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Six Watches Worth Watching
Everyone from aviators to divers can find a top-of-the-line timepiece designed specially for their needs.
Certain specialized wristwatches have grown over time to represent hallmarks of a style. Think scuba, and the Rolex Submariner or the Panerai come to mind; for pilots, there are the Breitling and the Glycine. Manufacturers have maintained and refined many of these pieces, knowing that there will always be a ready market for classics. Many watchmakers offer a range of models based on the original definitive style, in a seductive assortment of materials and movements. Here’s a top-end selection of watches that have become the de facto brand emissaries for those seeking the authentic look in a special-purpose watch.
Flying: Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute
Breitling developed its pilot market with the 1952 launch of a slide-rule watch that arguably became the most famous flight instrument ever made: the 24-hour-dial Breitling Navitimer. This watch was the basis for the equally renowned Navitimer Cosmonaute, released 10 years later, which received design input from astronaut Scott Carpenter. Carpenter wore it into space on May 24, 1962, using its built-in flight computer to calculate mission data.
For purists, the Cosmonaute has remained relatively unchanged for more than half a century: as always, it offers a 43-millimeter-cased flyback chronograph with a 47-jewel automatic mechanical movement, three subdials, bidirectional crown, push-down sapphire crystal and, of course, a slide rule. Currently, Breitling produces four iterations of the Navitimer, with a variety of bands, in stainless steel or 18K red gold. Prices start around $7,900.
Diving: PAM 515 Radiomir 1940 3 Days Oro Rosso
We can thank Sylvester Stallone for bringing one of the world’s most iconic diving brands to the attention of U.S. consumers when he returned from Italy in 1995 sporting a Luminor Panerai on his wrist. The Florence, Italy-based Officine Panerai was founded in 1860 and began producing watches for the Italian navy in 1938. Panerais are known for their large and robust appearance. The company limits production of most models to fewer than 1,000 watches.
The Radiomir 1940 pays homage to the case designed to meet the demands of the commandos of the Italian navy and it evolved from the company’s 1936 Radiomir model, which defined the Panerai style. The current version, which sells for $26,500, is made of red gold—an alloy composed of gold, copper and other metals—and runs on a hand-wound Panerai P.3000 movement. The massive 47-millimeter Radiomir is part of Officine Panerai’s Historic Collection.
Driving: Tag Heuer Automobile Club de Monaco Limited Edition
Tag Heuer introduced the Monaco—the world’s first waterproof race timer automatic chronograph—in 1969; Steve McQueen powered it into global popularity when he wore it a year later in the movie LeMans. The original square-cased, blue-dial watch has evolved into a complete line of models for men and women, with this limited edition representing the most desirable attributes of both new and classic models.
The Automobile Club de Monaco edition, which sells for $8,200, features a caliber 12 chronograph movement, 39-millimeter, black-titanium, carbide-coated case and sapphire-crystal glass. It is Tag’s first black-case watch since 1974, and it pays homage to one of the most collectible classic Monaco Editions: the PVD Monaco. Only 22 original black PVDs are known to exist, with one recently selling for 48,000 pounds at auction.
Moon Watching: Jaeger-Le Coultre Master Calendar—ref. 1552520
Jaeger-Le Coultre has produced moon-phase watches for more than 60 years and has a long history of developing technically exacting timepieces. The company’s Atmos series of table clocks will supposedly maintain correct time for thousands of years (although it’s obviously too soon to verify that claim).
The JLC Master Calendar is first and foremost a dress watch with a distinctive moon-tracking feature. JLC’s in-house movements are a point of pride for the company, and this model features an automatic movement with 28,800 vibrations per hour, 43-hour power reserve and 32 jewels. It sports a fabulous and trendy pink gold case and a silvered sunray-brushed dial with 4N gold appliqués on an alligator-leather strap. Limited to 305 pieces, the model sells for $23,500.
Sporting: Casio G-Shock G-Aviation
For 39 years, Casio’s G-Shock series has set a benchmark for tough, multi-featured sports watches. Worn by many sportspeople and military personnel, the watches are designed to withstand extreme abuse and provide intuitive access to a huge variety of features. And they look cool, to boot. Strap on a G-Shock and you’re halfway to adventure.
The newest concept model, while called G-Aviation, is really a general sports watch. It incorporates the maker’s proprietary Triple G Resist technology, to withstand the shock of three forces: gravitational dropping force, centrifugal force and vibration. The $600 watch is solar powered by a five-motor-driven movement that operates the hour, minute and second hands independently. It receives time signals from multiple global atomic transmitters, assuring accurate data wherever you go. The electronic crown makes it easy to view and operate its features, which include a thermometer, alarms, chronograph, countdown timer and calendar. Aviation’s slick dark blue/black resin case is also shock- and water-resistant (to 200 meters).
Yachting: Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II
Although it dates back only to 1992, the Rolex Yacht-Master series is already established as a classic timepiece for elegant regatta timing. Like all Rolex sport models, it features the company’s patented and instantly recognizable oyster case, which is reminiscent of its famous GMT-Master and Submariner series. The Yacht-Master II is a 44-millimeter chronograph with a countdown function. The timer can be programmed for up to 10 minutes on its mechanical memory; once engaged, it can be synchronized on the fly to match the official regatta countdown.
This handsome watch will fit right in on your yacht with its classic blue-and-white accents and is available in steel and gold. It features a Rolex-designed and -produced self-winding, 42-jewel mechanical caliber 4161 regatta chronograph movement and a Ring Command rotatable bezel with blue ceramic disk. An 18-karat yellow gold model retails for $43,550.
Steve Lundin welcomes comments and -suggestions at email@example.com.