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Feature: 3 Watches You Hadn’t Even Considered

Most people looking for a luxury watch want either a Rolex, Omega or TAG Heuer. That’s quite simply the fact of it, for Rolex especially. And it’s easy to see why—they produce great watches, have rich and interesting histories and carry significant brand cachet. The pool of people who want something a bit different is comparatively small, very small—but it is there. So, for those people, here are three watches that you just might not have considered.

Corum Admiral’s Cup Legend Annual Calendar 503.101.20/0F01FH10

Corum may be best known for the bizarre—yet somehow mesmerising—Bubble, but it is more than just a company that appears to make watches out of repurposed snow globes. Founded in 1955, the company is still a teenager by watchmaking standards, and in the face of not only a strong opposition from long-established brands like Rolex and Omega, but also an incoming quartz crisis, it was to innovation that Corum sought to define itself.

Okay, so the Bubble won’t win any prizes for practicality, but it’s representative of the way Corum has executed a different approach to watchmaking. For a small company that’s not been around that long, it’s managed to build an identity that is unmistakably Corum, from the visually clever Golden Bridge that suspends its skinny rectangular movement in between two layers of sapphire, through to this, the Admiral’s Cup.

The Admiral’s Cup was an international yacht race founded two years after Corum—and was subsequently cancelled in 2003. The first Corum watch by the same name appeared in 1960, a mark of Corum co-founder René Bannwart’s penchant for the sport of sailing, and after a redesign in 1983, presented an array of nautical pennants that corresponded with the shape of the dodecagonal case—that’s twelve sides.

This Admiral’s Cup Legend Annual Calendar is a more reserved take on that original watch, the flags taking a backseat to the silver-grey dial—but the twelve sides still very much prominent. The unusual date and month indicators give the dial a bit more to do than simply tell the time, with the date indicated by a central hand that points at a stepped chapter ring and the month a sub-dial at six.

Power comes from the house of Swatch in the guise of an ETA 2892 with a Dubois Dépraz module for the date and month indications. And let’s be clear, this is a proper annual calendar complication; come a month with only 30 days and the date will skip straight to the first of the next. It’s a lot of watch for £2,500.

Ulysse Nardin Maxi Marine Diver 263-33-92

Ulysse Nardin was only 23 years old when he founded his eponymous brand in 1846, focusing his attention on the lucrative field of marine chronometers, highly accurate timepieces used by sailors to plot their course by. It’s one of the older brands, only seven years younger than the mighty Patek Philippe, and was still in its teens when it started raking in awards for its watches.

Ulysse Nardin was not just revered for its chronometers—for which it amassed over 4,000 performance certificates and 18 gold medals—but also for its complications, from split-seconds chronographs to minute repeaters, and even astronomical complications such as the positions of the sun, moon and stars, sunrise, sunset, dawn and dusk, moon rise and moon set, plus the eclipses of the sun and moon—which were all to be found in one watch, the Astrolabium Galileo Galilei.

The Marine collection first hit our shores in 1996 as a tribute to the original Ulysse Nardin marine chronometers, the Roman numerals, prominent seconds sub-dial at six and power reserve at twelve borrowed from those early timepieces. And it was, of course, chronometer certified. This is the look that continues today, albeit in Maxi form at 43mm, and here in diver trim for around £4,000.

And it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen, from the dimpled dial to the metal links in the rubber strap—not to mention all the marine-inspired details. There’s the anchor logo of course, but look closer and you’ll notice the waves engraved into the polished bezel and the maritime-esque numbered plaque on the side. It may not benefit from one of Ulysse Nardin’s in-house movements, but it is brimming with character.

Roger Dubuis Easy Diver K10 SED46147N9K9K10R

Hear me out on this, because I know what you’re thinking, and yes, you’re right—this isn’t a watch that will find universal favour. The looks are, shall we say, challenging, the size daunting and the naming convention bewildering—but this not-so-little watch has something of a party piece that I think you’ll rather like.

It’s a Roger Dubuis ‘Just For Friends’ Easy Diver, and it comes in the form of the K10 Sports Activity Watch limited edition of 888 pieces. Don’t ask about the idiosyncratic name—I’ve got just as much idea as you have. But there’s more to a Roger Dubuis than the way it looks; to understand why, we’ll have to find out more about the man himself.

Starting his watchmaking career in the less than glamourous aftersales department of Longines in the 1950s, Dubuis showed an interest in the mechanical side of the business and learned a trade in watch repairs. His talents were immediately apparent, earning him a spot in the hallowed halls of Patek Philippe, where he honed his skills in the backs of perpetual calendars and tourbillons.

But he wanted more than to make other people’s watches—he wanted to craft his own, and so with the flamboyant personality of business partner Carlos Dias by his side and the expertise of Patek Philippe in his mind, he established a company in his own name.

So when you buy a Roger Dubuis, you don’t just buy a strange-looking watch from a niche brand, you’re getting a timepiece that’s built to the same exacting standards used by the great masters. This is evident with the Easy Diver very quickly: the 47mm titanium case is inlaid with carbon fibre; the dial, also carbon fibre, is set with hands and markers that are polished to the highest standard; the crown is complex and intricate. It’s even apparent in the little details like the embossed logos on the inside of the clasp.

But we’ve still not seen the party piece yet, the thing that really sells this watch. Turn it over, and below the sapphire case back is the Roger Dubuis calibre RD14, a 100% Swiss made movement that’s been awarded the Geneva seal. This is an accomplishment that few achieve, and can only be done with the highest level of watchmaking. Where the watch really shines is in the proposition of a Geneva Seal movement for—get this—less than £5,000.

If you’re sick of the sight of Rolex and want something a little bit more exotic, you may think that you’ll need some majorly deep pockets, but these three watches suggest otherwise. Whether you’re looking for a unique complication, centuries of heritage or an industry-leading movement, you’d be surprised at what you can get for less than a no-date Submariner.

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