Watches

Classic Watches for Men: 12 Time-Honored Timepieces

Back when smartphones became ubiquitous, there were many forward-facing pundits who boldly predicted the end of the classic wristwatch. After all, what use would we have for mechanical time-telling devices now that we all carry around smartphones and receive constant texts, notifications, and real-time world news updates? 

Clearly, these prognosticators underestimated a fine watch’s appeal. After all, fine wristwatches are beautiful accessories and models of expert craftsmanship – not just devices to tell time. In this article, we provide an overview of the best classic watches that embody what it is that makes a watch timeless (see what we did there?) — style, function, and wearability. 

Table of Contents

Rolex Submariner

You likely don’t need an introduction to Rolex, but here is a quick one anyway: Rolex is a world-famous Swiss watch brand that has been in operation since 1905. To this day, Rolex watches are made in-house in Switzerland. More than 2,000 people are involved in the production of the watch’s movements alone, but Rolex is no stranger to complications — the company happens to own over 500 unique patents.

The Rolex Submariner line is one of the world’s most known varieties of waterproof watches and is considered part of Rolex’s “Oyster Perpetual” models – a name given to watches that are direct products of the original Oyster watch, which was released in 1926 and was the world’s first waterproof watch. 

Despite its undeniable functionality — this model is water-resistant up to an impressive 1,000 feet and features a luminescent display that is designed for dark environments — the point still stands that the Submariner is a Rolex, which means that it is in itself a fashion statement. The watch offers a tasteful 41 mm case that is held together by an ergonomic, proprietary bracelet that looks wonderful on a wrist. 

Tag Heuer Monaco

While the TAG Heuer name may be less common than Rolex in the average household, it’s a name that rings familiar in the mind of any wristwatch enthusiast. With over 150 years of watchmaking experience, the Swiss-based Tag Heuer offers several classic watches for men. For this article, though, we will be focusing on the “Monaco” line.

If you do not know the TAG Heuer Monaco by its name, chances are you would recognize it immediately upon sight. The watch uniquely features a square face, a detail that raised some eyebrows when it was first introduced in 1969. However, over the years the eyebrows have flattened and now sit relaxed among the most fervent of watch traditionalists, who accept the TAG Heuer Monaco as a stylish alternative to a round watch face.

From a fashion standpoint, the TAG Heuer Monaco is unparalleled as well. With this particular watch, it’s all about the little details. In fact, you don’t have to look far to see that these watchmakers were paying attention — on some Monaco editions, the crown is unusually but purposefully positioned at 9 o’clock, a decision that was made to emphasize that the watch did not have to be wound, a common routine task for other watches at the time the Monaco was released. 

Tissot Tradition Perpetual Calendar

Tissot is a famous maker of luxury Swiss watches who is best known for releasing the world’s first pocket watch model back in 1853, although the company also had several other innovations. Notably, they are the first watchmakers on record to have made watches out of unsuspecting materials such as mother of pearl, wood, stone (more specifically, granite), and plastic. 

Classically styled and made in Switzerland, the Tissot Tradition Perpetual Calendar watch combines the best of Old World watch mastery and modern stylistic details. Crafted with a case made of stainless steel and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, the watch features a Swiss quartz movement and, of course, a perpetual calendar in its interior.

In watches, a perpetual calendar is a good thing to have, as it allows your watch to continuously (or “perpetually”) keep track of the time of the day, regardless of leap year status, day length, or time changes. 

Omega Speedmaster

The Omega Speedmaster is the opus of Swiss luxury watchmakers Omega. While Omega may be most famous for being the trusted timekeeping device of army regiments from the UK and US — as well as the first watch to be used on the moon — they continue to make reliable and stylish classic watches for men. 

Keeping with the company’s reputation for precision, the Speedmaster line is a type of chronograph wristwatch that is available in both an analog-digital and automatic model. A chronograph is a type of watch that keeps time usually by way of a built-in stopwatch.

The look of a chronograph may have been radical upon its release in the 1950s, but it’s a model that looks comfortably classic today, making it a no-brainer option for anyone looking for an everyday watch with style. 

Breitling Navitimer

We would be remiss to put together a list of classic watches without throwing a nod to the Breitling Navitimer. Another classic Swiss company, Breitling has been releasing masterfully-made watches since the 19th century. 

The Navitimer is larger than its counterparts, with a 46 mm face. The extra few millimeters result in a more prominent look on the wrist, as well as improved readability. To add to this model’s unique look, it is found in a number of colors that are relatively unique in the luxury watch world, such as steel and gold, red gold, and regular steel. 

Patek Philippe Calatrava

Anyone familiar with the Patek Philippe name knows that this ancient watchmaker company is synonymous with complicated movements. However, no matter the kind of intricacies that are available within the watch, there is no denying that what is presented on the outside reflects a sleek, elegant, and simply beautiful design.

The Patek Philippe Calatrava in particular may be the world’s most famous round wristwatch collection. Available in a variety of materials and colors, some of which are limited edition, the Calatrava appeals to watch purists who may want to adapt to a more modern and slightly sporty style in a way that is more subdued and understated. 

Longines Conquest Classic

Although Longines had been a name in the Swiss watch world since the 1800s, it was in 1954 that the brand launched its Conquest collection. In the early 1980s, the Conquest collection was updated to include a state-of-the-art kind of quartz movement that has the ability to adapt to variations in temperature.

Today, the Conquest classic remains exactly that: a classic among classic watches. However, due to the timeless nature of its simple handcrafted appearance, the watch carries along with it a surprising contemporary vibe that makes it an exquisite addition to any wardrobe. 

Close-up of Casio G-Shock Watch

Casio G-Shock

And now for something different! The Casio G-Shock is made by the famous Japanese electronics company Casio. First released in 1983, it’s no surprise that this model brought with it amazing technological advances, considering the fact that Casio had already made a name for itself through innovative products such including calculators, cameras, and even musical instruments.

G-Shock, of course, stands for “gravitational shock,” and more specifically refers to the ways in which this watch was designed to resist harsh falls. At the time of its invention, it was not uncommon for a watch to break upon impact if it were accidentally dropped or knocked off a table.

Originally, the G-Shock was designed with ten layers of protection over their timekeeping quartz, although Casio is constantly updating their models to improve battery life and durability. Although these durable watches are inevitably beloved by professionals such as firefighters or medical staff whose jobs feature a strong physical element, they are also popular among those with more sedentary lifestyles due to the watch’s trendy look. 

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak has been around since 1972, but the watch remains just as iconic as it was at the time of its unveiling. Much like other watches mentioned on this list are well-known for their square or round shapes, the Audemars Piguet Royal has paved its own path with its octagonal face.

Aside from its appealing geometry, the watch also features a unique dial background that has even inspired matching cufflinks. This design, which is traditionally blue in hue, is known colloquially among watch enthusiasts as the “petite tapisserie, or “small tapestry”. 

Bvlgari Octo Finissimo

The Italian luxury fashion brand Bvlgari may be known for more than just its watches, but there is no denying that the company’s stunning Octo Finissimo deserves a space on this list. The watch, encased in titanium and powered by precise mechanical movements, features an octagonal design that was inspired by ancient Roman basilicas. 

The Octo Finissimo is known for doing the impossible by pairing precision and functionality with a petit interface and an unbelievably thin measurement of only 5.15 mm. While some classic watch models feature a maximalist design, the Octo Finissimo is a great alternative for anyone with a smaller wrist size or who just prefers a smaller watch design.  

Cartier Santos

The Cartier Santos, or Santos de Cartier, positions itself as a bold design, and one glance at the watch’s exterior confirms this proclamation. Leave it to Cartier, one of the world’s foremost luxury accessory crafters, to construct a watch that both offers a window into the future of fashion as well as a tasteful homage to the past.

The “Santos” name carries some serious weight in the watch world. After all, most experts agree that a Santos watch was the first to be designed for use on the wrist (remember, as recently as the 20th century, it was much more common for individuals to carry the time around in the form of a pocket watch). The name Santos comes from a Brazilian pilot by the name of Alberto Santos-Dumont, for whom Louis Cartier designed the first Santos watch.

The Santos model has been reinvented by Cartier many times over the past century, though the subsequent models have all stayed somewhat true to the watch’s inception. The most definitive characteristics of a Santos include a square-ish shape, a slim case, and a classic, no-nonsense dial. The bracelet, which might be the most notable part of a Santos, is an unabashed stainless steel that bridges the gap between extravagant and practical. 

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master

The Cartier Santos, or Santos de Cartier, positions itself as a bold design, and one glance at the watch’s exterior confirms this proclamation. Leave it to Cartier, one of the world’s foremost luxury accessory crafters, to construct a watch that both offers a window into the future of fashion as well as a tasteful homage to the past.

The “Santos” name carries some serious weight in the watch world. After all, most experts agree that a Santos watch was the first to be designed for use on the wrist (remember, as recently as the 20th century, it was much more common for individuals to carry the time around in the form of a pocket watch). The name Santos comes from a Brazilian pilot by the name of Alberto Santos-Dumont, for whom Louis Cartier designed the first Santos watch.

The Santos model has been reinvented by Cartier many times over the past century, though the subsequent models have all stayed somewhat true to the watch’s inception. The most definitive characteristics of a Santos include a square-ish shape, a slim case, and a classic, no-nonsense dial. The bracelet, which might be the most notable part of a Santos, is an unabashed stainless steel that bridges the gap between extravagant and practical. 

FAQs

While it may be tempting to gravitate towards the watch that you prefer the look of, is this really the best way to go about collecting classic watches? According to many experts, the answer is actually yes. While you could pour over data trying to determine which watch will hold the most value in the future, it’s best that you start your collection by purchasing a watch that you actually enjoy, so you can enjoy wearing it in the meantime. 

It’s right there in their name — no! Many classic watches have been on the market for half a century if not longer, and if this is any indication of their popularity, we don’t see them going out of style anytime soon. One of the definitive characteristics of a watch is that it comes from a simple, ageless style as opposed to one that is fleeting and trendy. 

Classic watches can be a good investment, though many collectors warn that prospective buyers should not weigh the importance of this above the importance of finding a watch that the buyer likes. However, it’s worth noting that many Rolex watches of a vintage variety have convincingly held increasing value over the years.

You Might Also Like: