Luxury watches have become a status symbol in our society, and are one of the few pieces of jewellery that are acceptable for a man to wear in the workplace. They are an essential component of maintaining a high-class business appearance, much like an expensive tailored suit.
Luxury watches, and horological history in general, is incredibly complicated, and the barrier to entry can be quite high, both in terms of knowledge and money.
We’ve collected some brief summaries of the most mainstream watch brands at each tier of luxury, to quickly build a starting knowledge of timepieces. The watches available at those tiers are a considerable investment, so we’ve also put together a few recommendations for enthusiast and quasi-luxury watches to start with, to slowly ease you into the vast world of horology.
Boasting an eye-catching retro aesthetic, a slim profile, and a slimmer price point, the Heritage Visodate is a superb timepiece for someone who wants to present a self-assured coolness, without it appearing contrived.
The 40mm case sits comfortably on the wrist, and the simple, elegant design partnered with a ‘Milanais’ mesh bracelet means that you don’t have to be worried about being poked by avant-garde pointed stainless steel decorations when moving your arm.
If you want to take a look at the watch’s interior, the sapphire crystal case back shows off the rotor and movement assembly, which is minimally decorated with Tissot branding.
One thing to note about this watch is the reflective dome on the front of the watch. The reflection does not prevent you from reading the face, but if you plan to use this watch outdoors, it may become annoying.
Based on a model from the 1930s, the Stowa Partitio retains the subtle, function-first design that was common at that time. The slim build with a 37mm diameter and a thickness of 11mm means that the Partitio is ideal for the man who prefers a discreet yet functional watch. It features a 3-hand watch face with a black dial that is typical of vintage-inspired models. Unlike other models, however, the Partitio represents good value.
The embodiment of the Bauhaus design ethos, the Partitio’s blend of form and function is on full display. This is accentuated by the attention to detail that is present on this watch. The typesetting and typefaces used on black matte dial, and the white printed Arabic numerals are all crisp and ideally sized for readability. The Partitio also features tick marks on the outer minutes track, down to increments of 1/5th of a second – talk about precision.
With a mechanical movement that can be serviced without excessive hassle, a respectable case size, and superb typesetting, the Partitio is a function-first timepiece that still looks handsome.
This pilot’s watch is suitable for casual wear, but also represents serious technical and aesthetic value. The Sinn 104 St Sa I features a plain black dial with offset rectangular marks to denote the hours. A minute and seconds track circles the outer edge, with markings down to a quarter-second. Legibility is the key to a functional watch instead of a gaudy accessory, and the Sinn 104 nails legibility with a Superluminova coating on the hour markers, as well as the syringe-style hands. The shape of these hands is rather hit-or-miss, but we happen to adore them. The thick base allows you to quickly glance at the watch for a rough look at the time if you’re in a hurry, but the narrow ends allow you to precisely determine the time if you need to. It’s the best of both worlds.
Apertures for day and date sit at the 3 o’clock position, and the date can even be changed from English to German. Admittedly not all that useful for an Australian, but it is unique and interesting, and demonstrates that Sinn take pride in their German engineering heritage. The type for the apertures is rendered in a minimal sans-serif font, as is the engraved text on the rear of the case.
The finish on the Sinn 104 is kept to a minimum, and the bezel, case, and crown are all polished stainless steel, with chamfered edges for comfort. At 41mm, the case is reasonably sized, and at 11.5mm thick, will sit comfortably under a cuff. This timepiece is perfect if you’re willing to pay more for higher-grade watch.
Considered one third of the ‘holy trinity’ of Swiss Watchmaking, Audemars Piguet are one of the more adventurous major luxury watch brands. Their history dates back to the 19th century, but their status as an independent brand grants them the freedom to experiment with their designs. This experimentation is evident in their Royal Oak piece which features a unique avant-garde styling that separates it from the competition.
A Royal Oak timepiece will set you back anywhere from AU$15,000 to AU$100,000.
The most famous luxury watch brand in the world, Rolex was founded in England in 1905 before moving to Switzerland in 1917. Hugely successful marketing combined with astounding build quality has turned Rolex into a status symbol unlike any other watch brand. Over the years Rolex has created some of the most admired (and most copied) designs in all of horological history. However, some critics have claimed a recent decline in quality in favour of quantity, and some are starting to perceive the brand as a fashion house rather than a watch manufacturer.
An Oyster Perpetual Sky Dweller is listed for AU$21,700 on Rolex’s website.
Yet another Swiss brand (are you noticing a trend?), Omega have long positioned themselves as Rolex’s rival. Omega’s recent build quality is impressive, and usually good value for money. The Planet Ocean Seamaster and Speedmaster Professional collections are highly sought after vintage watches, proving that their brand has an excellent pedigree.
On the Omega site, you can buy a Speedmaster ‘57 for US$10,875 (approximately AU$14,250).
Entry Level Luxury
Originally known as just ‘Heuer’, this Swiss brand has a long history with certain vintage timepieces remaining highly valuable to collectors. Acquired in the 1980s by TAG, and known as TAG Heuer ever since, the brand has risen to mainstream in recent years due to heavy marketing. Long criticised by horologists for using components made by other companies in their luxury watches, TAG Heuer are moving in the right direction by beginning in-house development on their pieces.
A TAG Heuer Formula 1 Calibre 5 is available for AU$ 2,250.
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