If you’re looking to make a lasting investment, it’s worth considering a beautifully made luxury timepiece – surely one of life’s great pleasures. Choosing the right watch is always a painstaking decision, but once you’ve made it, you won’t look back. It’s so much more than just a timekeeper; it’s a daily reminder of centuries-old tradition and craftsmanship, designed to be treasured and affixed to your wrist with pride. Here, we select a few examples we think will inspire just that kind of feeling – and that, better still, will look the part for years to come.
Perfect for travellers: Rolex GMT-Master II
For jet-setters, a GMT watch is always a smart choice – especially when that choice is a Rolex GMT-Master II. The brand introduced the original GMT-Master – the first watch of its kind – in 1955, at the height of the golden age of intercontinental jet travel. At the time, airlines such as Pan Am and British Airways (then called BOAC) had just begun chartering non-stop flights across the globe, meaning people could go to sleep in London and wake up in destinations as distant as Johannesburg and New York. With this came a new conundrum especially prevalent among Pan Am pilots: how to keep track of multiple time zones.
Pan Am approached Rolex to invent a watch that would be up to the task, and its response was the GMT-Master, showcasing its now-legendary red-and-blue ‘Pepsi’ bezel. It could ingeniously track two time zones simultaneously, using a second GMT hour hand pointing to a 24-hour time scale on the rotating bezel. Its heir, the fine-tuned GMT-Master II, was unveiled in 1982, but, actually, the design has barely changed in over half a century. On the GMT-Master, the hour, minute and 24-hour hand were all synchronized. It wasn’t until the GMT-Master II that the hour hand could be moved independently.
Rolex’s GMT Master II in Everose gold allows you to tell the time in two time zones, thanks to its second GMT hour hand and its 24-hour rotating bezel
This signature Rolex GMT-Master II is cast entirely in the brand’s patented 18-carat pink-gold alloy, Everose gold, which was first introduced in 2005. The name ‘GMT-Master II’ is inscribed on the black dial in powdered rose gold – a first for the collection – while its 24-hour rotatable bezel features a two-tone brown and black CerachromTM insert in hardwearing ceramic. The watch is powered by the COSC-certified Calibre 3285, which packs an approximate 70-hour power reserve (£30,650).
Cult classic: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
You can’t go wrong with investing in Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak – one of the titans of the watch industry since its inception in 1972. Designed by the legendary watch designer Gérald Genta, it’s perhaps best known for its instantly recognisable octagonal bezel shape, resembling a porthole, secured with eight hexagonal screws. Legend has it Genta designed the watch overnight, taking inspiration from deep-sea-diving helmets. It was the first stainless-steel watch to be introduced to the luxury market and remains up there today, among the horological greats.
At just 9.8mm thick, this svelte model will discreetly slip under a shirt cuff — yet its robust automatic movement still powers a date window at 3 o’clock and packs a 60-hour power reserve. It’s cast entirely in stainless steel and features a silvered dial featuring the Swiss brand’s delicate ‘Grande Tapisserie’ pattern, plus white-gold applied hour-markers and Royal Oak hands with luminescent coating. It’s water-resistant to 50m (£18,900).
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak has been a horological heavyweight since its launch back in 1972. This stainless-steel rendition is a mere 9.8mm thick
Born leader: Breitling Premier
City-slickers will love Breitling’s Premier collection. The name first appeared on the Swiss brand’s inaugural range of elegant dress watches in the 1940s, and was revived in 2018 with a collection of modern-day watches for the dapper gent.
This Premier B01 Chronograph 42 perfectly combines functionality with flair. It has a 42mm stainless-steel case, an eye-catching white dial with a contrasting black small seconds dial and a 30-minute chronograph counter, and a sleek black crocodile strap. Inside ticks Breitling’s manufacture Calibre B01 – an automatic chronograph movement with an approximate 70-hour power reserve. This watch will take you all the way from your desk to the weekend in statement style (£6,600).
Dress the part with Breitling’s Premier B01 Chronograph 42, here available on a handsome black leather strap
Set the tone: Zenith Defy Classic
As watch brands go, Zenith has always quietly been a force to be reckoned with. Back in 1969, the Swiss brand was the first to unveil a working prototype of the world’s first automatic chronograph, the El Primero. It still remains the most precise series-made chronograph and in fact, it was supplied to Rolex from 1988 to 2000 for use in the iconic Daytona.
Zenith revived its Defy collection in 2017 to great acclaim with the high-beat chronograph Defy El Primero 21, which could measure down to an impressive 1/100th of a second. A year later, it introduced an entry-level model to the range, named the Defy Classic. With its array of strap and bracelet options, choice of dial colours and versatile 41mm case size, it instantly appealed to watch lovers.
We really admire the Zenith Defy Classic, which is made from lightweight titanium and warm 18-carat rose-gold. Its incredible movement is visible through an open-worked dial
This two-tone iteration is a case in point. It’s cast in brushed titanium, making it extremely lightweight and easy to wear, and features an 18-carat rose-gold bezel – a colour palette continued in the titanium and 18-carat rose-gold bracelet. The head-turning open-worked dial lays bare the in-house skeletonised Elite movement, which beats with a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour and has a power reserve of 50 hours. With its tech-forward design, it’s the ideal model for those who love to marvel at the inner workings of their timepiece (£12,600).
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