At the supermarket, the products with the biggest marketing budgets are placed at eye level, but who says they are actually the best? While this example doesn’t quite hold up when it comes to the market for luxury watches, it is definitely the case that certain models from popular brands have more generous advertising budgets than others. Second tier watches can’t always compete with their siblings in the limelight. This tendency is more pronounced with some brands, such as Omega or Audemars Piguet, and less so with others. The models in the Cartier lineup, for example, seem to get more balanced attention in my opinion (this is probably up for debate). Anyway, let’s take a closer look at some underrated models from the likes of Omega, Audemars Piguet, and IWC that I think deserve a bit more attention.
Omega Constellation Co-Axial Master Chronometer
The Omega Constellation is one of the oldest series in Omega’s portfolio. It perfectly exemplifies Omega’s long record of creating accurate and precise timepieces. The watch with its integrated bracelet was first introduced in 1952. Due to its design and size, the Constellation was – and still is – very popular with both men and women. In fact, when I think of unisex watches, this is often one of the first models that comes to mind. There are countless variants of the Constellation on the market today – I stopped counting when I reached 80 on Omega’s website – but I’d like to focus on the 39 and 41-mm models from 2022.
The new 41-mm Constellation stands out with its dial color options, ranging from blue and green to burgundy. The ceramic bezel on the blue version features beautiful enamel-filled indices. The larger version comes with an integrated leather or rubber strap, but could also be worn on an integrated metal bracelet. Omega relies on the Master Chronometer certified Co-Axial caliber 8900 to power this watch. The advantages of this movement are many: a silicon hairspring, 60-hour power reserve, magnetic resistance to 15,000 gauss, and increased shock resistance. You’d expect the Constellation, with its compact design, integrated bracelet, and distinctive bezel, to be right on trend. After all, it’s not miles away from hyped up models like the Royal Oak, Nautilus, etc., but somehow it’s still living in the shadows.
Audemars Piguet Code 11.59
Speaking of Audemars Piguet, here’s a watch from the brand that I think is highly underrated: the Code 11.59. This model successfully combines the unique industrial look of the Royal Oak with the rounded contours of a dress watch. The Code 11.59 was introduced in 2019 in an attempt to mitigate the brand’s dependence on the Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore. The watch has an outwardly simple, almost classic appearance that isn’t typical of AP, but it’s also available as a chronograph and with other complications. I personally like the chronograph version; at first glance, you’d hardly notice how much this classically-styled dress watch actually has in common with the Royal Oak. That said, the Code 11.59’s 12-sided ceramic mid-case paired with the slim flyback chronograph caliber 4401 give the model a completely unique look that I have yet to see in any other timepiece. The extraordinary design is rounded off by the double curved sapphire crystal and “floating” lugs, which make sure the sporty dress watch sits well on the wrist.
The design of this watch is not only visually appealing, but it also suits the overall concept of the watch, making it a well-rounded finished product. I think the rose gold variant with its black satin-finished dial, in particular, looks incredible. Yes, the 11.59 may not be as loud or noticeable as the Royal Oak, but at second or third glance, you’ll start to realize that this watch has so much character and an irresistible subtle beauty. With the 11.59, Audemars Piguet has proven that they are more than just the Royal Oak. How can watch enthusiasts not appreciate the courage it took for the brand to challenge itself, instead of resting on its Royal Oak laurels? I think it was a brave move by AP to open itself up to a new target audience.
The model series on the IWC website are listed in the following order: Pilot’s, Portugieser, Portofino, Da Vinci, and finally the Ingenieur. This may not have anything to do with IWC’s own prioritization, but the Pilot’s and Portugieser certainly dominate the IWC image in my head. I think the Ingenieur is a seriously underrated watch, especially the vintage references. The 1970’s Genta design is distinctively sporty with an integrated bracelet. When it was first introduced, the Ingenieur sought to capture the spirit of ingenuity of the brand and the era as a whole. The watch’s soft iron inner cage and so-called Pellaton winding system were both impressive technical innovations at the time and protected the movement from the influence of magnetic fields. The latest Ingenieur model from 2017 still relies on some of the same features.
However, the design is much more elegant today and more reminiscent of the ref. 666 from the 1960s. The Ingenieur was born in a time of rapid technological progress and major innovations in radio and television. It was essential for engineers to have a timekeeper that could do its job despite the presence of magnetic fields. Today, the Ingenieur stands out with its elegant, almost minimalist look, which is not necessarily typical of IWC. Most of the brand’s modern watches are much larger or bolder in their designs. The three-hand Ingenieur, in turn, measures 40 x 10.5 mm and is available in three different variants: black dial with a metal bracelet, silver dial with a black leather strap, and a solid gold variant with a black dial and leather strap. The caliber 35111 is equipped with a 42-hour power reserve and is water-resistant to 120 m (394 ft). Overall, the Ingenieur is a solid watch that is suitable for everyday use and has appealing links to history without overdoing the vintage look.