W hat makes a fine sports watch tick? From the super-pro Rolex Submariner to Audemars Piguet’s style-savvy Royal Oak, or a musician’s favorite – the Aquanaut – we take a deep dive through decades of iconic designs.
The Rolex Submariner
The Submariner is the ultimate sports watch design, the benchmark of what any sports watch should be: rugged, reliable and simple. True to its roots as a serious technical player, the iconic Swiss watchmaker designed the Rolex Submariner for and in consultation with professional divers, setting the standard with its launch in 1953. And, as Rolex has been perfecting the design for well over half a century, every detail has been tested to destruction. From the sizable steel case to its luminous hour markers and easy "glidelock" extension bracelet clasp system, the Rolex Submariner is an unmistakable design icon. Its hardy self-winding 3235 movement, which will run for 70 hours fully wound and stay precise to -2/+2 seconds per day, makes this perennial classic the sports watch upon which to start any watch collection.
Rolex Submariners Available for Immediate Purchase
The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona sports chronograph is the most in-demand watch in the world, with pre-owned prices exceeding retail year after year. The reason? The Daytona is a classic design with added movie-star glamour. Named after the storied Florida racetrack and forever associated with Hollywood great, Paul Newman, the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona was designed for motorsport. First launched in 1963, it’s been continuously improved along the way. The 4Hz movement is self-winding with a 72-hour power reserve and the chronograph can record time increments from hours down to 1/8th of a second.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytonas Available for Immediate Purchase
The Patek Philippe Nautilus
For a simple blue-dial, stainless steel watch, Patek Phillipe’s Nautilus 5711/A has a storied history. As a house more famous for creating artfully complicated watches in precious metals, Patek Philippe took the watch world by surprise when it commissioned the legendary watch designer Gérald Genta to design a typically no-nonsense design in the mid 1970s. Five decades on, fans had a frenzied reaction when Patek Philippe announced the discontinuation of this Nautilus iteration in 2021. In effect, the Nautilus, with its maritime vessel porthole-shaped case, has evolved from an interesting sideline to a status symbol appreciated by generations across the globe. Artist and businessman Jay-Z is one of the most high-profile Patek Philippe Nautilus fans, as is the fashion designer Victoria Beckham. But then, the Nautilus is a sublimely proportioned design as impeccably made as you would expect from this lauded Swiss watchmaker.
The Patek Philippe Aquanaut
The Aquanaut was originally conceived as a simpler, more contemporary take on the Patek Philippe Nautilus concept. Intended to be fitted with a composite rubber — or “tropical” strap as the maker labeled it — rather than a metal bracelet, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut has developed a cult following since it was launched in 1997. A slightly more complicated member of the Aquanaut family, the present Travel Time reference 5164R-001 combines the model's youthful looks with practical complications for frequent travelers, such as dual time zones, a day/night indicator and date.
Patek Philippe Aquanauts Available for Immediate Purchase
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
Gérald Genta’s 1972 Royal Oak watch design for Audemars Piguet (he also designed for Patek Philippe, Bulgari, IWC and Omega) created a whole new category in watchmaking by making a luxury, non-precious metal sports watch. The result was a watch that defined the renaissance of Swiss watchmaking and inspired any number of imitators. Audemars Piguet has made numerous variations, but the classic combination of “porthole” bezel, hexagonal bolts, engine-turned “tapisserie” dial and integrated bracelet matched to slim case remains instantly recognizable as the stone-cold classic that is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.