Luxury timepieces are an investment — both financial (luckily they tend to hold their value better than, say, luxury automobiles), and sentimental, as heirlooms to pass down through generations. Patek Phillipe has made that idea the centre of its advertising for more than 20 years now, but the sentiment surrounds every quality watch. They’re symbols of meticulous craftsmanship. They stand as an old-school repudiation of today’s strategy of planned obsolescence. And, obviously, their very purpose draws attention to why they work so well as heirlooms: they track the passage of time.
But it’s not just their hands that track time. Consider the objects themselves — their design, their functionality, their existence as works of mechanical art. Each is a product of its own time, and, as it becomes vintage, stands as a marker of a bygone era. As many of the best brands celebrate mile- stones this year, we look back and see what that passage of time looks like on the faces of some of the most remarkable creations in the world.
Oyster Perpetual 39
An achievement of craftsmanship and beautiful design in its own right, since the 1930s the Oyster has accompanied plenty of achievements as well. One was on the wrist of the man who first broke the sound barrier. Under heavy coats, it was also worn on the first expedition to the summit of Everest. With a new edition, the Oyster Perpetual remains a singular creation: strong and elegant, timeless and contemporary. $6,500
First created in 1962 as an indispensable driving watch, the AUTAVIA (a fitting portmanteau for AUTomotive and AVIAtion) became wildly popular for its clean, easily readable design, rotating bezel, and race car swagger. After 55 years, the modern version calls back to its roots while nodding to modern sensibilities (the final design was selected via a social media vote). $6,200
The apocryphal story behind Cartier’s unique timepiece, that is somehow both a rectangle and a square, is that it was first conceived in 1917 based on the Renault military tanks that would be joining World War I. The watch immediately set a new design trend, which has been kept alive for decades. $6,850
L.U.C XPS 1860
Just over 20 years ago, back when in-house movements weren’t as commonplace in the watch industry as they are now, Chopard introduced their first line of timepieces that contained movements they made themselves. It was a gamble that paid off — so much so that, decades later, they are celebrating the beautiful L.U.C line with both a limited edition rose-gold take on the classic, along with a more accessible steel version. It’s just as sophisticated, if not more so, all these years later. $27,630
In 1952, Breitling created a wrist instrument for the use of pilots and aeronautic professionals. With its simple design, and ingenious complication, it quickly became the iconic pilot’s watch, and an obsession for watch enthusiasts everywhere. $9,520
Classic Watch 97B162
Fuelled by a passion for innovation, Bulova has constantly pushed against the boundaries of how we think about watches. From creating the first — and, at the time, most accurate — fully electronic watch, to pioneering in the world of radio and television marketing, to their latest innovation: creating the world’s first curved watches, Bulova’s place in history is certain, but never stagnant. $295
To say a thing — whether it’s a pair of oxfords, or a leather jacket — is “not your father’s…” is a tired cliché that, aside from being obvious, mistakes newness for quality. Audemars Piguet would never make that claim about their iconic pocket watches. Yes, their watches are new — complete with modern flourishes and contemporary style — but the whole point of carrying on a time-honoured tradition of excellence for over 100 years is that their new timepieces could be your grandfather’s just as easily as your great-grandson’s. Price upon request