Whether or not you consider the Cartier Santos the “first wristwatch,” it was most certainly the first pilot’s watch. Pilot’s watches today tend to be associated with military watches of several decades later with highly technical or practical designs that focus on legibility. The Cartier Santos is nothing like them (indeed, Cartier seems incapable of producing anything other than the most elegant of watches), but this just makes it feel all the more unique among modern watches.

In Santos-Dumont the men’s wristwatch had a worthy ambassador, but it didn’t catch on right away, and was initially looked upon with disapproval. The Cartier Santos was eventually made available to the public (around 1911), but it was another Cartier watch that would help give the wristwatch mainstream appeal. Seeming to build upon the Santos’s angular design, the rectangular 1917 Cartier Tank watch helped wristwatches become a 20th-century phenomenon.

Today, the Santos is a core, popular collection among Cartier’s watches. It’s seen a range of variations over the years, from quartz, automatic and hand-wound versions to skeletonized avant-garde iterations. A sub-collection called Santos-Dumont retains an elegant feel, while the Santos itself was reinvented in 1978 as a sport watch with crown guards and sometimes even a steel bracelet. Among the brand’s overwhelmingly formal watches, the Santos has a masculine appeal.

As late as 1916, wristwatches were, according to a New York Times article, considered a “silly ass fad” in the United States (though they caught on a little earlier in Europe), but perceptions were beginning to change. Of course, the rest is history: Cartier’s 1904 watch was ahead of its time, as was the adventurous pilot who wore it, and it’s one of the most unique and important watches still produced today.

Zen Love

Zen Love is Gear Patrol’s watch writer. He avoids the snooty side of the watch world, and seeks out food in NYC that resembles what he loved while living in Asia for over a decade.

More by Zen Love | Follow on Instagram · Contact via Email

These German Watches Recall the Best of 1960s Design

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Glashütte Original Sixties


Editor’s Note: Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) and Baselworld 2020 are canceled but that hasn’t stopped watch brands large and small from debuting their new wares. To stay on top of this year’s best new watch releases, visit our tag page.

While sometimes overshadowed by its superstar neighbor A. Lange & Söhne, Glashütte Original is a standout representative of German watchmaking’s renaissance. Affectionately known as GO, the brand embodies the mix of German sensibility and high-level craftsmanship that the town of Glashütte is known for. Its longstanding Sixties collection is a regular canvas for dial iterations, the newest of which are icy blue.

A simple three-hand, time-only version of the Sixties watch along with a chronograph have received the iced-out treatment for 2020, with lacquered dials produced in-house by the brand. Externally, these are conservatively styled watches that recall the decade they’re named for, with elements like a convex dial, stick hands and a groovy font for the prominent Arabic numerals. Inside, however, are extensively finished in-house automatic movements that are proudly on display through sapphire crystal case backs.

Unfortunately, these good looks and German craftsmanship aren’t cheap: Though cased in steel, both watches have will cost you a pretty penny and then some, with the 39mm, three-hand Glashütte Original Sixties watch priced around $7,130 and the 42mm Sixties Chronograph at about $8,745.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.
Zen Love

Zen Love is Gear Patrol’s watch writer. He avoids the snooty side of the watch world, and seeks out food in NYC that resembles what he loved while living in Asia for over a decade.

More by Zen Love | Follow on Instagram · Contact via Email

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Can’t Afford a Speedmaster? How About This NASA-Themed Timex for $103 Instead

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Navi XL NASA


Not everyone can afford a brand spankin’ new Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch. But plenty of folks can lay down the $103 (normally $130 — use the code “BLOOM20” at checkout for 20% off) for this dope Timex Navi XL, a 41mm watch adorned with the NASA logo in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landings. Featuring a stainless steel case with 100m of water resistance, an analog quartz movement, a unidirectional blue dive bezel and a matching blue fabric strap, this white-dialed beauty may not be a perfect substitute for an actual Moonwatch, but it’ll sure make for an awesome summer watch.

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Scuba Diving with Three Vintage Rolex Submariners

Welcome to Deep Dive, in which we test dive watches both new and vintage beneath the waves in some of the world’s most beautiful locations. This time, we’re in Grand Cayman in the Caribbean with three vintage Rolex Submariners.

Behold the overpowered and unruly 1977 Porsche 911 Targa SC, now garaged, gathering dust along with market value. Behold the 1957 Fender Stratocaster that once rang like a bell, now condemned to silence under a halogen spotlight in a humidity-controlled man-cave. Behold the perfectly faded 1971 Rolex Submariner Ref. 1680 with its iconic red text, now motionless in a pitch-black safe. Alarms, combination locks, insurance riders, and — more than anything — fear, reduce these masterpieces of human ingenuity to mere investments.

When monetary value skyrockets, we can lose sight of the other values that an object might afford us. There’s aesthetic value, so easily diminished to frivolity when cast in the shadow of profitability. But how sad is the silent Strat? There’s experiential value, that ineffable high of using an exceptional tool, insufferably cut short in the name of preservation. How sad a Porsche whose rear end will never drift again? And then there’s inspirational value, the sway of objects whose purposefulness is a call to action. How sad a Rolex dive watch that will never inspire another underwater adventure?

Aesthetic, experiential, and inspirational value are subjective experiences — joys, if you will — and, as such, those values are impossible to quantify. Yet for some folks the joy of actually using expensive vintage things is the only justification for their high price tags. These folks will happily wear down the frets on that Strat. They’ll grin as they drift the rear end of that vintage Porsche. And they’ll experience something akin to time-travel as they submerge that perfectly faded Rolex Sub.

“Aesthetic, experiential, and inspirational value are subjective experiences — joys, if you will — and, as such, those values are impossible to quantify.”

Joy is exactly what three vintage Rolex Submariners exuded to everyone who got to see them at work under the surface at the East End of Grand Cayman in the Caribbean. The risk of submerging these three watches was that they might leak. Saltwater would destroy their perfectly faded dials and totally screw up their movements, thus diminishing their monetary value many-fold. But the risk of a leak only amplified the joy of diving with these watches. And diving with them, in turn, amplified how perfectly capable they still are after so many decades — provided, of course, that their seals are properly maintained and pressure tested.

We chose this specific trio to help elucidate some of the key differences between vintage Subs. By no means is this an exhaustive look at vintage Rolex Submariners, but these three examples do provide an informative glimpse into the arcane niche of collecting vintage models.

The watches we submerged include two no-date reference 5513s: a rather pristine example from 1968 and another super clean variant from 1989. The 5513 was produced from 1962-1989, and saw a number of small changes over that time. The most notable differences (though not the only ones) between the two examples we dove with are that the 1968 5513 has a matte dial with unadorned lume plots (a dollop of luminescent material) for markers, while the 1989 5513 has a glossy black dial and white gold surround around the markers. For those seeking the look of the older example, look for one made between 1962 and 1981, and for those who prefer the updated look of the newer version, seek out one made between 1982 and 1989. Functionally, the two are identical, and in action at depth the differences were hardly noticeable.

The third watch we dove with is a gorgeously sun-burned 1971 reference 1680 Submariner, dubbed by modern collectors a “Red Sub.” Produced from 1969-1975, and the first to include a date complication, many consider the Red Sub to be the ultimate Rolex dive watch. Why that red line of text sends chills up the spines of otherwise rational men remains a mystery, but other brands endlessly imitate it in a bid for that strange affection. [Editor’s Note: the 1680 “Red Sub” was eventually replaced with a version with all-white text, also a reference 1680.] The smooth patina on the particular example we had in hand, as well as its overall excellent condition, drives its price well north of $30,000.

This 1680’s bezel is now a steely blue, its tritium lume a creamy French vanilla, its dial a soft charcoal gray, its red text bold and bright. It’s price tag may be impressive, but this watch’s aesthetic, experiential, and inspirational values are off the chart. Above water it’s the picture of perfect patina, and below water it exhibits timing capabilities and legibility that make you wonder how far we’ve really come in the 49 years since this watch went home with its first owner in 1971.

Yet, no matter how capable and wonderful these old Subs are, no one is going to forego their digital dive computer in favor of them, and anyone who puts stock in the practical value of these Subs is overlooking the real reason to celebrate these objects: namely, their ability to remind us of the hopeful spirit and ingenuity of the 20th Century. WWII was over, and the world sighed a collective relief and set its sights on the future. In just a few decades, we went on to explore space, fly supersonic jets commercially, and deepen our knowledge of the oceans at an unfathomably fast pace, as pioneers like Jaques Cousteau and Sylvia Earle mastered SCUBA and underwater photography. These accomplishments sprung from utopian aspirations, and the hope embodied in the tools of that era — these old Rolexes included — is palpable and deeply compelling.

“Anyone who puts stock in the practical value of these Subs is overlooking the real reason to celebrate these objects: namely, their ability to remind us of the hopeful spirit and ingenuity of the 20th Century.”

More than one person expressed jittery reservations about our taking these three Submariners underwater, fearing they’d leak, fearing that leaks would ruin them, and fearing that, once ruined, they’d lose their monetary value. “What’s the point?” asked one concerned bystander. What is there to say to such fears when it comes to devices that were built to enable a nascent and dangerous new sport called SCUBA diving? What is there to say to such fear when modern technology has put real buffers between us and real danger? What is there to say, other than that such fears are nothing compared to the joy of having taken the risk and come out the other side with a dry watch, a new story to tell, and a glimmer of hope? That, dear readers, is priceless.

[Note: Bob’s Watches provided all three watches for use in this piece. All are for sale at www.bobswatches.com]
Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

The Coronavirus Is Forcing Swiss Watch Companies to Sell Online. And That’s a Good Thing

Buying a prestigious watchmaking masterpiece isn’t supposed to be simply a cash-for-goods transaction: it’s often an involved experience that’s meant to feel special. There are silk gloves, possibly offers of champagne, and the air smells almost…expensive. High-end brands with carefully guarded reputations are wrapped up in this sort of ceremony, and they’ve been reluctant to join the Add-to-Cart age of immediacy.

This model has worked well for many historic brands that have remained digitally aloof — at least, that is, until a global pandemic shut everything down and shut everyone in. Now, most shopping and just about everything else is taking place online, with only essential businesses remaining open and residents requested or ordered to stay in their homes in many parts of the world. That leaves brick-and-mortar holdouts such as Patek Philippe and other Swiss juggernauts of the watch industry in a tough spot.

But extreme circumstances call for extreme measures. Now, the brand is taking action and finally adapting — no, not by offering e-commerce of its own, but by allowing its authorized dealers to sell its exclusive watches on the World Wide Web. And no brand represents the world of high-end watchmaking with its carefully crafted branding and air of rarity quite like Patek Philippe.

The company says that the measures are temporary and meant to support its retailers in a time when many such businesses that rely on physical locations are suffering. Another Swiss haute horlogerie company, H. Moser & Cie, has gone a step further with a “Shop Now” button on their website for actual e-commerce. Could all this signal a thawing of Swiss attitudes toward e-commerce? Would that even be desirable?

Forces have been pushing companies in this direction already, and many Swiss luxury brands at the entry- and mid-levels already offer online “stores.” You’ve been able to buy Omega watches with the click of a button since late 2017 — hell, you could order one from your iPhone in an Uber on the way home the bar, several tequilas deep. This certainly makes sales easy and convenient — but buying a Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin watch isn’t supposed to be “easy.”

Patek’s watches start at around $20,000, featuring old-world craftsmanship and almost exclusively precious-metal cases. Isn’t that the kind of purchase for which you should at least be required to stand up and get dressed? That wouldn’t be an unreasonable position, but at least the option of buying online is clearly the future, and watch companies that fight against it can feel out of touch. The challenge will be to use technology to to offer that catered, boutique experience in other, creative ways.

The coronavirus pandemic has precipitated a moment of major adaptation for just about every industry and every individual in the world. That’s always a learning experience, and it might just be what’s needed to break old habits and antiquated practices.

Zen Love

Zen Love is Gear Patrol’s watch writer. He avoids the snooty side of the watch world, and seeks out food in NYC that resembles what he loved while living in Asia for over a decade.

More by Zen Love | Follow on Instagram · Contact via Email

Can’t Get a Rolex GMT Master II ‘Batman’ Watch? Try This for a Third of the Price

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TAG Heuer Aquaracer GMT


Editor’s Note: Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) and Baselworld 2020 are canceled but that hasn’t stopped watch brands large and small from debuting their new wares. To stay on top of this year’s best new watch releases, visit our tag page.

A sporty GMT watch with a black and blue 24-hour rotating bezel is inevitably going to be compared to Rolex’s icon, the GMT Master II. TAG Heuer most certainly knew that when it gave its Aquaracer dive watch the “Batman” treatment — the moniker assigned to the Rolex model for its bezel colors representing daylight and nighttime hours.

The Aquaracer GTM’s Calibre 7 movement allows for an independently adjustable GMT hand, meaning the wearer can an effectively track a second time zone using this hand alone, and then set the bezel to track a third time zone, if desired. The “cyclops” magnifier over the date window at 3 o’clock has been present on Aquaracers before (including on TAG’s “Pepsi” version of the watch), and here it only reinforces the similarities between this model and Rolex’s own GMT Master.

However, just about everything else about TAG Heuer’s new GMT watch is in line with the Aquaracer DNA that TAG has cultivated over the decades, from its distinctive bezel and case shape to the horizontally textured dial. This version features a relatively bold 43mm case, but standard specs remain consistent, with 300m of water resistance and the Calibre 7 automatic movement inside (based on the ETA 2895-2). It comes on TAG’s excellent steel bracelet.

No matter how “Aquaracer” the new GMT watch otherwise is, its look is defined by that iconic bezel style. If you want the Rolex version it’ll cost you over nine grand in theory — and much more in reality — but the TAG Heuer Aquaracer GMT is available now for a price of $3,050.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.
Zen Love

Zen Love is Gear Patrol’s watch writer. He avoids the snooty side of the watch world, and seeks out food in NYC that resembles what he loved while living in Asia for over a decade.

More by Zen Love | Follow on Instagram · Contact via Email

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Swatch’s Inexpensive Automatic Watch Is Available in a Refined New Version

<!–Swatch’s Inexpensive Automatic Watch Is Available in a Refined New Version • Gear Patrol<!– –>

C’est La Petite Seconde


Editor’s Note: Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) and Baselworld 2020 are canceled but that hasn’t stopped watch brands large and small from debuting their new wares. To stay on top of this year’s best new watch releases, visit our tag page.

Since Swatch made their first ultra-affordable Sistem51 watch using 51 mostly plastic parts fully produced and assembled by machines, there have been countless aesthetic variations. Some had plastic cases and others had steel cases, but they all had the same dial layout with three centrally mounted hands for the hours, minutes and seconds. In the first major horological update to the famous automatic movement, the new Petite Seconde model places the seconds hand in a small subdial for a somewhat more classical look.

In the brand’s self-aware “Irony” collection, the Sistem51 Petite Seconde has a steel case measuring 42mm wide. Stylistically, the initial models offer a relatively conservative and versatile look with simple dials in black or blue and matching leather straps. As is the case with other Sistem51 watches, Swatch wants to emphasize its plastic, unusual-looking movement and proudly shows it off through a display case back. For $215, you could hardly find a more affordable, casual, Swiss-made automatic watch.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.
Zen Love

Zen Love is Gear Patrol’s watch writer. He avoids the snooty side of the watch world, and seeks out food in NYC that resembles what he loved while living in Asia for over a decade.

More by Zen Love | Follow on Instagram · Contact via Email

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If You’re an Antarctic Explorer, This Is the Watch to Wear

<!–If You’re an Antarctic Explorer, This Is the Watch to Wear • Gear Patrol<!– –>

Delma Oceanmaster Antarctica


Editor’s Note: Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) and Baselworld 2020 are canceled but that hasn’t stopped watch brands large and small from debuting their new wares. To stay on top of this year’s best new watch releases, visit our tag page.

Summer is approaching, and that means dive watches — even if you’re stuck at home or at your desk. Swiss watchmaker Delma is among the latest brands to announce a new dive watch for 2020, and this one has a decidedly icy theme. The Delma Oceanmaster Antarctica is has an extreme depth rating, but it also includes features for nautical exploration in some of the world’s harshest climates.

Created specifically for Delma’s brand ambassador and adventurer Nick Moloney and his trip to Antarctica, this Oceanmaster’s most striking feature is its blue gradient dial. More than the dial’s color, it’s the texture that makes it unique, visually interesting, and — most importantly — highly legible against the hands.

While the Oceanmaster Antarctica’s 44mm steel case is rated water-resistant to 500m, it seems to focus just as much on above-water utility, with a nautical bezel and dial markings meant for use in nautical navigation. Powered by the popular Swiss automatic ETA 2824-2 movement, the Delma Oceanmaster Antarctica is available directly from the brand for a price of $1,450 and comes on a steel bracelet. A portion of the proceeds of each sale of the Oceanmaster Antarctica are contributed to the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition’s conservation efforts.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.
Zen Love

Zen Love is Gear Patrol’s watch writer. He avoids the snooty side of the watch world, and seeks out food in NYC that resembles what he loved while living in Asia for over a decade.

More by Zen Love | Follow on Instagram · Contact via Email

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Here’s What Vantablack, One of the World’s Darkest Materials, Looks Like in a Wristwatch

Editor’s Note: Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) and Baselworld 2020 are canceled but that hasn’t stopped watch brands large and small from debuting their new wares. To stay on top of this year’s best new watch releases, visit our tag page.

H. Moser & Cie is a Swiss watch brand famous for doing, well, whatever the hell they want, like making a watch out of cheese. (No, really — these guys love to poke fun at their own industry.) They also make utterly incredible complicated watches such as this moon phase and this funky chronograph. And this bonkers Flying Hours.

So given all this haute horlogerie, you wouldn’t be remiss to think that maison’s latest three SKUs are perhaps a bit…tame by comparison. But the devil’s in the details, so to speak, and the details here are…black. Like, really, really black.

Moser has made use of Vantablack, “blackest black ever produced by artificial means,” in three new models. What does “blackest black ever” mean, exactly? Because I never made it to high school physics (I was too busy playing the saxophone at the time), I’m just going to quote Moser here: “It is composed of carbon nanotubes that are 10,000 times finer than a human hair, aligned vertically alongside each other. When a photon hits Vantablack, this material absorbs 99.965% of the light. As our eyes need reflected light to perceive what we are looking at, Vantablack is perceived as the absence of matter, a black hole.”

Holy shit, a black hole. In a watch. What? You’re wearing a black hole!

Anyway, back to new watches. The new Venturer Vantablack® Black Hands is available in two different case diameters: 39mm in white gold, and 43mm in steel. There’s also a new DLC-coated steel Endeavour Tourbillon Vantablack® Black Hands model, for those of you who like antiquated carryover pocket watch technology in your wristwatches. And as is typically the case when Moser does their minimalist thing, these watches look good — all dial, very little in the way of ostentation or ornamentation, and great proportions. (Certainly all three, despite blacked-out handsets, are more legible than the April Fool’s Day model the brand posted on Instagram.)

The smaller 39mm white gold Black Hands model features a curved sapphire crystal, sapphire crystal display case back, handwound HMC 327 Manufacture calibre with three-day power reserve, and a hand-stitched black alligator leather strap. The larger 43mm steel Black Hands model is also a time-only watch — it features the same crystals, movement and strap. The Endeavour Tourbillon Vantablack Black Hands is a limited edition of 50 pieces in a black DLC-coated 42mm case featuring the HMC 804 self-winding Manufacture calibre with one-minute tourbillon and three-day power reserve, visible through a sapphire case back. It also ships on a a hand-stitched black alligator leather strap.

Pricing is in line with typical H. Moser offerings (read: it ain’t cheap): $26,600 for the XL in stainless steel; $27,600 for the white gold version; and $69,000 for the limited edition, stainless steel DLC tourbillon. The good news is that H. Moser is opening a new e-comm platform, meaning you can finally purchase their wares directly on their website. So, if you’ve got both the scratch and the itch for something really, really black, you should be able to satisfy your needs with one of these three new Mosers.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Beneath the Surface: The Story of an American Submariner’s Military Watch

For many, myself included, there is an inherent fascination with modes of transportation. From airplanes to automobiles, machinery designed to navigate land, air, and sea generates a certain intangible allure. Nothing revs up the imagination more than the vehicles built for the most unrelenting environments, be it space travel, military operations, mountaineering, or ocean exploration.

Although watches often accompanied daring individuals on these adventures, more often than not this provenance is lost to time. Occasionally, the watch world gets lucky with a case back inscription or historical photograph shedding some light upon a hidden past. In the case of an unassuming Caravelle watch, a clue to the history was printed right on the dial.

The Caravelle brand, introduced in the early 1960’s by Bulova Watch Company, represented a price-conscious option for the general public. Typical of the time period, this chrome-plated case measures a mere 34 millimeters in diameter. Though the basic seven-jewel movement has been overwound and the acrylic crystal bears the scars of time, the watch was clearly cared for and remains in admirable condition despite its half-century of existence.

Bulova Watch Company’s old headquarters building in Queens.

Although unremarkable in most regards, it’s the watch’s dial that serves as a point of intrigue. Just below twelve o’clock is the Silent Service insignia depicting an O-class submarine between two stylized dolphins, while opposite this emblem is an illustration of a Polaris submarine — two not-so-subtle hints about where this watch came from.

While serving in the United States Navy from 1964 through 1974, Walter Schaub became submarine-qualified aboard the USS Menhaden (SS 377) in 1965. He described the seven-month submarine qualification process as grueling, requiring knowledge of all electrical systems, valves, and operations before being subjected to examination by a Chief’s Board. After proudly besting the gauntlet of submariner qualification, he was assigned to the USS George C. Marshall (SSBN-654) out of Holy Loch, Scotland.

The USS George C. Marshall (SSBN-664).

It was typical for fleet ballistic missile (FBM) submarines to be operated by two full crews — in this case, a “blue” and a “gold” crew. Schaub functioned as a Machinist’s Mate on the blue crew, and was flown to Holy Loch for a thirty-day refit of the USS George C. Marshall followed by two months submerged at sea.

The mission of the USS George C. Marshall was to serve as a strategic deterrent to Russia during the Cold War. Equipped with 16 ballistic Polaris missiles, this 425ft.-long boomer displaced over 8,000 tons of water and was capable of speeds in excess of 20 knots. While serving aboard the Marshall in December of ’67, Schaub and the crew were picked up by a Russian sub’s sonar and tracked for three days despite their best efforts to evade the enemy.

This pursuit resulted in a collision between the two submarines, inflicting damage to the starboard ballast tanks and ballistic steel bulkhead of the George C. Marshall. This encounter signaled the end of the mission for Schaub and his sub, as it was sent to Rota, Spain for repairs and he returned home.

Walter Schaub’s Caravelle watch with the Silent Service insignia.

After arriving back in the States in late 1967, Schaub purchased four watches from the Navy exchange while on base in New London, Connecticut. He bought two Caravelles depicting the aforementioned dial markings, as well as two ladies pin watches with similar markings. He kept one of the two Caravelles for himself and gifted one to his father-in-law. The pin watches were given to his wife and mother.

Although Schaub’s watch was eventually misplaced, his father-in-law wore the counterpart proudly from 1967 until his passing in the mid-1990s. According to Schaub, he adored the watch and showed it off in pubs throughout Scotland. This Caravelle is a reminder that, whether used aboard a submarine, on pub crawls throughout Scotland, or received as a heartfelt gift from a loved one, often the most enthralling aspects of a vintage watch dwell deep beneath the surface, potent reminders of their history and significance.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Beneath the Surface: The Story of an American Military Watch

For many, myself included, there is an inherent fascination with modes of transportation. From airplanes to automobiles, machinery designed to navigate land, air, and sea generates a certain intangible allure. Nothing revs up the imagination more than the vehicles built for the most unrelenting environments, be it space travel, military operations, mountaineering, or ocean exploration.

Although watches often accompanied daring individuals on these adventures, more often than not this provenance is lost to time. Occasionally, the watch world gets lucky with a case back inscription or historical photograph shedding some light upon a hidden past. In the case of an unassuming Caravelle watch, a clue to the history was printed right on the dial.

The Caravelle brand, introduced in the early 1960’s by Bulova Watch Company, represented a price-conscious option for the general public. Typical of the time period, this chrome-plated case measures a mere 34 millimeters in diameter. Though the basic seven-jewel movement has been overwound and the acrylic crystal bears the scars of time, the watch was clearly cared for and remains in admirable condition despite its half-century of existence.

Bulova Watch Company’s old headquarters building in Queens.

Although unremarkable in most regards, it’s the watch’s dial that serves as a point of intrigue. Just below twelve o’clock is the Silent Service insignia depicting an O-class submarine between two stylized dolphins, while opposite this emblem is an illustration of a Polaris submarine — two not-so-subtle hints about where this watch came from.

While serving in the United States Navy from 1964 through 1974, Walter Schaub became submarine-qualified aboard the USS Menhaden (SS 377) in 1965. He described the seven-month submarine qualification process as grueling, requiring knowledge of all electrical systems, valves, and operations before being subjected to examination by a Chief’s Board. After proudly besting the gauntlet of submariner qualification, he was assigned to the USS George C. Marshall (SSBN-654) out of Holy Loch, Scotland.

The USS George C. Marshall (SSBN-664).

It was typical for fleet ballistic missile (FBM) submarines to be operated by two full crews — in this case, a “blue” and a “gold” crew. Schaub functioned as a Machinist’s Mate on the blue crew, and was flown to Holy Loch for a thirty-day refit of the USS George C. Marshall followed by two months submerged at sea.

The mission of the USS George C. Marshall was to serve as a strategic deterrent to Russia during the Cold War. Equipped with 16 ballistic Polaris missiles, this 425ft.-long boomer displaced over 8,000 tons of water and was capable of speeds in excess of 20 knots. While serving aboard the Marshall in December of ’67, Schaub and the crew were picked up by a Russian sub’s sonar and tracked for three days despite their best efforts to evade the enemy.

This pursuit resulted in a collision between the two submarines, inflicting damage to the starboard ballast tanks and ballistic steel bulkhead of the George C. Marshall. This encounter signaled the end of the mission for Schaub and his sub, as it was sent to Rota, Spain for repairs and he returned home.

Walter Schaub’s Caravelle watch with the Silent Service insignia.

After arriving back in the States in late 1967, Schaub purchased four watches from the Navy exchange while on base in New London, Connecticut. He bought two Caravelles depicting the aforementioned dial markings, as well as two ladies pin watches with similar markings. He kept one of the two Caravelles for himself and gifted one to his father-in-law. The pin watches were given to his wife and mother.

Although Schaub’s watch was eventually misplaced, his father-in-law wore the counterpart proudly from 1967 until his passing in the mid-1990s. According to Schaub, he adored the watch and showed it off in pubs throughout Scotland. This Caravelle is a reminder that, whether used aboard a submarine, on pub crawls throughout Scotland, or received as a heartfelt gift from a loved one, often the most enthralling aspects of a vintage watch dwell deep beneath the surface, potent reminders of their history and significance.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Like the Idea of a Boutique, Affordable Dive Watch? So Does This Guy

“Eventually I’d like to build a workshop on an isolated island,” says Jason Lim, the founder of Halios. “I’d make every component, except for hairsprings, maybe, by hand, and produce something like 20 watches a year.” (He’s only half-joking.) If this were to happen, the watch world would be very lucky — but also very sad, indeed.

Lim’s work with his brand Halios has been ground-shifting for the indie watch world. Since Lim started it in 2009, Halios has been one of the most sought-after indie brands, known for its red-hot divers — watches that are ridiculously affordable, classically beautiful, and feature some of the most eye-catching design touches in the boutique watch world. (See: the stunning Seaforth GMT (below), with its GMT bezel and blue dial.) Halios opened the door for what an indie dive watch could — and perhaps should — be, and dozens of great companies have poured into the creative space Lim painstakingly carved out for himself.

Just in case he does decide to go full-on “watchmaker hermit”, we caught up with the famously busy Lim (over email, of course), about his new batch of watches, how he got into timekeeping, his long view of the indie watch industry, and his design inspirations.

Q: When was the first time you can remember being infatuated or intrigued by a watch? How did you get into watches?
A: It was the early 80s and it was the best thing that I had ever seen in my life: an LCD watch that transformed into a robot. It was produced by the now-defunct Japanese toy company Takara — Google “Kronoform robot watch.” My wrist hasn’t gone bare since, and I’m still infatuated with digital watches. My dad would travel for work often across Asia, picking them up as souvenirs for me from each of his trips.

I didn’t get into mechanical watches until my early teens, via the patron saint of horological enablement, Seiko. The very first watch that I ever tore down and rebuilt was a Seiko 6138 UFO. I use that term, “rebuilt,” very loosely here. It may or may not have been functional after the “rebuild”…The affliction really took hold after this discovery of mechanical watches.

Q: What was your first watch you ever owned? How about your first “serious” (however you want to define that) watch?
A: Thinking back on a long collecting history, I went through the usual suspects to see what would fit the “first serious watch” role: the expensive watch, the milestone watch, the nerd cred watch, etc. But, the answer that made the most sense was my first analogue watch from almost 35 years ago. It was a quartz M Watch (manufactured by Mondaine) that I wore everywhere, right up until the day it no longer fit my wrist. It survived the hard use of a plucky but slightly clumsy kid growing up in the tropics. Concisely designed, durable and water-ready — reads a lot like the type of watch that Halios aspires to offer, but probably just a coincidence, right?

Q: What brands do you love? What’s in your personal collection?
A: I’m entirely in awe of the independents that occupy the haute horlogerie space. Also, any enthusiast brand, or “microbrand,” that has broken the mould and succeeded in developing some form of in-house fabrication or production. The rest of the list is fantastically long — there are a ton of inspiring brands out there that I love from both the past and present.

My current (non-Halios) collection currently sits at roughly 50 watches. It’s a pretty eclectic mix, not skewing heavily towards any one particular type of watch or brand.

Q: Can you tell me some specific watches in the collection?
A: There are vintage digital calculator watches in there, a couple of no-date Subs from the late 90s, a Topper Edition Zodiac Sea Wolf Series II with yellow rally bezel, a Certina from 1971 that purports to help you track your biorhythms…

Q: One leg of your tripod mission statement is to build a watch that buyers can “wear in the water.” What, in your experience, makes wearing a dive watch while diving so special? Along with that, why do we love dive watches so much?
A: Art and function seem to be two mutually exclusive things a lot of the time, so to be able to actually use a well-designed, beautiful object is really fulfilling. Being able to wear a watch underwater, to me, means that this thing that you’ve chosen as a reflection of your tastes really is capable of handling all aspects of your lifestyle.

I think the dive watch aesthetic is particularly compelling because its intended purpose directly drives its design — I hate to use a cliché but ‘form follows function’ really is the most succinct way to put it. Dive watch design also requires that certain functional elements be present — for instance, luminous material on the dial or hands, a rotating bezel, parts that screw down — giving the wearer a deeper level of interaction with the watch. Sport watch design is rife with a bunch of constraints, so when someone gets it right, the results really are exciting.

“Art and function seem to be two mutually exclusive things a lot of the time, so to be able to actually use a well-designed, beautiful object is really fulfilling.”

Q: Tell me about your design process.
A: I don’t have formal design training, which I greatly regret. So my process and results likely aren’t as polished or as effective as they could be. I suppose we work with what we have to get the job done. There isn’t a structured process, but one of the things I think about at the very start of development is the size of the watch — specifically, the diameter and lug-to-lug measurements. That parameter really dictates a lot, from the proportions and appearance of all the other elements of the watch, all the way to whether someone would even consider purchasing the finished product.

My goal isn’t to revolutionize timekeeping or to light the industrial design world on fire, so I’m working within a box that primarily consists of four walls: 12 markers on the dial, somewhere between two to four hands, unfettered legibility and comfort on the wrist. The final form of the new watch is almost always guided by a combination of: First, some small, striking visual element encountered in the real world that really made me stop — for instance, the color of a vintage car on the street, or light hitting an alcove in a concrete building; and second, its place among all the watches ever made — its archetype.

“If I can capture at least a little bit of that emotion and excitement when I see a beautiful thing, I proceed.”

It often feels like what I imagine chair design to be: iterative, and doesn’t the world have enough chairs? But if I can capture at least a little bit of that emotion and excitement when I see a beautiful thing, I proceed. I think Bill Yao alluded to the same notion in your Q&A as well in describing his own process. I’m a big MKII fan, by the way.

Q: Can you lay out how you went about designing the Fairwind and/or Universa? What’s special about these new watches?
A: The Fairwind and Universa are the smallest watches I’ve produced to date, and they also mark a return to offering a bracelet. I’m also in a bit of a flat surface phase at the moment, so you’ll see that manifested on the cases and bracelets of the new duo. The inspiration for the long, flat lugs was the hood of the Lamborghini Countach from the 80s. Like every old guy, I may have a bit of trouble letting go of the past.

Q: You’ve been at this for over 10 years. What’s changed about your approach to being a watch company owner? What’s been the most positive change about the market you’re in? The most negative?
A: I think the biggest change is an increasing desire to contribute something more significant from a horological standpoint. I was content producing watches using ETA, Miyota, Sellita etc. time-only movements, but I’d like to delve a little deeper and see if I can offer something a little more special. Eventually I’d like to build a workshop on an isolated island, make every component, except for hairsprings, maybe, by hand, and produce something like 20 watches a year. I’m only half-joking here.

As far as positive versus negative changes, there has been an explosion in the establishment of new companies in my particular market segment. I see this as a positive as there are now a number of fantastic new brands that are democratizing gorgeous, well-built watches tuned to the standards of the hardcore enthusiast. Baltic, for instance, is one of my favorites. On the flipside, you inevitably see companies sprouting up to capitalize on what appears to be an easy money-making opportunity without a thought to whether or not they produce something good.

Q: Your watches skew smaller than many other divers. Why?
A: The new 38 and 39mm cases are a direct result of my own changing tastes, I think. In my 20s and 30s, anything under 40mm felt too small; now, around 38mm feels just perfect for me. Historically, my watches have been on the smaller end of the dive watch spectrum as I don’t have a large wrist. The Puck at 48mm was an outlier but was manageable for all wrists due to its identical lug-to-lug measurement.

Q: What keeps you excited about being an independent watchmaker?
A: I’m thrilled just to be a part of the watch world, even if it’s only a small part. It’s also really exciting that thanks to great brands and watch / gear-focused media outlets (GP included), the enthusiasm for watches is becoming part of mainstream culture, so I get to do this a little longer. Watch geeks no longer have to be shunned and hide in the shadows like D&D enthusiasts! Apologies to D&D enthusiasts.

Get This Affordable, Automatic Dive Watch Starting at $116

<!–Get This Affordable, Automatic Dive Watch Starting at $116 • Gear Patrol<!– –>

Orient Ray II


If you’re a regular GP reader, you’re more than likely aware that Orient is one of our favorite makers of affordable watches — the Japanese brand regularly delivers automatic steel sports watches in various colors and configurations at unbeatable prices.

Right now, you can grab the Ray II in three dial variants beginning at just $116 on Amazon, down from Orient’s MSRP of $325. The Ray II features a 41.5mm stainless steel case with matching bracelet, a unidirectional dive bezel, an automatic Japanese movement with 40 hours of power reserve and a day-date display. At this price and with this feature set, what’s essentially the perfect summer watch could easily become your favorite everyday watch.

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These Swiss Automatic Dive Watches Offer Premium Specs and Killer Value

<!–These Swiss Automatic Dive Watches Offer Premium Specs and Killer Value • Gear Patrol<!– –>

Le Jour Hammerhead


Editor’s Note: Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) and Baselworld 2020 are canceled but that hasn’t stopped watch brands large and small from debuting their new wares. To stay on top of this year’s best new watch releases, visit our tag page.

The name Le Jour might be best known among vintage watch enthusiast circles, but the watches before you are fully modern. The revived brand’s newest watch is called the Hammerhead, and while it’s based on the aesthetic of watches its namesake sold in the 1960s and ’70s, it stands out most for its competitive value, competing strongly in the sub-$1k dive watch category.

A Swiss automatic movement and sapphire crystal for this price level might be more common recently, especially from small, direct-to-consumer startups like Le Jour. However, it’s the inclusion of a ceramic bezel insert that raises the eyebrow, as this is a feature often associated with higher-end watches. Housed in a 42mm steel case water resistant to 200m, the Le Jour Hammerhead offers all that, along with other appreciated touches such as applied indices and a healthy dose of Super-LumiNova.

All the premium materials in the world are meaningless if you simply don’t like the design of a particular watch, but the the Hammerhead looks pretty damn good in each of its four somewhat vibrant variants. Each version comes on a three-link steel bracelet and has a price of $800, available directly from the brand.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.
Zen Love

Zen Love is Gear Patrol’s watch writer. He avoids the snooty side of the watch world, and seeks out food in NYC that resembles what he loved while living in Asia for over a decade.

More by Zen Love | Follow on Instagram · Contact via Email

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The 25 Best Chronograph Watches of 2020

This is a definitive guide to the best chronograph watches you can buy in 2020. It also covers the basic history of the complication as well as all the terms you need to know to understand how chronographs work.

Prefer to skip directly to the picks? Click here.

The Short List

Best Value Chronograph: Seiko Presage SRQ023

At $2,400, Seiko’s Presage chronograph represents one of the greatest values in watchmaking. For starters, it features an in-house chronograph movement with a column wheel and vertical clutch, something not even seen on watches that cost twice the Seiko’s asking price. The best part, though, is the dial: it’s made from fired enamel, an incredibly difficult-to-master feature that’s otherwise only seen on watches from Switzerland’s most vaunted manufacturers.

Movement: Seiko 8R48 automatic
Case diameter: 42mm
Water resistance: 100m
Price: $2,400

Best Chronograph Under $1,000: Seagull 1963

You’d be hard-pressed to find a mechanical chronograph at a better price than the Seagull 1963, and you likely won’t find one with the same kind of history behind it. Made by China’s biggest watch manufacturer, the 1963 uses the Seagull ST19, a movement originally developed as a recreation of the Venus 175 movement back the early ’60s for use in a pilot’s chronograph for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

Movement: Seagull ST19 hand-winding
Case diameter: 38mm
Water resistance: 30m
Price: $379

Best Chronograph Under $2,500: Sinn 103

Helmut Sinn’s eponymous watch brand got its start building aviation chronographs and servicing Heuer chronographs for the German Air Force. The Sinn 103 is a direct descendant of that history. Normally, Sinn’s watches are packed with its nutso overengineering, but this timepiece is decidedly simple. It features an old-school acrylic dial, a rotating countdown bezel (chunky enough to be used with gloves) and a plain dial with big, lumed Arabic numerals.

Movement: Valjoux 7750 automatic
Case diameter: 41mm
Water resistance: 200m
Price: $1,890

Best Chronograph Under $5,000: Frederique Constant Flyback Manufacture

At around four grand, an in-house Swiss chronograph movement looks like a pretty good deal — especially when it’s in as attractive a package as that presented here by Swiss brand Frederique Constant. However, add the complicated flyback function to the chronograph and there’s nothing to even compare it to. With a subtly retro appeal and just a touch of sportiness (particularly in its reverse panda dial version), the Flyback Manufacture offers a ton of value in a watch that makes for a versatile daily wear.
Movement: Frederique Constant FC-760 automatic
Case diameter: 42mm
Water resistance: 50m
Price: $3,999

Best Chronograph Under $10,000: Zenith El Primero

Declaring the winner of the race to build the first automatic chronograph in 1969 is contentious business, so Zenith’s “El Primero” moniker is arguable here. What isn’t arguable, however, is the technical supremacy of the watch. It ticks away at a particularly high 36,000 bph, allowing it to record times within a 10th of a second, unheard of at the time of its launch. This modern iteration is as true to the original as it gets, right down to using the same movement, the same 38mm case design and the same dial with tri-color sub-dials.

Movement: Zenith El Primero 400
Case diameter: 38mm
Water resistance: 100m
Price: $7,700

The 30 Best Affordable Watches Under $1,000

From $80 to a cool grand, these are the best watches to get when you don’t want to spend a fortune. Read the Story

Introduction

Watches are passive devices. Once you’ve set the time, you can sit back, relax and let it do its thing. This is even true in the world of complications — additional functions in addition to the time — in which calendars, moon phase indicators and GMTs all, essentially, count a continually elapsing event. Save for one: the chronograph.

Chronograph means “time writer,” but you can think of it as a stopwatch, activated and stopped at the whim of its user. Its name is derived from one of the earliest versions of the mechanism, which was essentially a box filled with clockwork attached to two inky styluses. These recorded on two rotating discs of paper the difference in time between two horses on a race track. The mechanism was soon miniaturized and added to pocket watches. Then wristwatches.

To use a chronograph, you depress one of the pushers on the side of the case, engaging the function to get the second hand moving. Once the event you want to record is complete, you press that same pusher again, take note of the time, then press a second pusher and the mechanism resets to zero. Each press of the pusher is a tactile experience otherwise missing from watches, and the utility of being able to record the length of events on the fly was certainly not lost on the racers, referees, doctors, pilots and astronauts that used them throughout the 20th century.

Today modern, digital-timing systems have basically rendered the mechanical chronograph obsolete, but their associations with sports, auto racing, aviation and other exciting facets of life are in part why we love chronographs. The other part is, of course, the fact that they’re incredibly complex pieces of machinery, in which hundreds of tiny parts must operate in perfect synchrony. As such, they’re generally expensive to acquire. But if you love of watches, the complication is an essential piece to collect.

A Quick Timeline

1816: Louis Moinet creates what is considered the first chronograph, a pocket watch design with one pusher. It was only discovered in 2013 to be the first chronograph ever made.

1821: Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec builds his chronograph mechanism, a box filled with clockwork driving two ink styluses recording elapsed time. It was created at the request of King Louis XVIII, who liked to watch horse racing. Previously considered the first chronograph until the discovery of Louis Moinet’s chronograph.

1844: Adolphe Nicole introduces the reset feature, allowing different times to be taken in succession.

1913: Longines produces the 13.33Z, considered to be the very first wrist-worn chronograph watch.

1923: Gaston Breitling produces the first chronograph with two pushers. Up to this point, the stop, start and reset functions were all handled by one pusher, but very quickly, Breitling’s new configuration becomes the standard.

1969: Zenith, Seiko and a consortium of watchmakers (Heuer/Breitling/Hamilton-Buren/Dubois-Depraz) all race to create the first automatic-winding chronograph. The winner is still contested: Zenith was the first to announce the development, the consortium was the first to bring it to market worldwide, and Seiko was the first to sell its watch to the public, though only in Japan.

Terms to Know

Note: The following terms pertain specifically to chronographs. For more definitions on basic timekeeping terminology, reference our comprehensive guide here.

Clutch: Much like the connection between transmission and engine in a car, this is the coupling that connects the chronograph function to the main timekeeping gear train. There are two orientations for the clutch: horizontal and vertical. The former is more common, simpler and slimmer, while the latter — generally a staple in higher-end chronograph movements — provides a more seamless connection between the chronograph and the main clockwork.

Coulisse lever: On many lower-cost mechanical chronographs (notably the ubiquitous Valjoux 775), the Coulisse lever (also called “cam lever”) is the lever-and-cam system that moves to operate the chronograph function when the pusher is activated. It’s a relatively cheap, albeit robust, solution.

Column wheel: Like the cam lever, the column wheel activates the chronograph but takes on the look of a little turret-like wheel that progresses forward when the pusher is depressed. The action is much smoother than a cam lever, and the part requires more precision to make, thus making it more desirable in the eyes of many collectors.

Flyback: A type of chronograph that can be reset without stopping the chronograph function (which is necessary in a normal chronograph) — this allows the user to take multiple times in quick succession.

Pusher: A button on a chronograph watch that starts, stops and resets the chronograph mechanism. The majority of chronographs have two pushers — one for starting and stopping the mechanism, and another for resetting (though these functions are sometimes combined on watches with one pusher, called monopushers.)

Sub-dial: A smaller dial within the main watch dial. Most chronographs have either two (called a bi-compax layout) or three (a tri-compax layout) of these. Generally, they record the running seconds for the main time function, the minutes for the chronograph function and the hours for the chronograph function.

Tachymeter: A scale around the dial of a watch used to calculate speed. The wearer simply needs to take note of how many seconds elapse to travel a mile and reference the scale to know their speed. Tachymeter scales are often a staple on racing chronographs and can be found either on the outside of the dial or the bezel.

Valjoux 7750: An automatic chronograph movement designed in 1973 by Valjoux (now produced by ETA) that has become a ubiquitous caliber in the industry. If you’re buying a lower-cost chronograph watch that doesn’t have an in-house developed movement, it very likely has some form of the 7750 inside it.

Buying Guide

Unlike with, say, dive watches, there’s not a set criterion that defines an “aviation” chronograph or a “motoring” chronograph. Historically, though, there are a few common design elements that have shown up on watches in the following categories. These are features we kept our eyes on when formulating these lists, and you’ll see more detail for each below.

Aviation

Though pilots were strapping clocks to their wrists as early as 1904, chronograph wristwatches as standard issue for aviators didn’t come into vogue until much later. Archetypal aviation chronographs include the Gallet Flying Officer, commissioned for the U.S. Air Force in 1939 and the Type 20, a specification issued by the French government in 1954. Both of these watches are characterized by legible dials with large, luminous numerals, as well as rotating bezels that can be used to calculate elapsed time. Wristwatches aren’t the necessary cockpit tools they once were, but there are still plenty of examples you can buy that borrow heavily from that winning formula.

Seagull 1963

You’d be hard-pressed to find a mechanical chronograph at a better price than the Seagull 1963, and you likely won’t find one with the same kind of history behind it. Made by China’s biggest watch manufacturer, the 1963 uses the Seagull ST19, a movement originally developed as a recreation of the Venus 175 movement back the early ’60s for use in a pilot’s chronograph for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

Movement: Seagull ST19 hand-winding
Case diameter: 38mm
Water resistance: 30m
Price: $379

Sinn 103

Helmut Sinn’s eponymous watch brand got its start building aviation chronographs and servicing Heuer chronographs for the German Air Force. The Sinn 103 is a direct descendant of that history. Normally, Sinn’s watches are packed with its nutso overengineering, but this timepiece is decidedly simple. It features an old-school acrylic dial, a rotating countdown bezel (chunky enough to be used with gloves) and a plain dial with big, lumed Arabic numerals.

Movement: Valjoux 7750 automatic
Case diameter: 41mm
Water resistance: 200m
Price: $1,890

Longines Avigation “Big Eye”

The Longines Avigation won the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie’s award for “Best Revival” in 2017, though it’s a bit unclear as to what watch was being revived. Apparently, it’s based on a rare Longines brought to the brand by a collector, and there’s quite a resemblance to the Type 20 flight chronograph specification, which was commissioned by the French government in the ’50s. Either way, it has all the hallmarks of a classic aviation watch — notably, super-legible Arabic numerals and the oversized “big eye” sub-dial for the running seconds sub-dial. Inside the watch ticks away a column-wheel automatic chronograph based on an ETA design.

Movement: Longines 688 automatic (ETA A08.L01 base)
Case diameter: 41mm
Water resistance: 30m
Price: $2,625

IWC Pilot’s Chronograph Spitfire

Reminiscent of both IWC’s iconic Mark series pilot’s watches and a series of chronographs the brand made during the ’90s, the IWC Pilot’s Chronograph is a welcome addition to the brand’s aviation lineup. The dial has the unmistakable “Fliger” design of its forebears and a healthy smattering of lume on the hands and numerals. The watch comes powered by an IWC-made 69380 automatic movement featuring a column wheel for smooth chronograph articulation. It’s protected from magnetism by a soft-iron inner cage — a throwback to the classic Mark XI pilot’s watch.
Movement: IWC in-house 69380 automatic
Case diameter: 41mm
Water resistance: 60m
Price: $5,950

Blancpain Air Command

Gear Patrol editors chose the Blancpain Air Command among their top ten favorite products of 2019. It’s an aspirational choice, as at around $20,000, this is no casual purchase for the average consumer. However, its combination of history, looks and the high level of design, technical execution and refinement expected of Blancpain make it irresistible and special. Based on a pilot watch from the 1950s, the Air Command is a modern reinterpretation of a midcentury masterpiece executed in the best possible way.
Movement: Blancpain Caliber F388B automatic
Case diameter: 42.5mm
Water resistance: 30m
Price: $19,800

Racing

One of the chronograph’s earliest uses was timing horse races, so naturally, the complication evolved when horses made way for horsepower. Early races were mostly timed by stopwatches mounted to car dashboards, but as the complication was shrunk, they were more often seen on wrists, especially in the F1 and endurance racing heyday between the ’50s and ’70s.

While race cars and chronographs share a long history now, there’s no real formula for what constitutes a “racing chronograph.” Ideally, a tachymeter scale on the bezel (used for calculating average speeds) should be present, and stylistically, it should have elements of color to aid in legibility —and if it matches your sponsor’s logo, all the better.

Yema Speedgraf

With its classic vintage looks, reverse-panda dial, 39mm size and solid specs, the French brand Yema’s Speedgraf presents an attractive package. Further, it features an interesting movement from Seiko that isn’t all that common outside of watches from the Japanese brand itself. (It even has the column wheel and vertical clutch that enthusiasts tend to value.) On top of it all, little touches like applied indices and a box-style domed sapphire crystal lend it a refined feel.

Movement: Seiko NE86 automatic
Case diameter: 39mm
Water resistance: 100m
Price: $1,499

Farer Chronograph Sport

British watchmaker Farer has a tastefully vibrant design sense, and it’s never worked better than on its classically-inspired series of mechanical chronograph watches. Available in three different variations, each takes on its own very deliberately individual character while sharing the same basic specs. The movement inside is a manually wound Swiss caliber that makes for a case less thick than that housing an automatic version. It offers a range solid details and specs for a strong value, as well as the unique personality of an enthusiast-friendly indie brand.
Movement: Sellita SW510 BH Elaboré
Case diameter: 41mm
Water resistance: 100m
Price: $1,955

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16

Heuer’s chronographs are some of the most recognizable timepieces in motorsport. And while the Carrera initially designed in 1963 had a cleaner design with a slightly dressier appeal, it was nonetheless a seminal racer’s watch. Now 55 years on, TAG gave the Carrera a much more overtly racing-inspired redesign, with a tachymeter bezel and a high-contrast dial loaded with plenty of colorful accents.

Movement: Heuer Calibre 16 automatic (Valjoux 7750 base)
Case diameter: 41mm
Water resistance: 100m
Price: $4,350

Tudor Heritage Chrono

The Heritage Chrono is an oldie in the current Tudor lineup, but we love it because it’s such an excellent reinterpretation of the classic but short-lived Tudor “Monte-Carlo” chronograph from the early 1970s, purportedly popular with Porsche racers from the era. Black trapezoids surround the sub-dials and the orange accents are bold throwbacks to an equally bold era in racing.

Movement: ETA 2892 automatic with Dubois Depraz chronograph module
Case diameter: 42mm
Water resistance: 150m
Price: $4,525

TAG Heuer Monaco Caliber 11

Thanks to a cameo on Steve McQueen’s wrist in Le Mans, the Monaco is another Heuer chronograph forever intertwined with motor racing. Launched in 1969, it was a boldly-designed vehicle for the Caliber 11 — one of the first automatic chronographs ever made the modern iteration even revives the unique layout of the original movement.

Movement: Heuer Caliber 11 automatic
Case diameter: 39mm
Water resistance: 100m
Price: $6,150

Diving

Even though they’re more complex than standard dive watches, diving chronographs should be held to the same demanding standards of utility and robustness. For a watch to comply to ISO standards, it needs to have a ratcheting timing bezel, a dial legible underwater (read: it needs to have gobs of lume) and it has to be pressure tested to 200 meters at the very least. That’s a standard these dive watches easily meet, and then some.

Doxa Sub 200 T.Graph

A Doxa dive watch is unmistakable and noticible, not least for tending to be bright orange. There’s also that distinctive bezel and un-shy size. Reprising a model that must have seemed huge when it came out in 1969, the Sub 200 T.Graph maintains the original 43mm width and barrel-shaped case. The beads-of-rice bracelet adds to its throwback charm. Interestingly, it’s powered by a new-old-stock manually wound Valjoux 7734 movement, which makes it feel a little more special and unique.
Movement: Valjoux 7734
Case diameter: 43mm
Water resistance: 200m
Price: $4,900

Oris Aquis Chronograph

They don’t come much more brawnier than Oris’s Aquis Chronograph, which clocks in at 45.5mm in diameter and features a 500-meter depth rating. The chunky case holds a Sellita SW500 (more or less a Valjoux 7750) and comes adorned with a black-rotating bezel. The beautiful black-to-blue gradient dial is a considered touch that adds some class to this otherwise burly timepiece.
Movement: Oris 774 automatic (Sellita SW-500 base)
Case diameter: 45.5mm
Water resistance: 500m
Price: $3,700

Breitling Superocean Héritage II Chronograph

In 1957, Breitling launched its first diver, the Superocean. It was not just one of the first dive watches ever made but also one of the first to sport a chronograph function and the first-known “reverse-panda” color scheme, accoridng to Hodinkee. Breitling’s new Superocean reissue comes loaded with the brand’s in-house, column-wheel chronograph and sports the same high-contrast design.

Movement: Breitling B01 automatic
Case diameter: 44mm
Water resistance: 200m
Price: $7,665

Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Co-Axial Chronograph

The Speedmaster gets all the love in Omega’s chronograph lineup, but the Seamaster has long been a vehicle for the stopwatch function. Its Planet Ocean may be the most technically impressive, though, boasting a 600-meter depth rating that’s more than you’ll (hopefully) ever need, a helium escape valve and a co-axial movement that’s accurate to chronometer specification.

Movement: Omega 9300 automatic
Case diameter: 45.5mm
Water resistance: 600m
Price: $8,200

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Chronographe Flyback

The most incredible thing about the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Chronographe Flyback is not its 300-meter water resistance. Nor is it the ceramic case or its impressively long and French name. No, it’s the in-house developed movement, which in addition to having a flyback function, a column-wheel and a vertical clutch, ticks away at a very-quick 36,000 bph, a rarity in watches in general — let alone in chronographs.

Movement: Blancpain F385 automatic
Case diameter: 43.6mm
Water resistance: 300m
Price: $17,200

Dress

Chronographs — with their bezels, scales and sub-dials — are often regarded as too complex for dress-watch duty by diehards who believe the dress watch should be as clean and simple as possible. But really, there’s no reason a chronograph should be precluded from formal wear. There are plenty of chronographs out there that retain their stopwatch function but shed the tool-driven look in favor of slim, simple and refined design.

Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope

An offshoot of the brilliantly simple Junghans Max Bill, the Chronoscope retains the original sleek, pared-down charm imparted on the standard Max Bill by its eponymous creator. The bezel is incredibly thin, while the sub-dials are merely comprised of thin dashes, giving way to a balanced, minimal dial.

Movement: Junghans J880.2 automatic (Valjoux 7750 base)
Case diameter: 40mm
Water resistance: “Splash-resistant”
Price: $1,876

Seiko Presage SRQ023

At $2,400, Seiko’s Presage chronograph represents one of the greatest values in watchmaking. For starters, it features an in-house chronograph movement with a column wheel and vertical clutch, something not even seen on watches that cost twice the Seiko’s asking price. The best part, though, is the dial: it’s made from fired enamel, an incredibly difficult-to-master feature that’s otherwise only seen on watches from Switzerland’s most vaunted manufacturers.

Movement: Seiko 8R48 automatic
Case diameter: 42mm
Water resistance: 100m
Price: $2,400

Frederique Constant Flyback Manufacture

At around four grand, an in-house Swiss chronograph movement looks like a pretty good deal — especially when it’s in as attractive a package as that presented here by Swiss brand Frederique Constant. However, add the complicated flyback function to the chronograph and there’s nothing to even compare it to. With a subtly retro appeal and just a touch of sportiness (particularly in its reverse panda dial version), the Flyback Manufacture offers a ton of value in a watch that makes for a versatile daily wear.
Movement: Frederique Constant FC-760 automatic
Case diameter: 42mm
Water resistance: 50m
Price: $3,999

IWC Portugieser Chronograph

The Portugieser Chronograph has been a hot seller in IWC’s lineup since its introduction in the 1990s. Why? Because its design is so utterly cohesive. It’s just one round, simple dial, two sub-dials stacked vertically and classy propeller-like hands. The newest models include IWC’s in-house 69000 family movements, and this particular reference has a beautiful silver-plated dial with blue applied numerals and hands for strong legibility.

Movement: IWC in-house 69355 automatic
Case diameter: 41mm
Water resistance: 30m
Price: $7,950

A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Up/Down Lumen

While the German superstar A. Lange & Söhne makes a mean chronograph, there’s a lot going on in Datograph Up/Down Lumen watch besides a basic stopwatch complication: it features a flyback function, an “oversized” date display, and a power reserve indicator. For the Lumen version, however, the brand ups the ante with a translucent, tinted dial that gives a hint of the exquisitely-finished, hand-cranked movement beneath. The real show, however, is in the dark, as everything from the hands to the tachymeter scale and subdials are fully lumed for a dazzling and unique effect.

Movement: A. Lange & Söhne L951.7 hand-winding
Case diameter: 41mm
Water resistance: 30m
Price: $100,500

Icons

Simply put, these chronographs have become benchmarks. When they debuted in the mid-20th century, they set the mold for what a chronograph should look like and how it should function. Their supremacy made them stalwarts of racing, aviation and even space exploration. Because you shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken, they’re all still being sold today; some have barely even changed since they were brought to the public decades ago. Truly, they’re timeless.

Omega Speedmaster Professional

The Speedmaster Professional you can buy today is nearly identical to the one worn to the moon in 1969 — it has the same case shape and size, the same dial design, nearly the same movement, even. And that’s fine. The Speedmaster of the ’60s was built to meet NASA’s incredibly tough standards, and its iconic status as the first watch on the moon makes it a must-have for any serious watch collector.

Movement: Omega 1861 hand-winding
Case diameter: 42mm
Water resistance: 50m
Price: $5,350

TAG Heuer Carrera

Perhaps no watch has influenced TAG Heuer’s brand identity and design more than the Carrera. It’s come in a wide range of iterations over the years, but the very first version was introduced in 1964 back when the brand was simply “Heuer.” In 2020, TAG released a pretty faithful remake of it simply called the Carrera Silver Edition with updates like a modern in-house movement and 39mm sizing. While variations of the watch have often taken bold and sporty personalities associated with racing, the original shows the restrained design elements that have always underpinned its iconic status.

Movement: Heuer 02 automatic
Case diameter: 42mm
Water resistance: 100m
Price: $6,450

Zenith El Primero

Declaring oneself the winner of the race to build the first automatic chronograph in 1969 is contentious business, so Zenith’s “El Primero” moniker is arguable here. What isn’t arguable, however, is the technical supremacy of the watch. It ticks away at a particularly high 36,000 bph, allowing it to record times within a 10th of a second, unheard of at the time of its launch. This modern iteration is as true to the original as it gets, right down to using the same movement, the same 38mm case design and the same dial with tri-color sub-dials.

Movement: Zenith El Primero 400
Case diameter: 38mm
Water resistance: 100m
Price: $7,700

Breitling Navitimer

By 1952, pilots were already familiar with Breitling, its instruments adorning the dashboards of many airplane cockpits and its Chronomat on many of their wrists. That didn’t stop Breilting from working with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) to perfect the aviation watch, building a chronograph with a slide rule specifically for use by pilots. The addition of an extra scale taken from the E6B flight computer made it quicker and easier to do various flight calculations on the fly.

Movement: Breitling B01 automatic
Case diameter: 43mm
Water resistance: 30m
Price: $9,250

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

The Daytona is one of the most beloved and sought-after watches, both on the vintage and new watch markets. The current model is especially a fan favorite, as the addition of a black-on-white panda color scheme, red Daytona text and a black ceramic bezel give it the appearance of a reference from the 1960s.

Movement: Rolex 4130 automatic
Case diameter: 40mm
Water resistance: 100m
Price: $13,150+

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

This Practical, Value-Driven Traveler’s Watch Helps You Track Multiple Time Zones

<!–This Practical, Value-Driven Traveler’s Watch Helps You Track Multiple Time Zones • Gear Patrol<!– –>

Christopher Ward C65 GMT Worldtimer


Editor’s Note: Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) and Baselworld 2020 are canceled but that hasn’t stopped watch brands large and small from debuting their new wares. To stay on top of this year’s best new watch releases, visit our tag page.

British watchmaker Christopher Ward has been playing the direct-to-consumer, value-for-money indie brand game longer than most. Their range now includes everything from dive watches to racing chronographs, but their newest model combines two highly practical and popular features. The new C65 GMT Worldtimer watch looks strong with its retro-inspired design and the world time and GMT functions come together for a handsome and value-driven watch.

The ability to track another time zone isn’t just for travelers anymore, as many people now communicate regularly across timezones. The GMT hand tracks a second time zone in 24-hour format, while a rotating world time bezel allows the user to quickly reference multiple other time zones at a glance. That’s a lotta time zones.

Housed in a 41mm steel case, the C65 GMT Worldtimer has a conservative 1960s feel that’s brightened up by pops of yellow for the GMT arrow hand (in reference to a certain famed model by Rolex, no doubt…) and on the dial for marking daytime on the 24-hour scale. A “glass box” sapphire crystal adds to the vintage theme. Keeping the time and providing the GMT functionality is the Swiss Sellita SW 330 automatic movement.

Available with three different strap options or on a steel bracelet, prices for the Christopher Ward C65 GMT Worldtimer start at $1,140 and go up to $1,250 on bracelet.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.
Zen Love

Zen Love is Gear Patrol’s watch writer. He avoids the snooty side of the watch world, and seeks out food in NYC that resembles what he loved while living in Asia for over a decade.

More by Zen Love | Follow on Instagram · Contact via Email

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This Indie Brand Just Dropped Its Best GMT Watch Yet

<!–This Indie Brand Just Dropped Its Best GMT Watch Yet • Gear Patrol<!– –>

Farer Oxley Silver LE


Editor’s Note: Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) and Baselworld 2020 are canceled but that hasn’t stopped watch brands large and small from debuting their new wares. To stay on top of this year’s best new watch releases, visit our tag page.

While Farer’s automatic GMT watches have been around for a few years now — we even did a recent head-to-head comparison between a Farer and a similar watch from Aloha — there was always one thing that bothered me: that damn bronze crown. If you’re a vintage watch guy and you’ve seen examples of watches with plated cases and crowns before (rather than all-steel cases), they tend to become “pitted” over time — the plating wears away, leaving the exposed brass base layer beneath, and this is especially commonplace on crowns, as these tend to receive plenty of contact with the wearer. In short, I love Farer’s designs, but the bronze crown-thing always let me down.

But not anymore. Now, Farer’s automatic GMT is available in a limited edition with — gasp — a matching steel crown! Gods be praised! Rejoice, and track multiple time zones in beauteous aesthetic uniformity!

The Oxley Silver LE is also, let’s face it, the coolest looking of the GMT lineup. Featuring silver sunray dial with blue indices, blue 24-hour chapter ring and blue hands, this is simply a handsome watch, with a bezel (not a rotating one, mind you) that gives it a sharp, defined, utilitarian look. Powered by the Swiss-made Sellita SW330 “Premium” GMT movement, the Oxley Silver LE comes on one of several leather straps for $1,455 and includes a 5-year guarantee. Smaller boutique brands could really use your business right now — so even if you’re not going to spring for a watch amidst all the economic turmoil, consider a strap or a watch roll to tide you over.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

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