4. Métiers D’Art Les Univers Infinis – Horseman
Vacheron Constantin is the oldest continuously operational watch manufacturer in the world. For the past 260 years, this brand has been winning awards, breaking records, and setting the standards for those who followed the trails they blazed. I’m a huge fan of the brand and believe in their potential to hold their value and impress envious onlookers with an elegant flare few can come close to matching. One thing that doesn’t get old is quality, and VC watches have that in abundance. So many trade skills have been maintained and proliferated by this company, your investment is not only in a work of art, but a responsible contribution to the crafts we need to protect. It’s hard to go wrong with this brand. I’m sure everyone’s opinions on the best model will vary, but I don’t expect many will complain about a representative featuring on this list. My personal favourite, which I like to think works well for both men and women, is the Vacheron Constantin Métiers D’Art Univers Infinis Horseman. The tessellated dial is made of hand engraved components, portraying interlocking horsemen of two styles. The optical illusion is brought to life by opaque enamelling. Set in a slim and timeless case and powered by an in-house movement that shows off the technical skill of the brand’s watchmakers, to tell the time with such an artefact is a pleasure of which I could never tire.
5. HYT H2 Bronze
Here is a watch that could barely be any more different. HYT are a young brand, founded by an idea born in the mind of a physicist and at the benches of a laboratory. Make no mistake, there is passion here – oodles of it. But HYT are not about the past; they are about the future. This young Swiss brand, powered by the inexhaustible enthusiasm of CEO Vincent Perriard, and grown by a top-notch team of talented specialists, offers something totally new. Watches and fluids. That’s it in a nutshell. It’s a simple, ground-breaking idea. And that’s why it has to be on my list. Talking of nutshells, I went for the H2 Bronze because it expanded the color palette of my list and also because it highlighted HYT’s ability to get really rich colours into their cases. I recommend this brand, because there’s nothing out there like it. The watches are master-strokes of collaboration and deftly designed. Despite being large on the wrist, they are light, wearable, and very visual creations. The face of the watch plays home to a large, ever-swinging balance wheel, a multi-level minute hand (made possible by the immense depth of the dial), angled, fluid-filled bellows powering the hour indicator, and the capillary that encircles the dial with a zing of bright green liquid.
6. Nomos Lambda
I’m pretty sure I could hold my own in an argument exalting the Nomos Lambda as one of the best watches of its kind. The dial design is geometrically German and about as close as watchmaking gets to feng shui. This watch is the archetypal modern dress piece. It is slim enough to enable it being worn with a cuffed shirt, but wide enough to appear masculine. It has the kind of self-assurance one might associate with Sean Connery’s James Bond. In those days, muscle-bound action men did not exist in the world of tuxedos and cocktail parties. Machismo was a different, much deeper engrained quality that stemmed from an absolutely unshakable confidence, which is exactly the sense you get from the Nomos Lambda, a choice that is smooth as silk and yet full of heart. The in-house calibre is simple and refined. Renowned as good time-keepers, this watch is just about as expensive as Nomos can be, but at around $15,000 this is still a steal in my mind.
7. Schofield Blacklamp
I had to have a British brand in here somewhere, but the Schofield Blacklamp didn’t make it on nationalistic sentiment alone. The Schofield range is small. With three models available in a total of six colour variations, there are few brands that can claim such a fan-base after so little output. But Schofield isn’t about numbers. It’s about quality items. The brand, run by the enigmatic Giles Ellis, doesn’t stop with the production of wrist watches. Their collection of straps far exceeds the number of watches to which they can be attached, but serves to widen this brand’s appeal by encouraging personalisation of the timepiece. Tool kits, travel wallets, torches, and even knives all bear the Schofield logo, which I like to think would not be applied to anything that did not meet Mr Ellis’ strict standards. If you need an example of how seriously this guy takes design, and how seriously cool his opinion on the subject is, you should check out his blog (Pelican Fossa). Understanding the man behind the brand intensified my admiration for their timepieces, because I believe they come from a good place. Schofield doesn’t seem to me to be about marketing, or making a quick buck. This feels genuine, like the realisation of a lot of hard work, about the desire to tell a story and to connect with an audience. At around $15,000, the Schofield Blacklamp is the most expensive watch they produce, but it’s packed full of advanced materials. The case is made of Morta, which is a unique material developed by the brand specifically for this project. It looks like a milled chunk of highly compressed carbon, or, in other words, totally awesome. That, along with the super bright ring of moonglow that surrounds the dial and can be charged in a second by an included torch with a brightness of 500 lumens, is the reason I recommend this watch. Because standing out from the crowd never gets old.