Honouring the watch world’s biggest birthdays in 2017
Written by Ash Elwood
The world of watchmaking is one of constant innovation, persistence and upheaval, success and failure. Some watch designs possess an enduring magic however, and this year we can all celebrate the anniversary of some of these timeless masterpieces.
65 Years (1952)
2017 will be an interesting year for Breitling as their most iconic timepiece, the Navitimer 01, is celebrating its 65th anniversary amidst rumours that the company on whole is for sale. One of the most celebrated watches for aviators, the Navitimer (Navigation Timer) combines on its dial and bezel three essential tools for navigation in the air: a watch, a chronograph, and a slide rule. It was originally designed for pilots and the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association (AOPA). This is the perfect anniversary to scoop up a new version of this time-tested and continually celebrated piece as they have both an AOPA and Heritage model special editions in their line-up. Breitling Navitimer Heritage, $7,255
50 years (1967)
In the 1960s, deep-sea divers servicing offshore oil rigs were in need of a watch that could function at greater depths and for longer periods of time. The biggest threat to these watches was helium atoms, which are small enough to penetrate the watch’s workings and create enough pressure to pop off the crystal in deep water. Rolex increased the case size and crystal thickness of their existing diving model and added a one-way helium escape valve to create an exceptionally capable watch for divers and those who dream from their dry land, alike. Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller 4000, $11,900; at Rolex Boutique by Raffi Jewelers.
Patek Philippe Calatrava
85 Years (1932)
As the backbone of the Patek Philippe family of watches, the Calatrava line has long represented the brand’s commitment to elegant, timeless design. Born with an avant-garde Bauhaus sensibility, the very first Calatrava was a stark contrast to the flamboyant and often ornately fancy dress watches of its time. Instantly recognizable and ever envied, few watches possess the powerful presence that a Calatrava quietly demands. To this day, any of the numerous Calatrava models (37 since its birth) represent the apex of quiet, thoughtful design executed with a level of horological mastery that few companies can match. Price upon request.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
45 Years (1972)
The superbly accurate, vastly-more-affordable quartz-powered watches of the late ’60s flooded the wristwatch scene, wiping out many time-honored companies. Audemars Piguet was in dire need of a popular new release to avoid collapse and so looked to Gérald Genta, arguably the most famous watch designer at the time. What he proposed was outrageous: a stainless steel sports watch that cost more than a gold Patek Philippe, and ten times more than a Rolex Submariner. Genta would go on to state that the design, based on the portholes of Napoleonic-era warships, was his life’s greatest work. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak influenced countless other brands to follow suit and to this day is the flagship of the company it saved—and we are all better off for it. Price upon request.
100 years (1917)
Inspired by the French-built Renault Tanks he witnessed rolling through the battlefields of the First World War, Louis Cartier released the fabled Cartier Tank in 1917. One hundred years later, the unmistakable legend is a timeless classic. The Tank has been released in many versions, sizes, styles, materials, finishes, and with varied features, but all are an obvious homage to the original. The centenary of this enduring masterpiece is an exciting one, especially since Cartier has been devoting an enormous amount of time and resources into becoming a standalone force in the watch world by developing their own movements, and as many other parts as possible. Tank Louis Cartier watch, XL, 18k rose gold, leather; $17,800
60 Years (1957)
This is one special anniversary year for Omega. 1957 saw the release of three of Omega’s most iconic sports watches: the Seamaster 300, the Railmaster, and the Speedmaster. For many, the Speedmaster is one of, if not the most, iconic chronograph of all time. Originally designed for the world of automobile racing, the Speedmaster has accompanied NASA astronauts on all lunar missions since 1965, and is considered by many to be the watch in any true aficionado’s collection. A staggering number of variations of the Speedmaster have been released over the years, but you can be sure that all devoted enthusiasts are excitedly awaiting any and every anniversary model to hit the market. Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch 42mm, $7,000
Patek Philippe Aquanaut
20 Years (1997)
Controversial amongst the fans of Patek Philippe’s classic designs, and often viewed as the Nautilus’ younger, uglier brother, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut can still be found on the wrists of watch aficionados, celebrities and the world’s elite, alike. An expensive stainless steel watch from one of the watch world’s hallowed brands garners as many looks of disbelief as it does lustful wanting. But with the introduction of the widely celebrated dual time zone model, and the commitment of the time-only devotees, the Aquanaut is here to stay. Coupled with a rubber strap that is hypoallergenic and resistant to salt water and UV rays, you’ve never had a better excuse to go skinny-dipping off a yacht with a watch you wouldn’t dare take off. Price upon request
In case you missed it…
2016 was also a landmark year for iconic horological masterpieces. Here are a few you should know about:
TAG Heuer Mikrograph
100 years (1916)
In 1916 ,Heuer released the first stopwatch able to accurately time to 1/100th of a second. This breakthrough saw Heuer* appointed as the official timer of the Olympic games in 1920, 1924, and 1928. Heuer would go on to become one of the most recognizable and celebrated brands in F1 car racing (as both timer and sponsor) and so, to celebrate such a storied history of horological precision, the Mikrograph was released in 2016, not in the form of a traditional stopwatch, but of a wristwatch; and it’s a stunner. Price upon request
* Heuer became TAG Heuer in 1985 when TAG (Techniques d’Avant Garde) acquired the renowned watch making company.
85 Years (1931)
During the winter of 1931, while playing polo in India, a British Army Officer’s watch crystal was shattered mid-match. If it were any other onlooker, the conclusion may be that the gentleman shouldn’t have been wearing a timepiece during such an activity, but the man that happened to witness the event was César de Trey, noted businessman and watch collector. He would go on to discuss the incident with Jacques-David LeCoultre and the two of them would proceed to not only form the company Jaeger LeCoultre, but also hurriedly develop one of its most enchanting and enduring timepieces. The Reverso has always featured a reversible face, the first example to shield the crystal from polo mallet strikes (an all-metal face), and later to offer a rear view into the movement or another watch face entirely. Many models of the Reverso have shown face over the years, but thanks to irresponsible men and their outrageous sports, a legend lives on. Price upon request
60 Years (1956)
The Day-Date is one of the most popular and recognizable watches of all time. Featuring a window at the 12 o’clock position displaying the day of the week, and a day of the month window at 3 o’clock, the Day-Date is often referred to as the Rolex President as it has adorned the wrists of many past presidents, including Roosevelt, Kennedy and Johnson. Available in yellow gold, white gold, rose gold and platinum, the Day-Date can also be ordered to display the day of the week in one of 26 different languages. Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36mm Yellow Gold, $39,550; at Rolex Boutique by Raffi Jewelers.