Professionals: 3 luxury watches made for real work

Luxury watches come in all shapes and sizes. 

But perhaps preeminent to collectors are the professional types. 

These are watches designed around particular jobs. 

It's unlikely that most or even many divers watches are used by divers these days. 

But they certainly can be. 

And even among professionals they may transcend their narrow categorisation. 

Pilot watches were used by astronauts for example. 

Luxury watch makers make small quantities of very precise and very expensive watches. 

They can afford to specialise. 

So these types don't cover anything - we've omitted the magnetic resistant Milgauss made for nuclear scientists for example.   

But these 5 are a great start.

1 - Divers watches 

What they do:

The primary innovation of the first swimming and diving watches was waterproofing. 

Then, it became waterproofing at depth, so dealing with great pressure. 

And there are timing features too. Divers need to know how long they've been underwater. It can be a life or death matter. 

Who did it first: 

Rolex's Oyster case made watches waterproof (they bought the patent).

Wearing a watch while you're swimming is a nice luxury.

But divers need depth. 

Omega's 1932-released Marine was certified for waterproof use at 135-metres depth. 

WWII brought an explosion of watches aimed at military divers. 

And post war, diving innovations like SCUBA meant watches needed to go deeper, leading us to the 1954 Rolex Submariner. It started off life with a 100-metre certifcation, and now goes to 300 metres underwater, with some specials going ultra deep. 

That's the watch that most will think of if asked to name a diver's watch. 

But everyone makes them: the Omega Seamaster, the Tudor Pelagos, the Fifty Fathoms from Blancpain, 

Who did it best: 

It's hard to look past the Submariner from Rolex in this section. It's a legend: chunky, masculine, practical and yet very elegant. It might be designed to be read in the inky blackness of the deep sea, but the clarity of this timepiece can be appreciated anywhere. 

Rolex "Hulk" Submariner wristwatch

The distinctive green of the "Hulk" Submariner adds an interesting dimension, and all the usual excellence is in evidence, including 1,000-feet depth rating.

2 - Chronographs

What they do:

This broad category takes in a number of professional uses in athletics, aeronautics, and racing. 

In fact, if you need accurate split-second timing from a stop watch, and a display watch (that shows you the time) you need a chronograph.

Like many scientific innovations chronographs have been used by the military, measuring elapsed time to help judge long-range artillery fire. 

 

Who did it first:

Longines and Breitling pioneered wrist-watch chronographs from around 1916. 

Pilots, divers, drivers and athletes all craved these easily operated and supremely accurate machines and specialist additions to make them fit these jobs started appearing. 

Perhaps the most famous is the Rolex Daytona, with its three sub dials and long association with actor and race car enthusiast Paul Newman, it may be the most famous watch of all time. One of Newman's own Daytona's sold for $17.8 million in 2017.

But perhaps you'd like a Split Seconds Chronograph from Patek Philippe. No maker knows their complications better. You'll need the patience to sit on a waiting list and at least 10s of thousands of pounds to get your hands on one new. 

Who did it best: 

Rolex Daytonas are super-desirable, but only one watch can say it was the first on the Moon. 

If you don't think Omega has quite the mystique of Rolex, Patek or Audemars Piguet then perhaps the Omega Speedmaster will change your mind. 

It's a racing watch in its conception. It passed the rigorous testing programme NASA used to qualify watches for space travel in 1965 and four years later it was on the wrists of the three men who went to the moon. 

The design today looks very much like the models Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins strapped on, and for collectors with a budget it's relatively affordable. 

Omega Speedmaster moonwatch

Subsequent Speedmasters have continued to deliver the utilitarian beauty of the watches that  went to the Moon. 

3 - Aircrew watches 

What they do:

Time zone functions are relatively simple to deliver. And relatively new. 

It's only since the 1950s that we've been able to move fast enough to need to know the time in two places at once. 

They're usually called dual-time, world time or GMT watches. And, the rapidly shrinking world of the internet age gives them a newly relevant use. 

Who did it first:

Rolex pioneered this feature in conjunction with Pan Am, whose pilots (and crew) on newly regular transatlantic flights. 

The trick is relatively simple, but very elegant. An extra hand turns around the full dial on a 24 hour scale that is set on a rotating bezel that is generally divided into day and night zones via colour - notably in the famous red-and-blue Pepsi bezels. 

This was reference 6542, the GMT Master, which has been expanded upon many times since. 

 

Who did it best:

World time watches are very popular. Dual time was the jumping off point for time pieces that could tell you the time around the world at a glance. 

Divers watches are often worn by regular mortals like you and me, but almost everyone can make use of a traveller's watch today, even if it's to keep in time with remote-office colleagues on other continent. 

Perhaps the most elegant of all such pieces is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Dual Time 

It delivers the second time zone via sub dial at 6 O Clock, rather than disturb the famous riveted frame of the Royal Oak. 

This beauty will set you back somewhere towards £100,000 depending on the age, exact specs and condition. 

Pepsi dial Rolex GMT Master

The "Pepsi" bezel is one of the most famous iterations of the GMT Master, designed to skip across oceans with ease. 

Buy luxury watches now 

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