The Classics

Classics are considered classics for a reason. If a design looked good 40 or 50 years ago, and still looks good today – chances are it’ll look good 20 years from now. Watches are likely to be the most expensive item in your wardrobe, and something that you’ll want to cherish for many years to come. Here are four classics that’ll never go out of style.

Rolex Datejust

SINCE 1945

It may be hard to imagine, but there was a time when watches had to make do with just three hands: one for the hours, one for the minutes and one for the seconds. Launched to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Rolex, the Datejust was the world’s first watch to also display the date with a changing date window that moved automatically. It’s an innovation that we take for granted today, but, in 1945, it was a truly revolutionary new concept in watchmaking. Later models housed the date window underneath a distinctive “cyclops” magnifying glass. The accompanying Jubilee bracelet of the Datejust is integral to the pleasure of wearing the watch. The links and clasp are perfectly proportioned for maximum functionality and enduring aesthetic appeal. Together, they make the timeless classic that is the Rolex Datejust.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

since 1972

How discordant and oddly futuristic the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak – designed by the great Gérald Genta – must have seemed when it launched in 1972. Most luxury watches had previously been round, slim and gold, and worn on an interchangeable strap. The stainless-steel links of the Royal Oak and its stainless-steel octagonal case were conceived of as one piece – a single bracelet. Equally revolutionary were the angular lines of the bezel, which featured utilitarian screw heads that were proudly displayed – a design detail inspired by deep-sea diving helmets. As happy on the back of a yacht as it is at a black-tie dinner, the Royal Oak, despite its peculiar design, manages to be both functionally sporty and classically elegant: an icon of 1970s design.

Omega Speedmaster

since 1957

What’s a watch for if not to mark life’s momentous events? And what could be more momentous than the moon landing, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year? In what must rank as one of the greatest pieces of product placement of all time, the Omega Speedmaster was on the wrists of Buzz Aldrin and the other Apollo 11 astronauts as mankind took its first steps on the moon. The first, pre-moon-landing Speedmaster was released in 1957 and was conceived of as a racing and sports chronograph to complement Omega’s status as the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games. What later took the Speedmaster to the moon and back was its robust 321 movement, which was strong enough to withstand NASA stress tests. Its simple black dial has also stood the test of time and now looks as elegant as ever.

Panerai LUMINOR 

since 1950

“Form follows function” according to the Bauhaus maxim. And so it is with Panerai, a watch whose military function is predicated on it looking as tough as a hockey puck with a big open face that lets the wearer see the dial easily when carrying out dangerous tasks underwater. Founded in Florence in 1836, Officine Panerai first designed its Radiomir model for the Royal Italian Navy in 1936, and was then responsible for manufacturing the watches worn by frogmen in the elite Decima Flottiglia MAS unit during the Second World War. In 1949, Panerai replaced the radium-based material from which the Radiomir got its name with the safer substance Luminor. This titanium-based material would inspire the Luminor model with its iconic stainless-steel device that protects the crown.