Unless you’re a sportsman of the Premier League variety, a member of a rap-oriented beats combo, or young City trader without children or a mortgage to spend his bonus on, there’s no excuse for wearing a flashy, cuff-busting wrist carbuncle. Here, horology expert Alex Doak picks five discreet timepieces for the chap who values craft and refinement over symbolism and bling.
Breguet Tradition 7057
There’s barely a mechanical watch out there that doesn’t contain at least one innovation by Abraham-Louis Breguet, the 18th-century horological genius of Paris and the man behind such things as the winding rotor, shock protection and the mighty tourbillon. But despite Breguet’s noble status, the watches themselves are classical, understated affairs; the name alone being whispered among connoisseurs only. So opt for this relatively showy number. Its exposed, highly architectural frosted brass bridges are inspired by the great man’s so-called ‘souscription’ pocket watches, which customers paid for by instalments.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Ultra-Thin
The price may seem keen for a watch of such simplicity, but less is definitely more in this case; principally, more-than-usually accomplished handcraftsmanship and know-how in realising the Calibre 1120 movement, a mere 2.45mm high, despite having a self-winding rotor mounted (indeed, ultra-thin movements are considered a ‘complication’ in their own right, up there with chronographs and tourbillons). But beyond the sheer engineering involved, it’s the styling that’s also very clever. It’s a luxury sports watch, created around the same time as those other iconic Seventies luxury sports watches, Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak and Patek Philippe’s Nautilus, but typically for Vacheron Constantin, it’s all decidedly less ‘designed’ than them, making for a sports watch of rare sleekness and versatility – as perfect with deck shoes as a blazer back ashore at the Yacht Club bar.
A. Lange & Söhne Grand Lange 1
Ask any Swiss watchmaker what his or her dream watch would be, and chances are they’ll whisper, ‘Lange’. They’ll whisper it, not only because it’s a properly stealth-wealth brand, but also because it isn’t Swiss. In fact, it was Herr Lange himself who established Germany’s fine watchmaking industry in the old silver mining town of Glashütte in Saxony in 1845. The Richemont-owned reincarnation has risen inexorably to become one of the world’s finest makers, still based in Lange’s original building on Glashütte’s picture-postcard town square. Posterboy is this beautifully composed lesson in asymmetry, which, if you wear it on your right wrist, can be checked during tedious business meetings with the subtlest nudge of your sleeve.
Nomos Glashütte Metro Datum Gangreserve
Nomos is becoming the watch enthusiast’s worst-kept secret. Literally over the road from Lange, occupying Glashütte’s old railway station, it was founded from scratch upon the fall of the Berlin Wall, and in relatively little time has become fully self-sufficient, making Bauhaus-inspired beauties fitted with in-house-manufactured mechanical movements for bafflingly low pricepoints. What’s more, thanks to its hip, east-Berlin studio agonising over the tiniest things (the length of the loop on a “2”, say) it manages that rare thing: a simple, but deeply considered design that you love more every time you gaze down.
H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar
One of the biggest, flashiest watches on the market is IWC’s appropriately named Big Pilot’s Watch, clocking in at a hefty 46mm diameter, not including its vast crown. So it’s a surprise to learn that the watches bearing the name of IWC’s co-founder – a man who cleverly harnessed the power of the Rhine river with paddles, to power the factory’s lathes and mills – are intrinsically subtle affairs. The Perpetual Calendar was the launch model when the H. Moser name was revived in 2007, and it reduces what’s usually a hectic display of dates, months, years and leap years to a large date and a stubby, blink-and-miss-it arrow in the middle. Twelve hours, twelve months… clever, see?