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11/14/2022
 7 minutes

Underrated Icons – Luxury Watches That Deserve More Attention

By Sebastian Swart
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso-Cartier Santos-Breitling Navitimer-Luxusuhren-aus-der-zweiten-Reihe-2-1

The Rolex Submariner, Patek Philippe Nautilus, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, and Omega Speedmaster – these favorite models are known by watch collectors and enthusiasts the world over. Chrono24 has taken a closer look at the data and discovered a few watches that have the name and story to match these greats, but still have yet to make their mark on the industry.  

Breitling Navitimer 806 – The Sophisticated Calculator 

Speed, fuel consumption, and rates of ascent and descent: These are just a few of the many calculations that can be carried out with the Navitimer, a pilot’s watch that was first introduced by Breitling in 1952. With its complex slide rule bezel, the Navitimer is considered one of the most innovative pilot’s watches ever made, and it used to serve as an indispensable tool for professional pilots around the world. The name of the famous chronograph is an amalgamation of the words “navigation” and “timer.” 

One of the most well-known Navitimers is the ref. 806 from 1959. Today, this vintage variant is a favorite among collectors, but even so, prices remain in a reasonable range. 

The Breitling Navitimer 806: a tool watch revolution
The Breitling Navitimer 806: a tool watch revolution

The Breitling Navitimer 806 boasts a 41-mm stainless steel case and a reverse panda dial, i.e., a black background with white subdials at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. 

Most examples are powered by the Venus 178 caliber. Now more or less considered an antique, this manual column-wheel chronograph movement was produced by Fabrique d’Ebauches Vénus S.A. from the early 1940s to the mid-60s. In addition to displaying the time, it offers a chronograph function with 12-hour and 30-minute counters, as well as a small seconds. The balance runs at a leisurely 18,000 vph, and the power reserve comes in at 45 hours. As was standard for functional tool watches at the time, the Navitimer 806 has a synthetic crystal protecting its dial. 

The vintage Breitling Navitimer ref. 806 has enjoyed quite stable financial performance over the past 12 years. In mid-2010, you could buy one of these watches pre-owned for roughly $3,000. In the latter half of 2022, however, the same watch cost closer to $5,000. In percentage terms, that’s more than a 66% rise in value. 

If you like the look of the Navitimer ref. 806, but want something that’s a bit more suitable for everyday use, then you should check out the Breitling Navitimer 806 1959 Re-Edition from 2019. While the dimensions and aesthetics are almost identical to the original, the watch is completely up-to-date in terms of technology thanks to modern production methods. The manual in-house caliber B09 powers the watch, offering an increased frequency of 28,800 vph and a 70-hour power reserve. 

This watch has likewise performed well in recent years. The Re-Edition, limited to just 1,959 pieces, has appreciated by almost 25% in the past two years. As of mid-October 2022, you could buy the watch in good, pre-owned condition on Chrono24 for roughly $8,300. 

Close to the original: The Breitling Navitimer 806 1959 Re-Edition ref. AB0910371B1X1
Close to the original: The Breitling Navitimer 806 1959 Re-Edition ref. AB0910371B1X1

Cartier Santos – The First Pilot’s Watch 

Many of you will already know these facts, but some may be surprised to learn that the Cartier Santos can count three superlatives to its name. Not only was the model the world’s first pilot’s watch, but it was also the world’s first men’s wristwatch, and it’s the oldest line in Carter’s range. The French luxury watch and jewelry manufacturer designed the Santos for Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont in 1904. At the time, round pocket watches were still the norm, so the Santos, with its square case and novel integrated lugs, was absolutely sensational. Key design elements remain intact to this day, including large Roman numerals and a distinctive railway minute track in the center of the dial. 

Over the decades, Cartier has presented a number of different variants of this timepiece, experimenting with various case materials like gold and titanium, and adding numerous complications like a chronograph, moon phase, and tourbillon. Every version has more or less been a hit, but the watch released in honor of the model’s 100th anniversary in 2004, the Cartier Santos 100 XL (ref. 2656), stands out from the crowd. 

The Cartier Santos 100 XL
The Cartier Santos 100 XL

While the dial design remained true to the original Santos, the case was expanded to 38 x 51 mm. This is significantly larger than the historic watch and is best suited to more sizable wrists. The Santos 100 XL is powered by the Cartier 049 caliber, which is based on the tried and tested ETA 2892-2. The movement runs at 28,800 vph and offers a 42-hour power reserve. 

In terms of technology, the watch is somewhat average in its field, but its top-notch craftsmanship, iconic history, and charm give it an edge, not to mention its solid financial performance. 

If you look back to 2011, you’ll see that a stainless steel Santos XL 2656 cost around $3,500. As of October 2022, the same reference cost closer to $5,000. That’s more than a 40% increase in just 11 years. 

Santos 100 XL (ref. 2656): a pioneering luxury watch with solid financial performance
Santos 100 XL (ref. 2656): a pioneering luxury watch with solid financial performance

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso – The First Watch With a Reversible Case 

Swiss luxury watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre is inextricably linked to its most famous model: the Reverso. The watch was initially developed for polo players in the early 1930s. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso’s reversible case allowed players to flip the dial side down, protecting it from impacts on the field. The innovative design made cracked watch glass a thing of the past, at least on the polo field. Over the subsequent decades, the Reverso came into its own as a fine luxury timepiece for prominent individuals across numerous disciplines. 

The basic design principles of the Reverso have changed very little in the past 90 years. However, JLC has experimented with new materials and impressive complications; take, for instance, the stunning platinum Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2. That being said, the Reverso collection has always retained a simple basic model, such as the stainless steel Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classique ref. 250.8.86. Measuring 23 x 38 mm, this watch is an ideal unisex option with that classic 1930’s style. With its simple two-hand display for hours and minutes, it’s a no-nonsense timepiece in the truest sense of the words. Arabic numerals and a central minute track complete the watch’s reserved character. Of course, the reversible case is also a given. 

Inside the watch’s tonneau-shaped case, you’ll find the in-house caliber 846 or 846/1, a movement that JLC has been producing since the mid-1970s. The manual caliber runs at a moderate pace of 21,600 vph and provides the watch with a 40-hour power reserve. 

In terms of financial performance, you could have purchased the Reverso ref. 250.8.86 on Chrono24 for around $2,000 in November 2010. At the end of October 2022, however, the same watch cost upwards of $3,700. This corresponds to an increase in value of some 85% in 12 years. 

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso ref. 250.8.86: a simple watch with a reversible case
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso ref. 250.8.86: a simple watch with a reversible case

TAG Heuer Monaco – The Square Icon  

Square case, blue dial, and a left-sided crown: When you think of the TAG Heuer Monaco from 1969, it’s hard not to think of the charismatic Hollywood star and racing driver Steve McQueen. In fact, it was the “King of Cool” who helped the chronograph achieve its current fame by wearing it in the classic film Le Mans in 1971. As a side note, the timepiece that made it to the silver screen was the TAG Heuer Monaco 1133B. 

Jack Heuer, the great-grandson of brand founder Edouard Heuer, was personally responsible for the Monaco’s design. The model was one of the first manual chronographs of its time. The Caliber 11, also known as the Chronomatic caliber, was based on a Büren movement and equipped with a micro-rotor and chronograph module from Dubois Dépraz. The left-sided crown wasn’t some sort of design gimmick, but rather it was necessary given the movement’s modular construction. The successor movement, the Caliber 12, was introduced soon after and allowed for a more classic arrangement with the crown on the right. 

TAG Heuer has presented countless variations of the Monaco over the past few decades. One version in particular, the ref. CAW211P.FC6356, comes very close to the 1969 original in terms of color and size, and is one of the most sought-after Monaco refs. on Chrono24. Known by insiders as the “TAG Heuer Monaco Steve McQueen,” this watch comes with a blue dial and white subdials at 3 and 9 o’clock. Moreover, the indices are applied horizontally, as opposed to the usual vertical orientation. 

The TAG Heuer Monaco
The TAG Heuer Monaco

The most striking detail is, of course, the left-sided crown. This positioning is made possible by the TAG Heuer Calibre 11, which is based on the Sellita SW300. The movement runs at 28,800 vph and gives the watch a 40-hour power reserve. The timepiece comes on a stylish perforated black leather strap. 

As far as financial performance is concerned, the current Monaco “Steve McQueen” has nothing to be shy of. At the end of 2016, the model could be purchased for around $3,400. Today, you should expect to see prices closer to $4,800 for a pre-owned watch in good condition. This corresponds to an increase of some 41% in just 6 years. 

The vintage ref. 1133B has likewise enjoyed impressive appreciation over the past decade. In mid-2010, the watch cost around $7,500, while today, prices are closer to $13,500. At its peak in mid-2018, the timepiece cost just shy of $18,000. 

A 1970s style icon: the TAG Heuer Monaco ref. 1133B "Steve McQueen"
A 1970s style icon: the TAG Heuer Monaco ref. 1133B “Steve McQueen”
A modern version of the Monaco 1133B: the ref. CAW211P.FC6356
A modern version of the Monaco 1133B: the ref. CAW211P.FC6356

Summary 

As you can see, there are plenty of watches that have been relegated to the second tier that have ample cult status, history, and quality to lean on. The Swiss brands mentioned here are among the most innovative manufacturers in the industry, offering sophisticated technology and outstanding craftsmanship – many for multiple decades. What’s more, these watches have all exhibited stable financial performance and managed to steer clear of the overheated speculative market impacting other well-known brands and models. 


About the Author

Sebastian Swart

I've been using Chrono24 for years to buy and sell watches, as well as for research purposes. I've had an infatuation with watches for as long as I can remember. As a …

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