Let’s imagine a tough scenario for a watch lover. You have hundreds of watches in front of you – from all eras, in all sizes, with all types of complications, and with quite a few that cost as much as a house – BUT you can only choose two. A myriad of decisions rushes through your brain as you try to negotiate the perfect pair and maximize your options without letting go of something you simply love.
This is the conundrum that three enthusiasts from Chrono24 experienced during a recent visit to our new facility in the UK. The selections that follow are the result of tortured deliberations, tough calls, and draft after draft of potential picks. Unfortunately, we won’t get to keep the watches we select, but we also aren’t constrained to watches in our real collections. Even hypothetically, these sometimes painful thought experiments help determine the answer to one simple question: What really matters to me?
After much deliberation, Balazs Ferenczi, Thomas Hendricks, and Justin Hast narrowed the options down from a few hundred to, well, only a few. And as you read their rationales below, take a moment to ask yourself: Who did it best? And what would I do differently?
Omega Seamaster 300 – BALAZS
My first pick is an Omega Seamaster 300 from the late 1960s. To many, this is the quintessential sports watch from Omega, and when you remove the NATO strap from the fixed spring bars, you see this is not just a vintage watch but a military issue. So, when it comes to vintage Seamasters, this is as cool as it gets.
The Seamaster was the first collection released by Omega after the war, and they incorporated a lot of what they learned from their World War II watches into the Seamaster line. If you look at the Omega Seamasters from the 1940s and ones like this from the 1960s, they look quite different. But if you compare this Seamaster 300 with the Seamaster 300M that Pierce Brosnan wore in Golden Eye in 1995, you can see a clear lineage. And I think that’s really cool.
I love the large triangle at 12 o’clock on the dial, I love the original Omega logo etched into the crystal, I love the oversized case (especially for the time period), and I love the broad arrow tucked away on the case back. It’s a nice vintage detail that isn’t visible from the front, but it adds a lot of character, and those that know, know.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 25594ST – THOMAS
I wanted a sports model to be one half of my two-watch collection, and this watch covers a lot of bases. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak reference 25594ST came out in the mid-1980s, and it features that signature Royal Oak DNA with some added bells and whistles with its day, date, and moon phase complications. It gives you the look and feel of a perpetual calendar, but with a much lower price tag. Not to mention, this 36-mm model was released to appeal to a wider range of wrist sizes. Were I a jumbo-sized person, I’d choose the “Jumbo” model, but this one works beautifully for someone like me.
I also like how the hard-edged, brutalist case design of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is balanced by the softness of the moon phase display. The dial layout adds symmetry and layers of intrigue to a classic sports watch. Anyone who’s handled a Royal Oak knows that the flat surfaces pop in the light as you roll your wrist. And anyone who’s owned a blue dial watch knows that it changes in the light as well, so the angular case and the deep blue of the moon phase work in unison quite nicely as you’re wearing it and moving around.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas – JUSTIN
I’ve gone for something a bit smaller than usual here at 37 mm. But with the way the case and the bracelet interact, this first generation Overseas wears a bit larger than the numbers alone would suggest. The current generation of the Overseas wears slightly too big for me, but I find this size to be so thin, so beautiful, and so elegant.
I love the details here. We have a blue sigma dial with a sunburst effect and tritium hands that match the markers perfectly. There is a salmon dial variant that commands a much higher price, but I love the way the blue changes in the light. I also find the arching Vacheron Constantin logo quite special, and the bracelet here is top-notch. If you look closely, you’ll see black polishing on the inside of the bracelet, and the clasp even features a hidden safety latch for an extra layer of design consideration.
Vacheron Constantin has been on the march in the last couple of years. We saw the success of the 222 relaunch, and the modern Overseas is nearly impossible to get at retail. I’ve always been a fan of the first generation Overseas, and I think it captures the glamour of that jet-set era. I actually had a poster of this watch in my room growing up. Most people opted for Baywatch or Pamela Anderson, but I had a VC Overseas poster, which I’m sure raised quite a few eyebrows, but it shows how much I admire this watch.
Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5968A – BALAZS
I remember being at the Patek Philippe booth when this was launched in 2018. I remember it because it was so bold of Patek to put not only an orange chronograph hand and orange minute track, but also an orange strap on one of their watches. They produced one on an olive green strap as well, which I love, but this is the one that really stood out for me.
The Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5968A has the same chronograph movement as the Nautilus 5980. I’m a big chronograph fan, so I appreciate seeing the caliber connection between these two hallmark Patek sports models. It has a 42-mm steel case, which wears quite substantially for people who enjoy a bit of wrist presence, and I like that you see the pushers here. They’re more integrated in the Nautilus case, but I prefer the slightly more prominent Aquanaut pushers.
It balances out my previous choice of the Seamaster 300: vintage vs. modern, diver vs. chronograph, military vs. luxury, and subtle vs. bold.
Cartier Cintrée Dual Time – THOMAS
Duality is key here: two movements, two crowns, and two dials that are more like brothers than twins. The Cartier Cintrée Dual Time is dressed in a sleek case that expands across the wrist. At roughly 23 mm wide and 46 mm long, its 2:1 case proportions are unlike anything else you’ll see in the watch world.
There are a lot of purists out there who will advocate for dress watches that are as simple as possible, meaning no seconds hand, no date window, no complications, etc. But here, it feels like less of a distraction and more of a conversation starter, which is a great asset to have at a formal event.
Since we were only allowed to choose two watches for this thought experiment, there were many that didn’t make the cut (like a limited edition platinum Cartier Cintrée). But this is the watch that just cemented its place in my brain, the one that I couldn’t stop thinking about as I was falling asleep.
Patek Philippe 5712 – JUSTIN
One thing I know after working with watches all these years, is you just have to go with your gut. It’s all about passion, and that’s why I chose this particular watch. What we have here is not the 5711, but the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5712, the less-appreciated of the two Nautiluses. But what I love here is that it’s not stainless steel, it’s white gold, and its proper heft. Likewise, it’s not a blue dial but a gray dial, a similarly underappreciated feature.
The Patek Philippe Nautilus 5712 is a sports watch, but you have the complications, the power reserve, the date, the romance of the moonphase display, and it’s super easy to wind. My favorite Patek is the Ellipse, and you get an echo of that case shape here. I’m also a bit of a sucker for a micro-rotor movement, which you have here, and it keeps the watch nice and elegant.
Lastly, I want to touch on price. Obviously, prices for the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711 have skyrocketed in recent years, but the 5712s are actually selling for less. Plus, you get multiple Patek complications, the white gold case, and an inventive asymmetrical take on a classic timepiece.