The Square Mile Watch Buyer's Guide 2017
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced watch collector, the Square Mile Watch Buyer’s Guide is here to give you a head start in choosing one of the finest watches released in 2017
When we first set about putting together the Square Mile Watch Buyer’s Guide, our mission was simply to create a list of watches that we personally wanted to (or do, in some cases) own – and, by proxy, watches that you should own, too.
We’re not going to drown you in complex terminology or forne over fastidious detail – we’ll leave that to the horophiles – but what we are going to do is share a collection of awesome timepieces, some of them real gamechangers, and give you a quick lowdown on why they’re worth your attention. To put it another way: we’re going to equip you with the information you need to brag to your mates, without boring them into submission.
The year in watches
First things first, though, you’re going to need some context to the year in watches. We visited the two biggest trade shows in the industry – SIHH (Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Genève) in January and Baselworld in March – to speak to all of the biggest names in horology. What we learned is that, for a number of watch brands, 2017 represents steady and continued evolution of its current watch lines collections.
We saw the likes of a new look for Oris’ popular Aquis collection and a reimagined version of Ressence’s Type 1, while Rolex grew its Cellini line with a stunning new moonphase, and Tudor added four new models to its hugely successful Black Bay watches. These releases are never going to be front-page news, but they are the kind of pieces that have been perfected over time. That can only be a good thing for us as consumers.
Elsewhere, brands have delved into the archives to pay homage to their most iconic designs – we’re looking at you, Parmigiani Fleurier and Omega. Vintage-inspired pieces are roasting hot in the industry right now, but there’s also a more interesting trend towards steel watches at more-accessible price points. Even with the inevitable price hike post-European referendum, this means that now is a surprisingly good time to buy your first or next timepiece in the UK.
If all of the above is nonsense to you, don’t fret. Trends are only part of what has influenced our list. We’ve separated the watches into seven categories (time-only, date-only, chronographs, dive watches, calendars, dual and world timers, and tourbillons) to help you decide what you really want your watch to be able to do. We’ve also chosen to feature our favourite brands only once to offer you the greatest number of options and diversity.
Without further ado, meet the watches that you should be wearing this year…
Watches that 'just' tell the time are often those with the most nuanced designs. With no complications to clutter the dial – the subdials of a chronograph or viewing windows for the date, for example – it’s down to the finer details to make a piece sing. This is a watch for the design purists: strong numerals, indices and, of course, hands are essential, while the colour, material choice and shape of the dial are equally vital.
Inside, you’re looking for a workman-like movement built to endure. Bonus points and added credence are given to those brands who produce an in-house movement, which basically means they’ve created the heart of the watch from the ground up; without outsourcing any part of the manufacturing process.
Get a time-only watch right, and you have a timepiece as adaptable to daily life as you are.
Cartier Drive de Cartier Extra Flat
The Drive de Cartier was a runaway success at last year’s SIHH, and went on to become one of the most talked about watches of 2016. Hot on its heels, the Extra Flat offers the same elegance in a pleasingly thin 6.6mm case. The stunning white gold version is limited to 200 pieces – we call dibs. cartier.co.uk
Longines Heritage 1945
One of the most talked-about watches of this year’s Baselworld is also one of the prettiest: Longines’ Heritage 1945. The vintage-inspired 40mm automatic owes its good looks to a brushed copper-treated dial, and the alternating Arabic numerals and silvery cabochons on its balanced display. But its incredible value might be most attractive of all. longines.com
More than a decade after the Railmaster slipped off its roster, Omega has revamped its utilitarian favourite for a new generation. Buy it for the vertically brushed steel dial and herringbone strap, keep it for the in-house Master Co-Axial chronometer movement. omegawatches.com
Piaget’s Altiplano collection is in many ways the perfect slimline watch. Celebrating 60 years since the 9P movement started it all off, this sunburst-blue model comes in 38mm and 43mm sizes – and is all the excuse you need to buy an ultrathin dress watch. piaget.com
Raymond Weil Freelancer Calibre RW1212
While Raymond Weil’s collection of music-inspired watches has continued to grow in popularity, behind the scenes the Swiss manufacturer’s R&D department has collaborated closely with movement-specialists Sellita to produce the brand’s first in-house movement. The result is the Freelancer Calibre RW1212, a versatile watch that proudly shows off its new interior through a skeletonised bridge. raymond-weil.com
Ressence Type 1 Squared
The original Type 1 reimagined the way to present the time as rotating discs within a rotating dial. It’s intriguing, different… And a bit of an adjustment. The Type 1 Squared is no different other than a slimmer profile and a dressier, angular shape. We approve. ressencewatches.com
A complication is any watch function beyond telling the time. These can be particularly complicated, like a perpetual calendar, or as simple as showing the date.
The date-only watches below are the step on from the minimalist elegance of our time-only category – and, while it might not appear to be a big change, adding a date window can be problematic aesthetically. Most brands plump for neatly showing the date at 3 o’clock, such as the iconic Rolex Datejust, but the size of the date window, the numeral font and colour are different for each brand. Top tip: if you can’t read the date after a quick glance, then the watch isn’t doing it’s job properly.
Harry Winston Project Z11
When it comes to ambitious watches utilising the world’s finest materials, few match Harry Winston’s eye for the avant-garde. The Project Z11 continues this trend with a case made from Zalium – a zirconium-based alloy, with origins in the aerospace industry. Its modern openwork design flips the simple date functionality on its head to create something out of this world. harrywinston.com
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Date
One of the most beautiful pieces at this year’s SIHH was also one of the most simple. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s new Master Control Date is part of a three-watch launch, also including a chronograph and a dual time, but the vintage looks and classy two-tone sector dial suit the simplest complication the best. jaeger-lecoultre.com
Junghans Form A
Bauhaus watch design is once again at the centre of Junghans new collection, which draws inspiration from the world of design and shape. Form A is the automatic of the line-up, and proves that while form may be temporary, class is permanent. junghans.co.uk
Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Chronometre
The Toric Chronometre was the first watch designed by Michel Parmigiani – and sees a barnstorming return in 2017. The coin-edged bezel (straight out of the 1930s), javelin hands and date display at six o’clock make for a beautiful, simple aesthetic ideal for any wrist. parmigiani.com
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Jumbo 5168G
The watch industry’s fascination with timepieces of the past has continued in 2017 – and Patek Philippe’s latest watch is a perfect example of how to get retro right. Celebrating 20 years of the Aquanaut, often overshadowed by its cousin the Nautilus, the Swiss giants have created the Aquanaut Jumbo 5168G. Sporting an embossed night-blue dial in a new larger 42.2mm case, this is Patek at its preppy-chic best. patek.com
The chronograph is perhaps the most useful and iconic complication in horology. By the end of the 20th century its stopwatch-like function was synonymous with racing drivers, pilots and astronauts alike, all of whom found a purpose for measuring short periods of time.
Of course, with the advancements in digital timekeeping, the chronographs are largely ornamental (dare we say, elegant egg timers?), but that doesn’t stop them showcasing the very best of watch engineering: creating a mechanical way to accurately display the passing of seconds, minutes and hours, while also telling the time, is a feat that deserves your admiration – and money.
Anonimo Militare Alpini Camouflage
Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, the Italian watchmaker Anonimo is marking the occasion with a new camouflage chronograph in its Militare Alpini series. A subtle guilloché-camo pattern is the star attraction on the engraved dial, while the 43mm cushion case is made from a bronze alloy designed oxidise over time to further enhance the robust vintage effect. anonimo.com
Baume et Mercier Clifton Club Shelby Cobra
Jointly created by Pete Brock, the designer of the 24h of Le Mans-winning Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, this fly-back chronograph features neat detailing such as ‘196mph’ on the tachymetre scale (the car’s speed record) and a wheel-like automatic rotor seen through the case back. Plenty of va va voom. baume-et-mercier.co.uk
Breitling Navitimer Rattrapante
n development since 2009, Breitling’s Navitimer Rattrapante is well worth the wait. The Swiss brand’s first in-house split seconds chronograph, Breitling joins only a small handful of elite brands in producing one of the most elegant complications in horology from scratch. With a classic Navitimer aesthetic, available in either a limited 250-run 18ct red gold or steel, it looks the part, too. breitling.com
Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph
Few watches compare with Fabergé’s Visionnaire Chronograph in the style and innovation stakes. Teaming up with famed movement specialists, Agenhor, the brand has created the revolutionary automatic calibre 6361 – aka the AgenGraph. In place of three sub dials, the chronograph is read through one central dial. Departure from the norm rarely looks this good. faberge.com
Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph
Frederique Constant has a habit for creating gorgeous complications at absurdly low prices – and its first in-house flyback chronograph is no exception. Six years in the making, the new FC-760 calibre measures seconds and up to 30 minutes at nine and three o’clock respectively, while the elegant guilloché dial also houses a date function at six o’clock for even more bang for your buck. frederiqueconstant.com
Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter
The bronze-cased 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter is inspired by a Minerva monopusher chronograph discovered in Montblanc’s archives. Featuring a beautiful sfumato (smoked) dial, with tachymeter detailing and delicate ‘cathedral’ style hands, it’s perhaps the most handsome vintage-style watch at this year’s SIHH. And that’s saying something. montblanc.com
Tag Heuer Autavia
First designed in 1966, and rebooted for 2017 after a public vote, the Autavia Ref 2446 is a Heuer classic. Perfect for today’s vintage-obsessed watch buyers, the original was worn by Formula 1 champion Jochen Rindt. Its reverse panda dial showcases a three-register chronograph, while a wide and bold 12-hour bezel adds to its masculine appeal. Perfect at-the-wheel wristwear. tagheuer.com
Tudor Black Bay Chronograph
Tudor hasn’t disappointed in following up the triumph of last year’s Black Bay Bronze. The new Black Bay Chronograph is a beauty, with aesthetics faithful to Tudor automotive chronographs of the 1970s. But best of all is what’s inside: adapting Breitling’s B01 movement, Tudor has created a robust column-wheel chronograph caliber MT5813 for a price that’s almost too good to be true. tudorwatch.com
Zenith El Primero Defy 21
The iconic El Primero movement, first created in 1969, is the bedrock upon which Zenith was built – and in 2017 the Swiss brand finally has a rightful heir. The Defy El Primero 21 is a chronometer-certified 1/100th of a second chronograph, with a hand that covers a full rotation of the dial per second. Housed in a 44mm openwork ceramicised case, it really makes us tick. zenith-watches.com
The dirty little secret about modern dive watches is that very few people actually use them for their intended purpose – and those that do are unlikely to challenge Ahmed Gabr’s 332.5m scuba diving depth world record.
So why buy a watch that is capable of withstanding 30 to 100 atmospheres of pressure? Well, if it’s capable of running perfectly at hundreds of meters of depth, it’s probably going to handle whatever you can throw at it… OK, to put it another way, their robust designs and rugged aesthetic are built to last, more resilient than dressier watches, and perfect for daily life. Of course, they’re also far from averse to getting wet.
Bell & Ross BR03-92 Diver
Believe it or not, the iconic Bell & Ross square case shape has never made it into a dive watch – until now. Powered by a self-winding mechanical movement, this professional-grade diving instrument is water resistant to 300m for all your aquatic adventure needs. bellross.com
Blancpain Tribute To Fifty Fathoms MilSpec
First seen on the Blancpain Mil-Spec 1 in 1957, the watertightness indicator on this vintage timepiece makes for one of the most unique launches this year. Taking its design cues from the brand’s earliest combat-issued dive watch, this is one for the collectors. blancpain.com
Nomos Ahoi Neomatik
The Ahoi Neomatik is design-focused Nomos’s answer to a dive watch. First released in 2013, it gets a major update this year in the form of a smaller 36mm size and a DUW 3001 calibre ultra-thin automatic movement. Certainly worth the plunge. nomos-glashuette.com
The Aquis dive watch is Oris at its best: quality watchmaking at an excellent price. A mechanical dive watch with 300m water resistance, the 2017 update boasts a sleek ceramic bezel and a more refined silhouette, perfect under a cuff or over a wetsuit. oris.ch
Panerai Lab-ID Luminor 1950 Carbotech 3 Days
The Lab-ID Luminor 1950 Carbotech 3 Days is one of the most exciting watches this year. Period. Thanks to the use of some clever materials, it features a movement that requires no lubrication of any kind, and therefore doesn’t require a pesky service for 50 years. The fact that it’s gorgeous is almost a bonus. Hats off. panerai.com
Seiko Prospex Diver SLA017
Seiko has faithfully recreated its first ever dive watch, the Ref 6217 diver, from 1965. While its retro aesthetics are identical, inside a self-winding movement brings the timepiece into the modern era with a 60-hour power reserve. Limited to 2,000 pieces, we suggest you dive in before it’s too late. seiko.co.uk
The first and most important distinction to make when it comes to this watch style is the difference between an annual and perpetual calendar. Both display the hour, day, date, month, and moonphase, but the annual calendar needs to be manually set on 1 March each year because it does not recognize that February only has 28 days, or 29 days for leap years. The more sophisticated (and difficult to produce) perpetual calendar movement, on the other hand, handles this task automatically – no adjustment required.
Also on this list you will see the new Rolex Cellini Moonphase, which crafts a particularly elegant solution to showcasing both date and moonphase complications. The difficulty of these dials is finding a way to clearly show all of the watch’s functions without making the dial feel crowded. It’s a tough task, but each of the below handles it ideally.
A Lange & Söhne 1815 Annual Calendar
Only A Lange & Söhne could create an annual calendar as understated as the 1815. Its perfectly balanced dial makes light work of its moonphase, day-date and month complications, while under the surface a new manually wound calibre L051.3 features a 72-hour power reserve. alange-soehne.com
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Ceramic
The Royal Oak is one of the world’s most coveted watches – and yet AP has raised the bar again. More than 600 hours of research has resulted in this perpetual calendar, housed inside an almost indestructible matte-black brushed ceramic case and bracelet. The coolest AP yet? We wouldn’t argue with you. audemarspiguet.com
IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar
IWC has delved into its archives and revamped the classic round case of its iconic Da Vinci collection. The perpetual calendar chronograph is our pick of the bunch: the first time IWC has combined a fly-back chronograph with a perpetual moon phase. IWC.com
Rolex Cellini Moonphase
Rolex has created a moonphase timepiece for the first time since the 1950s. In the horological world, this is big news. The watch in question, the Cellini Moonphase, is as dressy and elegant as they come, but the kicker is that the moon cycles should be accurate for the next 122 years. The ideal watch for any besuited lycans out there, then. rolex.com
Dual & world timers
A watch for the true globetrotters, dual and world timers specialise in displaying the time in more than one time zone. As the name suggests, dual-time (or GMT) watches can be adjusted to show two different times, while a world timer has the ability to show the time in any of 24 different time zones at the push of a button.
Nothing showcases your nature as an international businessman like one of these creations.
Girard Perregaux 1966 WWTC
World timers are a tricky watch complication to get right – not just mechanically speaking, but in the layout of the dial. The 1966 WWTC, however, hits the nail on the head. Previous iterations were crowded by chronograph and date functions, but not so here: a simple, elegant dial that’s abundantly practical. girard-perregaux.com
Hublot Big Bang Unico GMT
Avante-garde design is nothing new to Hublot fans, but the Swiss brand’s latest Big Bang Unico GMT delivers on the practical front, too. Beneath the openwork dial, you’ll find an in-house caliber HUB1251, with fully integrated dual time zone complication, but it’s the easy-to-read day/night disc used to indicate whether it is AM or PM in the second time zone that will appeal most to stylish travellers. hublot.com
We’ll level with you, tourbillon timepieces are hideously expensive at times, but for many brands they represent the pinnacle in watchmaking excellence – if not necessarily performance.
Want to know how it works? Long story short, famed watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet realised in the late 1700s the negative effects gravity was having on the accuracy of his pocketwatches. Users would store the watch vertically in the pocket during the day, and then place it on a table horizontally when not in use. This vertical-to-horizontal orientation was putting strain on the timekeeping element of the watch (the hairspring inside the escapement, to be specific), causing it to oscillate at an irregular rate, and therefore decreasing the accuracy of the watch. Breguet’s tourbillon invention housed the escapement inside a rotating cage that kept it in perpetual motion – counteracting the ill effects of gravity.
The truth is, though, the modern wristwatch (with the constant movement of the user’s wrist) doesn’t suffer from the same problem as Breguet’s old pocket watches. So why buy one? Well, a single tourbillon movement can take between 12 and 18 months to make by hand, involves more than 40 moving parts, and is a particularly intricate design. These complex creations are a master watchmaker’s calling card – and for that reason alone, in spite of its relative modern redundancy, these watches are precious artifacts for the mega wealthy.
Breguet Marine Équation Marcante 5887
Breguet’s 2017 novelty – the Marine Équation Marcante 5887 – is a rare example of the equation of time complication. This basically acts as a mechanical sundial, measuring time according to the position of the sun. In addition to this, it also boasts a tourbillon and perpetual calendar. Next time you’re late to your next meeting, just explain that your still running on solar time. breguet.com
Graff MasterGraff Minute Repeater
When it comes to glamorous timepieces, English-based diamond specialist Graff proves why you shouldn’t do things by halves. The striking MasterGraff Minute Repeater is available in both non-diamond and diamond-set versions, it features a minute repeater complication alongside a flying tourbillon. Mother-of-pearl bridges and an openwork dial blue smoked acrylic only add to its charm. graffdiamonds.com
Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie
There are complicated watches, then there’s Grande Sonnerie complicated. To put it simply (well…), this a grandfather clock for your wrist: a watch capable of chiming the time as it passes the quarter on the quarters and the hours on the hours. Yeah, that. greubelforsey.com
MB&F HM07 Aquapod
Straight from the left-field comes MB&F’s jellyfish-inspired showpiece. The remarkable Aquapod is available in titanium and rose gold, and features a vertically mounted flying tourbillon, with the hours and minutes displayed on rotating discs, and a tentacle-like winding motor underneath. Bonkers. mbandf.com
Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Pirelli Double Flying Tourbillon
Roger Dubuis is known for its ostentatious wristwear – and the Excalibur Spider Pirelli Double Flying Tourbillon is no different. Limited to eight pieces, unusually the strap is its most interesting feature, coming from Lewis Hamilton’s Monaco GP-winning Mercedes. F1 car not included. rogerdubuis.com
Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon Grand Feu
Synonymous with the marine world since its namesake watchmaker made the first marine deck chronometer in 1846, Ulysse Nardin has gone back its beginnings with the Marine Tourbillon Grand Feu. From the Roman numerals to the enamel dial, this is textbook classical watchmaking of the highest order. ulysse-nardin.com
Vacheron Constantin Celestia
Les Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication is a bit on the wordy side, but a grand watch needs a grand name – especially if it’s one of the most complicated wrist watches ever made. Read it and weep: 23 complications on a double-sided dial. Wow. vacheron-constantin.com