Alright, folks. Today let’s discuss ten different brands in general- what’s cool, what’s good value and so on. This should be fun! Let’s start!
While I am not a “Rolex man,” I am definitely a “Rolex fan.” Rolex are hit and miss with their style- they make some hideous things and some gorgeous beauties. But all Rolex have an unparalleled quality. Second to none. And Rolex actually offer exceptional value if you can believe that. You can buy a brand new Rolex Datejust II for under 10 grand and have a world-class movement in a case of unmatched quality. I used to HATE Rolex because of the many unsophisticated yo-yo’s who strut around wearing them. And old geezers wear Rolex, too. I recently said to a friend, ‘Who knew? The old geezers were right all along…’
This brand has a terrible image among watch snobs. I have owned and enjoyed several TAG Heuer watches. I like them, to be honest. I do NOT condone their quartz abominations or their recent involvement in smart’watches’ . But they make some cool mechanical pieces. TAG have, in my mind, the most authentic and successful link to motor racing of all watch brands. Since I love motor racing, I will always have a soft spot for TAG. I wear an Aquaracer Automatic chronograph all the time and it is just superb as a sports watch. What kills TAG is the fact that you can buy one from a clueless sales lady at your corner shopping mall. Their CEO, JC Biver, recently stated that TAG will focus on the $1,000 to $4,000 price range going forward. I guess that means those clueless sales ladies at the mall will have their work cut out for them. One such lady recently demonstrated an automatic model to me. It wasn’t ticking, so she picked it up and shook it like a bottle of orange juice. Uh….. This is what ruins TAG, not their fine collection of automatic racing pieces.
In general, I like this brand a lot. They focus on the $1,000 range and offer superb bang for buck. Their quality can be pretty wonky, though. I had this gorgeous King Pilot and the crown came right off in my wind! No joke! I sent it away for repair and got it within 2 weeks, so the customer service was very good. But still. My pal had a spring break in his Hamilton after about 6 months. So the quality of Hamilton is suspect. But they make cool pieces for a modest price, so you have to forgive some of these quality issues.
The ultimate. Period. Panerai has the coolest and most unusual story that I know of. The whole Italian navy thing, using Rolex movements, being ‘discovered’ by Rambo….it’s pretty cool. Panerai make the most beautiful timepieces on Earth. And they are now making their own movements and fitting them into timepieces that can rival Rolex, IWC or anybody else for quality and workmanship. If you love timepieces and you want to make a statement and wear something unbelievably cool, then you need to acquire a Panerai. And fast.
This brand has a nice, rich history. I think that a lot of their watches are overpriced and not very special. But I think they found their niche when they started introducing all of these ‘heritage’ and retro pieces. I recently named the Longines Legend Diver the ‘coolest watch’ and I have since tried their vintage 1938 and others. Some of these offer gorgeous design and quality for really reasonable prices. I should mention that I own a Legend Diver myself and I actually use it in the pool, ocean, etc. I think every collection could use something like a retro Longines- you get a brand new piece with a modern movement, yet you have an old world style and flavor. Pretty cool.
Bell & Ross
As with Panerai, B&R have a cool story. They often get cast as the poor man’s Panerai. I think that’s unfair because they walk their own path. B&R make some super cool timepieces and I have owned a few. But I never kept them for long. So what does that say? Nevertheless, I still admire B&R pieces.
Patek-Philippe, more than any other watchmaker, is regarded as the ultimate. And quite rightfully so, I must say. In terms of complications, intricate mechanics and highly decorated and embellished movements, Patek is surely the king. But it’s not for me. It’s not for TimeCaptain. I do quite like some Nautilus and Aquanaut models. In general, however, Patek does not speak to me. I don’t care for its dainty, delicate and ornate timepieces made out of gold. I much prefer a robust, solid, simple stainless steel Panerai or Rolex that I can wear every day during typical activities. To be honest, I hate the very old-fashioned design of so many Patek timepieces. Who cares about its precious metal case and fancy movement if it looks awful and can only be worn to weddings? I appreciate the brand and what it stands for and I think Patek’s grail status in most collectors’ minds is well deserved. But this type of timepiece is just not my style.
Watch forums are full of Hublot haters. I am not sure how well-informed some of these guys are. Yes, Hublot is young, having been founded only about 35 years ago. But Hublot was started by former executives of really top watchmakers. There is real watchmaking DNA in Hublot. Yes, they have only been making their own movements for the past few years. But Hublot are doing some very high end stuff today. And what I love about Hublot the most (other than its association with Ferrari) is that Hublot has been pioneering all sorts of new high tech materials. It’s called fusion- combining ceramics and titaniums and carbon fibre to create awesome high tech creatures with wicked mechanical movements. Many people despise the outlandish style of many Hublot pieces and label them as Russian gangster style. What can I say? Style is something very personal and no one can criticize what you like. But to those people, I say look at the Classic Fusion 45mm hand-wound. What an elegant beauty with an appropriate hand-wound in-house movement! Hublot? I’d wear one.
Awwww yyyyyeah! Yeah, baby! Now THIS brand is for me- especially since their association with Mercedes’ F1 team. IWC have a long, rich history of watchmaking. They make some really masculine tool watches, which is my kind of thing. I dig so many of their models – the Big Pilot and the Ingenieur F1 in particular. I would love to own an IWC one day…and you know I’d blog about it!
Omega made one key error, as far as I’m concerned, that ruined them for me. Price. I think Omega watches are awesome- rugged, well-made, sporty and with high end movements. Their co-axial movement was a major watchmaking milestone. Their racing chronographs are classic and the Dark Side of the Moon is one of my all-time favorite watches. In fact, it’s one of my all-time favorite man-made creations. But, dude! Go look at the current price list. It’s out of whack. I think the new Seamaster 300 is about 8 grand in stainless steel. It’s a nice watch, but I’d go for a Rolex or Panerai at that price. The DSOTM is over 12 grand!!!!! I mean, I would love a DSOTM, but 12 grand would get me into something from JLC, Rolex or perhaps a 47mm Panerai. Believe me- I take nothing away from Omega watches, like the Planet Ocean. But at the current price of each Omega model, I could find something more appealing and more prestigious from another house. Omega’s price increases annoyed me because I feel as though they tried to elevate their status simply by raising prices. The Seamaster Professional 300 (I actually owned the pre co-axial model) now retails above 4 grand, I believe. It’s an OK piece, but I don’t see 4 grand in it.
These are just my opinions and what do I know, right? The interesting thing will be to re-visit this blog in 1 year and see if my thoughts have changed. I am pretty sure they will! I used to HATE Rolex and Breitling and now I really enjoy their timepieces. But today, this is my take on things. If you need to improve your cool factor, buy a Panerai. If you want to enjoy supreme quality, get a Rolex. If you want to enter the mechanical watch world on a budget, look for a Hamilton. If you want a racing chronograph to wear to the Grand Prix, ask that clueless sales lady at the mall for a deal on a TAG. If you’re turning 95, get a Patek. If you drive a Ferrari, you need an Hublot. If you’re feeling nostalgic, go for a Longines. If you want to prove your manhood, strap on an IWC. If you want to be James Bond with no consideration for value, there is an Omega with your name on it. And if you like the WWII aviation vibe, look for a B&R instrument piece. As always, the fun is in the search…