Top 10 Technically Important Mechanical Wrist Watches pg. 3

Top 10 Technically Important Mechanical Wrist Watches

Top 10 Technically Important Mechanical Wrist Watches ABTW Editors' Lists

The Date Calendar Watch

After telling the time, the next most important addition to a watch would be the date. Add in a perpetual calendar and you would have all the fundamentals covered.

Launched in 1945, The Rolex Datejust was the first wristwatch with a date function. It featured a date wheel containing alternating red and black date markers and was fitted with a coin-edged bezel and "pie-pan" dial. This "coin edged" bezel later evolved into what is now known as the "Rolex Fluted Bezel".  However, probably the biggest change to occur was in 1954 with the introduction of the "cyclops". A two and a half power lens which made reading the date easier and also became a Rolex signature.

The original Datejust was launched with a size of 36mm and it stayed that way for over 60 years. Recently, at the 2009 Baselworld, Rolex launched the Datejust II with an updated movement and a size of 41mm to fit with contemporary tastes for larger watches.

Of course, the perpetual calendar is the ultimate date display and Patek Phillipe, who are masters of this complication, were the first to develop it in a wristwatch when they took the perpetual calendar movement from one of their ladies pendant watches from 1898 and transformed it into a wristwatch. Patek Phillipe since have gone on to create many notable perpetual calendar wristwatches. Since Patek Phillipe introduced the first one, many other brands have created perpetual calendar watches, most of them similar in approach.

Top 10 Technically Important Mechanical Wrist Watches ABTW Editors' Lists

However in 1985, IWC surprised the watch world with their da Vinci model (Ref. 3750) which went on to become the most widely sold perpetual calendar watch in history. The da Vinci not only had a number of unique features but also retailed for half the price of its nearest competitor.

Typically so long as you keep a perpetual calendar watch wound and running, they stay synchronized. However, let the mainspring run down and you have resetting problems. Having to set all the displays individually can be awkward. Cleverly, all the displays on the da Vinci stay synchronized and can be easily set using just the crown, something which was revolutionary and one of the reasons it became so popular.

Top 10 Technically Important Mechanical Wrist Watches ABTW Editors' Lists

The Anti-Magnetic Watch

Magnetic fields are one of the major causes of inaccuracy in watches and these days they are everywhere.

Due to the two delicate springs inside mechanical watches - one so thin its actually called a 'hairspring '- magnetism has been a significant problem throughout most of watchmaking history because it can cause havoc with the timing of a watch. Watches are particularly vulnerable when worn by people who do a lot of travelling or work in certain areas such as the medical or scientific professions for instance.

As magnetic fields have become more omnipresent in our daily lives anti-magnetic watches are still an object of active research, Omega made headlines at Baselworld 2013 with its announcement of a new anti-magnetic watch, but more on that later. Let's first take a look at some of the advances made in the anti-magnetic watch.

Watchmakers Vacheron Constantin were among the first to experiment with anti-magnetic watches in the mid 19th century and created a watch able to withstand magnetic fields by using a palladium-made balance wheel, balance spring and lever shaft. In 1933, similar technical aspects were employed by Tissot  in the first mass produced anti-magnetic wristwatch, the "Antimagnetique" which reduced magnetic interference by using palladium in its escapement.

IWC came out with their Schaffhausen Pilot’s Watch Mark 11 in 1948 which was the first to pioneer the use of a soft iron inner case that acted as a Faraday cage to shield the movement from magnetic interference by providing a path for magnetic fields to pass around the movement rather than through it. Rolex followed up using the same approach in 1954 with the first 1000 gauss anti-magnetic watch the "Milgauss." Easily identifiable by its unusual lightning bolt second hand. This model was revived in 2007.

Top 10 Technically Important Mechanical Wrist Watches ABTW Editors' Lists

Soon after the original Milgauss in 1955, IWC countered with their Ingenieur model which used the inner shielding approach from their earlier Pilot's watch, this was the forerunner to their Ingenieur 500,000 a/m released in 1989 which had over six times greater resistance to magnetic fields than the Milgauss.

In 1957 Omega released their Railmaster watch which had specially constructed case, dial, movement and dust cover using materials to shield against magnetic activity. Its movement was copper finished and protected by a special double case and iron dust cover making it Omega's first 1000 gauss anti-magnetic watch. Which leads us to Omega's announcement just recently of their development of the Seamaster Aqua Terra 15,000 gauss model.

This model, the latest advancement in mechanical watches to counter magnetism, took a different approach. Instead of trying to improve on the classical but imperfect system of an inner protective case, Omega came up with the solution to build a movement that uses non-ferrous components so that the movement itself is resistant to magnetic fields. Omega already had some non-magnetic components in place: silicon balance springs and nickel phosphorous escapement wheels for instance, and these were incorporated into the new design. Omega has indicated all models will be fitted with the anti-magnetic movement by 2017.

  • Ulysses31

    Some gorgeous watches featured here.  That Longines chrono and the first couple of Rolex models, as well as that wonderful Omega DeVille.  If Rolex still made stuff like that i’d be a customer; a shame they went in the direction they did.  So uh, should we expect the “Top Ten Significant Electronic Watches” list any time soon?

    • Ulysses31 maybe… we are still putting the list together. Anything we may forget? A lot of Seikos on that one…

      • Ulysses31

        aBlogtoWatch Ulysses31 There are too many, makes it hard to choose.  I’ll pick one at random ; the Seiko Thermic.

    • Panagiotis

      Ulysses31 I second that! A list with Astrons, Aerospaces, Bulovas, Campanolas… mouth watering!!!

  • Oelholm

    What a great read. Thanks a lot!

  • AlbertoPerez

    Nice reading.Thanks,it looks Rolex and Longines lovers have a lot to be proud.

  • TimelyOne

    This was a great read….thank you very much!

  • Kris C

    Good read, but coming off the heels of a top 20 list, it is a bit strained. I can only take so much ranking, its just so subjective.

  • JaimeSilvera

    Great article!

  • zaki2004

    Wonderful article! Affirms that Rolex is more than just a watch non-watch people know and love to own.  It is the real article.

  • makemineaglock

    Swiss loving fool! One Seiko! You clearly have little understanding on the mechanics of a watch. Do some homework Matt.

    • makemineaglock  I had had no bias in writing this, it just so happens that in terms of mechanical wristwatch innovations most of them are Swiss. Sorry if you dont like that but thats the way it is. Just as a similar list on Quartz/Electronic watch innovations you would find a lot of Japanese watches on it.

  • Evosam

    A great article and as much as many people hate to bash on Rolex, I think it’s important to mention the Rolex GMT in the  “Navigational Watch” section as one of the icons for multi-time zone measurement.


  • aleximd2000

    Please do not write that the article is this or that, if you are so clever write yourself a better one.That’s for Matt. I think the article should be grouped like this: manual automatic, waterproof , shockproof,  chronograph manual and automatic, antimagnetic, steel and the new alloys , quartz and electroquartz and springdrive. Something like that.
    And about Seiko: it is very interesting why this big player is knowingly forgotten in any classification. Just look in Uhren Exclusive it is not in the top 40 of all. Beside the revenge of the quartz war , try to forget that and focus on what’s important .I my opinion Seiko’s big mistake is that they are making low and high end watches under the same umbrella, not like Swatch which is making cheap  watches and very expensive ones under different names. So one cannot choose wrongly between a swatch and a Breguet for example but can be put in front of a difficult task to choose between a sping drive and a seiko 5.Of course a novice. But the image is that.
    Thanks for the patience luv

  • DG Cayse

    A well-presented overview of significant innovations in the watch world. This piece will, no doubt, be used as a reference guide in the future.
    Particularly nice are the accompanying dates, personages and companies along with excellent photos of the significant watches mentioned.
    Good job Mr. Boston.

  • IsmaelMartinez

    What would this article include in 3 years. I-Watch, Glyde and others. Who knows. Great piece. Thanks.

  • Thanks very much to all those leaving positive comments, glad you enjoyed reading it as it was a bit of work to put together. Interesting hearing your thoughts too.

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  • RaoMak1

    An amazing article and a must must read, I have not only learned, amazed, blown away, fascinated but also fallen in love with many of the watches, specially the IWC’s Da Vinci.
    A job very well done and much appreciated.

  • RaoMak1 Thanks very much for the kind words, pleased to hear that.

  • Biffo10

    I fail to see how Rolex’s creation of a self-winding movement solved
    the problem of dust & water ingress into the case. Whether it is manual
    wind or automatic, the crown still has to be pressed home to ensure the
    integrity of the hermetically sealed Oyster case.  And to liken the said case
    to a real living oyster on the basis of the creature being 100% sealed tight, is

  • Biffo10  Thats right it didnt solve it – that wasnt stated in the article, it just helped prevent dust & water entering through the crown. An automatic movement doesnt need winding therefore the only time you would need to use the crown is for setting the watch, the less you use the crown the lesser the chance of things auch as “if the owner forgot to screw the crown back in tightly after winding or if the crown threads and seals wore out over time, then dust and water could still enter.” So it was Rolex covering all bases along with the main preventative measures a sealed/screw down crown and case.
    I dont think Rolex were being so literal, my take would be that “Oyster” is a term implying a sealed case/water resistance and coined by Rolex to help market the watch.

  • Biffo10

    Hi Matt
    I think if you read the piece again, that’s exactly what was stated  lol !

    “Because although the Oyster case was impermeable to dust and water, if the owner forgot to screw the crown back in tightly after winding or if the crown threads and seals wore out over time, then dust and water could still enter, a self-winding movement solved this problem.”

    ‘addressed, minimised, but certainly not ‘solved ‘, & certainly not by the creation of an automatic movement.
    Let’s face it, water only needs to get into the case once to cause problems, & that can happen on day 1 or 31
    manual or automatic.

    Take your point about not taking anything literally from the lips of Rolex ha ha

    Im still trying to fathom …” it takes a year to make a movemet”   Hmmn…
    So 1,000,000 watches produced annually, produced by 8,000 employees ( & robots ) = 1,000,000 years of work !??
    Strange, Rolex have refused to substantiate the claim. Maybe Rolexspeek ( or b*******t ) should be added to Oxford dictionary  lol !

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