Believe it or not (some of us in Europe still don’t believe in it… US seem better though) but summer is coming. For this reason, you’ll soon have to decide what watch to bring in your luggage for holidays (as you probably won’t bring your entire collection). Tough time, probably as difficult for you than it is difficult for your wife to decide what pair of shoes to bring. An easy solution could be a dive watch but another one, that will probably be even better, is the sports-chic watch, one that is like a SUV – capable of an evening at the club, a nice seaside restaurant moment, a bit of yachting, some relaxing time at the pool… and always with style. Here is our buying guide for the best summer sports-chic watches.
Rules of the selection: Price is not a criteria here, just a way to order the watches. A sports-chic watch has to be suitable in every possible situation during summer – and even during winter times, but this is not the point here. You have to be able to wear it at work on a Friday, before jumping in your car to ride to your weekend house, enjoying some relaxing time. Meaning, you’ll travel with one watch and the timepiece you have on your wrist must be good everywhere, every time and towards everybody. It has to be elegant, but also robust and clean, waterproof (enough to jump in the pool), and not too large to be wearable with a summer suit or a linen shirt.
Our watches all share a stainless steel case and bracelet (if possible integrated to the case, as being somehow a rule for luxury sports watches), some reasonable proportions (between 36mm and 41mm), rather slim cases (without any functional bezel or second crown…) and with automatic movements (always convenient) with clean displays (nothing more than time and date). We have 8 watches, some iconic, some new, but all are for sure keepers that will look good now, tomorrow, anywhere and for the coming decades.
Tudor Heritage Black Bay 36
The youngest and smallest of our selection, the Baby Black Bay. Small by the size of its case but huge in terms of pleasure and aura. This Tudor Heritage Black Bay 36 (review here) has it all: a back-to-basics 36mm case, fully brushed, a super-clean glossy black dial, an over-the-par quality of construction, a reliable automatic movement… Add to that the vintage appeal of the Heritage collection by Tudor (the oversized crown, the “snow-flake” hands or the beveled lugs) and you obtain a winner. This watch is a pleasure on the wrist, with its smaller case that reminds of the 1960s – and that brings back something you probably forget: making the strap or the bracelet visible. It might a detail but this makes a world of difference. One main issue though, your girlfriend or wife will definitely try to steal it from you. But at 2,670 Euros, you can make this effort. Tudorwatch.com
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 ref. 114300
This is certainly one of the simplest recent Rolex creations, a watch that some looked at a bit insipid at first. But don’t get it wrong, this Oyster Perpetual 39 has a great appeal and it is more lively than you’d expect. First, it is a Rolex. Well, it means a lot: superb quality, indestructible and super-precise movement (with the new Superlative Chronometer certification, you’ll have a -2/+2 rating), immense aura but not too visible on the wrist (like a Submariner can be) and the benefits of the new style of Rolex, thinner and more tapered. The 39mm case is perfectly proportioned, the lugs are thin, the comfort is perfect. Rolex even went a “bit crazy” with this watch (relatively speaking of course, to Rolex standards) by having colorful dials: this grey option with bright blue indexes, a vivid blue with green indexes and an unexpected red grape with red indexes version – which looks great in the metal. All of that can be yours (and for the 20 years to come… easily) for 5,200 Euros (making it the entry-level Rolex). Rolex.com.
IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40mm
The IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40mm has everything of the sports-luxury watches, with a much more accessible price than its 1970s competitors. Indeed, this watch was part of the gang that started it all, a handful of watches that created a concept: steel watches as luxurious as the traditional, dress gold watches. It has the bold bezel, the integrated bracelet, the clean dial and mainly, the DNA of its ancestor, the Ingenieur Jumbo SL designed by Gerald Genta in 1976. Of course, the watch has been modernized and dozens of editions (with large cases, complications, vivid colors) have been launched since. However, this entry-level and simplest edition of the Ingenieur is the one to have. Perfect on the beach, perfect in a diner, perfect with a suit. The case is 40mm (that’s small for an IWC) and the movement automatic. It exists in black or in blue (the latter being a special edition for Laureus Foundation). Price: 6,150 Euros. IWC.com.
Omega Globemaster Master Chronometer
This is the one for proper tech guys, with its highly innovative antimagnetic, METAS certified movement. It could even resist to magnetic resonance imaging or a visit into the entrails or the CERN. That’s probably not what you expect for your holiday-trip, but who knows, waxing your surfboard could create a magnetic field… and this Omega Globemaster will definitely resist to it. This watch was the first Omega to bear the “Master Chronometer” certification and it re-introduces a vintage-inspired look, with its fluted bezel, pan-pie dial and integrated lugs. In this combination of blue dial with stainless steel bracelet, it even gains a sporty look, being easily wearable for a seaside ride. The Globemaster is a true success, it’s definitely elegant and well proportioned (39mm), finishing of the case is perfect and movement is certainly one of the most innovative on the market. A concept watch that is priced as an Omega should be, 6,400 Euros. Omegawatches.com.
Girard-Perregaux Laureato 225th Anniversary
The unexpected one… Probably only a few of you do remember the original Laureato from 1975, a bold and interesting luxury sports-watch (yes, even before IWC, Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin). The main reason why it almost felt into oblivion was probably its quartz-driven movement, innovative and hype at that time, but not so desirable for actual collectors. However, celebrating its 225th anniversary, Girard-Perregaux reintroduced this year the Laureato, with a watch clearly reminiscent of the very first edition – same integrated bracelet, same octagonal bezel, same “clou de Paris” dial – but with their own, modern automatic movement. The result is a very cool watch, with a bold look but still easily wearable (41mm case, rather slim, silver dial option makes it understated…), and that is rather different from the usual dress and complicated creations from the brand. You’ll have to be fast, as it is limited to 225 pieces. Price: 14,700 Euros – now we enter the real luxury-sports watch concept. Girard-perregaux.com.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Automatic 4500V
This was certainly one of the SIHH 2016 main blasts! We always had a some respect for Vacheron Constantin – in the end, they have the most complicated watch ever made – but something was to be noticed: their sports-luxury watch, the Overseas, was not on par with the competition anymore… until 2016 and the new Overseas. And now, we can talk! A superb design, a case made with an extreme attention to details, a bracelet that is simply perfect (and easily interchangeable with rubber or leather), an in-house movement with Hallmark of Geneva, a perfect combination of the spirit of the old maison with sportive approach. It has to be said, Vacheron now has the right weapons to go back on the battlefield. The entire watch is a success. And if this one is not luxurious enough for you, take a look at the dream-version, the Ultra-thin 2000V (unfortunately only in white gold). The price is according to the content: 21,500 Euros. Vacheron-constantin.com.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin 15202st
The one and only, the one that started it all, the definitive icon – and THE version you should look at – the well appointed Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin 15202st, true successor of the “Jumbo”. This watch, designed in 1972 by Geral Genta, defined the concept for luxury sports-watches: a shaped case, an integrated bracelet, flat brushed surfaces alternating with polished bevels, a game of textures on the dial, a simple display and a thin automatic movement that would look nice even in the most precious watch of the collection. This Extra-Thin 15202st is smaller (39mm), thinner (8.10mm) – in fact it respects all the codes of the original – and it even features the same movement as the first edition, the ultra-thin calibre 2121, making it super elegant on the wrist, and not too visible, even with its strong style. Not accessible and rather difficult to find, but 22,400 Euros that you won’t regret. Audemarspiguet.com.
Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 5711
Last but not least, the other icon: the Patek Philippe Nautilus, again a watch from the past, with modern details – but still the same desirability and the ultra-luxurious appeal of the 175 years old manufacture. Existing in multiple editions, with chronograph, annual calendar or diamonds, the simplest of them all, the 5711, is certainly the best definition of a sports-chic, luxury-sports, classy-allrounder watch. This will definitely look good all the time. The design is retro-futurostic, the movement is superb, the dial has incredible reflections, the overall quality of the case and bracelet, even in steel, is what you can expect from a name like Patek. Like its main competitor, the Royal Oak, it’s definitely not an accessible watch (both in terms of price and availability) but the quest will be rewarded, as this is one of the best casual watch you can imagine. Price: 22,530 Euros. Patek.com.
We’ll continue with these “Summer is Coming” buying guides next week, with other selections that you’ll certainly enjoy. Stay tuned.