Watches: Best Classic Timepieces of 2013

By Thierry Ané on November 10, 2013

If you are like me, chances are that unusual displays, unheard-of functions, and innovative materials will definitely strike a chord. Well-aware of our enthusiasm for such attention-seeking timepieces, many watch brands place them at the centre of their SIHH or Baselworld presentations. They immediately arouse interest and end up at the top of our wish lists.

As proud and happy we may be of wearing them, we have to acknowledge that they are not suitable for all occasions. For formal events, we are delighted to find that classic timepiece again somewhere in our drawers. A truly classic timepiece is by definition simple: the hours and minutes, sometimes a seconds hand and at most a date window. To compensate for such an apparent simplicity, a case in precious metal is almost a must. The originality of a specific model falls then to the uniqueness of the case shape and the beauty of the dial.

This exercise in style is therefore much more difficult than it may seem at first glance. No wonder so few brands run the risk of offering their interpretation of the timeless classic watch! Have a second look at Watches of 2013 and you will be surprise to notice how scarce classic timepieces are.

Despite everything, some manufactures (usually the stronghold of the watch industry) are not afraid of the challenge and come up with outstanding examples of timeless and elegant timepieces. The rest of this article introduces my selection of the best classic watches released this year.

Arnorld & Son HMS1 Royal Blue Rose Gold

The acquisition of movement specialist La Joux-Perret and Arnold & Son by the Citizen group last year was definitely for the best: Arnold & Son creativity this year has been amazing. From technical timepieces like the Ultra-Thin Tourbillon Escapement (or the Palladium or Asprey versions), to the beautifully decorated East India Company set (A Fleet of East Indiamen, East Indiamen in the China Seas, The Honourable East India Company’s Ship), to the classic timepiece discussed here, they did absolutely everything right! The very elegant HMS1 Royal Blue is a modern take on the traditional design of John Arnold. The 40 mm rose gold case houses the manually-wound calibre A&S1001 displaying the hours, the minutes and the off-centred seconds at 6 o’clock. The entirely guilloché dial is covered with translucent blue lacquer and features rose gold hands and hour markers. This gorgeous timepiece comes with a black alligator strap.

Find out more about the Arnold & Son HMS1 Royal Blue Rose Gold

Girard-Perregaux 1966 Small Seconds and Date Pink Gold

Girard-Perregaux’s immediately recognisable 1966 case is the perfect frame to create a classic watch with character. I don’t see who would not be overjoyed to put this watch around their wrist. In addition to the central hour and minute hands and the off-centred seconds located at 9 o’clock, the automatic caliber GP1890-0003 also powers the date while offering a 54-hour power reserve. Like almost all timepieces in this selection, the strap is made of black alligator. What makes it stand out though is the unusual (and very smart) cognac-coloured brushed dial.

Find out more about the Girard-Perregaux 1966 Small Seconds and Date Pink Gold

Harry Winston Midnight Automatic 42mm Monochrome White Gold

Harry Winston is no stranger to elegance and the Midnight Automatic 42mm Monochrome discussed here provides yet another piece of evidence. Unlike the models presented so far, this timepiece does not use the warmth of pink or red gold to covey an image of luxury. Rather, it relies of the coldness of white gold to emphasise the beauty of a dial with metallic slate impressions. Powered by an automatic movement (calibre GP 3300) this 42 mm watch only indicates the hours and minutes and offers a discreet date window at 6 o’clock.

Find out more about the Harry Winston Midnight Automatic 42mm Monochrome White Gold

Piaget Altiplano Date 40mm Pink Gold

With its fondness for thin watches, Piaget will always be a contender to look at when it comes to classic watches. The Altiplano Date 40 mm Automatic in pink gold is the perfect illustration of what a really classic watch should be. There is nothing more traditional and elegant than this combination of brown alligator strap, pink gold case and silver dial! Simply through the unusual location if the small seconds dial, however, the watch stands out from the crowd. Caliber 1205P hides another treat on the back with it beautiful rose gold micro-rotor.

Find out more about the Piaget Altiplano Date 40mm Automatic Pink Gold

Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Traditionnelle 38mm Platinum

The Patrimony Traditionnelle 38mm Platinum is the perfect watch to close this selection of classic timepieces. First, it is the epitome of a classic watch: small case size made of an extremely precious metal, manually-wound movement (calibre 4400 AS) with outstanding decoration (the watch bears the hallmark of Geneva), perfectly unobstructed dial. Then, it is the epitome of Vacheron Constantin: the simple yet distinctive case, the beautiful slate grey opaline dial with black minutes and seconds rings…

Find out more about the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Traditionnelle 38mm Platinum

No matter which watch you prefer, you can’t go wrong by picking one of these beauties for you next formal occasion. At first sight, these watches may not be as breathtaking as some talking pieces form the new-generation watchmakers, but the pleasure they will undoubtedly provide is much more refined and sure more lasting.