To the majority of watch collectors, certain brands are known for certain watches. Rolex is all about steel sport watches like the Submariner, Omega is all about the “First Watch on the Moon” Speedmaster chronograph, and Audemars Piguet is all about the octagonal Royal Oak.
What many watch collectors tend to overlook are timepieces offered by the very same companies that are not designed for horological enthusiasts, but rather more mainstream consumers looking for a classy everyday men’s watch. Such watches can perhaps be described as men’s jewelry, meant to go with a nice suit.
Such watches have for some time and long represented the cornerstone of sales for many watchmakers – yet their lack of adventure-filled history often makes these watches less attractive to collectors. That’s a shame, because many of these lesser-known timepieces represent the values of traditional watchmaking such as comfort, legibility, and aesthetics better than many sport watches do.
In the watch world, “Oyster” is synonymous with Rolex, unless you are also talking about Cellini. Even the more popular Rolex Datejust is sportier than the Cellini, and showier on the wrist as well.
The “other” watch family Rolex produces has a rich history of men’s dress watches including the most recent Cellini in its round 39mm variant (some older Cellini watches such as the Prince had rectangular cases). The Cellini might only be water resistant to 50 meters (Oyster cases are at least resistant to 100 meters) but isn’t trying to be a dive watch as its elegant aesthetics make obvious.
The Cellini Date for example is the only modern Rolex with a pointer-style date indicator and a classic look. Notably in the recent past certain Cellini models were also the only way to get a manually-wound Rolex, since practically all Rolex watches are automatic).
Omega’s reputation as a maker of sport watches is seemingly unimportant to the many owners of the De Ville watches. Omega has a tendency to put modern tech in vintage-looking packages and the De Ville Tresor – exclusively produced with 18k gold cases – is a clear testament to that. Some also see the De Ville Tresor watches as a nod to the minimalist men’s dress watches of the 1960s and 1970s that are seemingly timeless.
The rare De Ville Tresor was an evolutionary branch of the range that includes the only manually wound (and thinner) version of Omega’s modern line-up of in-house made movements – all in a sizeable but slim case with streamlined hands and hour markers.
Omega De Ville Tresor
Even aficionados of mighty Audemars Piguet often have no knowledge of the Jules Audemars collection of simpler, round watches. Audemars Piguet is perhaps guilty of putting too much attention on the hyper-popular Royal Oak that also includes the sportier Royal Oak Offshore collection.
In contrast, the Jules Audemars is all about focusing on the real history of Audemars Piguet, a heritage that is more classic and simple than watches like the Royal Oak Concept or Millenary might otherwise suggest.
The Jules Audemars collection includes everything from tourbillons to minute repeaters but the simplest is the Extra-Thin, which is 41mm wide and just 6.7mm thick with an in-house automatic movement. Classic in form, the Extra-Thin is actually remarkably hip in being able to offer a trendy, minimalist style now fashionable, but in an extremely high-end package with the requisite high levels of fit and finish.
Jules Audemars Extra-Thin
Patek Philippe is clearly known for its dress watches more than sport watches, with the Calatrava collection by far the most popular. Then enter the lesser known but equally historically inspired Gondolo Ref. 5200G, named after a Latin American watch retailer that once favored unusually shaped watches.
Powered by a complicated yet very practical manually wound movement with eight days of power reserve, the dial indicates the time, date, day of the week, and includes a useful power reserve indicator. This is the thinking man’s dress watch inspired by pure art deco forms.
The uncommonly shaped case is fitted with dramatic, curved flanks that offer a welcome sense of strength. The case is 32.4mm wide and yet 46.9mm tall so that it does not wear in a petite manner on the wrist.
Patek Philippe Gondolo Ref. 5200G
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Ariel Adams – United States
Ariel Adams started writing about watches in 2007, almost immediately after finishing law school. Since then he’s never looked back – combining his business skills with an enduring passion for timepieces and all things “well-made”. In addition to running the world’s highest-traffic online watch magazine, Adams also wrote a book, The World’s Most Expensive Watches, and also lends his voice to leading watch and thought publications around the world.