The British royal family is an institution deeply rooted in tradition. From personal customs at royal weddings to political rituals at the opening of Parliament, the entire monarchy rests on heritage. The royal family has long been a source of fascination on a global scale. In recent years, as the new generation of royals has shaken up the status quo, we’ve become even more infatuated. Today, members of the monarchy grab headlines for anything from their charity work to their choice of style. So, we couldn’t help but explore the watches they wear.
Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth has a variety of watches in her personal collection. For her coronation in 1953, the Queen chose a unique Jaeger-LeCoultre cocktail watch. The Caliber 101 is the smallest watch movement in the world, housed inside a diamond bracelet. During her reign, Queen Elizabeth has also sported another Jaeger-LeCoultre model: the Reverso.
In addition, she owns a Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse and an 18k Audemars Piguet watch. Another one of her most celebrated pieces is a Patek Philippe jewelry watch. The Reference 4975 features a pearl bracelet and diamond-set bezel, crown, and hour makers. The brand showcased the iconic model at their Royal Watches Exhibition back in 2015.
Prince Charles tends to wear his watches discreetly tucked under his cuff, which makes identifying them a challenge. At monumental occasions, like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, he is most often sporting a Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Chronograph.
However, in earlier years, he wore a wider variety of models. Some examples include a two-tone Cartier Santos and a yellow gold Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. In addition, Prince Charles owns a Hamilton RAF Pilot’s Chronograph, which he likely received during his training at RAF College Cranwell.
Prince William is loyal to a particularly special watch given to him by his mother, the late Princess Diana. The Omega Seamaster Professional Quartz 300M features a stainless steel construction and blue dial. The watch has accompanied him through every occasion, from family ski trips to his wedding day back in 2011. You can read more about Prince William’s watch here.
Kate Middleton’s classic, understated style always grabs attention. Despite her flair for fine fashions, she’s not much of a watch enthusiast. However, when she does don a wristwatch in public, it’s no surprise that she goes for Cartier. Her model of choice is the classic Ballon Bleu. It features a modest 33mm case, stainless steel construction, and blue cabochon crown that matches her iconic sapphire engagement ring.
Prince Harry has always been a bit of a rebel in the royal family. His watches reflect that departure from tradition. During his military service, he wore a Casio G-Shock and standard Ministry of Defense-issued Pulsar G10. After serving two years as a Second Lieutenant in the Household Cavalry, he volunteered for helicopter pilot selection with the Army Air Corps. It was then that he upgraded his watch game with a Rolex Explorer II. The particular model features a white dial and GMT function, ideal for this new role as a pilot.
Soon after, he added a special-edition Breitling Aerospace Advantage to his collection. The unique model is only available to Apache pilots who have completed combat missions. The watch features an illustration of the Apache helicopter at the three-o’clock position. In addition, it showcases Army Air Corps Wings at the nine-o’clock position.
Meghan Markle became an official member of the royal family just recently in 2018. Much like her sister-in-law, she quickly garnered attention for her sense of style. Just as Kate Middleton is a one-watch woman, so is Markle. Her brand of choice is also Cartier. However, he wears the iconic Tank. She bought the two-tone stainless steel and yellow-gold model for herself following her success on the American TV show Suits. She even had the back engraved, “To M.M. From M.M.”
Prince Andrew is a devoted Rolex man through and through. The platinum Rolex Day-Date has been the Duke of York’s preferred watch for around 25 years. However, he also has a number of other Rolex models in his collection, including a Submariner.
The British monarchy is steeped in tradition—no surprise there. But it’s interesting to take a look at the differences between the old guard and the new. While the Queen and her sons stick to classic, well-bred Swiss names when it comes to their watches, the next generation seems to have taken a different tack. The younger royals go for stainless steel sports watches, the arguably more “accessible” timepieces. Is this an indication of a break from the more traditional? Only time will tell.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on February 13, 2013. We have updated it in 2019 to include new information.
Images ©: Header; Jason Bell/Pool. 1; Jaeger-LeCoultre. 2; Reuters. 3; Stefan Postles/Getty Images. 4; Wikimedia Commons.