View all articles

Feature: The most underappreciated watches

Having trouble picking out your next watch? Well, you’re not alone. We’re spoilt for choice. It seems every brand has a million different watches, with a million different variations—yes, I’m looking at you Omega—so how do you decide? And how do you know you haven’t missed out on something special? The problem is, I’ve spent 5+ years reviewing and researching watches, and even now, I’m still finding new watches with incredible stories. I might not be able to tell you about them all, but here are some of the most underappreciated watches you might not have considered.

Cartier Santos

Cartier’s popularity has skyrocketed in the last few years with watches like the Santos being spotted on the wrists of some of the biggest celebrities, like Tom Cruise, Tom Holland, Tom Hiddleston... they’re popular amongst the Toms of the world, it would seem. While the Santos’s current popularity can be attributed to its celebrity endorsement and its 2018 Santos De Cartier re-design—an evolution of this particular watch—what most don’t realise is that the Santos is also packed with history.

It wasn’t Breitling or IWC that created the first pilot’s watch; it was Cartier. In 1904, Louis Cartier presented his friend Albert Santos-Dumont—a fascinating aviation pioneer well worth a Google—with a wristwatch after Santos had complained to Cartier about how hard it was for him to accurately time himself with a pocket watch while wrestling with the controls of his aircraft. The watch allowed Santos to glance down at his wrist and read the time with ease. That watch would later be released to the public in 1911. Over 100 years later, the Santos is stronger than ever, receiving various design updates through the years to get it to the watch you see here.

Glashütte Original PanoInverse

Germany has some of the best watchmakers in the world. This £10,900 Glashütte Original PanoInverse looks a little like A. Lange & Söhne's Lange 1—thanks to its gothic, Germanic styling and intersecting off-centre dials—but where the Lange 1’s design utilises the whole dial to effortlessly display its functions, the Panoinverse sees features like the power reserve indicator and dials shrunken down and moved out of the way to make room for the watch’s oscillator.

And that’s because this watch has been turned inside out. The beating heart of the watch displayed dial-side. A closer look reveals a level of finishing rare at its price point. A Glashütte-striped three-quarter plate, pelage, screw-mounted gold chatons, applied numerals—made of white gold—and a hand-engraved balance bridge, all of which can observed with a simple glance down at the wrist.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris

This sporty option from the watchmaker’s watchmaker was released in 2018—modelled after the 1968 dual-crown Memovox Polaris—and if you’re looking for a dive watch that’s a little different, then look no further. The watch can be dressed up or down—thanks to its simple but elegantly executed dial and leather strap—but it's the level of finishing here which makes this dive watch one of the most underappreciated.

The steel case is, for the most part, brushed, with small polished additions like the flared bevels of the lugs and the bezel ring; the dial receives not one but three different finishes with applied numerals and cheese wedge markers; and the movement is decorated with Geneva striping on the bridges, blued screws, and a skeletonised rotor-weight, circular-grained, with the JLC logo.

Side note: If you want something even sportier, for an additional £1,550, you can get the Polaris date. A variation of the Polaris with a rubber strap, 200m of water resistance—100 more than the Polaris Automatic seen here—an eye-catching blue or olive-coloured dial, and, as the name would suggest, a date.

Omega Railmaster

Out of the three tool watches Omega released in 1957—the Speedmaster, Seamaster 300 and the Railmaster—the Railmaster never really saw the same level of attention. The Railmaster—like Rolex’s Milgauss—served as an engineer’s watch thanks to its rugged, highly legible build with a high resistance to magnetism, achieved by utilising a soft iron inner case to protect the movement. The introduction of silicon with its anti-magnetic properties has meant that everyday watches now boast high resistance to magnetism, meaning that engineer’s watches like the Railmaster and Milgauss today are about as useful as men’s nipples. Rolex even discontinued the Milgauss last year.

But that isn’t to say the Railmaster isn’t still a great watch to own. It might have served its purpose and has become somewhat obsolete, but isn’t that the case with all mechanical wristwatches? It's still rugged, still highly legible, and its design stands out. It’s just an added bonus that this £4,600, 40mm, stainless steel watch also has a vertically brushed “blue jeans” dial, with a crosshair for +10 accuracy. It’s really is one of the best-looking dials Omega has to offer.

Girard-Perregaux Laureato

Alternatives to popular 70s sports watches like the Royal Oak have been popping up all over the shop. It's a trend in watchmaking that shows no sign of tiring. The Girard-Perregaux Laureato, in my opinion, is one of the best—and unlike many of these alternative watches, it actually hails from the 70s. It’s not the cheapest, with the 42mm blue dial’d version costing some £12,200, but in addition to the octagonal bezel and integrated case design, the Laureato benefits from over 230 years of watchmaking experience, Girard-Perregaux being 84 years older than Audemars Piguet.

So, you’re not just getting a Royal Oak alternative; you’re getting an incredible, quality watch in its own right.

The skeletonised version of the Laureato—seen here—thanks to its open-worked design, allows you to observe the components of the calibre inside, most of which would normally be covered. You can follow the energy as it transfers from the mainspring—visible thanks to a skeletonised barrel—to the balance and escapement, through the various wheels and gears, all the way to the hands. For a Royal Oak that offers the same view, you’re looking at the Double Balance Wheel Openworked, a watch that commands north of £100,000 pre-owned, nearly five times more expensive than this open-worked Laureato.

What do you think is the most underappreciated watch?

Shop pre-owned Cartier watches

Shop pre-owned Glashutte Original watches

Shop pre-owned Jaeger-LeCoultre watches

Shop pre-owned Omega watches

Shop pre-owned Girard-Perregaux watches