While a grail is indeed something that’s individually defined, more often than not, it comes in the form of an exquisitely finished, high-end horological creation, that’s as rare as it is normally unattainable. In this Top 10 roundup, let’s take a look at some of the most awe-inspiring, grail-worthy timepieces on the market today.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5270 Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
To start off the list, we’ve got an impressive piece from Patek Philippe, known simply by aficionados of the brand as the Ref. 5270. This is the latest perpetual calendar chronograph to be released by Patek Philippe, and what makes this one all the more special is that it is the first to make use of the Cal. 29-535 PS – a fully in-house developed and manufactured movement.
In previous years, Patek Philippe’s perpetual calendar chronographs were powered by a heavily modified version of the legendary Lemania movement, therefore the introduction of this newer reference represented a significant step forward into the brand’s future.
A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk
Since its release, the Zeitwerk has stood out in the world of haute horology as one of the most distinguished designs of the 21st century, and with good reason. Thanks to the use of a digital-style display featuring Lange’s signature typeface, the watch is afforded an avant-garde, yet still extremely traditional aesthetic. Moreover, it’s also highly legible, and can be read rather quickly.
But just like any other piece by A. Lange & Söhne, the main event is on the flip-side, where the Cal. L043.1 movement can be seen through the sapphire crystal display caseback. Made up of 416 impeccably finished components, the L043.1 is a true world class caliber from both a mechanical and aesthetic perspective, and has played a large role in cultivating collectors’ interest in the brand.
Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle 14-Day Tourbillon
Regardless of just how practical a tourbillon may in fact be, there is no denying the allure of this visually stimulating complication, first developed in the late 1700s to counteract the effects of gravity on the escapement in pocketwatches One tourbillon of particular interest to many important collectors is the Vacheron Constantin’s Traditionelle 14-Day Tourbillon, which is revered for its beautiful, impeccably finished Cal. 2260 movement.
Rather impressively, this piece also features a 14-day power reserve, which is accomplished using four mainspring barrels. This makes the Traditionelle Tourbillon not only prestigious, but also quite easy to own and wear — if you can stomach the gargantuan price tag, that is.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar
Without question, Gerald Genta is easily one of, if not the most important watch designer of all time. Through legendary designs of his like the Patek Philippe Nautilus, and the Audemars Piguet Royal, Genta essentially established an all-new class of luxury wristwatch, and popularized the use of stainless steel in high-end watchmaking.
Although the Royal Oak is a terrific watch to begin with, the perpetual calendar equipped variant might be even cooler, and arguably more worthy of true grail status. It is also one of the few perpetual calendar conversion pieces to maintain all of the magic of the classic time-only piece, which certainly speaks to the strength of the Royal Oak’s design.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Duométre Chronograph
The word underrated might be overused, but in the case of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Duométre, it couldn’t be more true. As far as intriguing complications go, this piece really packs a punch, thanks to its mono-pusher chronograph, foudroyante, dual power-reserve indicators, and a central seconds hand. Wow!
While it is not an affordable watch by any means, finding a similarly complicated timepiece from a watchmaker of this caliber is a difficult task at this price point, making the Duométre an attractive option for those wishing to wet their feet in the waters of haute horology.
Rolex Daytona Ref. 116506
Chances are you’ve already heard of the Rolex Daytona, and know all about it. In the world of sports chronographs, it’s a force to be reckoned with, and as far as horological designs go, it’s hard to find a more iconic piece. With this in mind, one can understand why the more exclusive variants of the Daytona are held in such high regard, and the 50th anniversary marking, platinum cased Ref. 116506 of 2013 is no exception.
Chocolate brown and ice blue might not sound like the most versatile of colour combinations, but in the metal, it works unbelievably well. Collectors of both modern and vintage Rolex agree that this is a Daytona that will stand the test of time, and surely appreciate in value as the years continue to pass.
IWC Schaffhausen Ref. 5033 Portuguese Perpetual Calendar
Measuring over 44 mm across, IWC’s Portuguese Perpetual Calendar isn’t your grandfather’s perpetual calendar, but instead a stylish, modern interpretation of the classic complication. From a mechanical standpoint, it has also been designed with modern functionality in mind, as everything can be adjusted and set using the crown, unlike other perpetual calendars which require the use of recessed pushers.
This Portuguese also happens to be one of the more accessible perpetual calendars available on the market today, and a great place to start for someone looking to get into the exciting world of more heavily complicated timepieces.
F.P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance
Despite having only been in business since 1999, F.P. Journe has already made a host of pieces that challenge how we approach watchmaking and finishing in the modern age. One such watch is the Chronomètre à Résonance, which Journe first unveiled in 2000 as the brand’s second production model.
What makes this Journe so special is the incorporation of an innovative system of two balance wheels, which beat in unison, or resonance, to ensure extreme accuracy. This is achieved by placing the two balance wheels beside each other, such that the forces created by the two work together to keep both beating at the same rate.
MB&F Legacy Machine LM1
When MB&F announced the beginning of the Legacy Machine series in 2011, they changed their own game and created a piece that had a more “traditional” look than each of their previous models but still is completely different from any other watch from every other brand.
It’s not uncommon to hear this sort of high praise get thrown around in modern watch media, but in this case, it couldn’t be more true. Upon its announcement, no one in the industry was making watches that looked anything remotely like the LM1, making it an instant, modern classic of independent haute horology.
Some six years later, and the LM1 is still as beautiful as ever, and continues to serve as both an aesthetic and mechanical influence for several watchmakers. By refining the already established, deconstructed design language that’s come to be so popular in independent haute horology, MB&F helped attract new interest to their brand, and the work that is going on in this exciting section of the market.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5370 Split-Seconds Chronograph
Among the greatest Patek Philippe’s of all time are those fitted with split-seconds chronographs, or rattrapante as they’re also known. It’s a wondrous complication to watch in action, and surprisingly a greatly useful one too, as it allows one to time multiple occurrences in succession. Given the complexity and admittedly small market for chronographs of this kind, Patek Philippe seldom releases rattrapante pieces, but when they do, they knock it out of the park, so to speak.
Like the aforementioned Ref. 5270, the 5370 also makes use of the brand’s classically executed Cal. CH 29-535 PS movement, but in place of the perpetual calendar complication is a split seconds chronograph mechanism. Another detail to note is the use of luminous hour and minute hands, which are rarely seen on complicated Patek’s.
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