10 horological gems
For an industry that’s been around for hundreds of years, mechanical watchmaking never really gets old. Thanks to luxury maisons that continually reinvent the classics and evolve their icons, watch connoisseurs are treated to ever more inspirational masterpieces, whether it is a simple three-hand timekeeper or a rare and exalted high complication. The secret – they’ll tell you – is to keep on refining the product, little by little, year after year. That’s how a wristwatch becomes an eternal object, one that is as relevant today as when it was created.
Designed to be an aviator’s timepiece, the Santos de Cartier is strikingly elegant compared to the average pilot’s watch. This timeless icon exists in several forms, but it’s the latest incarnation that has captured both the connoisseur crowd and the fashion mavens. Sleeker, slimmer and endowed with gracious curves, the new Santos will continue to make waves in 2019, just as it has always done, since 1904. From $8,600
Women’s timepieces have taken centre stage at Harry Winston lately and the bounty is on the Avenue collection – the American jeweller’s flagship and bestselling line. Combining watchmaking with the world’s most beautiful precious stones, Harry Winston continually adapts its signature Avenue case with gems of different carats, colours and cuts. In the Avenue Classic Aurora, blue and pink sapphires dance alongside white diamonds, letting the fire and brilliance of the stones do all the talking. Price upon request.
With that unmistakeable crown protector, the Luminor is Panerai’s perennial icon. Yet the manufacture has found a way to reinvent this robust sports model, turning it into an elegant dress watch à la the Luminor Due (meaning two in Italian). Much slimmer than the regular Luminor and utterly contemporary in style, it is just as suitable for men as it is for women. Most impressively, Panerai has debuted interchangeable quick-change straps in the Luminor Due line – a feature that will not go unappreciated by the style savvy. More variations are underway, serving to win Panerai new fans in the years ahead. $17,600
The Jaeger-lecoultre Polaris collection traces its lineage back to a watch named the Memovox Polaris which dates back to 1968. Completely new, the Polaris balances a vintageinspired design with modern touches, such as applied hour markers and numerals, as well as alternating matte and shiny finishes on the dial. The Memovox Polaris is one of the untold great stories of Jaegerlecoultre, often overshadowed by the manufacture’s de facto horological heavyweight, the Reverso. But with the Polaris collection just launched, it has clearly returned to the scene as a cult favourite, particularly among aficionados. $11,900
A tribute to an historical model from 1956 named Ref. 6073, the Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix injects a contemporary vibe to the 263-year-old manufacture. This brand new collection bridges the gap between seasoned Vacheron Constantin collectors and those interested in entering the Vacheron Constantin universe. It is the only classic line offering steel models, although complications remain very much the lifeblood of the collection. $16,900 (steel) and $28,200 (rose gold)
The Omega Seamaster is a watch that almost everybody knows, but the Seamaster Diver 300m is a timepiece that is far less understood. This contemporary model, made in 1993, was the first professional diving Seamaster as it comes with a helium escape valve and is rated to 300 metres. The Seamaster Diver 300m has been the official James Bond watch since 1995, worn by Pierce Brosnan and then by Daniel Craig. In 2018, Omega introduced a refreshed design which received unanimous praise from collectors, experts and retailers alike. From $6,600
From time to time, the great house of Patek Philippe does something almost counterintuitive, but amazingly, always to great success and with phenomenal results. The Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Ref. 5524 was one example, and so was the 2018 Aquanaut Ref. 5968A with bright orange dial features and delivered on a bright orange rubber strap. Almost uncharacteristically Patek Philippe, Ref. 5968A breathed new life to the Aquanaut collection which is too often overshadowed by the powerhouse Nautilus line. And when it’s so hopelessly impossible to score a Nautilus these days, it’s high time buyers turned to the Aquanaut instead. $57,700 (steel)
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is the world’s original diving watch, having been created in 1953 by the manufacture’s chief executive officer at that time, Jean-jacques Fiechter, himself an avid scuba diver. This sporty wristwatch went through a renaissance of sorts since Blancpain introduced the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe in 2014, which was a tribute to a 1950s historical model – and it’s been on a roll ever since. The most recent pieces that set the buyers on a frenzy were the Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC, and the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Daydate 70s which means Blancpain is now firmly back on watch connoisseurs’ hit-list. $9,200
Offering Italian design and Swiss craftsmanship, Bulgari has a distinctive style of watchmaking not found anywhere else in the industry. That is how the manufacture has managed to develop its award-winning Octo collection in so many different ways. From the super-slim Octo Finissimo to the classical Octo Roma, whether simple or complicated, this multi-faceted timepiece has truly come into its own, finding ardent fans among men as well as women. The fount of creativity never stops giving at Bulgari and the Octo lines promise many and more surprises for 2019. $18,350 (steel) and $61,100 (rose gold)
It was the maison’s top of the line range before, but now Montblanc has expanded the 1858 collection to include reasonably entry-level pieces that balance value with quality. Some of the most appealing models here include the 1858 Geosphere which proffers a unique world time display, the 1858 Monopusher Chronograph, the 1858 Automatic Chronograph in bronze, as well as the 1858 Automatic in bi-colour bronze and steel. Poised to become the next-big-thing in luxury watch collecting, Montblanc is aggressively offering exceptional products at an attractive price tag – for now. It won’t be long before prices start heading north, so if you’re set on a Montblanc watch, best not to dawdle. $7,500 (bronze)