A fine timepiece is a true gentleman's accessory; a man should own at least one classic that will never go out of style. Sorting through all that's available is a daunting task, though. The first problem is size. Some modern offerings can double as hubcaps, while some vintage pieces are tinier than a woman's watch nowadays. There is a happy medium between 36 and 42 mm. What works for you depends on your wrist size and preference. Another issue is value: what are you really getting for your money? How do you compare watches? Questions like these are why this column exists. We're here to offer opinions and advice with a dash of insider information to the chronometer aficionado and novice alike. To start, here are a few suggestions.
If you're in the market for a dress watch, the Piaget Altiplano fits the bill. It's thin enough to slide under a shirt cuff and blends with a suit and tie or business casual. A variety of case metals and dial choices are available, and it comes in either 38 or 40 mm diameter.
The Altiplano can trace its lineage back to 1957 with the release of Piaget's manual-winding caliber 9P. At the time, this was the thinnest movement yet made and set the gold standard. Piaget followed it up in 1960 with their self-winding caliber 12P. Variations of both movements are still used in the brand's current offerings. The Altiplano has retained a classic air with a twist of contemporary style. A bonus: you won't see this watch on the wrist of every other guy at the office. Also worthy of consideration is the Girard-Perregaux 1966 series, for many of the same reasons we've chosen the Altiplano.
How about a sportier watch? The Rolex Submariner has been in production in various incarnations since 1953. It's one of the most iconic and imitated watches, for good reason: Rolex has a great reputation for making a rugged watch which holds its value.
While I don't recommend wearing a dive watch with a suit, a Sub mixes easily with business casual attire. It's an awesome weekend watch that can handle actual diving as well as desk diving. There are plenty of case metal, bezel color and dial options to select from, plus it's available with or without a date window. The Sub is only offered in a 40 mm case, but Rolex does offer a larger watch with a similar look called the Deep Sea. When you want the world to know you've made it, very few things say it better than a Rolex. If Rolex isn't your cup of tea, check out the Omega Seamaster line, particularly the Planet Ocean models.
If you truly have a taste for the classics, vintage is right up your alley. The ’50s and ’60s were the golden age of watchmaking, and International Watch Company (IWC) was one of the top names. Besides being a fantastic watch, most models are only starting to get the recognition they deserve, so bargains are out there. IWC manufactured the venerable Calibre 89 for more than four decades. It's justifiably known as "the working man's Patek Philippe" because of its combination of durability and refinement. IWC's automatic calibers are world class as well and have influenced the design of several other brands’ automatic winding systems.
Different case metals, styles and sizes exist, with a couple dial variations. Vintage watches aren't like their modern counterparts, though — you need to do a little homework or know a respected dealer to get a correct and authentic piece. The extra research is worth it when you know you own something that the average Joe can't get by just plunking down his credit card at the local jeweler.