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Top Ten Living Legend watches

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So I was having a discussion over a couple of bottles with some watch-nerd friends of mine about the living legends of watchmaking.  It got a little heated, though the wine may have contributed more to that.  In the end, we weren't able to agree but hashed out this list. 


Basically, they had to be significant and had to still be in production (or a very direct descendant in most cases.)


I want to know what are yours, because this is not going to be settled among my friends and I.


In no particular order, here's what we had:


1. Omega Speedmaster Pro.  Worn on the moon.  That counts more than anything else about the watch.  Moon.

2. Blancpain Fifty Fathoms.  The first modern recognizable dive watch

3. Rolex Datejust.  The date complication, but also far more durable than it needed to be.

4. Cartier Santos.  Basically the first real men's wristwatch

5. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.  Made us re-think luxury watchmaking.

6. MDM Hublot.  Made us re-think using new materials in luxury watchmaking.

7. Zenith El Primero.  The automatic chronograph

8. Longines Hour Angle.  The first pilot's wrist computer

9. Panerai Radiomir.  The first purpose-built dive watch

10. Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso.  The first sport-watch


The first contention is that there were so few Rolexes and no Pateks.  To me, the Submariner, for example, is a feature-added Oyster Perpetual.  We really couldn't think of a Patek that really stood out enough to be on this list.  One of my friends complained that there were no Japanese watches and only one quartz watch.  I'll take the fifth on that one.  The Cartier Tank was left off because I felt it was an evolution of the Santos expressed in a then current Art Deco fashion.  There was no "Pilot's" watch (B-uhr) style on the list either.  Were they anything particularly groundbreaking?


Anyway.  Let's hear your thoughts.


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I agree that they are all significant watches in terms of design.  The Pilot watch and the Sub were particular points of contention.


The Pilot watch just wasn't anything special enough to displace anything on this list, despite being a dial design that's lasted nearly a century.

The Daytona really wasn't anything until the 80's when Italian collectors exploded the price.

The Nautilus, while arguably prettier than the RO, was a direct response to the success of the RO.  (And Genta, himself, considered the RO to be is best work.)


The Sub.  That was a tricky one.  While it's an absolutely timeless design and the watch that spawned a thousand imitators (and reps).  My contention was that the Fifty Fathoms was the 'new' design.  (Oversized, automatic, shockproof, luminous, uni-directional rotating bezel all in the same package.)  The high degree of waterproof-ness was already a Rolex invention.


It's obviously a legend, but I can't really think of a thing I'd replace on my list for it.


As for the Santos.  I don't know about it being a hairdresser's watch.  Usually, when I think 'Cartier Santos' I think of 80's Gordon Gekko-type d-bags.  Maybe the quartz Tank Francaise...

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Not trying to be an a-hole, but i'm often told the santos is a hairdresser's watch. Hold your fire. I have one too


Funny, I know one guy with a gen Santos and he's quite gay. I will say the watch looks great on him though.

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These are my ten in no particular order:

• Patek nautilus

• Audemars royal oak non offshore

• Vintage Rolex submariner

• Vintage Rolex daytona

• Blancpain 50 fathoms

• Vacheron overseas

• Iwc pilot watches

• Vintage Heuer Monaco

• Vintage Rolex explorer

• Vintage Rolex gmt

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Lhooq, no 1016?


Much as it pains me not to put the Explorer on the list, I think the Oyster Perpetual line is well covered by the Datejust already.


I'm also tempted to add a Heuer (Carrera or Monaco), and I agree with donerix that an IWC could represent the classic B-Uhr pilot watch.  Or, alternatively, just the Heuer 1550SG.  Choosing ten pieces is tough!

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Choosing ten pieces is tough!


That's what makes the exercise interesting.  ;)  It's inevitable that something important would be left off.


...like the Submariner.  As successful and even iconic as it has been for its entire existence, it's not necessarily a "first" like the Fifty Fathoms was.  Rolex had been doing water-resistant for a while already.  They basically built their own copy of the Fifty Fathoms.  Rolex, however, marketed their piece much more effectively.  That cannot be argued.


I guess a lot of this also depends on how "legend" is defined.  I prefer to think of it as a piece that changed the game, so to speak. 


The only piece on the original list that isn't actually that spectacular is the Speedmaster, but it was present at the apex event of human civilization thus far, so it gets a pass.

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I yield to no one in my love for the Fifty Fathoms, but to suggest that Blancpain was "first" or was copied by Rolex is off-base. Both the FF and the Sub were introduced in 1953 and the evidence suggests that both pieces were designed independently. An analogous situation is the fight over who made the first automatic chronograph in 1969. I honestly believe that Zenith, Heuer, and Seiko all have equally strong claims.

The Speedy did have one innovation in its tachymetric bezel. I know: "Ooh... Amazing." However, that's one more innovation than the Daytona had!

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