They might not be the headliner in the watchmaker’s show, but sometimes the opening act can surprise and delight.
If you ask a watch collector to start naming different models from a brand, there are certain ones that will always be named first. Jaeger-LeCoultre will be Reverso, Rolex will be Submariner or GMT, and Cartier will be the Tank or Santos. There are always models that a watchmaker is associated with, but that doesn’t necessarily make them the best watch for you. If you go down the lists of watches available from any company, somewhere buried within that list can be the perfect underappreciated model. A true aficionado may see these watches and start reciting spec sheets from memory, but even they would admit that these are not the first watches that come to mind when thinking about a company’s catalogue. Here are six underappreciated watches that might just be the perfect ones for you.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic Q9008180
Jaeger-LeCoultre is first about the Reverso and next about the Master collection. These are the watches that helped keep the company alive during the quartz crisis and have earned their spot in history. The Polaris, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer, having been introduced in 2018. It’s the modern-day sports watch from one of the most respected watchmakers in Switzerland. The stepped dial goes from a sunburst in the center to a textured ring that houses the hour markers and is finished off with a matte-finished internal diving bezel. Inside the watch, you will undoubtedly find an in-house movement. Because if you are JLC and have already made over 1,200 different movements, why would any watch not be in-house powered? For a deeper dive into this watch, I will shamelessly plug my own video here.
OMEGA Seamaster Aqua Terra 220.127.116.11.02.004
The Aqua Terra line has been a massive hit for OMEGA. It was built as an everyday watch that could accompany you for a swim or a day at the office without having the bezel or design restrictions of a dive watch. The heart of the Aqua Terra line is the teak deck dial 41mm model that comes in a variety of colors and strap options. In 2021, OMEGA gave us something new, a small second sub-dial Aqua Terra. It’s a design element straight out of the 1950s Seamaster that gives a new look to a model that was already a hit. The sub-second dial breaks up the teak deck pattern and integrates the date window to help hide it. Overall, this small change to the Aqua Terra elevates the look of an already modern classic.
Drive de Cartier WSNM0015
Leave it to Cartier to create a watch that somehow feels familiar yet totally new. The Roman numerals in the Drive de Cartier are a signature of the brand, but putting them on a 40mm cushion-cased watch inspired by classic automotive grills is not. The result is a Cartier built for larger wrists that successfully straddles the line between sporty and dressy. This mix of styles makes it a great everyday wear that won’t disappear into the crowd.
Grand Seiko Elegance Quartz Quartz Limited Edition SBGN007
A decade ago, Grand Seiko was not largely known outside of the world of hardcore collectors. Today, it has become one of the most well-known and talked-about watchmakers. The combination of unique dial work, unmatched polishing in its price range, and well-respected in-house movements helped the company earn the respect of anyone who has encountered one of its watches. The stigma around quartz watches being purely a cheap way to tell time means that what Grand Seiko does with them continues to go underappreciated. The standard 9F Grand Seiko quartz movement is a well-finished piece of art. It’s a quartz movement meant to be serviced, to outlast the user’s lifetime. The limited edition 9F movement watches are a step above, with a five-pointed star on the dial to represent that this movement is accurate within 5 seconds a month. This is not your drugstore quartz.
Glashütte Original PanoMaticLunar 1-90-02-43-32-36
This one is cheating – just a bit. The PanoMaticLunar is probably the first watch that comes to mind when someone mentions Glashütte Original, but as a watchmaker, they are underappreciated. Glashütte Original is the rare company that makes its own movement, dial, case, and even tools that the watchmakers use. This cannot be said by any other large-scale German watchmaker, including A. Lange & Söhne. It’s unfair that Lange and GO are constantly compared with various comments that say something along the lines of, “but it is just a budget Lange.” No, Glashütte Original is not a budget anything. In the case of this PanoMaticLunar, it’s a hand-engraved balance within a well-finished movement, and a ruthenium dial that is one of the most beautiful watch faces you’ll ever see. Comparing Lange and GO is like comparing Porsche and Ferrari; you never think about the Ferrari you could have had when driving a 911.
Rolex Milgauss 116400
Even Rolex has a few underappreciated models. Besides the entire Cellini line of watches, the Milgauss tends to be the watch that’s overlooked when shopping The Crown. The Milgauss is meant to be an antimagnetic watch originally designed for professionals who were around magnetic fields all day. This feature provided them an opportunity to still have a watch that worked in these conditions, a similar origin story to the OMEGA Railmaster. The modern version of the watch has enjoyed a little more design freedom than most of the Rolex line. The lightning bolt hand and orange lumed markers that always remind me of orange tic-tacs are a fun departure from the more homogeneous offerings from Rolex. Later models also have a green-tinted sapphire crystal that’s unique to the Milgauss. For my taste, I’m agreeing with the man in charge, Nick Marino, that this is the best Milgauss.
To find the watch you will appreciate, go to the Crown and Caliber.