Different people have different ideas about what makes a ‘great watch’. Some think it has to have a square case. Others may want a blue dial. And there are those who want it to have some heritage, be that military or aviation-inspired. But, here at Gentleman’s Journal, we believe any watch can be timeless as long as it’s not loud or lurid.
Fine watchmaking doesn’t always have to be about diamond set, tourbillon-spinning watches the size of small dinner plates. Rather, a truly great watch should be subtle, reliable and match perfectly to almost any outfit.
So, if you’re looking for something that speaks volumes about your style and sophistication without being bold or brash, these are the understated watches for you.
A timeless design: Patek Philippe Calatrava
Measuring only 37mm across, with slender hands and delicately applied indicators on its silver dial, this Calatrava is an incredible example of Patek Philippe’s style. Originally introduced in 1932, it has hardly changed since — and proves just how timeless this design really is.
It’s a model that harks back to simpler times — not only with its looks but also by its manually-wound movement. Beautifully simple, inside and out.
Patek Philippe Calatrava
A picture of simplicity: Vacheron Constantin Patrimony
The oldest continuously running watch brand in the world has produced some incredible timepieces over the centuries, but this is possibly one of the cleanest and most classic to have come out of the maison.
A picture of simplicity from the outside, the movement that powers the stylish white gold hands has been produced in house at Vacheron and finished to the highest of Swiss standards.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony
It’s all in the detail: Chopard L.U.C XPS
It’s the detailing on this L.U.C XPS model from Chopard that makes it a winner for us. The motif radiating out from the centre of the dial adds a beautiful texture that goes perfectly with the smooth finished outer dial.
This is another watch where the movement underneath is just as important as the dial on the front. With a micro-winding rotor and a plethora of finishes on display, it is one of the best looking movements we’ve seen in a long time.
Chopard L.U.C XPS
Modern materials and timeless techniques: Breguet Classique 5157
Founded by the man often referred to as the grandfather of watchmaking, Abraham-Louis Breguet, this is a brand which has been setting the standard for classic watches for centuries.
While it now employs far more modern materials, a lot of the techniques in use at the watch house have been around as long as the Breguet name itself. This extra thin model could slip easily under a cuff — but won’t go unnoticed if there’s another horophile in the room.
Breguet Classique 5157
A warm pink gold glow: Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Small Seconds
Pink gold has become a favourite among those who don’t want to be too flashy but still want a touch of elegance. And Jaeger-LeCoultre has mastered this warm gold tone by pairing it with an off-white dial.
A subtle but incredibly effective use of colour, the watch house has used this pairing to full effect on this slim dress watch. Not only would the Master Ultra Thin Small Second look perfect with a suit but, thanks to its warm tones, it would also pair well with more casual clothing.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin
Clean cut lines: A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia
The only watch on this list to be made in Germany, the Saxonia employs the elegant style codes of high-end watch brand A. Lange & Söhne with purity and clarity.
The clean lines, simple indices, and sharp shape of the hands all hold true to the brand’s DNA but, without shouting it from the other side of the room, the inaudacious silver dial gives just enough shine to let everyone know you’re wearing something very special.
A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia
Subtle sounding statement: Blancpain Villeret
The leaf-shaped hands on this model add a little touch of intrigue to what would otherwise be an extremely minimalist watch. When you’re not looking to make a loud statement with your choice of timepiece these small details are crucial for adding character.
You’ll also notice the small switch on the side of the case, signifying that this is a minute repeater. So, when you choose, this watch will chime the time for you. It’s another detail that adds an entirely new level of sophistication. Oh, and there’s only one in existence.
A slimline classic: Rolex Cellini Time
They say a Rolex has to be recognisable from 20 feet away. But this Cellini offers a different kind of under-the-radar appeal best appreciated by those in the know.
However, it still carries many of the style codes that have made Rolex famous around the world. From the knurled bezel — albeit slimmed down from the standard Datejust models — to the use of its own special Everose gold alloy, this is a Rolex through and through.
Rolex Cellini Time
Classical yet state-of-the-art: Omega Constellation Globemaster
Channelling classic design and packing state-of-the-art movement construction, the Omega Globemaster is an extremely modern watch for those who don’t want to look like they’re wearing a modern watch.
Boasting with the world’s first Master Chronometer certified movement – which can now be found in numerous Omega timepieces – this watch is incredibly tough but has the styling to deceive the untrained eye into thinking it’s a delicate timepiece.
Omega Constellation Globemaster