Sometimes you need your watch to make a statement. Try these. By Felix Scholz
There’s a particular subset of watches within which telling the time is a secondary function. For many people wearing highly recognisable (and highly priced) wrist apparel, the primary function is letting the world know you’ve made it. As a society, we’ve been wrapping large amounts of gold around our wrists for millennia as a way to signify status and success. Over the years, we’ve refined the system and these days your status watch has to be both exclusive and instantly recognisable for being exclusive — a surprisingly tricky line to walk.
Rolex is the OG of the art, thanks to the fact that for the past 50-plus years the brand has barely altered its core silhouette, consistently curated its public image and, in the process, created a watch that, for many, is synonymous with power. One of its iconic models is commonly referred to as “The President”, and one mid-’50s ad slogan perfectly summed up the aspirations of the brand (as well as the dated gender politics) with this banger: “Men who guide the destinies of the world wear Rolex watches.” That’s what you call projecting a clear image.
For men and women in 2023, guiding the destiny of the world seems like it might be a bit much of an ask, but you can still depend on Rolex to project that aura of success and confidence. Of course, it’s not the only watchmaker with this sort of image — Patek Philippe is another blue-chip brand that functions as sartorial shorthand for power, as is the iconic Royal Oak from Audemars Piguet.
These watches constitute a time-honoured take on timepieces that signify status — they’re all excellent, but let’s just say that on parent-teacher night at Geelong Grammar, you’re not going to be the only person wearing a Nautilus. So we’ve come up with some powerful choices from left field.
The loosely defined category “sports watches” is one of the most influential movements in high-end watchmaking, encompassing everything from the aforementioned Royal Oak to outrageously over-the-top designs from every multimillionaire’s favourite maker, Richard Mille. Such is the appeal of this category that very few brands can afford to avoid it. One of the most interesting variations on this theme comes from the luxury powerhouse Hermès. The famed Parisian house has been making watches for some time, but the H08 is a fairly recent addition, showing up in 2021, and is spearheading significant growth in the brand’s watch business. With a distinctive rounded-off square shape and a sophisticated dial design, this casual all-rounder has obvious appeal. While the timepiece is already available in a range of materials and colours, the latest edition is pretty eye-catching. Offered in four bold colourways and featuring a case made from braided and aluminised glass fibre and slate powder, this is the sportiest H08 yet. $11,000. hermes.com
Like many adages, “money talks, wealth whispers” holds within it a kernel of truth, and from a style perspective it encapsulates the old-money values of quality, substance and discretion. From a timepiece perspective, it’s hard to get more old-money than Breguet, a brand founded by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1775, which can claim Marie-Antoinette, Napoléon and Winston Churchill as customers (talk about guiding the destiny of the world). Breguet specialises in watchmaking of the most traditional kind. Take, for example, the Classique Quantième Perpétuel 7327. This classic dress watch, in either rose or white gold, is the epitome of old-world charm. The slender 39mm case is perfectly sized and the silver dial, with its clous de Paris guilloche pattern, is the perfect backdrop for the range of calendar complications on display. This watch is a testament to the power of subtlety. $116,800. breguet.com
One of the most iconic examples of a power watch is the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch. While the aforementioned Breguet is all about whispering its wealth, there’s no such quietude with the original Big Pilot’s Watch. Inspired by a 1940s design, it made its plus-sized debut in 2002, clocking in at a hard-to-miss 46.2mm case diameter. With its singularity of purpose and clean design, it made an impact that’s hard to argue with. However, thanks to its epic proportions, wrists that could comfortably handle it were few and far between. In 2021 IWC took everything that made the Big Pilot’s Watch great and made it slightly smaller. The Big Pilot’s Watch 43 measures — you guessed it — 43mm across. This might not sound like a lot on paper, but in reality this minor tweak has made the watch so much more wearable, while remaining a big statement. $13,300. iwc.com
This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our ninth edition, Page 120 of Winning Magazine with the headline: “Status Update”. Subscribe to Winning Magazine today.