With economic turbulence the world over, the year gone by has been equally hard on individuals, businesses, and economies alike and is yet to fully stabilise and settle down. Two things that the past year threw light on is that time is of the essence. The second is a redefinition on what can be deemed a value proposition with return on investment.
Think rational luxury. In that vein, Fortune India picked seven watches to stand the test of time. The ones that made the cut may not be the most expensive, nor the most complicated, but will deliver on the back of solid engineering and movements. If time they say is money, then the most enduring watches, as auction history has shown, never started out being high-priced.
(Price: ₹27 lakh, approximately)
How do you define a classic? Some say it’s a watch that never goes out of style. Others will say it’s something that is always in fashion. Breguet’s latest Classique 7137 then has sophisticated simplicity for dress watches. With its blue dial, 18-carat gold engine, turned by hand components, and classic Breguet hands, the caliber 502.3 DR1 movement is extra-thin and decorated with Côtes de Genève. Attached to a blue alligator leather belt with white gold folding buckle, this one is for decision-makers in their smoking jackets who recline in heavily wooded libraries as they plan the next billion dollar business play.
(Price: ₹10.44 Lakh)
The International Watch Company’s Le Petit Prince version of its Big Pilot features a week-long power reserve, fuelled by the in-house 52110 calibre movement, and special inner casing that is anti-magnetic. With a 46-mm dial in deep blue, the watch doffs its hat to writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s most famous literary work and has an engraving on the rear of the little prince with his cape and sword. With its signature outsized onion-shaped crown and pedigreed lineage, the Big Pilot easily stands out as a timepiece with heritage, quality, and a story to boot.
(Price: ₹15 Lakh)
Hublot’s creation of a gold watch on a rubber strap in 1980 pushed the envelope. It rewrote the rules as it defined what it considered the pillars were for fine watch-making. With its new Big Bang Integral, Hublot uses an integrated steel bracelet for the first time. Other typical Hublot elements remain the same. It’s dial has lost the Arabic numerals and instead uses simple markers that draw the eyes to the technical pieces that the open worked dial shows, such as the column wheel of the HUB1280 movement.
(Price: ₹16.26 Lakh)
The Royal Oak with its Gerald Genta design has already achieved cult status with the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger having both worn and endorsed it. It’s no secret that the Asian wrist is smaller than that of their American and European counterparts and hence the RO 34 mm sits well in that context. The watch is powered by the in-house calibre 5800 that allows it to be just 8.8 mm thick and offers water resistance up to 50 metres. Bridges, plates, and engraved gold rotor are all high-gloss and the 34 mm is easily wearable by either gender.
(Price: ₹5.53 Lakh)
Panerai built its fan following thanks to simple divers popularised by Italian frogmen, then later Hollywood stars like Sylvester Stallone and his pals. Expectedly, demand has skyrocketed in part due to value-for-money prices combined with high quality materials, straps, dials, and movements. The new Luminor Marina with a blue dial is not only good looking but it also has an automatic movement that is just 6 mm thick, with a three-day power reserve. Don’t for a second think that Panerai is diluting its diving heritage. The new Luminor is water resistant up to 300 metres.
(Price: ₹7.22 Lakh)
The new Zenith El Primero chrono isn’t just an ode to the original—the first automatic chronograph issued in 1969 when the company was known as Zenith-Movado. It goes a step further by reinventing the watch to include a unique “ladder” bracelet that is as retro as the case. The white-dialled chrono features a 50-hour power reserve and a striking-red second hand. The tonneau-shaped case with its funky design cues evoke bygone eras. It also has practical features other legendary chronos don’t, such as date and automatic movement.
(Price: ₹3.85 Lakh)
The introduction last year of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual series with lacquered dials in colours including Coral Red and Tiffany Turquoise got the attention of die-hard collectors. First, the watches are a throwback to the famed colourful Stella dials of yesteryear. The second is its brand new calibre 3230 movement, 72-hour power reserve, and pricing that is on a par or even less than models by Breitling, Panerai, Cartier, and Omega. The challenge: Finding a store which hasn’t run out of inventory, and deciding which colour is for you.
(This story originally appeared in Fortune India's February 2021 issue).