Last year, former Bond (the spy, not the female string quartet) and Omega aficionado Daniel Craig set the rumour mill working overtime after he was spotted wearing a mysterious Omega timepiece at the Planet Omega event. It was the iconic chronograph, Speedmaster. But it was with a white dial, nothing that had been seen before. Well, until (cue first five notes of “Also Sprach Zarathustra”)... now.

Displays of the Speedmaster needed to be easily readable: white markers on a black dial. There were several Speedmaster models but those were in limited runs. A piece that came close to the Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional in Canopus Gold aka white gold. But “white gold” isn’t the same as “white-white”.

Thus, the white dial Speedmaster Professional aka Moonwatch. Now, as part of Omega’s main collection, not only is the dial white, it is lacquered as well, a finish that’s never before been used on a Moonwatch’s step dial. This new steel case, white dial piece has black detailing and applied indices. Coupled with a vintage-inspired five-link bracelet; the anodised aluminium bezel sporting the “Dot over Ninety” on the tachymeter scale; and powered by the Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 3861, makes this model a more attractive get.

A Return to the ALASKA I

It’s easy to assume that the selected colours served as inspiration for an astronaut spacesuit. But there’s another deeper significance to it. Let’s turn the clock back to the 1969 ALASKA I prototype. Omega was working on creating a timepiece that was optimally suited for space travel. To reflect the sun’s heat, the white dial chosen for the ALASKA I. The removable protective red case? That is now an homage to the red “Speedmaster” name on the Moonwatch white dial.

It’s said that “space is the final frontier” but that’s not the case with Omega as it pushes against its limitations to find what else can keep it ticking.

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You know Omega. It is easy for me to say that you know Omega, because you are reading Esquire and Omega is, at last standing, the world’s third-largest watch brand. But even if I were addressing you out of the blue, anywhere from Miami to Mumbai, I’d be confident in saying: you know Omega. Founded in 1848 in the Swiss town of La Chaux-de-Fonds by Louis Brandt, aged just 23, Omega is the powerhouse at the centre of Swatch Group, the world’s largest conglomerate of luxury watch brands. It is the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games; it is worn by George Clooney, Cindy Crawford and Nicole Kidman, and since 1995 it has appeared on the wrist of James Bond.

Perhaps you know it from the world of golf, where as well as gracing the left arm of Rory McIlroy it has sponsored both the PGA and Ryder Cup in the USA, and hosts its own pro-am tournament in the Swiss Alps every summer. Watch collectors know it first and foremost as the brand that sent its chronographs to the Moon, receiving space-flight certification from Nasa for the entire Apollo programme. As of last year, millions more now know it as the brand that lent this same famous design to its sister company, Swatch, to create the MoonSwatch. You might be justified in asking: after all this, is there anything about Omega that we don’t know?

Taken simply as the sum of its marketing campaigns, or its cold, hard, commercial figures, Omega might well present as a glossy luxury titan—which of course, it is, with production facilities as slick and devoid of imperfection as its computer-generated social videos. But that is only to scratch the surface. To jewellery-heads, it is home to Andrew Grima’s otherworldly creations of the early 1970s; devotees of military history will know it as the single largest provider of timepieces to the British armed forces in WW2; aesthetes will muse upon the weird and wonderful designs that peppered its late 1970s and 80s catalogues; and pilots, sailors and divers alike will admire its commitment to making watches suited to the extremes of our world.

There is a charming, lovable side to the brand, too. I’ll bet you didn’t know, for example, that in 1909 it sponsored the Gordon Bennett Cup, a hot air balloon race created by the eccentric millionaire newspaper proprietor, in which the aim was simply to travel as far as possible from the starting line, in any direction, before being forced to land.

The question is: as Omega strives to be the world’s biggest and best watchmaker, is there space for it to be all of these things? Is a rich, deep history bursting with invention compatible with ruthless, relentless growth and global commercial success?

The websites of all luxury watch brands make soulless statements like “innovative watchmaking is the cornerstone of our heritage”, but in Omega’s case, it happens to be true. The company is named after a movement, a 19-ligne pocket-watch calibre introduced in 1894 and noted for its accuracy, easy maintenance and mass production. It was one of the first movements to combine time-setting and winding functions in a single crown, and the Brandt brothers—Louis-Paul and César, who ran the company after their father’s death in 1879—were so proud of it they named it Omega, to underscore its status as the ultimate word in horological achievement.

Hyperbole aside, the movement proved extremely successful, and the name stuck—as did the tendency towards innovation. Omega has produced the first minute-repeater wristwatch, the first tourbillon wristwatch and the first Swiss quartz watch. It pioneered water-resistant cases and, alongside Patek Philippe, was the only company to take part in every Swiss chronometry trial, where makers competed to produce the most accurate watches.

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For a company more readily associated with iconic designs and globally renowned partnerships, it’s a redoubtable portfolio. “Omega has a much richer watchmaking legacy than Rolex—that’s beyond question,” says industry analyst Oliver R Müller. In recent years, Omega has redoubled its efforts to produce—for mainstream brands at least—the most technically adept, robust and resilient watches.

In 1999, it adopted the work of genius watchmaker George Daniels, and introduced the coaxial escapement, an invention that dramatically improves on the performance of a watch in ways that are complex, obscure and almost certainly unlikely to make for stimulating dinnertime conversation. Escapements are so astonishingly finicky, so wildly hard to engineer, that no other company has ever industrialised at any scale an alternative to the lesser, but ubiquitous, Swiss lever escapement.

Omega took the coaxial and, over the past two decades, used it as the foundation for an entire generation of movements. In 2015 it partnered with Switzerland’s national institute of metrology, METAS, to introduce a new certification process for what it calls “master chronometers”: watches that boast industry-leading levels of accuracy, magnetic resistance and everyday durability. At the launch, Omega was clear that the process was not proprietary—indeed, it invited other brands to follow suit. Deafening silence ensued, until this spring when Tudor, younger sibling to Rolex, announced that it too would put its watches through the master-chronometer certification.

To close observers of the Rolex-Omega relationship, this felt like a chess move from Rolex: equip Tudor’s far less expensive watches with a stamp of approval that puts them on an equal footing with your opponent. Was Omega CEO Raynald Aeschlimann pleased that someone else had finally joined the METAS club? “I don’t want to say ‘pleased’—for me the most important thing was that one of the brands of the Rolex group was considering [master-chronometer certification] as a new standard in the watch industry. Making that step was quite positive news for watchmaking.”

A certain degree of jostling with Rolex is a recurring undercurrent on planet Omega. Since 2015, Rolex’s “superlative chronometer” status gives its watches daily deviation of -2/+2 seconds; Omega’s master chronometers deviate between 0 and +5 seconds. Each argues that its own system is superior; Omega holding that it is better never to lose time than to lose or gain in a tighter window. The giants go toe-to-toe on materials, too: Rolex started calling its stainless-steel alloy “Oystersteel” in 2018; last year Omega introduced “O-megasteel” for the Planet Ocean Ultra Deep, a harder, more resilient alloy.

Everose gold at Rolex plays Sednagold at Omega; Rolex’s “cerachrom” bezels face off against Omega’s ceramic with “liquidmetal” infill. The latest salvo from Omega comes in the form of the Speedmaster Super Racing, a proof-of-concept chronograph equipped with something called the Spirate system. A new escapement system with a silicon balance spring designed to enable high-resolution adjustment of the watch’s rate—down to increments of 0.1 seconds a day—it makes Daniels’ coaxial look like Duplo.

I shall spare you the mechanical equations, but suffice to say the British Horological Institute described it as “a profoundly different idea that takes horology in a fresh direction, impossible with previous manufacturing methods”. Aeschlimann adds animatedly, “It’s getting into the next generation of rating, of precision. It’s incredible to see that you can invent… what we all want, which is precision on an industrial basis. It was a long development, and a very big launch, because everybody knows this is the heart [of things] and that it is also very, very difficult to get.”

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The Spirate—a blend of “spiral” and “rate”—should eventually appear across Omega’s range, as did the co-axial escapement before it, although Aeschlimann demurred when pressed on whether such technological advances would, or should, find a home on Omega’s most revered model, the Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional. As a totemic reference for the brand, this chronograph’s slow evolution embodies the tension at the heart of Omega: like many Swiss watch brands, it relies overwhelmingly on its heritage, yet asserts its excellence via high-tech achievements and cutting-edge materials science.

Since the Speedmaster’s use by Nasa and the careful nurturing of a fanbase around the space-going chronograph, the watch has held a special place for Omega fans, and attempts to modernise it are met with dismay in collector circles. The Speedmaster eschews a sapphire crystal glass for the original hesalite, and is hand-wound—a fundamental property given that automatic chronographs only arrived in 1969.

But it has, in 2021, finally been given master-chronometer status and surely, before long, will join the Spirate ranks. Why should it matter? Don’t we all want, as Aeschlimann says, precision? It’s up for debate: anyone buying into the legend of the only watch to have been worn on the Moon surely wants the soul of that 1960s watch to remain. Add too much technology and you risk diluting that legacy.

Omega’s vast headquarters, overhauled in 2017 by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, are—like most large watchmakers’ premises—quiet, spacious and pristine. There is an abundance of bare timber in the triple-height lobby, but the working spaces are cold, hard, clean and industrious. At the building’s centre sits a roboticised archive of parts, the central nervous system of the supply chain and production line.

This may be where Omega’s beating hearts are assembled, but its soul lives across the road, in another Ban creation, the grandly titled Cité du Temps, unveiled in 2019. Resembling a colossal invertebrate that has crashed gently onto north-east Biel, it houses Omega’s museum. Today, if you want to play at watchmaking’s top table, you invest in a gleaming, multimedia-enhanced shrine to your own past, and Omega’s is one of the best.

Nixon’s gold Speedmaster; JFK’s rare dress watch; the early Marine water-resistant cases, “flown” Speedmasters, prototype dive watches, military pieces and countless other artefacts of horological history are here. If your product line-up is founded on designs that began life in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, a well-kept archive is an essential part of the storytelling.

Concomitantly, brands are highly attentive to the vintage market. It is no secret that the top watch companies are active at auctions, working hard to build up the mythos surrounding their rarest and best-loved vintage models, understanding that a devoted lobby of connoisseur collectors can pay dividends on the high street. Omega’s presence in the vintage market—one area in which it trails Rolex significantly—has steadily risen over the last decade, which has seen the first Omega to sell for more than a million dollars.

In the vintage watch market, authenticity, provenance and condition are the holy trinity, and the staff in a brand’s museum, entrusted with cherishing its history, are the final arbiters of truth (in an often murky environment) and de facto custodians of the brand’s reputation. All of which makes it highly embarrassing that, earlier this year, Omega found itself at the centre of the biggest scandal to hit the vintage-watch world in decades.

After investigations first from independent blogger Jose Pereztroika and then the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper, it was claimed that at least three Omega staffers, including the former museum director, another employee in the heritage department, and his father, a top-level executive at the company, were involved in a scheme to defraud the company of more than £2.7m. Working with outside associates, it was alleged they had conspired to create a “franken-watch”—a vintage watch comprised of a hodge-podge of parts that is claimed to be as-new and original—and submitted it for auction at Phillips in Geneva.

Having forged components and created bogus paperwork that attested to the watch’s originality, they allegedly used at least two co-conspirators to bid on the watch, driving the price higher than anyone thought possible for an Omega, even a rare Speedmaster in unusually desirable condition. In a statement issued at the time, Omega said, “Omega and Phillips were the joint victims of organised criminal activity involving the selling of this specific watch by auction. … Omega is bringing criminal charges against all involved.”

At the time of writing, criminal proceedings were still ongoing. Given the nature of the scheme, many have questioned whether it could credibly be an isolated incident. “It was a big wake-up call, for sure,” says former Christie’s watch expert and vintage dealer Eric Wind. “It’s unfortunate it happened; it’s good people are aware that it can happen, and to proceed with caution when buying important watches.” Mr Aeschlimann concurred that it has “brought [a] spotlight on part of the industry, a big part of the business, that was maybe not always in the spotlight”.

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What the fallout will be, at Omega and beyond, remains to be seen, but for now its fortunes are undimmed. Crucially, Omega is adept at keeping the spotlight just where it wants it, and is not short of razzmatazz with which to sell its scientifically advanced creations to the world. Consider, for example, the Speedmaster Chrono Chime. Launched at the end of 2022, it is a remarkable combination of minute repeater and high-frequency chronograph, resulting in a watch that can measure time to 1/10th of a second and then ring off that measurement with a finely tuned peal of its miniature gongs.

It is, at £365,000, the most expensive watch Omega has ever retailed, the most complicated movement it has ever designed (and yes, it’s a certified master chronometer), and it was revealed not in Switzerland but at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Omega has also flexed its muscle on the Hollywood red carpet over the past few years, paying to place its watches on stars’ wrists at the Oscars and other high-profile events—signs that Omega has its sights set on the kind of visibility enjoyed by Rolex and Cartier.

Back on the topic of the Chrono Chime: “We like this kind of challenge and we are good for many years in terms of orders,” says Aeschlimann. As to why in the world Omega is making half-million-dollar extravagances, he refers back to the fact that Omega worked on the first-ever minute repeater for the wrist. “Of course, it’s a world where some other brands are [already], but it was still very well accepted, because it was linked with our DNA. It shows our commitment to watchmaking, and it shows that we’re able to push boundaries.”

With the most rapid growth now occurring in the highest price bracket of the watch industry, and seemingly no limit to the appetite of billionaire collectors for new marvels, does it signal that Omega intends to shift its focus to the ultra-high-net-worth market? “No. No, no, no,” insists Aeschlimann. “It signals that we have this ability, that we can deliver this kind of a wow effect, but it is not our strategy to go there.”

The wow factor was in evidence this summer too, as Omega decamped to Mykonos to mark the 75th anniversary of the Seamaster. There, having left the physics textbooks at home, it unveiled a collection of 13 references within the (vast, some would say overgrown) Seamaster family. Each had a blue dial, tinted lighter or darker depending on the watch’s water resistance: pale blue for a 150m-rated Aqua Terra; mid-blue for the hero Diver 300M and a blue-black gradient for the Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep, which will happily plunge to a depth of 6000m.

The whole thing was neat, masterfully choreographed and perfectly on-trend, which naturally led to a fair degree of whining that in focusing merely on colour rather than engineering (for once), Omega had sold out to the fashionistas. It’s not true; only last year, Omega was scrapping with Rolex over whose watches could dive the deepest. Rolex, with James Cameron, reached a depth of 10,908m in 2012; Omega topped that in 2019 when explorer Victor Vescovo took his submersible, complete with prototype watch, to 10,928m. Then, in 2022, Omega commercialised the design in the form of the Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep (depth rating: 6000m), only for Rolex to produce the Deepsea Challenge, rated to 11,000m—deeper than any point in the Earth’s oceans. Point made.

But away from the willy waving, the whiners have the kernel of a point. To compete in today’s landscape, a certain “fashionification” might be inevitable. The watch industry has undergone a rapid transformation in the past two years, with faster product cycles, an explosion of limited-edition pieces, an enormous diversification of colour and style and, most obviously of all, an obsession with collaborative design. Has Omega got what it takes to navigate these waters? In contrast with its competitors at LVMH, but also more nimble independent brands, the Swatch Group cohort has been reluctant to enlist outside designers or to partner with brands in other industries.

Aeschlimann, eager to disavow luxury as a concept—“I hate this word”—recognises that watches have learnt rapidly from fashion, particularly in relation to “consumer experience”. But he is bullish on collaborations, saying “we’re not really into finding a way to [raise our profile] by adding a collaboration. For me it has to be totally added value. If you are just making one plus one equal two, that doesn’t make any sense for me.”

Another trend from which Omega has been conspicuously absent is the communal adulation of designer Gérald Genta, who created such icons as the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus. So it’s surprising Omega hasn’t felt the temptation to move the focus to the Constellation, which Genta is known to have worked on, and leverage the connection for all it’s worth.

“We know that Gérald Genta has done an incredible design for Omega, as he has done for a lot of brands,” says Aeschlimann. “But Omega today is more important. We are lucky to have the four biggest lines, but we are also balancing the evolution of each and every line. If we remade everything people ask us to make, we would have a brand that, as you see in some of our competitors, is slightly losing their identity in terms of the key bestsellers.”

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On the subject of brand identity, it would be impossible to ignore the launch last year of the MoonSwatch, Omega’s seismic collaboration with sister brand Swatch that borrowed Speedmaster DNA and fused it into affordable, colourful, hype-tastic Swatches. It was a runaway sales success, but much of the feedback from the Omega faithful was that it cheapened the brand; not what you want to hear while you’re chasing Rolex.

Perhaps with this in mind, Aeschlimann emphasises that the MoonSwatch is “very much a Swatch property”, but he also highlights the impact it had on his brand. “The Speedmaster had its best-ever year last year: we sold twice as many watches as we’ve sold before. There have never been so many new customers in our own stores, wanting to know more about the Speedmaster and its history.” In early September, the Swatch Group lifted the lid on a collaboration with Blancpain, the Blancpain x Swatch Scuba Fifty Fathoms, hoping to pull off the same trick again.

According to an annual Morgan Stanley report, Omega produced an estimated 560,000 watches in 2022, giving it an implied market share of around seven per cent. Rolex, the report concludes, had a 29 per cent market share. “Of course it’s their dream one day to catch Rolex,” says Müller. “At the beginning of the 70s, Omega was number one and Rolex was behind. It’s not that things can’t change over time. But Rolex has managed over the last 50 years to build up such a strong brand. When you have so much positive momentum, when your brand is growing much faster than the market, for the challenger it becomes very difficult to catch up.”

You can’t say Omega isn’t putting the effort in. It’s hard to think of another mainstream brand that pushes as hard on a technological front, and by adding a healthy measure of showbiz glamour to sit alongside its core strengths of James Bond, the Olympics and Nasa, Omega has become the full package. At times, the upward acceleration can risk nosebleeds—Müller points out that the brand’s average sale price has tripled in the last two decades, and counsels that “you have to be very careful not to go up too fast, not to lose your natural clients”—but, seven years into the job, Raynald Aeschlimann shows no sign of slowing down.

Closing the gap on Rolex might be the target, but fans of the brand will want to know that it can be done without neglecting the less tangible qualities that differentiate Omega from the alpha brand in Geneva. Because regardless of what the league table says, for its followers, Omega might already be what its founders hoped 129 years ago. The last word in watchmaking.

Originally published on Esquire UK

ROLEX / OMEGA

What makes a watch ‘important’?

There are the big leaguers—chronometers that changed the game for maritime travel; field watches that synchronised soldiers across two World Wars; space age watches that got astronauts safely back to Earth. Then, there are the record breakers—watches that have gone deeper, higher or were more ‘complicated’ than ever before. There are watches that democratised design—step forward the USD3.75 Ingersoll ‘Mickey Mouse’ from 1933; take a bow the first 12 Swatches released exactly five decades later. And there were watches that did the exact opposite—head-spinningly bonkers and eye-wateringly expensive creations like MB&F’s HM4 Thunderbolt and Richard Mille’s RM 011 Felipe Massa.

There are many more categories and many, many, many more watches. Whittling the Most Important down to just 50 sometimes seemed a task akin to studying the history of time itself. Happily, we had the next-best thing to Stephen Hawking to help us. A crack team of industry experts, drawn from all corners of the watch world, from museums to retail, publishing to brand bosses, journalism to actual professors, as our voting panel.

Accept no substitutes. This is the definitive list of the 50 Most Important Watches Ever. (Did we miss any?)

Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 96 (1932)

PATEK PHILIPPE

The Watch That Built Patek Philippe

Hyperbole? Perhaps—certainly very few mega-brands owe their success to just one single watch—but there is a strong case to be made. As the 1930s began, Patek, Philippe & Cie was in financial trouble. In 1932, it was acquired by the Stern family, which remains in control today. Seeing the need for a simple, easily marketable watch to put the business on a stable footing (in contrast to the complicated watches that were its stock-in-trade), they introduced the first Calatrava, the reference 96 in the same year, a 31mm design that espoused Bauhaus principles.

Details of its genesis are scant, its designer unknown; the name comes from a symbol used by 12th-century Castilian knights, registered by Patek Philippe 45 years earlier but never used. No one knows why. It’s not even clear why it started with number 96. (Don’t believe stories online that the Calatrava was designed by British antique watch dealer and enthusiast David Penney; he was commissioned in the 1980s to illustrate an authoritative hardback book on the brand’s history, and journalists mistook his signature against drawings of the ref. 96 for the name of the original designer. Penney was born well after 1932 and is alive and well today.)

What is more certain is that ref. 96 was a hit; powered by a respected LeCoultre calibre it provided a blank canvas for all manner of dial designs and iterations, and remained in production for 40 years. It might not leap immediately to mind when you mention the brand name—with the Nautilus on its books, and a formidable history of perpetual calendars, split-second chronographs, worldtimers and minute repeaters, you can hardly blame fans for sometimes overlooking the humble Calatrava—but it is the bedrock upon which so much great watchmaking stands.

Ingersoll ‘Mickey Mouse’ (1933)

INGERSOLL

Cartoon Watches For Adults? It'll Never Catch On

In 1933, two companies faced bankruptcy. One was Ingersoll-Waterbury, a watch firm that grew out of a New York Mail business. The other was Disney. A marketeer and former mink-hat salesman named Herman “Kay” Kamen rescued both—despite apparently falling asleep in the pitch meeting. His solution? A watch featuring Mickey Mouse, his yellow-gloved hands rotating to tell the time. Response to the $3.75 timepiece was immediate.

Macy’s sold 11,000 the first day it went on sale, and within two years Ingersoll had added 2,800 staff to cope with demand, and an original Ingersoll Mickey was placed into a time capsule at the 1939 World’s Fair. Today, “character watches” are big news; case in point: Oris’ runaway 2023 hit, a £3,700 watch featuring Kermit the Frog. Meanwhile Mickey (and Minnie) Mouse now grace the Apple Watch and will speak the time when you press the dial. That’s progress for you.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms (1953)

BLANCPAIN

The Dive Watch Blueprint

Where the diving watch as we know it began, exactly 70 years ago. The turning bezel for dive-timing, the bare-essentials high-vis dial, the streamlined-but-watertight case: all came about when Blancpain’s scuba-fan boss Jean-Jacques Fiechter teamed up with French war heroes Robert Maloubier and Claude Riffaud, who needed a watch for their new commando unit, to invent the ultimate all-action underwater wristwatch. Rolex had similar ideas—its Submariner followed soon after. But Blancpain’s military-approved cult classic was foundational; rare vintage models are collector grails, and modern versions remain big sellers for the brand.

Rolex Day-Date (1956)

ROLEX

Presidential

Sure, it was the first watch to show both the date and the full day of the week, but the Day-Date’s function has always been secondary to its aura. Nicknamed the “President” for having been gifted to (and worn by) Dwight D Eisenhower, it’s the watch that defines Rolex’s association with success, prestige and achievement—something that has remained as constant as the Day-Date’s unmistakable look. It’s not quite true that the Day-Date is exclusively produced in precious metals—an “entry-level” steel version occasionally comes up at auction, although since only five were ever prototyped, not at an entry-level price.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 5402 (1972)

AUDEMARS PIGUET

Fusing The Industrial And The Exotic

Given both the relentless hype that attaches itself limpet-like to the Royal Oak, and the multiplicity of iterations and styles Audemars Piguet has birthed over the years, it’s easy to forget just what a formidably clever, intuitive and ground-breaking design it was back in 1972.

Tasked with matching the robustness and versatility of a steel sports watch with the crafted beauty that was Audemars Piguet’s stock-in-trade, the designer Gérald Genta came up with the Royal Oak in a single overnight session. It sealed both his and Audemars Piguet’s future legacies, and begat the “sports-luxe” genre in one fell stroke.

Genta’s blueprint was an inspired synthesis of the industrial and the exotic. It was streamlined, housing an ultra-thin automatic movement, and with a look dominated by a screw-laden octagonal bezel, on a case that merged seamlessly into a complex, tapering bracelet. The brutalist dial was subordinate to the gleaming geometries of the case, where contrasting brushed or polished finishes were assiduously hand-applied. The bracelet alone was so complicated that it needed watchmakers rather than case technicians to assemble it.

The Royal Oak did for steel watches what the era’s high-tech architects were then doing for steel buildings—elevating the material of industry and kitchen cutlery to the level of the sublime. “The noble metal of modern-day cathedrals,” was how Genta termed it, according to Bill Prince, author of Royal Oak, from Iconoclast to Icon. At the time, the Royal Oak was the most expensive steel wristwatch ever made, but it unleashed a genre whose impact would only truly be felt in the following decades—and never more so than right now.

Hublot Big Bang (2004)

HUBLOT

Designed To The Max

With its brash and bold designs, Hublot is the opposite of discreet luxury—something that tends to wind up serious watch collectors. The brand’s “the art of fusion” tagline is embodied in its flagship Big Bang, the first of which layered up ceramic, magnesium, tungsten, Kevlar, rubber and steel into an eye-popping (and prize-winning) new direction for watch design.

Since every Big Bang is technically limited, it also pre-empted today’s drop culture, with future watches incorporating silk, denim, diamonds and sheep’s wool. “People want exclusivity,” its creator Jean-Claude Biver told The Economist. “So you must always keep the customer hungry and frustrated.”

FP Journe Tourbillon Souverain ‘Souscription’ (1999)

FP JOURNE

The Arrival Of A New Master

François-Paul Journe produced his first wristwatch in 1991, to a collective shrug from a world not yet ready to embrace artisanal, anachronistic masterpieces from unknown names. Jump ahead eight years and the mood had changed; Journe set up his own brand and took commissions to make 20 tourbillons—selling the watches by “subscription”, ie: half up-front, an idea borrowed from Abraham-Louis Breguet.

Journe’s output throughout the past two decades has been prodigiously inventive, but it took the pandemic to send things into the stratosphere; auction values of the Tourbillon Souverain tripled between 2019 and 2020.

Rolex Explorer (1953)

ROLEX

The Perfect Watch?

Beloved of die-hard Rolex enthusiasts and casual “one-watch guys” alike, the modern Explorer retains the spirit of the watches that accompanied Tenzing and Hillary (almost) to the top of Everest in 1953 (both climbers in fact wore models by British brand Smiths to the summit itself).

After the ascent, Hillary’s Rolex was returned to the watch company for tests to be conducted on how it had weathered its high-altitude journey, and it is now on display at Zurich’s Beyer Museum. Despite recent flirtations with precious metals, the Explorer remains a paradigm of honest, simple watchmaking that for many really is all the watch you need.

Vianney Halter X Jeff Barnes Antiqua Perpetual Calendar (1998)

VIANNEY HALTER

Making The Impossible Possible

Remember steampunk? In the late-1990s, “Victorian sci-fi” had a cultural moment. It gave us one of the worst films of the decade, Wild Wild West, emo-lads in top hats and, on the plus side, this spectacular timepiece. Inspired by Jules Verne and HG Wells, American creative Jeff Barnes envisioned an impossible watch with multiple porthole dials, rivets and an invisible rotor. Iconoclast watchmaker Vianney Halter made the impossible possible.

Halter and Barnes propelled watch-making into a strange alternative universe. A wormhole opened that subsequent visionaries—MB&F, Urwerk, De Bethune etc—would burst through, reimagining what high-watchmaking could really be.

Seiko 5 Sportsmatic (1963)

SEIKO

New To Collecting? Start Here

Through countless iterations down the decades, the “5” shield logo on the Seiko 5 has symbolised the ultimate sturdy, go-anywhere, do-anything all-rounder wristwatch. Affordable, capable and just damn cool, the Seiko 5 has even accrued its own entire subculture around collecting and modding. No collection is complete without one, and for a lot of watch nuts, it’s the place where it all begins

Omega Speedmaster Professional (1957)

OMEGA

Loved On Earth And Beyond

In the age of orbiting space stations, communications satellites and Mars rovers, there is something quaintly old-school about a mechanical watch being used in space. Computers may crash but, the thinking goes, a mechanical watch will continue to work in all conditions: high temperatures, below zero, low gravity and when all tech has shut down, in darkness.

Omega’s Speedmaster line was made with racing-car drivers, not astronauts in mind. It was the first chronograph with a tachymeter scale on the bezel, to measure speed over distance. But the design caught the eye of Nasa astronauts Walter Schirra and Leroy Cooper.

The story goes that the pair then lobbied Nasa operations director Deke Slayton to make the Speedmaster the official watch for use during training, and, ultimately, flying. In 1964 Slayton issued an internal memo stating the need for a “highly durable and accurate chronograph to be used by Gemini and Apollo flight crews”.

Proposals were sent to 10 brands: Benrus, Elgin, Gruen Hamilton, Longines Wittnauer, Lucien Piccard, Mido, Omega and Rolex. Only four answered the call: Rolex, Longines Wittnauer, Hamilton and Omega—with Hamilton disqualifying itself by submitting a pocket watch. The remainder underwent extreme trials: 48 hours at 71°C, four hours at –18°C, 250 hours at 95 per cent humidity, temperature cycling in a vacuum, and so on.

Nasa declared Speedmaster “Flight Qualified for All Manned Space Missions” in March 1965. It went on to become the first watch worn on the Moon—by Buzz Aldrin, in 1969—and to play a crucial role in the Apollo 13’s re-entry to Earth in 1970, when it was used to time a crucial 14-second burn of fuel. (As seen in Tom Hanks’s 1995 film, Apollo 13.)

It would be remiss of any company not to dine out on marketing gold like this, and Omega has certainly done so, issuing endless Moonwatch variants ever since. Happily, its product backs up the hype. “Speedmasters have it all: great chronograph movements, an amazing case design, fantastic dial and hand aesthetics and an unbelievable history,” says vintage-watch expert Eric Wind.

Omega X Swatch MoonSwatch (2022)

SWATCH

A Genius Marketing Play

The watch that no one saw coming, that no one could get hold of, and yet absolutely nobody could avoid back in the heady days of… er, 2022. Can it really only be last year that streets around the world were shut down as mobs of thousands rushed to procure a plastic (sorry, “bioceramic”), battery-powered Speedmaster made by Swatch? 

MoonSwatch fever may have died down now, but few modern watches have nailed the moment quite so perfectly. Amid a post-pandemic climate of high/low mashups, vibe shifts, blurred cultural lines and hype—so much hype—it nailed the zeitgeist dead-on, becoming the most consequential Swiss watch release since the original Swatch in 1983.

Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 Perpetual Calendar (1941)

PATEK PHILIPPE

A Wristwatch That Created A Genre

The perpetual calendar—complex, elegant, poetic—is the emblematic watch of haute horlogerie. And, like so much of haute horlogerie, Patek Philippe defined the form. Patek introduced its first perpetual for the wrist in 1925. But in 1941 it did the near unthinkable and put the complication into serial production—twice over.

Reference 1526 was a perpetual calendar with moon phases, but Reference 1518 really blew the doors off, with a chronograph thrown in and a layout of high-complication magnificence. It wasn’t until 1955 that another brand, Audemars Piguet, was able to compete with its own perpetual calendar, while the perpetual calendar chronograph has remained a signature combination for Patek Philippe and its collectors.

Braun AW10 (1989)

BRAUN

Good Design Is Making Something Intangible And Memorable

Braun’s concept of German modern industrial design, a mix of functionality and technology, is lauded everywhere from MoMA catalogues to Jony Ive interviews. Its design principles have been applied to calculators, coffee grinders and cigarette lighters. But you could argue the wristwatch is its purest distillation, the work of one of the Braun’s designers, Dietrich Lubs, and Dieter Rams.

Taking a lead from 1975’s AB 20 travel clock, its aim was to display time in “the most functional way possible”. That meant white type on a black dial, a yellow second hand that “pops”, and Akzidenz-Grotesk—the font known as “jobbing sans-serif”. As in, it is used for jobs—including New York City’s transportation network. The designer’s designer watch.

Rolex GMT-Master (1955)/ GMT-Master II (1982)

ROLEX

The Watch That Announced The Jet Age

Well-heeled travellers of the early 1950s encountered a new phenomenon. They didn’t have a name for it yet—consensus suggests that the phrase “jet lag” wasn’t used until the mid 1960s—but the discombobulating effects of flying across time zones were clear. Passengers could bear the inconvenience, but Pan Am, concerned for its pilots, wanted to find a solution. It was naively thought that a device capable of displaying the body’s “home” time at a glance could help overcome the effects—so legend has it, anyway.

Rolex produced the GMT-Master reference 6542 in 1954, and the rest is history. The rotating bezel had already seen the light of day in the previous year’s Turn-o-graph (proof that not all Rolexes were lasting hits), but the addition of a 24-hour scale and day-night colour scheme nailed the formula. It’s easy to overlook how bold the two-tone design must have been in the postwar years, and the GMT-Master has maintained that outgoing character.

The variation of colours that followed, and the tendency of the early materials to patinate and degrade in interesting ways, have spawned a rich lexicon of nicknames and cemented the reference’s enduring appeal. In modern times, at least prior to 2023’s bonanza of emojis and bubbles, the GMT-Master II was where Rolex went to experiment, developing single-piece ceramic bezels, introducing meteorite dials, gem-set bezels and even subverting its own codes by adding the dressy Jubilee bracelet in 2018.

The introduction of a left-handed model in 2022 only added to the hype. Today it is one of the hardest Rolexes to acquire. Mechanically and aesthetically, Rolex hit upon a template that performed a simple task with clarity, character and composure, and left its imitators behind.

Cartier Santos-Dumont (1904)

CARTIER

A REAL HIGH-FLYER

The Cartier Santos-Dumont, launched in 1904, claims not one but two places on the watch history books: the first pilot’s watch and the first wristwatch designed specifically for men. Created to get around the impracticality of flying with a pocket watch, it was born after Brazilian pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont raised the issue with Louis Cartier.

Given Cartier’s red-carpet-reputation today the watch boasts a decidedly non-showy design. Characterised by eight screws, its case seems to have been influenced by a contemporaneous square pocket watch, with curved lugs and a leather strap designed to make it comfortable to wear on the wrist. Meanwhile, the instantly readable dial design foreshadowed the Art Deco movement of the 20s and 30s and remains a look that defines Cartier watch designs to this day.

With headlines declaring “Mr Santos-Dumont’s First Success with a Flying Machine” still fresh in people’s minds, by 1911 Cartier was marketing “the Santos-Dumont watch” in platinum and gold, its daring-do aviation connection piquing the interest of a new demographic: men. The model would be relaunched by Cartier twice after. In 1998, to celebrate the Santos-Dumont’s 90th anniversary, and in 2005 as part of the Collection Privée Cartier Paris.

In 2018 Cartier made it available in steel, the first time the watch had appeared in a non-precious metal, putting it within reach of a new consumer. Its timing was prescient—with interest in men’s watches exploding, there was a newly design-literate customer on the market. Cartier may not use the fanciest movements or the trendiest materials. Instead, it outpaces the competition with 100 years of rock-solid designs, and watches that look unique.

Richard Mille RM 011 Felipe Massa (2007)

RICHARD MILLE

Mille Doesn't Sell Many Watches. At His Prices, He Doesn't Need To

Every year, Morgan Stanley produces a financial report on the Swiss watch industry. Nine of the top 10 brands by revenue date back 100 years or more; the same nine all produce at least 50,000 watches a year.

The outlier is Richard Mille: barely 21 years old and making a shade over 5,000 watches a year, it outranks giants like Longines, Breitling and Vacheron Constantin. The secret sauce is complex, but it owes a lot to the technically innovative watches worn by Mille’s sporting ambassadors—and that all began with Massa, way back in 2007.

Seiko Astron 35SQ (1969)

SEIKO

The First Quartz Watch

On Christmas Day 1969, Seiko gave the world its most important gift: the first quartz-powered wristwatch. A decade in development (during which time the Japanese had shrunk the technology from the size of a filing cabinet to something you could wear), it was the harbinger of seismic, lasting change.

The mass production of cheap quartz watches that followed in the 1970s wrought catastrophic damage on Swiss watchmaking, although the scale of the job losses and closures was down to currency devaluation and the stagnant, uncompetitive structure of the industry as much as the threat of marauding outsiders. Perhaps unfairly, the Astron is forever associated with these effects, rather than as a genuine innovation that made watches more accurate and more affordable.

Casio F-91W (1989)

CASIO

One Of The Cheapest Watches Is Also One Of The Best

Almost 35 years after its launch, the F-91W remains not just the world’s most popular digital watch, but the most-purchased watch on the planet. Created by Ryusuke “G-Shock” Moriai as his first design for Casio, it is technically and materially inferior to every other watch the brand produces. That’s not the point. The F-91’s charming resin design, iconic shape, accuracy, perfectly judged number of functions and—last but not least—£15 price make it a must-own. The backlight is absolutely terrible, though.

Breitling Navitimer (1954)

BREITLING

A Watch For High-Flyers

Technically, you could land a plane using just this watch’s info-packed bezel, but it would be a brave man who’d try. Still, the development of the Navitimer (“navigation” + “timer”) offered something no other watch manufacturer had ever proposed: a chronograph combined with a slide rule, enabling pilots to perform vital calculations like average rate of speed, fuel consumption and converting miles to kilometres. Originally only available to accredited aircraft owners and pilots, the Navitimer was also the watch world’s first automatic chronograph.

Junghans Max Bill (1962)

JUNGHANS MAX BILL

The Bauhaus In Watch Form

“God is in the details” was the dictum of Bauhaus pioneer Mies van der Rohe; the watch designed in 1961 by the Bauhaus-trained architect and artist Max Bill, for the German brand Junghans, doesn’t half bear this out. In its cornerless numerals, its crisp lines and perfect proportions, its minimalism is exquisite and unimprovable; no wonder Junghans has kept this modernist classic unchanged ever since.

Tudor Black Bay (2012)

TUDOR

Back To The Future

One of the most popular modern sports watches, Rolex’s sibling company offers exemplary levels of craftsmanship, quality and value in one impossible-to-resist package. Deftly cherry-picking elements from forgotten 1950s and 1960s Tudors, it kick-started today’s obsession with vintage watches—and sent dozens of rivals scurrying to their archives. Without it, the watch business would look very different.

Omega Seamaster (1948)

OMEGA

The Ultimate In Versatility

So sprawling is Omega’s back (and current) catalogue of Seamaster watches, it can be hard to know just what the name stands for. Dive watches? Yes. Sports watches? For sure. But also dress watches? Gosh yes, some true bobby-dazzlers… The answer comes from a 1956 Omega ad: “The Seamaster was designed to share with you the zest of high adventure and the stresses and strains that go with it… There is more ruggedness built into the Seamaster than you are ever likely to call for. It feels good, though, to know you can count on the extra stamina and extra precision which set the Seamaster apart from other watches.”

In other words, however it was styled, the Seamaster represented Omega’s cutting edge: the most water-resistant, robust, precise and easily serviceable watches you could get on the mass market; a next-level product for demanding customers—the ad cited sportsmen, airline pilots, golfers and military personnel as typical wearers.

Launched in 1948, the Seamaster came about as Omega transferred tech it developed in its wartime watchmaking for the British armed forces to the civilian market: screw-back cases sealed with newfangled rubber O-ring gaskets, and high-spec automatic movements that were a benchmark for durability and accuracy. They’re often still in fine working condition today; one reason why early Seamasters have tended to be a gateway watch for nascent vintage-watch collectors—you can still find them for a bit over £1,000, but prices are rising.

When it launched a hardcore dive watch in 1957, naturally Omega made it a Seamaster (the Seamaster 300). In fact, the Speedmaster chronograph was also originally categorized in Omega catalogues as a Seamaster; and so was the ultra-dressy De Ville line. A Seamaster was a watch that could take on anything; and it still is.

Harwood x Fortis Harwood Automatic (1928)

The Original Self-Winder

In 1955 Rolex took a full-page ad out in the Daily Express (back then, that meant something) to proclaim the wonder of its invention in the 1930s of the self-winding wristwatch. A few months later it inserted an apology into the paper and, in a new ad, corrected what it had previously left out. The convenience of a watch that doesn’t need winding was arguably the fundamental breakthrough in the evolution of the wristwatch; but in the story of its genesis there is, as Master Yoda might say, another.

John Harwood was a watchmaker who, during army service in World War I, became convinced of both the usefulness and shortcomings of wristwatches. He saw the winding/setting crown as a watch’s weakest point, letting in dust and moisture. His solution was radical: a watch with no crown, that could be set via a turning bezel and with a mechanism that wound itself via the motion of its wearer’s wrist.

Harwood took his idea to Switzerland, where he obtained a patent in 1923. He forged a partnership with Fortis to make Harwood automatic watches, recognisable by their knurled bezels and a red dot above the six that told you the movement was running. The winding action was down to a “hammer” mechanism that swung from side to side, tensioning the mainspring.

Launched in 1926, Harwood’s was the first mass-produced self-winding wristwatch, and sold well in Europe, the UK and North America. But the Wall Street Crash of 1929 dealt a hammer blow to Harwood’s business; by September 1931, it was all over.

That year, Rolex patented its own method, the “Perpetual” rotor that swung around freely on top of the movement. It’s the format that proved the basis for the self-winding watches that would become all-dominant; but it wasn’t the first.

Patek Philippe Louis Cottier (1937)

PATEK PHILIPPE

All Around The World

The need to tell the time accurately in all 24 time zones is a relatively recent invention in the history of timekeeping. In 1885, the Swiss watchmaker Emmanuel Cottier came up with a world-time system he presented to the Société des Arts. His son Louis-Vincent followed him into the trade, attending Geneva’s horological school and winning several prizes, including a handful from Patek Philippe. By 1931, Louis had perfected his own world-time mechanism.

It was developed for a pocket watch, but Rolex, Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe soon took an interest and he delivered dozens of versions for the latter using his HU calibre, or “heures universelles”. World time-watches made nowadays still follow the Cottier principle. City names circle the periphery of the dial above an inner 24-hour ring that turns counter-clockwise. The ring’s movement simultaneously coordinates the times in all time zones, while the hand indicates the “local” time at the city displayed at 12 o’clock.

Today, Cottier has a square in Geneva named in his honour, and world-time watches provide a time capsule for the eras in which they were made; each dial reflecting the political climate. For example: under German occupation, France switched to central European time—Patek continuing to put London and Paris on the same time zone until the 1970s, making these watches highly collectable.

Zenith El Primero (1969)

ZENITH

The Connoisseur's Automatic Chronograph

It’s all about the story with watches, and the El Primero’s is straight from central scriptwriting. It raced to be the first automatic chronograph ever made (it was announced first but was beaten to customers’ wrists by both Heuer and Seiko); the investment nearly broke the business, which went under with orders to destroy the El Primero’s parts and tooling. Defied by one watchmaker, it was resurrected, used to power the Rolex Daytona for a generation, and has finally established itself as a beautiful, technically accomplished watch for people who care about the details.

Rolex Oyster (1926)

ROLEX

Liberating The Wristwatch From the Nightstand

Water resistance has been fundamental to our conception of reliable wristwatches for decades, but in 1926 it was revolutionary. Hans Wilsdorf, Rolex’s founder, didn’t come up with it himself. But when a patent was filed for a new system to hermetically seal the case via a screw-down winding crown (the most likely area for water ingress), he moved fast, acquiring it and registering the “Oyster” trademark—to symbolise the impregnable seal of the shell—within days.

Next, in 1927, he got swimmer Mercedes Gleitze to carry one as she became the first British woman to swim the Channel and took a full-page ad in the Daily Mail to proclaim its perfect performance during her feat. Thus he announced his breakthrough to the world.

The Rolex Oyster—"the wonder watch that defies the elements" as its advert put it—would change the whole game. It laid the technical foundation for practically every Rolex model since, nearly all of which still carry the name “Oyster”, and drove the wristwatch forward as a sensible, reliable, wearable accoutrement for modern people in a fast-changing, fast-moving world.

Moreover, it inculcated the association of Rolex with robustness, quality and innovation, and confirmed Wilsdorf’s absolute genius for cutting through with inspiring, opportunistic marketing. After that, there was no looking back.

Piaget Altiplano (1957)

PIAGET

Less Is More

Six decades before the Octo Finissimo or Richard Mille Ferrari UP-01, Piaget created the calibre 9P and calibre 12P, hand-wound and automatic movements of astonishing thinness, produced with none of the high-tech fabrication machinery or design software available today. These established the brand’s reputation for ultra-thin prowess and created an iconic dress watch.

The “Dirty Dozen” (1940s)

LONGINES

Twelve Versions Of The Archetypal Field Watch

Commissioned by the Ministry of Defence for use by the British Army, this set of 12 watches by the likes of Longines, Omega and IWC, plus long-forgotten names such as Grana, Cyma and Eterna, combined black dials, antimagnetic steel cases and luminous hands to establish an entire genre that lives on today.

Truth be told, most of the 150,000-odd watches that were made only arrived late in 1945; for the preceding six years, British servicemen used something called the ATP (Army Trade Pattern) watch, but it is the Dirty Dozen that has passed into watch-collecting lore. Tracking down a full set remains one of the ultimate grails for collectors the world over.

Patek Philippe Nautilus (1976)

PATEK PHILIPPE

Exclusive And Elusive

In 1976, designer Gérald Genta adapted the Royal Oak blueprint to create a Patek Philippe equivalent: shapelier, more sumptuous, more peculiar—not least in its flanking “porthole hinges” that screw shut for watertightness. Made in infuriatingly small numbers, the Nautilus has come to define an entirely modern watchmaking trend: scarcity. It never won’t be a major, major flex; but it’s the sheer exoticism of its form that makes it arguably the most glamorous watch design of all.

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona (1963)

ROLEX

The Most Sought-After Rolex Of All Sought-After Rolexes

Initially known as Le Mans and received so unenthusiastically that Rolex considered discontinuing it, the motorsport-themed chronograph has gone on to achieve the status of World’s Most Desirable Watch. Paul Newman wearing a version (ref: 6239) no doubt helped; his watch later took all of 12 minutes to sell at auction for $17.5m.

A decent return on its original price of USD210. Rolex’s Daytona is one of the greatest chronographs of all time—precious metals, blinged-out dials and Rolex’s strategic limiting of supply have made it an icon. The hard-to-get wristwatch is also a great investment. A stainless steel and ceramic Daytona bought for £12k in 2019 would now sell for twice that.

Longines 13.33Z (1913)

LONGINES

THE FIRST CHRONOGRAPH WRISTWATCH MOVEMENT

Often overlooked by vintage devotees in favour of the later 13ZN models with their larger cases and frequent military connections, the 13.33Z, first introduced in 1913, was the very first purpose-built chronograph wristwatch movement. Hand-wound and usually found with enamel dials painted with tachymetric scales, they are beautiful inside and out.

IWC Mark 11 (1948)

IWC

Military Aviation's Benchmark Watch

Commissioned by the RAF in 1948, whose airmen would use it for the next 40 years. the Mark 11 put wartime advances in precision, reliability and anti-magnetism inside a design (by the MOD, not IWC) that’s both utilitarian and iconic, becoming the quintessential military aviation watch. Its blueprint has proven endlessly adaptable, yet never better than in its original format.

Panerai Luminor (1949)

PANERAI

Italian Charisma

The Luminor has been called “the essence of Panerai” with a history that is at once serious (until 1993, it was only available to Italy’s military) and silly (its deep-sea luminosity originally came from the use of an unsafe radioactive compound). Its signature crown-protection guard speaks to old-school diving equipment, as well as signalling its “if-you-know-you-know” appeal.

Omega Seamaster 300M (1993)

OMEGA

The Submariner's Great Rival

The Seamaster range may include world timers, yachting chronographs and the cult favourite Ploprof. But at its heart is the Seamaster Diver 300M. First produced in 1957, it has never quite achieved the mythos of the Speedmaster—its history more sprawling, its style more frequently updated—but it is still one of the great dive watches.

Comparisons to the Rolex Submariner are inevitable, and the fact that since 1997’s Goldeneye, James Bond has worn a Seamaster brings extra spice to the calculation. In recent years Omega has striven to outflank Rolex on a technical front too, adding antimagnetic and supremely accurate “master chronometer” movements, ceramic bezels, something called a “naiad lock” and sleek black ceramic cases.

MB&F HM4 Thunderbolt (2010)

MB&F

A DREAM MACHINE

For 20 years, MB&F’s Max Büsser has been the wizard at the heart of a movement driving horology in fantastical new directions—think Urwerk’s cyberpunk devices, Greubel Forsey’s tourbillon extravaganzas and, more than anything, MB&F’s phantasmagorical Horological Machines. Inspired by World War II fighter planes, HM4 was Büsser’s biggest risk but arguably his greatest success: a kitsch, postmodern thrill-ride that’s as innovative as it’s outlandish, proving that—in his world at least—anything really is possible.

Swatch Swatch (1983)

SWATCH

Plastic, Fantastic

The question was never, “Can you make a Swiss quartz watch to compete with Citizen and Seiko?” Swatch’s creative director Carlo Giordanetti told this magazine in 2017. But rather, “Is it possible to make a cheap, mass-manufactured product that inspires the personal attachment and ‘soul’ associated with handcrafted equivalents?”

Yes, the first modestly sized range of 12 watches that launched in 1983 were cheap and plastic. But the success of Swatch—or “second watch”—routinely credited with saving Swiss watchmaking from the digital Asian apocalypse, was down to something else: “a new, fascinating way to say who you are and how you feel”.

It took physician and watchmaker Ernst Thomke and his two-man team 12 months to develop the prototype, working backwards by first developing the case, then reducing the number of quartz components and attaching them to it. Plastic wasn’t the only contender, they also looked at wood.

Tag Heuer Carrera (1963)

TAG HEUER

Motorsport's Favourite Watch

Launched in the same year as the Porsche 911 that shares its name (although the first 911 to officially be described as a Carrera was the 1972 2.7 RS), Jack Heuer’s masterstroke became just as indelibly associated with motor racing. By dint of Heuer’s marketing nous, it soon ended up the preferred watch of the Formula 1 paddock during the sport’s golden era. Jack was a fan of modern design and architecture, and deemed the tracks found on chronograph dials fussy and unnecessary.

After taking a class on watch dials at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology he used the principles of his studies to come up with something cleaner. Between 1963 and 1985 it underwent multiple reinventions, but the original reference 2447 stands as one of the three heroic chronographs of the early 1960s (alongside the Daytona and Speedmaster). An exemplar of mid-century modernism and sporty practicality that is coveted by collectors around the world.

Rolex Submariner (1953)

ROLEX

You Know This One

The place: Les Ambassadeurs Club, Mayfair. The year: 1962. Seated at a casino table, two gamblers are going head-to-head. One is a beautiful woman in a red dress; the other, a dashing man in a sharp suit. He asks her name. “Sylvia Trench”. He lights a cigarette and stares at his opponent across the table. “Bond,” he replies. “James Bond”.

Dr. No gave us one of the most famous introductions in cinema and guided us into a new universe of covetable clothes, accessories and gadgets. Though 007 would later defect to Omega, for his debut another brand was tucked beneath his crisp white shirt cuff. He wore a Rolex “Big Crown” Submariner (ref: 6538)—from a new line of diving watches introduced nine years earlier that, as Rolex put it, “unlocked the deep”. (The watch was Sean Connery’s own.)

Ask a child to draw a man’s watch and chances are they’ll come up with something that looks like a Submariner. It is the most recognised, counterfeited and copied watch in the world. Today, thousands of brands produce what may politely be called “Submariner-adjacent” models.

While not the first dive watch, the Submariner was the first to be waterproof to 100m and feature a rotatable bezel for divers to read. The model came into its own in the golden period of sports watches, the 1960s, and as sales rose Rolex began refining and standardising the line.

Today’s Subs are waterproof to 300m, with triple-protected waterproof winding crowns, blue “chromalight” luminescent material and ceramic bezels that are unaffected by seawater, chlorine or ultraviolet rays. Meanwhile, the collecting community delights in giving its many references nicknames based on individual design features. They include, but are not limited to, “Hulk”, “Bluesy”, “Smurf”, “Starbucks”, “Bart Simpson”, and, of course, “James Bond”.

Ulysse Nardin Freak (2001)

ULYSSE NARDIN

Mainstream Watchmaking Embraces The Avant Garde

The Freak is a significant watch for two reasons. The first is its sheer ambition: doing away with a traditional dial and hands. Mounting the entire gear train and escapement on a bridge that would rotate under its own energy, acting as a colossal minute hand as it did so, was truly maverick. The second is that the idea came from Ulysse Nardin, a 150-year old brand steeped in conservative tradition. The Freak showed the Swiss establishment that it didn’t have to let the young indie hotshots corner the action.

Apple Watch (1st Generation, 2015)

APPLE

They Laughed When It Launched. They're Not Laughing Now

“My feeling is it’s going to be a failure,” the CEO of a well-known Swiss watch brand told this magazine in 2016, with all the foresight of Pete Best. “Apple doesn’t realise that the reasons for buying a watch are very different from buying a phone or Mac. You don’t buy one for the functionality, you buy it for what it says about you, for its design and uniqueness.”

Today, Apple outsells the entire Swiss-watch industry by a wide margin—you only need to look at people’s wrists on the next bus, train or plane you take to realise that. Initially promoted as a fashion accessory, Apple soon pivoted to fitness-oriented marketing—harvesting our health data as it did so. Either way, Apple’s Watch is an incredible piece of industrial design, each edition incrementally better than the last—with 2022’s OTT Apple Watch Ultra finding a surprisingly wide fanbase outside of athletes and sports enthusiasts.

The 1st Generation was available in 38mm or 42mm and four versions: aluminium, stainless steel, Hermès stainless steel and 18ct gold. It allowed you to get notifications on your wrist, hail and taxi and make phone calls, just as science fiction predicted — but only with your phone connected. It still did more than any other smartwatch on the market in 2015. The arguments over whether Apple’s Watch counts as a “real” watch and fears it would obliterate “traditional” watchmaking proved silly.

The two coexist. Interest in watches is now at an all-time high, and Apple must take some share of the credit. Still, it didn’t get everything right. “People are carrying their phones and looking at the screen so much,” said software developer Kevin Lynch, positing his invention as a cure. Hmmm.

Franck Muller Giga Tourbillon (2011)

FRANCK MULLER

The Heart Of The Matter

Tourbillons are the status symbol of high-end watchmaking—where a watch’s “heartbeat” workings are put on display in a delicate, ever-rotating carriage mechanism. Franck Muller’s obsession with dazzling mechanics meant that by 2011 he’d already produced the winner of the “most complicated watch in the world” title, twice. With the Giga Tourbillon—at 20mm, more than half the size of the entire watch and larger than some women’s watches—he set new standards in accuracy, showboating and status symbols.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso (1931)

JAEGER-LECOULTRE

An Artwork For Your Wrist

As a watch that flips over on itself, sitting securely with its dial folded away and the reverse side worn outwards, the Reverso was already in a category of one. But J-LC—“the watchmaker’s watchmaker”—was only getting started. Subsequent Reverso models (and there have been many) have included one with four faces, one with shutters that wind open to reveal a nude woman and last year’s Reverso Tribute Enamel Hidden Treasures, a trio of models with tiny reproductions of “lost” artworks by Vincent Van Gogh, Gustav Klimt and Gustave Courbet hand-painted onto them. Not far off a century after its debut, the Reverso’s innovation continues to run wild.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore (1993)

AUDEMARS PIGUET

The Original Big Watch

Gérald Genta called it a “sea monster”, lamenting the engorgement of his masterwork. It was so complicated to make that six months after its launch, only five cases had passed the water-resistance test, and in its first three years, only 716 were sold. Now celebrating 30 years in the sun, the Offshore is a phenomenon: pre-dating Panerai’s revival, the IWC Big Pilot or the rise of Hublot, it can legitimately claim to have established the “big watch” trend. After the Offshore, CEO François-Henry Bennahmias won endorsements from the likes of Jay-Z and inserted Audemars Piguet into the zeitgeist via hip-hop, movies, motorsport and, er, golf.

IWC B-Uhr/Flieger (1940)

IWC B-UHR

The Other Aviation Watch Icon

It’s easy to celebrate the legacy of watches supplied to World War II’s Allied forces. For others, like the B-Uhr or Panerai Radiomir, it is necessary to acknowledge that they were used by Axis forces. Four German brands—A. Lange & Söhne, Laco, Stowa and Wempe, plus IWC in Switzerland, answered the Luftwaffe’s call for a navigator’s aviation watch, and the B-Uhr—also known as a “Flieger” (“pilot”) watch—was the result. Huge even by today’s standards, it is notable for the sword-shaped hands, oversized crown and simple, legible dial print. The design DNA lives on in many modern pilot’s watches, most notably IWC’s Big Pilot series.

Blancpain 1735 Grande Complication (1991)

BLANCPAIN

The Rebirth of Complicated Horolog

In the 1980s quartz crisis, when cheap Japanese watches threatened to destroy the Swiss industry, makers began rediscovering the arts of complicated horology. First, time-honoured “complications” reappeared in mechanical watches; then came blends of these. Having already produced superlative watches showing key complications individually (perpetual calendar, moon phase, minute repeater, split-seconds chronograph and tourbillon), in 1991 Blancpain united these in a multi-functional masterpiece. The 1735 was the most complex automatic watch ever made. Thirty were made, and Blancpain still has a watchmaker just for servicing these.

Tag Heuer Monaco (1969)

TAG HEUER

It's Hip To Be Square

The Monaco wasn’t the first square* watch, but it was the first-ever square chronograph, as well as the first water-resistant square-cased watch. Those are the facts. But its appeal rests on less tangible assets—its cool factor. Heuer was the first non-automotive brand to sponsor motorsport. And after Steve McQueen paired his Monaco with a Porsche 917, the endorsement proved so valuable that he’s still listed on the watchmaker’s website as a brand ambassador, despite having died in 1980. Defunct for over a decade, the Monaco’s cult appeal grew alongside enthusiasm for the 1970s’ sprucely modern design language, and it has remained popular ever since.

*technically square-ish

IWC Portugieser (1939)

IWC

AGEING GRACEFULLY

Something of an oddball when first launched in 1939, using a pocket-watch movement to create an oversized wristwatch with improved accuracy and legibility. Come the brand’s 125th anniversary in 1993, a graceful mid-century design was just the ticket and in the last 30 years, the Portugieser has become a modern classic, particularly in chronograph form.

Bulgari Octo Finissimo (2014)

BULGARI

Slim Pickings

All-new mainstream watch designs are vanishingly rare; great ones even more so. The original Octo carried a faint essence of the work of Royal Oak and Nautilus designer Gérald Genta, but in its ultra-thin “finissimo” form the multi-faceted case took on a distinct personality. Its slinky presence is seductive in its own right, but watch fans have been won over by the engineering: the Octo Finissimo has held seven records for ultra-thin watchmaking.

Cartier Tank (1917)

CARTIER

As Worn By Rudolph Valentino And Paul Mescal

Few designs—of watches, or anything else—have proven so malleable and so constant as that of the Tank, conceived by Louis Cartier in 1917 and named after its resemblance (in overhead profile) to the machines then rumbling across battlefields in Flanders. There have been long Tanks, curved Tanks, asymmetric Tanks and more—each, with its elongated flanks and Belle Epoque dial, unmistakably a Tank and unmistakably Cartier. On the wrist of Rudolph Valentino in the 1920s, Jackie Kennedy in the 60s, Warhol in the 70s or Paul Mescal today, the Tank in its small, slim original format has never been anything other than effortlessly, exquisitely on point. And it never will be.

The Panel: As Voted By

George Bamford, founder, Bamford Watch Department; Tim Barber, writer, Mr Porter; Alex Barter, author The Watch: A Twentieth-Century Style History; Alex Bilmes, editor-in-chief, Esquire; Nicholas Bowman-Scargill, re-founder and owner, Frears Watch Company; Maximillian Büsser, founder MB&F; Davide Cerrato, CEO Bremont; Ross Crane, cofounder, Subdial; Johnny Davis, editor, The Big Watch Book; James Gurney, editor and consultant; Chris Hall, senior watch editor, Mr Porter; Adrian Hailwood, watch business consultant; Robert-Jan Broer, founder and editor-in-chief, Fratello; Ming Lui, writer, The Financial Times; Tracey Llewellyn, editor Telegraph Time; James Marks, international head, Phillips Perpetual; Kathleen McGivney, CEO, RedBar Group; Caragh McKay, creative content director; William Messena, founder Messena Lab; Benoit Mintiens, founder, Ressence Watches; Oliver R. Müller, watch-industry entrepreneur; Tim Mosso, media director and watch specialist, WatchBox; Bill Prince, editor and author of Royal Oak: From Iconoclast to Icon; Philipp Stahl, founder Rolex Passion Report; Rebecca Struthers, watchmaker and historian; Rikki, Scottish Watches; Charlie Teasdale, contributing editor, Esquire; Silas Walton, founder and CEO, A Collected Man; Asher Rapkin, founder, Collective Horology; Dr James Nye, deputy master of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers; Eric Wind, owner, Wind Vintage; Charlie Pragnell, chairman and CEO, Pragnell; Robin Swithinbank, writer, The New York Times

Originally published on Esquire UK

Omega

The colour turquoise has been linked with opulence ever since its namesake gemstone adorned the movers and shakers of the ancient world; ergo, it’s no surprise that it looks right at home on one of the world’s most popular luxury watches: the Omega Seamaster.

The Omega Planet Ocean Deep Black Chronograph Seamaster, to be specific, embraces the greeny-blue hue to pay homage to Emirates Team New Zealand (ENTZ). This is a sailing team the Swiss marque has supported since 1995. This is ahead of the 37th America’s Cup taking place in Barcelona in 2024.

Omega

About an hour’s drive outside of Barcelona, in the genial coastal town of Vilanova where the first Preliminary Regatta for the forthcoming sporting event took place (as a matter of course, Omega served as the official timekeeper), the black and turquoise watch was unveiled on Wednesday 13 September in the presence of the ETNZ leaders, Omega representatives and a select few members of the international press, including Esquire.

From the outset, the colour palette was the key talking point—a conspicuous combination unmistakably inspired by the New Zealand team’s new motif which is anchored by a turquoise fern.

Raynald Aeschlimann, CEO of Omega, admits that despite turquoise’s deep association with affluence, it took careful thought to find a suitable way to incorporate the colour into the time-honoured design.

“Bringing in that blue was a challenge—I wanted this watch to be recognisable but still in line with what we’ve recently been doing,” he tells Esquire. “We wanted to create something that wasn’t just a collab with another name on the dial.”

Here, the only telltale sign that the watch has been created with the Oceanic sailing team in mind is the logo discoverable on the case's NAIAD Lock rear.

Omega

But that’s not to say that the limited-edition release is otherwise identical to your classic Seamaster, because it isn’t.

Touches that make the ETNZ-edition unique include the gradient-effect seconds hands complete with an America’s Cup trophy counterweight, and the 10-minute countdown indicator positioned at 3 o'clock that may be used by the team as they prepare to participate in the competition.

Naturally, Omega hopes that the water-resistant timepiece can aid another win for the titleholders.

“The team has won the cup four times—twice with us, and two other times before our day in the nineties,” says Grant Dalton, CEO of the Emirates-sponsored sports crew. “We’re often asked what’s the motivation to win it again… It's never been won by the same team.”

Omega

Beyond its appropriateness for bona fide sailors, the new Seamaster is also an impressive lifestyle accessory for swanky land dwellers, with its brushed black zirconium oxide ceramic case, white lacquer Super-LumiNova detailing (that's watch talk for glow-in-the-dark) and turquoise accents.

Even the packaging is impressive. It arrives in a dual-branded black and turquoise zip case, making for an unboxing experience fit for the movers and shakers of the modern world, counting the defending champions of the world's oldest sporting contest.

Omega

Sign up to be notified about the stock of the Emirates Team New Zealand Edition of the Planet Ocean Seamaster over on the Omega webstore. The timepiece, complete with a black and turquoise textile and rubber strap; the turquoise strap, available with or without a satin-brushed ceramic clasp, can be purchased separately.

1. SL2 camera, LEICA 

The iconic red logo unmistakably identifies the camera as a Leica. But beyond that signifier, a Leica camera is well respected for its exceptional quality, outstanding lenses, and user-friendly design. The SL2 camera doesn’t disappoint. As the only mirrorless full-frame camera, it has a customisable interface and the ability to shoot up to 187 megapixels—perfect for capturing picture-perfect moments.

2. Dyson Zone Absolute+ headphones, DYSON

The Dyson Zone Absolute+ extends the company’s endeavour to add ground breaking design to everyday items. Its entry into the sound space looks like something from Mortal Kombat. The headphones are packed with advanced noise-cancelling capabilities and a full audio spectrum, allowing you to experience the highs and lows of any playlist. But it’s the first-of-its-kind detachable filtration system that sets it apart. The electrostatic filter ensures the removal of 99 per cent of ultrafine particles, making this more than just an audio device.

3. Sutro Lite Prizm Road sunglasses, OAKLEY

Oakley is elevating its design game with this pair. Beyond the athletic practicality and style you’ve expected from any Oakley, this boasts an O Matter frame material and Sutro Lite Prizm Road that provides durability and all-day comfort. It’s perfect for sports, but you can also confidently walk around in style while shielding your eyes from the assault of UV rays.

4. Phantom I, DEVIALET

Like something out of a sci-fi film, the egg-shaped speaker remains Devialet’s hallmark. Always at the forefront of innovation, the Phantom 1 now comes in a livery other than the original white. While the design is eye-catching, watching the woofers dance in synch with the music is another draw altogether.

5. Aqua Allegoria Nerolia Vetiver Forte eau de parfum, GUERLAIN

A fragrance is more than just its scent—how it is housed matters too. Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria series features a unique screw-top flaçon embellished with gold honey comb trims as a nod to the house’s bee motif. Since 2022, the bottle has been produced using 15 per cent PCR glass—proof that even signature looks can be improved on using more environmentally friendly materials. In keeping with its celebration of nature, the Nerolia Vetiver Forte balances intense neroli with the smoothness of fig.

6. Air Jordan 1 sneakers, NIKE

Even in the same tone as the rest of the shoe, the unmistakable check mark designates this as a Nike, a legendary AJ1 no less. Named after basketball legend Michael Jordan, the shoe remains every sneakerhead’s favourite, transcending the sport. Wear it with any outfit—whether a basketball jersey or a classic suit and white button-up shirt—and experience just how versatile it is.

7. Pilot case, RIMOWA

Fun fact: while RIMOWA is known for its iconic grooves, they were only added 13 years after the brand launched a lightweight and durable aluminium suitcase. Rimowa’s Pilot Case is one of its flagship styles that has become a dependable travel companion for a range of creative types. It’s been recently revived with a more organised interior to help make every journey a breeze.

8. Leather Puzzle bag, LOEWE

When Jonathan Anderson assumed the role of creative director at Loewe, the Puzzle bag was his first handbag design for the brand. The construction and details were inspired by origami, with the 75 separate pieces of leather displaying the kind of craftsmanship that Loewe continues to excel at. Like many icons, it’s been interpreted in myriad ways since, but the original remains an instantly recognisable classic.

9. Seamaster Diver 300m 42mm stainless steel case and bracelet, OMEGA

James Bond only wears one watch, and that is the Omega Seamaster. The iconic timepiece is a testament to Omega’s exquisite watchmaking capabilities. The 75th anniversary iteration features impressive new details, like the signature summer blue wave dial with laser-engraved waves that reflect its ability to withstand the pressures of the oceanic depths—undeniably a remarkable piece of engineering.

10. Double Cask 18 Years Old, THE MACALLAN

There’s a certain taste to The Macallan that is unique to the brand. Take this Double Cask that is aged for 18 years in American and European sherry-seasoned oak. Fusing the delicate vanilla from American oak with the subtle spice of European oak, the 18YO achieves a remarkable depth of character. And with great character often comes great conversations.

Photography: Jaya Khidir
Styling: Asri Jasman
Styling Assistant: Lance Aeron

In 1948, Omega celebrated its centennial by releasing a set of watches that were fit for “town, sea and country”, which included the globally-adored Seamaster. To mark 75 years of making waves in the world of horology, 11 new editions of the Swiss marque's iconic models have been released.

Revealing the collection in a sun-drenched event in Mykonos, Greece, Omega presented styles ranging from the Aqua Terra to the Ultra Deep in a new colourway: Summer Blue. The shade takes inspiration from the sea, where these diver-approved watches really perform, and its hue gets deeper the higher the watch’s water resistance is.

The Aqua Terra collection now includes three new models with a sun-brushed dial of the shade. The 38mm comes with sailboat indexes and a polished and brushed bracelet, powered by Omega’s Co-Axial Master Chronometer 8800, while the 41mm offers wearers a choice of a matching bracelet or blue rubber strap and has the by Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer 8900 driving it.

The stainless steel 43mm Aqua Terra Worldtimer has global destinations printed around its dial, and the hesalite glass bridges the outer and inner dials, revealing a 24-hour reading with light blue to indicate daytime and dark blue to indicate night. Just like the others in the AT collection, it’s water resistant to depths of 150 metres.

The 41mm Seamaster 300—first released in 1957 as part of the “professional” trilogy—has a symmetrical case and crown in polished and brushed stainless steel, with matching bracelet, and in keeping with its commemorative cousins, the 42mm Diver 300M features a Summer Blue wave-pattern ceramic dial, varnished with a gradient finish to reflect its water resistance—300m, if you hadn’t guessed by its name—while a blue ceramic bezel with the new Summer Blue enamel (Grand feu) diving scale encircles the dial.

First released in 2005, the Planet Ocean 600m has a blue ceramic bezel instead of its original and distinctive orange one. It’s encircled by a PVD-treated and varnished dial in a gradient finish and comes complete with blue hands.

The 2023 Ploprof takes cues from its original 70s design, which was relied upon by French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau during deep-sea experiments. Its bezel ring is made with sapphire crystal, a nod to the chemically reinforced monolithic crystal used in those early versions. The famous screwed-in crown and two o’clock security pusher appear on the monobloc case of this newer style, and can also dive to 600ms.

The Ultradeep first made history in 2019, when it reached the deepest place on Earth: the Mariana Trench. This update nods to the fearless explorers before it, with an exact representation of the Challenger Deep mapped by the Five Deeps team appearing as a pattern on its dial. And when you shine UV light on this 45.5mm model, it reveals the words, 'OMEGA WAS HERE', pointing toward the world record dive of 10,935 m and showing the Western, Central and Eastern Pools.

Originally published on Esquire UK

OMEGA

Omega has announced a striking new version of its flagship Speedmaster watch.

The “Bumblebee”-styled Speedmaster Super Racing chronograph comes with a racing-style minute track, black-and-yellow hands and a honeycomb dial. Its diamond-polished indices are filled with SuperLuminova, making it glow a punchy neon yellow in the dark.

It looks cool but the big design news is on the inside. The company has been teasing an announcement on its social media, as well as in a recent Esquire interview with its CEO and this is the reveal – a new movement featuring a redesigned balance spring, the spring that controls the speed at which the wheels inside a mechanical watch turn, made of a silicon spiral. Omega says it has been decade in the making. The resulting “tiny device” heralding a “massive change”, it says – setting a new standard for accuracy in its watches.

Thanks to this trademarked component called a ‘spirate’ – a portmanteau of ‘spiral’ and ‘rate’ – the Speedmaster Super Racing is the first Omega to offer an accuracy of 0/+2 seconds– ie: it will gain no more than two seconds a day, and lose none.

Of course, if you want a really accurate timekeeper, you’d be better off sticking with an Apple Watch. That continuously checks the time against servers via your iPhone, so it has the same precision as GPS satellites – within 50 milliseconds of global time standard, according to Apple. Alternatively, you could pick up a Casio F-91W on Amazon for £13 – those come with a promised accuracy of +/- 1 second a day.

But they are battery-powered quartz models, something which almost no luxury mechanical watch can compete with. (They’re also chalk and cheese. Mechanical watches are powered by rotors and mainsprings, not batteries. So all mechanical watches lose time.)

That hasn’t stopped them trying. With feats of micro-engineering that can be hard to get your head around. The Contôle Officiel Suisse Des Chronomètres, or Offical Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute, was established in 1973 and gives chronometer certification to mechanical watches that can show +6/-4 seconds a day. Omega bested this in 2015 with its own Master Chronometer watches, certified by another Swiss body, METAS, or the Federal Institute of Metrology, giving 0/+5 seconds a day, the result of eight tests over ten days.

Now Omega’s new ‘spirate’ movement, which it will eventually roll out to other models, “allows the watchmaker to act on the stiffness of the hairspring’s attachment point through an eccentric adjustment mechanism located on the balance bridge”. (Nope, us neither.)

In terms everyone can understand, it has now beaten Rolex’s much-advertised -2/+2 accuracy.

The 44mm Speedmaster Super Racing is notable for a couple of other points, too.

Its “Bumblebee” colour scheme and other elements of the design are a riff on a 2013 model, the Seamaster Aqua Terra 15,000 Gauss, a watch with the first fully anti-magnetic movement, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The date wheel on the Super Racing displays a ‘10’ the italic Speedmaster font, in reference.

While Omega isn’t afraid to have some fun with its products, see last year’s MoonSwatch tie-in with Swatch, and its James Bond Seasmaster with the ‘animated’ case back, this new model is a reminder of its history of serious timekeeping innovation and commitment to ever-more-accurate Swiss watchmaking.

As such the ‘spirate’ will take its place in the Omega Museum in Biel alongside 1999’s deployment of the co-axil escapement (which eliminated a centuries-old problem of internal inefficiency caused by friction), 2013’s anti-magnetic movement and 2015’s METAS certification.

And in case you’re not bothered about getting bogged down in Swiss certifications and silicon spirals, it’s perfectly possible to love this watch on a more superficial level – it’s also a fantastic-looking Speedmaster.

The Speedmaster Super Racing will be available this summer, priced £10,700. omegawatches.com

Originally published on Esquire UK

At the end of last year we published a story about how Omega had blown up 2022. Not just with its headline-making MoonSwatch collaboration but with a series of technically dazzling and leftfield releases, including a Seamaster with an animated James Bond on its caseback and a Speedmaster made of 18k gold that chimed elapsed time.

This year, the watchmaker has continued to flex both its expertise and unpredictability, from setting a new bar for accuracy to colourful new Eddie Redmayne-approved entries into its Aqua Terra family of hybrid dress/sports watches.

Its third release of 2023 is an update to its Worldtimer range comprised of three versions, including one made of titanium with a dial created entirely by laser blasting – meaning the shapes and textures on the dial, itself a single piece of titanium, have been etched solely by laser.

The Seamaster Aqua Terra Worldtimer 2023 – to give it its full name – can track every time zone on Earth, with 24 cities displayed around the circumference of the dial, including Omega’s home city of Bienne in Switzerland, as well as a miniature model of our planet as viewed from above the North Pole. Circling the globe is a 24-hour indicator, split into night and day.

The whole thing is encased in a domed design that mimics the curvature of the Earth – a detail Omega says is so subtle it is ‘impossible to see with the naked eye’.

The new watch comes in three versions.

The titanium, laser-etched model has a black and grey dial, a brushed black ceramic dial and blackened hands and indexes filled with white Super-LumiNova that glow bright blue in the dark. It comes on a black rubber strap with grey stitching, matching the dial.

The two other models are made from steel with sun-brushed green PVD dials. One comes with a matching steel bracelet and butterfly clasp, the other has a green rubber strap with grey stitching. Omega’s favoured 18k ‘Moonshine Gold’ – recently applied to the second hand of a controversial update to the MoonSwatch – is added to the hands and indexes.

As per the existing Worldtimer family, all three models measure a substantial 43mm – a size that has already split the vote on Instagram. But then each one does have to find room inside for tiny planet Earth.

The steel models are £9,900 and £10,100. The titanium version is £11,500. omegawatches.com

Originally published on Esquire UK

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