One of the biggest trends in watches today is the return to roots. More and more watch brands are revisiting their archives and re-inventing iconic watches that made history for them once before. Most of these watches have already enjoyed numerous evolutions over the decades. True collectors, though, will want to have at least one, if not all, of these iconic timepieces in their watch wardrobe. By the way, these watches are in alphabetical order so as not to give weight to any one brand over the other. As is always the case in watch collecting, you need to invest in what you love first and foremost.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Royal Oak Offshore
Unveiled to the world in 1972, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch was originally designed by the legendary Gerald Genta. It featured an octagonal design with signature rivets in the bezel and was immediately identifiable across a crowded room. The first versions were created in stainless steel — making it one fo the first-ever luxury sport watches crafted in a non-noble material. Over the years, the Royal Oak has enjoyed many interactions, and even was the impetus for the spin-off sibling, Royal Oak Offshore. A Royal Oak is considered a grail watch for collectors.
It was in 1931 that polo players approached Swiss watch brand Jaeger-LeCoultre to create a timepiece that could be worn during play and withstand the rigors of the game without breaking. Jaeger-LeCoultre answered the call with its now-famed Reverso watch with a reversible head that pushed sideways out of the case and could be turned over and pushed back into place. This meant that the dial and crystal side were now protected by the metal case holder and the side showing on the wrist was the metal case back of the watch head. The patented design was revolutionary for its time. Additionally, in the Art Deco era, the styling was incredibly forward-thinking and it became an immediate success on the polo field and off. Today, the Reverso remains a beloved icon and the brand offers it with the traditional metal case back or with double-sided watch dials.
The Omega Speedmaster watch has been synonymous with space exploration since the 1960’s when the brand was selected as gear for astronauts in the Apollo missions. In fact, the watch, which was under rigorous testing by NASA, was deemed the official timepiece for the space agency and the Apollo space missions by NASA in 1965. It was the first watch worn the moon, endearing it forever with the nickname “Moonwatch.” It is also the only watch in history to be awarded the prestigious Snoopy Award by the Apollo 13 astronauts 60 years ago. They used their Omega watch to perfectly time their re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere when they were forced into the lunar module due to a fire aboard the main space craft and had to power down their instruments to conserve energy for the return to Earth. The Omega Speedmaster is often referred to as “Speedy” and is is constantly updated in terms of technology, and design, but without losing its core DNA.
Patek Philippe Calatrava
A definite grail watch for collectors, the Patek Philippe Calatrava was first unveiled to the world in 1932. WIth its hobnail case design and clean looks, it was an extraordinary design that immediately took the world by storm. The watch was named for a Spanish order of knighthood, and Patek Philippe even adopted the Calatrava Order of Knighthood’s emblem as its symbol. The brand has regularly evolved the Calatrava, even offering pilot’s designs inspired by the brand’s 20th century pilot watches. This newest version is crafted in steel and was built to commemorate the brand’s newest Manufacture building — both unveiled this year.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller
In reality, any Rolex watch fits in a collection, it is all about personal taste. There are some real stand-outs, though, from the Cosmograph Daytona to the Oyster Perpetual Date and the even the Sky-Dweller. But for those who love an underwater adventure, you might set your sites on the Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller watch. It takes its name for the first water-resistant watch, introduced in 1927 by Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf, who equipped swimmer Mercedes Gleitze with a watch when she swam the English Channel. The watch famously continued working even after 10 hours in the water. It became known as the Oyster. Decades later, a Rolex Oyster travels to the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean strapped to the hull of the Trieste Bathyscaphe. It, too, kept perfect time. After that adventure, Rolex unveiled the first Rolex Sea-Dweller, water resistant to 4,000 feet (1,220 meters), in 1967. Since then, Rolex has created multiple iterations of the famed Oyster perpetual Sea-Dweller, including version James Cameron, director of Titanic and Avatar, but embarked on a mission in a vessel called the DeepSea Challenger – to the deepest depths of the oceans in 2012. Strapped to that Challenger was a specially made watch called the Rolex DeepSea Challenge that was water resistant to 12,000 meters and that kept perfect time. Today, both versions of the Rolex Sea-Dweller and Rolex DeepSea are available for daring divers.