January 4, 2015
by Ariel Adams
Gold watches represent wealth and status, and in a sense, it has always been that way. Having said that, watch makers used gold as a case material for very practical reasons in a historical sense. Gold as a metal has some interesting properties, from being easily machined to being heavily tarnish-resistant (it also takes a polish really well). When gold is mixed with other metals to produce alloys, it mixes some of the beneficial properties of gold with the hardness of those other metals. Historically, most gold-cased watches have been either 14k or 18k gold. 18k gold watches are a relatively recent phenomenon, having become popular starting in the early 1980s, when gold prices began to increase, allowing watch makers to add more gold but also increase the prices of their gold watches.
In the business world, gold watches have had an interesting history. During the 20th century, it was the goal of many people to work at a company for many years finally to be gifted a gold watch upon retirement (which happened for at least some people). Gold watches worn by certain types of business people and professionals are an indicator of success and status. People wanted to work with those who could afford themselves gold watches because it implied a level of ongoing monetary success and social importance.
Today, gold watches have similar social and cultural value, although their importance in the luxury watch industry has changed with the influx of many other types of interesting materials. There are those people who wish to wear expensive timepieces that aren’t immediately recognizable as such, and there are even those people who simply don’t like the idea of wearing gold. Obvious status symbols such as gold watches can even be dangerous to wear in certain parts of the world, and in some instances, might even convey social messages about one’s spending habits which one may not want to communicate.
Nevertheless, the appeal of wearing an all-gold watch is still very much a desire for a number people of all ages across different cultures. I’ve put together a list of what I feel are 10 of the best timepieces to wear when your main goal is simply to have a prominently gold watch without a lot of fuss. There is really no deficit of gold-cased watches out there, but these 10 timepieces very much emphasize the notion of wearing a “gold watch.” I want to point out that, in my opinion, you need to wear an 18k yellow or 18k rose/pink/red gold watch for the fullest gold experience, as 18k white gold doesn’t have the standard gold color, and given that it can be mistaken for steel from afar, just doesn’t have the correct intended “gold watch” effect.
The actual name for the Rolex President is the Day-Date, but since so many people call it the President, we are going to go with that name. It has this name because a few US Presidents wore it, and the name stuck. It is perhaps the ultimate “conservative yet blingy” gold Rolex watch there is. Currently, you can purchase the Rolex Day-Date in both the traditional 36mm wide size, as well as the more modern 41mm wide size with the Rolex Day-Date II models. All Rolex President watches come in precious metal gold cases with a lot of variation in terms of the dials and ability to have them decorated with diamonds. Retail prices start at $37,550 for a model like this ref. 218235
Introduced in 2014, the Bulova Accu-Swiss First Edition of the Joseph Bulova Collection Percheron 24k Gold watch is perhaps the least standard model in this list, but is included for good reason. That is because it not only has a really interesting strap which combines crocodile with titanium rivets and a black steel milanese inner bracelet, but because it is the first watch in the world with a 24k (versus 18k) gold case. The case is more than 99.9% pure gold, which is a delight to serious gold lovers. Bulova was able to develop a special forging process for gold to make it hard enough so that the gold wasn’t too soft as a watch case material. Inside the watch is a simple Swiss automatic movement, and as a highly limited piece, it also has a price unlike that of most all over Bulova watches at $42,000.
There is something very satisfying about taking one of the world’s most iconic functional sport watches and producing it with an all gold case and bracelet. The unique mixture communicates status as well as sensibility at the same time. In truth, there are many versions of the classic Omega Speedmaster and many of them are available in 18k gold. This is the newer Speedmaster 57 Co-Axial Chronograph model that includes a few desirable features, including an in-house made Omega mechanical chronograph movement, as well as looks inspired by the original Speedmaster in a 41.5mm wide case. This version in gold comes in both 18k yellow and rose gold, and this ref. 3188.8.131.52.02.001 model retails for a price of $36,000.
Another classic sports watch that was never originally intended to be produced in gold when it was for military pilots is the Breguet Type XX. A more modern and slightly larger version is the Type XXI, as well as the Type XXII, which look particularly handsome with a chocolate brown face matched to an 18k rose gold case. Breguet includes a highly sophisticated 10Hz operating chronograph movement in the Type XXII, which happens to be among the rare modern models available with both a gold case and matching bracelet. Elegant, sporty, timeless, and masculine, this ref. 3880BR/Z2/RXV is a good way to show off what might be your favorite precious metal with a price of $55,500.
The irony of an 18k gold Royal Oak is that when the Royal Oak was first introduced by Audemars Piguet in the early 1970s, its goal was to be a high-end sports watch in steel… priced like a gold watch. Having a gold version is slightly ironic, given the original theme of the Royal Oak, but we can’t blame Audemars Piguet for deciding to produce 18k gold models of the famous timepiece. If you wear a gold watch chances are that you want people to see it; so the 41mm wide version of the Royal Oak makes the most sense – and it looks very fine in its ref. 15400OR.OO.1220OR.01 iteration, priced at $50,500.
Cartier released the Calibre collection a few years ago to serve not only as its premier collection of men’s watches, but also to introduce a new range of in-house made movements designed to fit in Cartier’s more “volume” models, under the brand’s more prestigious high-complication items. The Cartier Calibre has seen various iterations, including at this point, a chronograph as well as a diver. The original is perhaps still the most elegant and warm when offered in a fully 42mm wide 18k pink gold case and matching bracelet paired to a chocolate brown dial (ref. W7100040). The appeal of the Cartier brand name is well combined with a modern men’s sports-style watch that feels very much at home in all gold. Priced here at $46,400.
This same Blancpain Villeret watch can be obtained in a simpler form without the perpetual calendar and moonphase complications, but there is something about this model that fits the Blancpain brand so well. The Quantieme Perpetuel 8 Jours watch combines the elegance of a classic gold case and smooth mesh-style gold bracelet with an attractive and highly refined in-house made self-winding perpetual calendar mechanical movement. It is among the rare complicated timepieces that one can wear on a daily basis, given the reasonable dimensions of the case and straight-forward legibility of the dial. It also happens to have a striking amount of 18k red gold when on the matching gold bracelet. Priced at $78,200 for this ref. 6659-3631-MMB model.
This is one of the more complicated gold watches in this round-up, not necessarily in terms of mechanical functionality, but rather in that the dial is mostly skeletonized with a view of the movement. This sort of contrasts with the goal of having a timepiece that is all about showing off gold, but I nevertheless felt Bovet has a solid contender with its Dimier collection Recital 12 watch, specifically in 18k red gold, matched to the 18k red gold mesh bracelet. Each year, Bovet releases ever more Dimier Recital family timepieces, and in addition to being the most simple, the Recital 12 is also the thinnest, with a case that is just 9.1mm thick and 42mm wide. The movement is just 3.9mm wide and has an off-centered dial for the time, subsidiary seconds dial, and a power reserve indicator with seven full days of power reserve. With a gorgeous design and on the bracelet, the Recital 12 is a great way to show off your love of horology and gold. Priced at $78,200 on the bracelet (without diamonds).
Breitling has cemented themselves not only as the watch of pilots, but also the watch of aspirational aviators. While the company continues to produce professional-style timepieces, they are no stranger to luxury. One of the reasons that most of the watches in this round-up list are sport watches is because of their larger size and bold design. Traditional dress watches simply don’t have the case real estate to really show off gold in a way that one might desire, so going with an elegant sport watch is typically a much more preferred option. The Chronomat collection houses in-house made Breitling movements and is available in 41mm, 44mm, and 47mm wide sizes. The Chronomat 44 range is a nicely sized piece, and this ref. HB0421L3/BC18 model adds to the watch’s chronograph complication with a GMT 24-hour hand for a second timezone. You also get an 18k rose gold case and matching Breitling Pilot-style bracelet for the retail price of $52,650.
The contrast between gold and black is well emphasized in the Manufacture version of Ulysse Nardin’s Marine Chronometer collection watch. At 45mm wide in 18k rose gold on a matching bracelet, this ref. 1186-122-8M/42 sports watch turned status symbol has all the gold impact and prestige a watch lover could hope for. Ulysse Nardin even designed the Marine Chronometer Manufacture with 200 meters of water resistance for recreational diving… if you so choose. Inside the watch is an in-house made movement and the watch is priced at $54,000.
This article, Top 10 Gold Watches, is available in Chinese: 十大金表特选