In the world of luxury watches, there are certain classics that seem somehow to transcend the vicissitudes of fashion and the vagaries of popularity. These are the watches that continue to fascinate us the most and also to do one other very important thing: sell. They do this year after year and show no sign of becoming passé anytime soon. Here are the three top all-time classic watches.
This is the ultimate Rolex. No other Rolex looks quite so right in so many different settings. You can work out with it or even swim with it at the gym, wear it to work and then go to a black tie dinner and never feel a need to change your watch. That is a versatility no other watch really offers, certainly none that have been around since 1945. Churchill wore a Datejust, just as General (and later President) Dwight D. Eisenhower did. In this era of bigger watches, you might get by with a bigger watch, but it will never look as perfectly at home with a dress shirt, let alone a tuxedo, as the dressier Datejust. That versatility has always translated to sales, too and the Datejust is still the most commonly seen watch at the rolex service center. Its staggering popularity is no accident—the Datejust is simply that good.
If there is a more elegant dress watch than the Tank, we haven’t seen it. The Tank watch was originally designed by Louis Cartier in 1917 and the square case design was inspired by the new tanks seen by Cartier on the Western Front during World War I. There is a certain timeless quality in the design, one of the reasons it has been in continuous production ever since. The Cartier Tank features a few now-iconic and much-copied features besides its aforementioned shape: bold roman numerals, sword-shaped blued hands, and a cabochon sapphire-topped crown. The first Cartier Tank was presented to General Pershing of the American Expeditionary Force and since then it has been worn by the likes of Jackie Kennedy, Yves Saint Laurent, Princess Diana, and Michelle Obama.
Patek Philippe Calatrava
Patek Philippe is quite simply the greatest watch manufacture in the world. Not as well known to the masses perhaps as Rolex or Cartier, in the opinion of many watch aficionados Patek nonetheless remains in a class by itself. This is due to the fabled Swiss maker’s consistently high quality, rigorous quality control, and relatively low production. Patek also makes beautiful, elegant watches, and arguably none is more beautiful than the Calatrava. Introduced in 1932 and featuring a superb, time-only manufacture movement, the Calatrava is possibly the single greatest expression of Patek’s mission: “the relentless pursuit of perfection.” A trip to Geneva or the Authorized Service Center for Patek Philippe to service your prized Calatrava is typically more expensive than a comparable rolex service, but admirers don’t seem to mind. They say it is a small price to pay for the privilege of owning one of the world’s great timepieces.