Last week’s picks were about timepieces that could be a symbol of success, or a worthy memento of one of life’s big events – without spending over $3,000. This week is about the watches most of us dream about, the grails. The type of five-figure watches that start to represent the best of what’s available, and what’s possible. These timepieces are unobtainable for some, a lifelong dream to slowly be worked towards for many – and for a lucky few, they represent a celebration of success with timeless craftsmanship. No matter what group you may fall into, like a great piece of art, they are worth taking a moment to appreciate.
Patek Philippe 3940P
This is not the watch you pick because you want to be flashy, this is the watch you pick because it works as a shibboleth for other watch enthusiasts. The 3940P has a classic case size of 36mm and is only 9mm thick, and somehow in that thin case, Patek has added a perpetual calendar movement. If that wasn’t impressive enough, the caliber 240 Q inside is also a micro rotor automatic. This watch is a mechanical masterpiece, finished to Patek standards. To top it all off, it’s encased in platinum. It also happens to be the exact watch friend-of-HODINKEE John Mayer chose from a roomful of high-end watches that he would pick for himself when he came to visit the office to film a recent episode of CBS Saturday Morning.
A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Chronograph 402.026
A. Lange & Söhne was revived as a standalone brand less than 30 years ago, after being forced by the U.S.S.R. to merge with every other East German watch brand after World War II. From that moment on, they’ve only made some of the highest finished and architecturally beautiful movements ever seen. This level of perfection can be found across the entire watch, from a dial that has subtle depth, to hands that are flawlessly heat-blued. Any Lange can be used as a study of how simple perfection can be more stunning than a handcrafted piece that has been overworked. The 1815 chronograph removes the date found on the Datograph, leaving just the flyback chronograph complication. The movement is a work of art – any attempt by me to describe it any further would be futile – and if you ever have a chance to see a Lange Chronograph movement in person it will be a moment to remember.
Zenith Chronomaster Sport Yoshida Limited Edition 03.3102.3600
Not everyone lusts after a precious metal watch with a laundry list of complications. Many people simply want the rare watch that very few others can get. One-of-a-hundred certainly qualifies as something on the rarer side. The Zenith Chronomaster Sport Yoshida Limited Edition was made for the Japanese retailer as part of a series of small runs the companies did together. This watch is the Panda dial version of what has become Zenith’s most popular watch. It may not have the price tag of others on this list, but for a Zenith fan this is a rare piece that I think all of us wish was a regular production offering.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 15450ST
You pick this watch because you want people to know you have made it. The Royal Oak has exploded in popularity and is often seen on the wrists of actors, athletes, and anyone lucky enough to get the call from the A.D. after years of waiting. After fifty years, the Royal Oak has made only small updates to the original Gérald Genta design: the octagon bezel, integrated steel bracelet, and visible screwheads are not going anywhere. This consistency has allowed for the RO fanbase to steadily build up and look forward to acquiring their own timepieces one day.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Q1302520
Go ahead and mispronounce Jaeger-LeCoultre, it only makes them stronger. Let’s start by just listing everything this timepiece has to offer: perpetual calendar, four-digit year display, moonphase, 18k rose gold case, full rotor automatic, 39mm case that is easy to wear, and somehow only 9mm thick. JLC is the master of movement-making. They have made over 1,250 different in-house movements for their own use, and/or for just about any brand in the history of Swiss watchmaking. This specialty helps them make watches that are so rich in complications – and yet still so thin. It’s a watch worthy of the Sorcerer Supreme, but his was only in steel.
Check out the HODINKEE Shop to find your own pre-owned grail.