People start their watch owning journey either by buying their dream watch in the shop window or because someone dear to them passed on a piece for a special occasion – such as a birthday or family heirloom.
Either way, as our watch appreciation deepens, we always start to aspire to have the things we can’t have – such as a beautiful collection of watches.
Everyone is different. Some have an affiliation towards a particular brand of watches, some have a particular liking for vintage watches, while some may judge the rarity of a watch as their top priority. That’s the wonderful thing about watches – put simply – THEY AREN’T JUST WATCHES.
No matter which category you are, watch afficionados always tend to narrow their “holy grails” to specific models and references. This article does not address those “holy grails” but instead we look at classic models that are iconic and have history.
It’s a tough ask just to make up a list of just 10 watches and even tougher describing them in a paragraph or two. It’s quite impossible. But someone has to do it and rest assured – we will cover them one by one in our future articles, in much deeper detail.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
Released in 1972, the Royal Oak or RO, is the model that saved Audemars Piguet from the Quartz Wars (more on this in later articles – just be aware that this was a very difficult period for all Suisse watch brands). At the time it proved somewhat of a gamble for Audemars Piguet – an expensive stainless steel watch with visible screws, but the gamble paid off and it was hugely successful.
Drawing inspiration from a traditional diver’s helmet, the octagonal face is its defining design feature. It was so popular that Audemars Piguet went on to produce a line of watches known as the Royal Oak Offshore and celebrated watch designer Gerald Genta would go on to say that the Royal Oak was the masterpiece of his career.
When people talk about diver watches, everyone knows this watch. Released in 1953, it set the standard for all diver watches, not only in its 100 metre water resistance capability but also the design. It’s so successful that it’s often imitated by many watch brands and has a huge following on the vintage market.
The aged dials, bezels and numerous subtle changes in design features means that this is a hugely popular piece for collectors. Some collectors specifically only deal with Rolex Submariner, such is the variation in the models available and rarity of some pieces.
The Rolex Datejust easily makes this list of top 10 iconic watch models and is a favourite within the GENEVA STRIPES team. It was the first successfully serially produced water resistant wristwatch with an automatic movement.
When we look around us and see watches working perfectly in water and keeping good accurate time, no matter what we do to it – it all started here with the Datejust. The Datejust is synonymous with the success of Rolex as a brand, with it easily being the best selling model within their range.
Right, you read it here first – the Apple IWatch. Although only recently released in the last year or so, you cannot underestimate the potential for digital smart watches. Although it isn’t the first digital smart watch to be made, it is the one that puts digital smart watches on the map.
Just as the Rolex Datejust and Submariner were engineering feats, the same can be said about the IWatch. It shows how far mankind has come in terms of technology. It has functions which tell you about your health, organise your life and keep you in touch. In the future – when wonderful things will exist digitally from your wrist – it will have started with the IWatch.
Rolex Explorer 1
In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norway commenced the British Expedition to climb Mount Everest. They succeeded and were the first people in the world to do so. The watch they wore was the Rolex Oyster Perpetual which was released later in the year as the Explorer 1.
The climb was an amazing feat of human endurance, struggle and persistence and showed the extreme lengths that man was prepared to go to – a message that resonates with the trials and tribulations that all of us face everyday.
Patek Philippe Calatrava
Patek Philippe’s Calatrava is one of those watches that makes your heart flutter – just by simply writing about it. Due to the Great Depression, Patek Philippe was on the verge of collapse until Henri Stern (the son of Charle Stern who owned Patek Philippe) decided to produce a design that would put Patek Philippe back in contention within the watch industry.
Designing a simple, round case, flat bezel and unadorned dial, the Calatrava became an instant success in contrast to the flamboyant styles of the era. Lending inspiration from the Bauhaus school of design, the collection reflects this philosophy showing lustrous lines and understated sophistication.
in 1906, Brazilian-Franco Alberto Santos-Dumont complained to Louis Cartier of the difficulty in checking his pocket watch while flying. The problem lay primarily in the fact that he couldn’t check the time without removing his hands from the plane’s controls. On the occasions when he did refer to his pocket watch, the act was clumsy and he often fumbled in search of it.
The Cartier Santos was subsequently invented and as Alberto Santos-Dumont travelled through Europe with his flamboyant personality – the watch gained fame and also, within society, made it fashionable for a man to wear a wristwatch.
Within this list, there are watches here that have a history we can’t ignore but others are here due to their everlasting design. The JLC and the Cartier Tank fit this bracket. Introduced in 1917, the design is instantly recognisable and still current today – a true classic amongst classics.
It owes much to the Renault Army Tanks used in World War 1 – and we aren’t simply talking about the case – even the bracelet was designed to resemble the caterpillar tracks of a tank. Along with the Cartier Santos, the Cartier Tank has firmly cemented Cartier as one of the world’s greatest designer of luxury jewellery and timepieces.
Jaeger Le Coultre Reverso
This watch makes this list purely due its unbelievable design success. “Timeless” is a term that is loosely used nowadays but this is exactly what the Jaeger Le Coultre Reverso is. It was released in 1931 as the solution to breaking watch crystals of polo-playing British officers in India.
What was special about the design was that the watch incorporated a case which could swivel round and subsequently protect the glass. It was truly the first sports watch and also a lesson in timeless art deco design.
Omega Speedmaster Professional
We will be reviewing this watch soon, including the wonderful story associated with it, but for now – it only requires one line for you to understand why it’s here – it was the first watch to the Moon. One small step for man, one large step for mankind (and of coures watches).
The watches that make up this list aren’t here because they are our favourites, but rather because of what GENEVA STRIPES feel they stand for. Some of the watches celebrate the endeavours and success of mankind in the 20th century, while others are important in singlehandly bringing a brand back from the brink of disaster.
There are many more watches that we could have mentioned; for example IWC with their Big Pilot watch or Portuguese is not here, and we feel bad about that. What are your favorite watch models? Did you agree with us? Let us know by reaching out!