Sometimes it’s tough to know where to start; in the case of this list, I didn’t know where to stop! 10 watches is not a lot. Rather than pick out the true classics, I thought it might be better for me to offer the 10 watches off the beaten track. I mean, what’s the point in a bunch of identical lists? For that reason, I’m totally prepared for the volley of outrage coming my way for some pretty glaring omissions. But remember – this list is supposed to switch you on to watches that I think are worth owning beyond the Seamasters, Submariners, Reversos, and Navitimers of the world.
Crucially, there are no budget restraints. While this may rankle with some, we’ve got loads of articles outlining our favourite affordable watches and more. This list is my opinion, and if you find any/all of these choices maddeningly weird, quell your bubbling indignation with the knowledge that I’m independently insane and have not been bribed. I really am keen to hear your thoughts, so please do comment and let us all know what you would do differently. So, in no particular order, here goes…
1. Omega Ploprof
This watch is unlike anything else on the planet. It is grotesquely beautiful. When Vacheron Constantin spoke recently about the importance of sculpture in watch case design, they inadvertently reminded me of the Ploprof’s jutting case. Both brands have succeeded in creating an intriguing objet d’art. Vacheron’s Harmony cases are exemplary displays of flowing grace; the Omega Ploprof is pure masculinity in metal. The latest iteration, debuted this year at Baselworld 2015, saw a dramatic spike in the price, but that was mirrored by some marked improvements in construction. Now installed with a brand new in-house 8912 automatic movement (visible through a display case back for the first time), the Ploprof is more than just a flashy wrist-giant. It now features a ceramic bezel insert as opposed to sapphire. The case and shark mesh bracelet are titanium where they were once steel (a contentious move). Water resistant to 1,200 meters, insanely legible in the dark, and boasting one of the most bad-ass locking bezels in history, this is first and foremost a tool. The shark mesh bracelet is, in my opinion, one of the best on the market and features a buckle with a ratcheting diver’s extension piece that is nothing short of excellent. Although it looks decent on rubber, this is one of the few instances in which I’d insist you try the bracelet. It really is a cut above the norm, and that, as well as its timeless self-confidence, is why the Omega Ploprof lands on my list.
2. A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater
One of the great things about this watch, however expensive it may be, is its eminent wearability. It has a muted, highly legible, highly professional dial, surrounded by a clean-lined, impressively sleek case (when you consider exactly how much is going on inside, it’s really quite an achievement). The dial piques interest with the visible hammers at 7 and 5 o’clock, reminding us this is a laudable piece of wrist architecture. This is one of the pieces on this list that I’d feel most confident of recommending on investment grounds. Most of these watches are featured because I can see why they are lovable, not because they will necessarily appreciate in value. This one, I am as close to sure as I can be, will. The German silver movement and thoughtful variety of finishes make this watch a joy to wear and behold.
3. Stepan Sarpeneva Korona Northern Lights
The Sarpeneva Korona Northern Lights qualifies because of the childish wonder I experience whenever something glows in the dark. Sarpaneva has made headlines with his moon face design, reputedly based on his own phizog. I have met him in person and can confirm he is nowhere near as menacing, but perhaps as mysterious as the moon face I love so much. The solid lume compound in this watch is amazing, but what really gets me about Sarpaneva watches is the case shape that has become synonymous with the brand. When you look at the case, you will realise that it is a very well designed shape, utilising a bunch of overlapping circles to achieve a fluid cog design that is flashy enough to excite, while retaining a very traditional base silhouette (the bezel is basically a generously scalloped circle). The movements are made for Sarpaneva by Soprod, before he tweaks them in his workshop. But what goes on in that Baltic base is more than just watchmaking. Sarpaneva is a designer, an artist, and a craftsman all in one. The bar is very high because Stepan Sarpaneva is not trying to tap into what’s popular; he is trying to tap into our hearts and our heads. To do that, he has to experiment and take risks. I would recommend this watch, or any of his wares, because I recommend his philosophies. The movements will not blow your mind, but the presentation might do just that. At less than $20,000, it’s almost close enough to dream.