With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we thought it would be a good idea to slow down and consider all the good things the world of watches has given us. There are so many amazing technological inventions, stunning timepieces, and brilliant people we could be thankful for. Obviously, there are too many to mention in a single article; after all, the world of horology dates back several centuries.
I’ve decided to make it a bit more personal and base it on my own personal experience as a watch enthusiast. Without further ado, here are the five things I appreciate most about mechanical watches.
1. The GMT function
Nowadays, most mechanical watches come with a host of complications. It’s hard to choose which one is the most important, but my personal favorite is without a doubt the . Any time you’re traveling, there’s nothing better than being able to check the time in your current location and back home at the same time.
In 1953, Glycine introduced the Airman, the first watch that was able to display the time in different time zones. A year later, Rolex introduced their iconic Rolex GMT-Master. The watch was specifically developed for Pan Am pilots, which explains the red and blue bezel. With airplanes flying longer distances, pilots were crossing multiple time zones in quick succession. GMT watches were the perfect solution to keeping track of the time at home.
Now seven decades later, the Rolex GMT-Master is considered the most iconic traveler’s watch, but there are plenty of other mechanical GMT watches that are capable of keeping track of two or three different time zones. Almost every brand has a watch with a GMT function nowadays – and not without reason. Keeping track of two time zones with the help of a GMT hand and 24-hour bezel is both magical and practical. The GMT function is easily my favorite complication.
2. Seiko’s Grammar Of Design
Seiko can claim a lot of industry firsts to its name. Most of these involve striving for the ultimate in timekeeping accuracy, but few realize that Seiko was also the first company to come up with a specific set of design rules to be applied to their new watches. The so-called Seiko Grammar of Design was introduced in 1962 by Seiko’s Head of Design Taro Tanaka.
The Grammar of Design consists of four basic rules:
- All surfaces and angles on the case, dial, hands, and indices must be flat and geometrically perfect in order to best reflect light
- Bezels must feature simple, two-dimensional faceted curves
- No visual distortion is tolerated from any angle and all cases must be mirror finished
- Each case must be unique for each reference, as opposed to using a generic round case design
These principles come to life on the current 44GS-style case, which is based on the Grand Seiko 44GS from 1967. I simply love the Grammar of Design. Tanaka clearly understood that design is a valuable asset in building a brand. Over five decades later, his design philosophy continues to draw followers to the Grand Seiko brand, myself included.
3. The Omega Speedmaster: The First watch on the Moon
1969 was a defining year for the watch industry. It was the year that Seiko debuted the Astron – the world’s first quartz watch – and the year that the first self-winding chronograph movement was introduced. For me, however, 1969 will always be remembered as the year the Omega Speedmaster became the first watch on the Moon. When Buzz Aldrin set foot on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969 with a Speedmaster on his wrist, the biggest story ever connected to a watch was born.
The Omega Speedmaster was officially designated as “flight-qualified by NASA for all manned space missions” on June 1, 1965. A little more than four years later, Buzz Aldrin and his Speedmaster reference 105.012 made watch history.
This incredible story is the single biggest watch legacy to date, but what is perhaps even more impressive is the lively community of Speedmaster fans around the world. As part of the Fratello Watches team, I was lucky enough to participate in one of last year’s Speedy Tuesday events. Seeing old friends and meeting new Speedmaster enthusiasts was inspiring – and it all came down to the extraordinary story of the Omega Speedmaster that will be forever known as the Moonwatch.
4. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
The story of the Audemars Royal Oak is the story of Gérald Genta. Over a period spanning just a few years, Genta designed three of the most iconic watches ever made: the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the Patek Philippe Nautilus, and the IWC Ingenieur. My personal favorite of the three is the original modern luxury steel sports watch: the Royal Oak.
In 1972, in the midst of the quartz crisis, Audemars Piguet introduced the Royal Oak as their new steel sports watch. Costing 3,300 Swiss francs, it was more expensive than a gold Patek Philippe and more than ten times the price of a Rolex Submariner. The industry was stunned and the Royal Oak was anything but an overnight success.
Almost five decades later, the Royal Oak is considered the standard in modern luxury sports watches. Genta’s design combines innovative shapes with a raw, industrial look. This design is what makes the Royal Oak the icon it is today. The Royal Oak has not aged one bit over time, which proves the incredible power of the design and the brilliance of Gérald Genta.
5. Maximilian Büsser and MB&F
The last thing on my list is the creative platform MB&F founded by Max Büsser. MB&F has been at the forefront of a group of independent brands that have been pushing the limits of horology over the past two decades. MB&F has always been a personal favorite of mine due to their incredible creations that explore unique shapes and their outstanding craft in watchmaking.
To top it off, I love that Büsser has created a platform where people from different backgrounds can come together and develop unique timepieces. In a corporate world caught up in profit, secrecy, and competitiveness, it’s refreshing to see Büsser focusing on bringing the best creative minds together to achieve amazing results.
The incredible creations Büsser and friends have made may not be very accessible or to everyone’s taste – to be honest, I don’t even like all of MB&F’s creations – but if you look at their story, it’s hard not to respect the way Max Büsser is pushing the envelope in the world of watches. That’s enough to make it my favorite independent brand of the modern age.