Choosing the best luxury sports watch needn't be difficult. Just decide whether you'd like to be under water or behind the wheel.
The luxury sports watch, chronometer or timepiece is an essential piece of kit for the field. The dress watch looks elegant adorning a wrist, but don a luxury sports watch and you’re part of a clan. So choose your sporting affiliation and wear it on your wrist. Will it be diving or driving?
WHERE DID THE LUXURY SPORTS WATCH BEGIN?
“The ability to be submerged is the hallmark of the sporting watch,” says David Hagon of David Duggan watches. “Nowadays we automatically assume watches are waterproof, but that development only occurred with Rolex’s Oyster case in the Thirties,” he continues. “It was the first real way of keeping the mechanism dry. But it was the look of the Rolex Submariner that was the springboard for the evolution of the sporting watch and you can see this heritage in many modern versions.
“A sporting timepiece has a ruggedness that allows the wearer to take on sporting activities, and from the waterproof casing the sporting watch morphed into different spheres: a dual time zone for pilots, depth gauges for divers, chronographs for motorsport.”
David Duggan buys, sells and trades pre-owned watches. “There is a massive demand for the Patek Philippe Aquanaut,” says Hagon, “and 90% of our business is now Patek Philippe and Rolex.”
The Rolex Oyster 40mm Everose Cosmograph Daytona (£19,670) is a prime example of matching sport to purpose. The engraved, black, ceramic bezel has a tachymetric scale and the chronograph enables drivers to measure average speeds of up to 400mph. The Daytona celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and, like so many aging, racing drivers, appears more covetable with age. It fits sleekly with Rolex’s role as Official Timekeeper of Formula 1, whose season kicks off on 13 March.
CHOPARD AND THE MILLE MIGLIA
Those who are happy to trade power for panache favour the Mille Miglia held in northern Italy from 1927 to 1957 as a speed trial on open roads and, since 1958, as a three-day rally. Cars from 1927 to 1957 only may compete and a time-measurement instrument is a vital piece of kit. Since 1988 Chopard has sponsored the Mille Miglia. “Chopard’s co-president, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, is a collector of historical cars and a keen competitor in classic rallies. He drives his own car in the Mille Miglia, sometimes accompanied by his wife or his good friend, Jacky Ickx, as co-driver,” according to the company.
Each May a new Mille Miglia chronograph is released, and the 2013 steel Mille Miglia (£4,480) is a self-winding chronograph with 24- hour dual-time indication and date display. Redesigned so it fits comfortably on the wrist, the rubber strap echoes the Sixties with its Dunlop-tyre tread. Super-LumiNova allows the watch to be read at night while weaving through the Italian hills, particularly useful when night driving your Maserati. For those with an appreciation of La Dolce Vita, this chronograph is ideal.
FEEL THE NEED…FOR SPEED
The Omega Speedmaster, introduced in 1957, also channels Italian influences. The dashboards of Italian cars were used as inspiration for the original dial, which retains a clean, elegant façade in its current incarnation, the Omega Speedmaster Racing (£2,960), and comes in grey, grey and yellow or grey and red. It was the first chronograph to reposition the tachymetric scale from dial to bezel.
Omega is the official timekeeper (for the 26th time) at the Olympic Games in Sochi. “We have dedicated special watches to previous editions of the Games and many of them have become highly sought-after pieces,” says Stephen Urquhart, president of Omega. “The Seamaster Planet Ocean (£4,170) is inspired by the colours of the Russian flag.” This special edition is water resistant to
60 bar/600 metres.
Blancpain’s X Fathoms (£28,260), based on the 1953 original, claims to be the highest-performing mechanical diving watch with good reason. It measures depth to 90 metres and boasts a decompression valve, a central depth indicator, maximum depth reached memory and a retrograde five-minute counter for decompression stops. For the serious diver Blancpain has created a masculine and impressive timepiece. The precision engineering is equally appealing to landlubbers, the strap being comprised of 14 articulated parts to ensure a perfect fit.
“The Longines HydroConquest Sport (£1,450) is for divers and water-sports enthusiasts,” says Walter von Känel, president of Longines. “It has a screw-in crown and screw-down back, water resistance of 30 bar, unidirectional rotating bezel and the Longines exclusive column-wheel chronograph movement.” The easy-to-read dial is suitably sporting and the rubber strap will cope with tough conditions.
The relaunch of IWC’s Aquatimer upped the bar. “Our vision for the Aquatimer was to take this collection to a more advanced level and to ensure we make a statement towards luxury divers’ watches,” says creative director Christian Knoop. The Aquatimer Chronograph Edition “Expedition Charles Darwin” (£8,250) is elegant yet supremely functional, less bulky but with a nod to the 1967 original.
Audemars Piguet’s Offshore Royal Oak (£534,560) in titanium with black, ceramic bezel has a transparent, sapphire-crystal dial and display back so the exquisite workings can be seen. It is the apex of sporting timepieces, retaining its sporting function with stand-out workmanship and incorporating a grand complication. As its name suggests, there is nothing even remotely pedestrian about this chronograph.
Whether you’re taken by the glamour of the track or the mystery of the deep, both provide timepieces fit for the field.
Racing and diving provide multiple options for the wrist but, for those who prefer flight to fright, Breitling produces excellent aviation- inspired models. The carbon-based, black coating of the Breitling Super Avenger Military (£5,690) channels the “stealth” look and could easily slip into covert if necessary.
LUXURY SPORTS WATCH FOR HER
In 1927 Mercedes Gleitze swam the English Channel wearing a Rolex Oyster. She managed the crossing in 10 hours and, at the end, the watch was still working. For a sporting multi-purpose ladies’ watch it is hard to beat the Oyster, an elegant yet tough companion for anyone hunting, shooting or fishing. The current incarnation combines coloured dials and leather straps: green, cognac, blue, cherry or chocolate. Yes, please!
It costs £15,800 incl VAT (white gold with cherry red) and £14,800 incl VAT (yellow gold with green).
All prices correct March 2014.
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