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Feature: 10 amazing watches everyone forgets

The internet is awash with so many great watches that get all the attention, and perhaps it’s about time to pull some of the lesser known, but still great choices out of the shadows. So here’s ten fantastic watches we’ve probably forgotten.

Baltic MR01

It was incredibly hot at launch, back when you couldn’t get one—or indeed anything—but now the Baltic MR01 is readily available, I just don’t see people talking about them anymore. The recipe is still the same, a slender 9.9mm-thick case 36mm across, set with a sumptuously three-dimensional dial with asymmetric sub-seconds and a choice of four colours. New to the fold alongside silver, blue and salmon is black, this time in a gold PVD’d case.

It’s a very pretty and unassuming thing, wearing its quality in the detail. The dial texture is mottled, with the numbers raised and the hands curved. The chapter ring and seconds sub-dial pop with a different finish, and even though the whole thing is unusually small, it feels no less prestigious. People are understandably cautious about the size, but it wears so well and looks so good it really doesn’t matter.

The slender size is down to the mildly controversial Chinese micro-rotor movement. Finishing is far from the best, and it makes a bit more noise than is preferable—but show me another micro-rotor watch for anywhere near close to the €545 asking price and, fair enough, I’ll hold my hands up. Otherwise, it’s an unmatched package at incredibly fair value that flies right under the radar.

Longines Legend Diver

Today in the entry-to-mid budget Swiss diver arena it’s all about Tudor’s Black Bay, but once upon a time it was all about this, the Longines Legend Diver. Granted, it used to be a fair amount cheaper, and the Black Bay switched out to an in-house movement—but that doesn’t mean the Legend Diver isn’t still a great watch.

Where the Black Bay mimics the cheap and cheerful divers of the fifties and sixties with its external bezel, the Legend Diver apes the far fancier compressor cases. The Legend Diver of the day was one such compressor-cased watch, and thanks to a technology that compressed the seals together under pressure for a better seal with depth—a bit like how Rolex’s Ring Lock system works—that left the crown free to operate a bezel without needing to be unscrewed.

Really, the internal bezel not only offered protection from being knocked, but also proved the point of the compressor case with the most elegant flex ever. And that remains the Longines’ strongest USP over the Black Bay: its looks. It’s a graceful watch that feels less like a brick and more a romantic throwback to that incredible era of exploration and discovery.

Grand Seiko SLGH013

Who would’ve thought that one of the most popular watches of choice would end up being a Japanese quartz? Spring Drive revitalised the imagination of watch collectors worldwide with its hybrid system—but that’s left some of the more standard mechanical Grand Seiko watches out in the cold.

One of those is the SLGH013, a watch so unloved it has no actual name. And it should, because as well as housing the smooth, 36,000vph calibre 9SA5, with its 80hr power reserve and remarkable dual impulse escapement, it’s also a beautiful example of the quiet but incredible luxuriousness Grand Seiko are capable of at their peak.

Shrouded in the ’67 44GS case is an icy dial that portrays such a remarkable likeness of frost that even looking at it sends a shiver down my spine. That first fit on a cold day should feel extra chilly, not just because of the zaratsu polished ever-brilliant steel, but the visual chill of that dial too. It’s also a handy reminder to defrost the freezer. Perhaps that should be its name. “Frosty”.

Habring2 Doppel-Felix

There’s this unusual situation in watchmaking that not many people know about. A bit like how Mickey Mouse became a free-for-all, there are certain technical patents within watchmaking that are a no-go—until they are. Many of them are older, of course, and so they’ve been out of patent for a while. Sellita can make copies of ETA movements because the designs entered the public domain.

But when technical solutions have been more recently created, there’s still time to wait before they can be utilised by other watchmakers. Fair and square, you might think, however in the case of Habring2’s double chronograph, it’s their co-founder and technical head Richard Habring’s creation, and yet he can’t actually use it. That’s because he invented it for IWC, and so when it came to his own double chronograph, he had to invent it all over again.

You know when you do a bunch of work on the computer, lose the file and have to start over, and that second take is usually better than the first? Welcome to the Habring2 Doppel-Felix. The module to control the second second hand is built on top of a standard chronograph. It’s cam operated, controlled by a forked lever that’s driven in the classical style by an additional pusher. There are far fewer parts and it is much more reliable that the original method, which makes this not just a bucket-list complication to own, but a gem of an example.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Chronograph Calendar

Physical proportions are as important as technical accomplishment when it comes to choosing the best watch. A watch can do everything and more, but if it’s desperately ugly, it may as well not even bother. Well, that’s no concern for the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Chronograph Calendar, because it’s got both.

It’s not just about the chronograph, triple calendar and moon phase all packed within its 40 x 12.5mm steel case, it’s about how they’re packed into that case. The more complications are added, the easier it is to turn a design into a dog’s dinner, with dials and windows a-plenty messying up the place. Perhaps the word “control” in the watch’s name is in reference to the uncanny ability to place each and every complication in a visually appealing place, because there doesn’t appear to be a single thing wrong with how this watch looks. It’s as classy as they come.

Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M Co-Axial GMT Worldtimer

The Omega Aqua Terra has done its time in the shadow of the Rolex Datejust as the more affordable alternative that you can actually get, and it came time for the watch to stand up on its own two feet and show what it was really made of. That came with the advent of the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M Co-Axial GMT Worldtimer, to give it its full title, and despite being a bit of a behemoth at 43mm across, it’s a rather fantastic device.

Of course, being a worldtimer, it has the capability to preselect a city and give you the hour of its time zone, and that’s no new thing. It’s a useful addition to a jet-setter’s watch, with the inner twenty-four ring combined with the central readout giving home and local time at once.

But what sets this watch apart from its contemporaries isn’t its technical function, but its creative artistry. In the centre is a titanium world map, but instead of being flat, it’s carved—by lasers no less—into three-dimensional relief accurate to the Earth’s surface. They even used the lasers to heat the titanium to a blue to form the sea.

Rolex Cellini

It’s not often there’s a watch in Rolex’s back catalogue that goes forgotten, with every nook and cranny pillaged for bargain opportunities, but in the case of the Cellini, it goes unloved in what I think is a grossly unjust treatment of a spectacular watch.

Recently replaced with the 1908, which seems to be drawing more love, this particular Cellini was the first in a long line of the all-gold collection to draw from the Oyster’s design language. You might remember when every BMW in the range looked different, and then they all looked the same. That’s what Rolex did with the Cellini.

But it wasn’t just a gold dateless Datejust; the fluted bezel was reduced in size, the crown given some onion-y-ness, the dial lifted straight from a 1930s New York train station clock and the hands sharp and sword-like. It had character and personality, not an accusation usually levied at Rolex. But it flopped and now it’s cancelled. Does mean it’s half the price of a 1908 though.

Chopard L.U.C. Tech Strike One

One of the big misgivings in the watch collectorsphere is a blindness to the excellence of Chopard’s LUC range. People very easily dismiss Chopard as being a jewellery company, but as it happens, it was a watchmaker first, with the jewellery coming in to help save the company during the quartz crisis.

Before that it was considered a master of technical watchmaking, and it still is today. It’s admired by other watchmakers—the best other watchmakers—and its watches exceed the capabilities of popular rivals. The LUC Tech Strike One is an example of this watchmaker’s ability to not only create the complex, but in a way that no one’s seen before.

An hour strike watch, the Chopard introduces a chiming complication at a lower price point without compromising on exquisite finish. The open-heart striking work is on show, finished to the highest level in what should be an incredibly sought-after watch. But it’s not sought-after at all, which makes it an absolute bargain on the secondary market.

Bulgari Daniel Roth

As part of its campaign to be taken seriously as a watchmaker, Bulgari purchased the rights to two legendary watch companies: Gerald Genta and Daniel Roth. Whilst the Genta line has found success in the Octo collection, the Roth line didn’t so much, and so a series of breath-taking watches has been consigned to the footnotes of history.

As it happens, Daniel Roth is on the up-and-up again back under its own name, and that makes the forgotten Bulgari versions all the more of an opportunistic buy. Granted, the design isn’t for everyone, but the execution should be. It’s not a complex watch—the most complicated part of it is the slot that allows the triple length second hand to avoid fouling the case—but every part of it has been completed to perfection.

From the signature layered dial to the pocket watch-esque movement, it feels like a timeless entry into history that could have happened right now or two hundred years ago. I’ve got a feeling this one is going to become pretty sought-after.

Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Dual Time

Before Audemars Piguet became the Royal Oak company, it made watches, and really nice ones too. This is one of them, the Jules Audemars Dual Time, named in honour of the original duo’s technical mastermind. You’ll notice all the oldest watchmakers are twin-barrelled: that was typically because one was the genius engineer and the other had the business acumen.

If you fancy reminiscing about the good old days, you can do so with this Dual Time for a chunk less than you’d expect a complicated, gold Audemars Piguet to be. Not to mention that it is very classically beautiful with the asymmetric dial layout typical of the watchmakers of old. You see, back when they were hammering out pocket watches, they didn’t care if it looked pretty. You got the complications where you got them.

The watch comes courtesy of a little help from Jaeger-LeCoultre—whose work, finished by Audemars Piguet, remains hidden from all but the watchmaker as is the tradition—and so its reliability and serviceability remains viable for many years to come. As stealth wealth kicks in, it’s going to be harder and harder to find forgotten gems like these.

What’s your forgotten favourite that you think everyone else should pay more attention to?

Shop pre-owned Longines watches

Shop pre-owned Omega watches

Shop pre-owned Rolex watches

Shop pre-owned Grand Seiko watches

Shop pre-owned Audemars Piguet watches

Shop pre-owned Jaeger-LeCoultre watches

Shop pre-owned Chopard watches

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