Our Top Ten Luxury Watches 2020 and 2021
In this post, we decided to list and rank those wristwatches that currently represent the best luxury watches available on the market, in our opinion. It is our ranking, but we'll explain why the watches listed here deserve a place and that specific ranking. Anyone can rank a list of watches; the most important thing is to tell why each timepiece holds that place in the overall standing. In making this list, we took into account the history and the appeal of each luxury men's timepiece listed. The ranking equally includes iconic and newly released luxury watches, some of which are, in our opinion, expected to become highly sought-after soon.
Position number ten - the Breitling Navitimer
The Breitling Navitimer is one of the most admired and enduring watches in the history of watchmaking. When it first appeared, the Navitimer followed up the original Breitling Chronomat, to become the aviator chronograph par excellence. It is still the first analog watch offering route calculations as on a standard navigation instrument (it is not the only one, no longer). Equipped with a slide rule, the Navitimer is an instant classic produced in plenty of product options, tons of collectible limited edition variants, and a split-seconds chronograph.
The Navitimer chronograph is one of the most elegant and recognizable luxury wristwatches available, holding to the original version's foothold. It is today available in three main options. Two are automatic and powered by the in-house Breitling B01 caliber with the addition of the stunning Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition powered by the in-house hand-wound Breitling B09 caliber. They both feature a Chronometer certification, released by the COSC. Breitling has also introduced a Capsule collection that pays homage to the golden age of commercial aviation.
Position number nine - the Bulgari Octo Finissimo
With the Octo Finissimo, the Bulgari luxury watches division has brilliantly joined the luxury sports watch industry by creating an award-winning collection holding multiple thickness records. Introduced initially as a titanium option on a bracelet, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo has quickly reserved its space among prestigious luxury watches.
Kudos to the brand for not mimicking any of the current most wanted luxury watches, but designing something new and never seen before. The Octo Finissimo is undoubtedly a future classic, a luxury sports watch whose avant-garde design and wearability are unmatched. Bulgari has this year squared the circle by upgrading the Octo Finissimo in steel; it is now in polished steel too and has a water resistance increased to 100 meters.
Position number eight - the Zenith El Primero
The Zenith El Primero was the first mass-produced automatic high-frequency chronograph movement ever produced. Introduced in 1969, El Primero was and still is the only mechanical movement to run at a 5Hz frequency, which means 36,000 vibrations per hour. Back then, it was a technical challenge given that materials, production technologies, and lubricants available were not as advanced as they are nowadays.
The El Primero's stunning performance explains why Rolex relied on this caliber when it introduced the automatic Rolex Daytona, although they reduced frequency (and precision), to 28,800 vibrations per hour. The Chronomaster collection by Zenith is the classic collection par excellence, along with the so-called revival collections. There's a specific reference I have picked, and that's the Chronomaster Revival A386 Manufacture Edition. It preserves the El Primero's 38mm case size, a vintage-inspired dial showcasing the "El Primero" wording in italics and an outstanding three-tone blue dial, whose inside story is lovely.
Position number seven - the TAG Heuer Monaco
The Tag Heuer Monaco was the first waterproof luxury sports watch with a square case, ever. It debuted the Chrono-Matic, resulting from a joint project between Heuer, Breitling, Buren, and Dubois-Depraz. Launched on March 3, 1969, it was the first automatic chronograph movement equipped with a micro-rotor. The TAG Heuer Monaco, housing the then-coded Calibre 11, became famous when Steve McQueen wore it in "The 24 Hours of Le Mans"; it was later worn by artists and celebrities, including Miles Davis, for example.
His Monaco recorded an incredible price when sold at an auction a few years ago. Phased-out from the brand's catalog, it was relaunched in the late 90s. It joined the product offering from the 2000s, boasting an outsourced movement (an ETA base with a Dubois Depraz module) and has, this year, welcomed the Heuer 02 manufactured caliber. I own two TAG Heuer Monaco watches, one of them being out of the ordinary; it is the Monaco Sixty-Nine you see pictured above.
Position number six - the Cartier Santos
The Cartier Santos holds a unique record: it was the first wristwatch ever. It was made upon request by Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos Dumont and became the French brand's hero product. Among its distinctive features is the rectangular case, whose bezel is secured by eight screws, a design that has become a hallmark, and a unique trait. The original version's most wanted Santos was the platinum one with Breguet hands, an option the Maison has re-issued this year as an exclusive limited-edition model.
In 2018, Cartier fully revamped the collection by introducing a more modern take on the Santos, followed in 2019 by a fully redesigned Santos Dumont paying homage to the original model; the Santos Dumont comes this year as a hand-wind Piaget-powered slim timepiece. I think Cartier should add an ultra-flat Santos Dumont with an integrated bracelet anytime soon, to compete with the likes of an Octo Finissimo.
Position number five - the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was the first commercially sold professional diving watch. It was conceived thanks to Jean-Jacques Fiechter, a professional diver, and CEO of the brand, back in the late 50s, who decided to create a tool watch capable of meeting the French Navy's requirements for a professional rugged diving watch.
The difference between the Fifty Fathoms and other timepieces listed here is that it belongs to a niche boutique brand; it is produced in small quantities and offers superior craftsmanship in the benchmark. Among its distinctive features, I would highlight the convex sapphire-crystal bezel and a refined automatic caliber, coded as 1315, capable of ensuring 120 hours of maximum power reserve.
Position number four - the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is virtually unchanged since it originally appeared in 1931. Do you know how it was conceived? The British military displaced in India were looking for a sturdy timepiece capable of withstanding polo matches, which are usually very tough. Jaeger-LeCoultre designed a square case (inspired by Art Deco), whose middle part could be flipped over 180 degrees to protect the glass against unwanted shocks.
The Reverso was born, one of the most prestigious wristwatches and an icon among watch connoisseurs. It comes in plenty of product variations, from time-only to ultra-complicated (Gyro-tourbillon); I picked one that well exemplifies what a luxury timepiece should represent, and cannot miss in any top ten list. It is the Reverso Tribute Moon powered by the 3Hz hand-wind 853A movement. It retails, in the stainless steel version, for 13,700 Euros.
Watch ranking - the podium
You'll find here those timepieces that are the most coveted and are widely respected and regarded as the most wanted timepieces, including a non-watch-aficionado audience. It's hard to mark them as the best or the most beautiful available; undoubtedly, they rank as the most famous and guarantee a higher-than-average resale value. Here is our podium of the best men's watches.
Position number three - the Patek Philippe Nautilus
Patek's Nautilus is, along with the Royal Oak, the most famous watch designed by Gerald Genta. Genta's soft spot for octagonal bezels is perhaps best exemplified by the Royal Oak, but the octagonal-design inspiration is clear with a Nautilus too. Introduced in 1976, the Patek Philippe Nautilus took some time to gain the success it deserved and has today.
The model's name takes inspiration from Jules Verne's imaginary submarine, other than being the 1954 first nuclear-powered US submarine ever. Genta took inspiration from a submarine's porthole when sketching the reference 3700/1 whose extensions on the case sides mimic a porthole's hinge. A star was born, and today's Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711 ranks among the most wanted timepieces. It is hard to get, but if you're able to get your hands on one, you'll own a watch whose resale value is well beyond the under 30,000 Euros retail price.
Position number two - the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo
In second place stands another masterpiece designed by the master Genta himself; that's the Royal Oak Jumbo, which identifies the reference 15202, the closest thing to the extra-flat Royal Oak showcasing a 39mm case, across. It is the brand's signature model.
The Royal Oak appeared in 1972, introducing an octagonal bezel, whose tightened screws mimic a diver's helmet. The Royal Oak took life thanks to the Italian importer's suggestion, and, like a Nautilus, it is virtually unchanged from one generation to another. As with its Swiss sibling, an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak reference 15202 is as hard to get (my name is on a two-year-long waiting list, currently) as exclusive.
Position number one - the Rolex Submariner and Rolex Daytona
I placed them both in the first place, although for different reasons. The Rolex Submariner is the classic diving watch, while the Rolex Daytona has gained further desirability.
Also, Rolex's strategy of carefully limiting product availability has made its market prices skyrocket. Regarding the Submariner, the market price keeps growing at a steady pace, especially if you're looking for a mint Rolex 5513 or a Submariner 114060 (i.e., the no-date option), a Kermit or a Rolex Hulk. The Rolex Submariner 114060 has become a waiting list timepiece, with prices moving quickly toward the 10,000 Euros threshold.
(Photo credit: Marco Antinori and Peter Tung)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®