Have you been looking high and low for a Christmas present with the wow factor? The word ‘iconic’ gets thrown about a lot in the watch world, but the timepieces mentioned below are all worthy of that description, thanks to their histories, distinctive features, innovations, and in some cases their famous wearers. Our Head of Watch Buying, Mark Toulson, profiles a handful of iconic timepieces, any of which would make an unforgettable present for that certain someone.
Dress to impress
If there was ever a watch to start with when using the term ‘icon’, Patek Philippe’s Calatrava would be it. It’s hard to find a piece with a more intriguing history behind its design. With the Golden 1920s having come to a devastating end with the arrival of the Great Depression, things weren’t easy for any company during the 1930s – including Patek Philippe. With an unfathomably difficult economy to trade in, Jean and Charles Henri Stern (who bought the company in 1932) came up with a solution: a timepiece that would continue to impress high-profile collectors as well as interest the public as interest in horology steadily grew. They were inspired by the Bauhaus, a German school promoting the idea that ‘form follows function’, and that mass production and art should be reconcilable. The result was the Calatrava, a beautifully simple and elegant watch which became the blueprint for dress watches to this day, thanks to its slim case size (originally 9mm) and unobtrusive design. Numerous models entice me with their understated charm, and I would particularly recommend the 34mm 18-carat rose-gold Calatrava ladies’ model with a stunning diamond bezel and very simple dial (above, £31,520). It is powered by the ultra-thin self-winding calibre 240, invented in 1977 and equipped with an approximate 48-hour power reserve. To contrast with the watch’s beautifully delicate and uncluttered design, Patek Philippe has added a splash of character with an eye-catching royal purple alligator leather strap.
“It’s impossible not to be impressed by the innovative and ingenious design of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso“
Let’s twist again
It’s impossible not to be impressed by the innovative and ingenious design of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso, especially once you hear the intriguing story behind it. The Reverso was invented in 1931 after British army officers in India complained their wristwatches couldn’t cope with the bumps and scrapes inflicted on the polo field. The story goes that one player showed his broken wristwatch to Swiss businessman César de Trey, who duly shared the challenge with Jacques-David LeCoultre. The response was a watch case that could be rotated to protect the sapphire crystal – an incredible feat for the time, and one that remains a symbol of the inventive nature of the house. Over the years, many have taken the opportunity to engrave the case back with personal inscriptions to mark special occasions, or with a coat of arms – King Edward VIII adorned the back of his Reverso with the royal crest. The brand’s classic 34mm x 21mm stainless-steel model with matching bracelet epitomises the watch’s Art Deco heritage with its baton hands, pure lines, guilloché dial and diamonds on the bezel. What’s more, this model adds a second black dial in the place of the case back, creating a watch truly like no other – and making for a good party trick! This unique timepiece is priced at £8,250.
Diving into heritage
Tudor is revered for the excellence of its diving watches, not least the 1950s-inspired Heritage Black Bay collection, which reinterprets the brand’s Submariner model. Tudor produced its first divers’ watch in 1954, with the launch of the Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner Reference 7922. The watchmaker’s highly legible and extremely accurate timepieces played a pivotal role in laying down the template for divers’ watches by keeping them understated, highly functional and – an essential for any diver – extremely reliable. The 41mm Tudor Black Bay S&G watch (£3,650) with stainless-steel and yellow-gold case with matching bracelet houses Tudor’s self-winding calibre MT5612, boasting an approximate 70-hour power reserve. The beautifully modern reinterpretation of the Submariner includes a classic black domed dial, luminescent hands and Tudor dot hour markers, a date window, and a unidirectional rotating bezel with a 60-minute anodised aluminium disc. Just as the Calatrava became a blueprint for dress watches, the Black Bay model ticks all the boxes for diving professionals, including being water-resistant to 200m.
The mighty Oak
Finally, let’s take a look at Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak line, first introduced in 1972. An iconic watch almost always has a stand-out feature, and in the case of the Royal Oak it is its recognisable octagonal bezel shape, secured with eight hexagonal screws. I’m especially enamoured of the 37mm 18-carat rose-gold watch with a matching bracelet (£47,500). Set with 40 brilliant-cut diamonds, it skilfully combines a statement case shape with feminine glamour. I particularly enjoy the attention to detail on the silver-toned dial that features the attention-grabbing geometric ‘Grande Tapisserie’ pattern. As well as being water-resistant to 50m, the ladies’ watch has an approximate 60-hour power reserve, thanks to the exceptional self-winding calibre 3120 within. Discover the brand at Watches of Switzerland.
Read more of our Gift Guides on Calibre Online to help you find the perfect gift.