Watches: The luxury of time

29 Apr 2016 by BusinessTraveller

Timothy Barber rounds up the year’s most covetable new watches, from weekend options to collector’s items

Star watch

Vacheron Constantin’s legendary Overseas The clue, of course, is in the name: Vacheron Constantin’s Overseas is a watch that is designed to travel well. It doesn’t offer you extra time zones, and it will serve you just fine if you never set foot in foreign parts, but for Switzerland’s oldest watchmaker it has the look of relaxation and escape – or at the very least, of loosening one’s tie and switching off.

The Overseas was invented in 1977 as an answer to similarly dressed-down, modernist watches from the brand’s rivals – Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe. Simply designated the “222”, it was spruced up in the late 1990s and renamed to evoke the globe-hopping lifestyle of Vacheron Constantin’s haute monde clientele.

Its robust look – angular case, complex bracelet and a thickly notched bezel that draws its form from the brand’s Maltese Cross logo – is a world away from the old-fashioned classicism of its other watches, although it’s no less a powerhouse of top-level watchmaking and finishing.

And it has become even more travel-friendly since, along with some aesthetic fine-tuning, Vacheron has this year introduced the idea of interchangeable strap options. Besides the normal bracelet, the Overseas now comes with both rubber and leather straps that can be easily snapped on and off, effectively giving you three styles in one. In other words, all the watch you need for any kind of journey, overseas or otherwise.

Something for the weekend

Oris Divers Sixty-Five

Today, Oris is known for its chunky, ultra-tough professional dive watches, but the Sixty-Five recreates the slimmer, more wearable look of a watch that first entered its collection half a century ago. Retro it may be, but on a lightweight textile strap, it’s the essence of breezy, modern summer living.

Bell & Ross BR03-92 Desert Type

The aviation-inspired French watch brand whips up a desert storm with its sandy-toned latest offering. With a case made of scratch-resistant modern ceramic, it’ll see off the best of what the weekend has to throw at you.

Raymond Weil Freelancer

Raymond Weil has never previously produced a dive watch, but this simple affair is a bit of a winner. With a rotating bezel in scratch-proof black ceramic and a case in blackened steel, it’s a snug and practical sports watch that’s fit for a rough-and-tumble kind of weekend. There’s also a variety of colour options for the luminescent markings.

Retro motoring

The latest petrolhead watches take their inspiration not from the world of cutting-edge motor sports and supercars, but from the romantic vintage racing cars and bikes of old.

Zenith Heritage Pilot Café Racer

Although this sits within Zenith’s pilot’s watch collection, it’s a timepiece more enthused with the style of vintage motorbikes than planes, inspired as it is by the British “café racer” culture of the 1960s. The steel case, the strap and the dial have all been specially aged to increase that sense of lived-in, worn style, while inside it ticks Zenith’s El Primero movement – a legendary engine that was first made when the café racers were still riding.

Chopard Mille Miglia 2016 XL Race Edition

For more than 25 years now, Chopard has sponsored the Mille Miglia, the rally that sees the world’s finest vintage cars tearing up a thousand miles of Italian countryside every spring. This year’s commemorative watch recalls the glory days when it was still a death-defying race, and is surely one of the most handsome watches that Chopard has ever created.

Tag Heuer Monza Calibre 17

Following Niki Lauda’s Formula 1 World Championship win in 1975 for Ferrari, Heuer – then a major sponsor of the Italian team – produced a zippy, cushion-cased chronograph it named after Italy’s famous F1 track. Forty years on, Tag Heuer has recreated the original red-on-black look, although in a modern, lightweight case of black titanium.

Collector specials

Centuries ago, craftsmen such as Abraham-Louis Breguet and Jean-Marc Vacheron made watches for European high society and royalty. Today, the top brands continue to produce collector pieces that are sought after by the most discerning clientele. Here are this year’s museum pieces of the future.

Patek Philippe 5930 World Timer Chronograph

Two styles of watch that Patek Philippe has turned into an artform are the chronograph and the world timer; however, in its entire history, it has only ever combined them in one single watch, made for a doctor in the 1940s and now in the brand’s museum. Finally, though, Patek Philippe has produced a world timer chronograph, and it’s a thing of rich beauty, with a gorgeously engraved blue central dial.

Montblanc Bi-Cylindrique 110 Years Anniversary

The German luxury house is 110 years old this year, and is marking the anniversary with this quite sensational watch, of which only three have been created. Part of the Collection Villeret, all handmade at an ancient manufacture in the Swiss hills, it includes the collection’s signature tourbillon, with a double cylindrical balance spring.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon

Eight years ago, Jaeger-LeCoultre made the first Reverso containing the brand’s landmark gyroscopic tourbillon, a mesmerising device that rotates in three dimensions. This year, it has revisited the concept but with a much more streamlined proposition – 30 per cent less mass than its whopping precursor. In design, it’s art deco on one side and elaborately skeletonised on the reverse when you flip it over.

Focus on…

The perpetual calendar

The perpetual calendar is one of the most subtly thrilling examples of high watchmaking there is: more than just a timekeeper with a date, it is a mechanical computer that can mysteriously calculate the untidy irregularities of the Gregorian calendar, and display the correct date, day of the week, month, moon phase and leap year for decades on end.

In fact, it only needs adjusting once a century, and it does it all through a complex system of hand-assembled gears, levers and cams that are constantly, microscopically in motion.

Since Patek Philippe produced the first perpetual calendar for the wrist in 1925, it has understandably remained one of the most exclusive types of watch there is. But this year, Frederique Constant has produced the most affordable perpetual we’ve seen yet – in steel, it will set you back just £7,210, less than a tenth of what you might expect to pay from some players.

Powered by the brand’s latest in-house movement, it’s a crisp, classical beauty. It shows the month and position in the leap year cycle at 12 o’clock, with the date, moon phase and week day on other sub-dials going clockwise around the face. A system of inset buttons is used to set the date initially – all you need to do then is to keep the timepiece running; good reason, perhaps, to acquire an electronic watch-winder as well.

  • Frederique Constant Manufacture Perpetual Calendar
  • £7,210 in steel, £7,480 steel plated in rose gold
  • frederiqueconstant.com
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