Feature: 10 one-watch collections
Do you ever wonder, if you just sold it all, stretched to the absolute max and got one watch, what it would be and if you’d be happy with it? Me too! And I’m about to do it out loud, right in front of you! The last one I don’t think you’re going to like…
Armin Strom Gravity Equal Force
It’s straight off the beaten track we go for our first one-watch collection, to the little Swiss manufacturer Armin Strom. I say little because the building is cute and small, but within it lies virtually the entire capability to make a watch. Thanks to some shrewd investment in cut-price machinery during COVID, Armin Strom has an unbelievable setup, for complete end-to-end watchmaking. The Armin Strom Gravity Equal Force is an example of how that benefits you, packing extremely high-level watchmaking—including world class hand finishing, check out the bevels—into a watch that costs just £16,000. Now that’s a lot of money, but for a low-volume, high-end watch with a unique constant force transmission, it’s actually remarkable value.
A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus
It would be foolish to leave stainless-steel sports watch cash just lying there on the table, and the good people at A. Lange & Söhne are no fools. But instead of drawing an octagon and taking the afternoon off, they went at it the A. Lange & Söhne way. That is to say, this thing is bananas. The whole genre of luxury sports watches is dominated by the idea of superficial simplicity, a basic watch with complex looks. The Odysseus flips that on its head and makes a very complicated piece of watchmaking look very simple. There’s a big date and day either side, with no immediately apparent way to quickset them. That’s because the crown guards double up as pushers to do the job discreetly and—when you feel the solid click—very satisfyingly. And I should hope so too for £25,000—more than twice that in titanium!
Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Dual Time
Looking for an Audemars Piguet, a complicated one, in gold, for around the price of a Daytona? Sounds like a scam, but it’s absolutely true. This is proper “condense the collection and go it alone” territory. I’m talking about the Jules Audemars Dual Time, a watch from before the time Audemars Piguet started harvesting from its magic oak tree. There’s a date, power reserve and dual time with day/night indicator tucked into very classical 41mm gold case that feels like the kind of watch you could very easily settle down with forever. It’s not the most exciting but it’ll outlast any trends, and is stunning to boot. You won’t find more for less with a big three name on it.
H. Moser & Cie. Pioneer Centre Seconds
The darling child of modern watchmaking, H. Moser can seemingly do no wrong. If you’re sick of the status quo and want a watch with guts, there are much worse places to look than an H. Moser Pioneer Centre Seconds. Available in a range of poppin’ colours, it simultaneously looks very familiar and yet very different, thanks to a sculpted case, unusual hands and the calibre HMC 200 movement. It’s got all the quality you’d expect from the old guard like Patek Philippe but minus the pipe and slippers. It’s crisp and fresh, free of the stuffiness we’ve come to expect of watch collecting. These are the guys that made a watch out of cheese after all!
IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar 42
IWC aren’t exactly known for their subtle approach to watchmaking. The Big Pilot is to delicacy what The Prodigy is to a cosy Sunday afternoon indoors. But whilst the Portuguese also measures up at a sizeable diameter, it’s somehow managed to bypass the rest of the collection as a watch that oozes class. If you think it looks like a classic pocket watch, that’s because it’s based on a classic pocket watch, the original a wearable version of the marine chronometer produced by IWC at the time. Here it comes with a perpetual calendar complication too, which as an only watch candidate, packs a lot of clout. Gorgeous looks, industrious heritage and a top tier function? Could be the one.
Rolex Explorer II
It is big, yes, but the Explorer II is also a master of many trades. There are few watches left in the Rolex collection that haven’t been polished to within an inch of their lives, and that makes the Explorer II a rare selection that really can do it all. At 42mm it’s not small, but it’s still very wearable thanks the copious amounts of brushed finishing on the case and bracelet. The pop of colour in the GMT hand stops it from fading into boring obscurity. Whether you choose a white or a black dial, it’s going to balance class and practicality in exactly the way a one-watch collection should. You can snap this one to your wrist and not take it off again until your dying breath. And one advantage is that of all the Rolex watches, this one isn’t so crazy on the resale, so getting one—once you’ve sold off your collection—should be a bit easier.
Vacheron Constantin Cornes de Vache
If you’re holding out for a classic chronograph, then I’ve got just the thing. It may not be a daily wear so you might have to go some days with a naked wrist, but the days this watch does get worn are going to be very special. It’s the £45,000 Vacheron Constantin Cornes de Vache, and it’s a love letter to the incredible chronograph watches of the 1950s. Those watches used Lemania calibres back then and this still does today. You might think that’s a cop out, but when you see the efforts Vacheron Constantin has gone through to bring it to the standards of a top three brand, you’ll understand. The entire watch is a masterful work of unbelievable quality, and also restraint, avoiding the mess of modernisation some vintage reissues are plagued by. There are notably worse ways to tell the time!
Credor Eichi II
Okay, so this one’s a commitment at £50,000, but if you’re looking for a watch that really is endgame, this is it. Oddly, it’s neither Swiss nor mechanical, but please don’t let that put you off. This is the Credor Eichi II, the Seiko group’s most luxurious brand expressed in the most luxurious way. At first glance the Eichi II is very simple and perhaps almost disappointing, but it’s in the details that it really—and literally—shines. For the dial, fashioned in white porcelain, the markers aren’t printed, but painted, by hand. It’s unnecessary but hugely impressive as a celebration of the ultimate in human artistic ability. And the movement, the Spring Drive 7R14, has polished bevels so deeply shiny and so impossibly thick that they make a Patek Philippe look a Friday afternoon job. It’s the ultimate in-the-know watch, and to be honest, the rest of the collection would be disappointing by comparison even if you could keep it.
Breguet Tradition 7027
If you want to keep it Swiss and want something a bit more in your face, then how about the Breguet Tradition 7027. These are inspired by the souscription pieces made by the man himself, styled in the classic French way of making pocket watches. Only this is a wristwatch, and the movement, rather than being tucked into the back, is out on show up front. This watch is honestly one of the forgotten masterpieces of the industry, hiding in the shadow of the big three. But that’s to your advantage, because not only is it a historically legendary watch to have as a single piece, it’s also woefully bad on residuals. That means you can grab one for around the same price as a Rolex Daytona, which pales in comparison to this. If you like watchmaking and want to put the lot on an example that best represents that, this is it.
Richard Mille RM 033
Not every collector is a celebrator of watchmaking history, so what if you’re looking for something that combines classic slimline watchmaking with something a bit more modern? Whilst the Richard Mille RM 033 may be a broad 45.7mm across, the micro rotor movement shrinks the height right down to just 6.3mm, making it one the most wearable Richard Milles out there. A curved profile increases comfort and a skeletonised dial makes one hundred percent sure everyone knows it’s a Richard Mille, even if it does lack the classic tonneau case. You’ll still need a pretty impressive collection to consolidate for this one though, with it changing hands at over £80,000.
If you had the chance to boil it all down into one, first, would you, and second, what would you do it for?