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Feature: The most overlooked watches in the world

Picture this: you’ve spent years developing an incredible watch and spent thousands of pounds on marketing, only for your watch to have its five minutes of fame, or worse, slip into the woodwork amongst thousands of other pieces. It happens much too often, and it means that so many great watches are overlooked. So, that being the case, here are a few watches that I think deserve more attention.

Rolex Oysterquartz

Quartz timekeeping has been around since the late 1920s, but it would be some 40 years before the technology would become small enough to fit in a wristwatch. Around 20 Swiss watch brands—including the likes of Omega, Patek Philippe and Rolex—would band together to research and develop the first Swiss quartz watch movement, the prototype Beta-1—in 1966—which would then evolve into the Beta-21 calibre in 1969, which the group of watchmakers would use to create watches with.

Rolex didn’t stick with the Beta-21 for long, however. The movement—although more accurate than any mechanical calibre—had its flaws, so Rolex took a mechanical calibre 3035, swapped the escapement for a quartz oscillator, and called it a day, utilising the best parts of quartz technology to create the highly accurate, battery-powered quartz/mechanical Oysterquartz. Nowadays, Oysterquartz watches can be had for just a few thousand pounds—and although it ticks louder than my bedside clock at 3am—its 70s styling makes it something that stands out, even for a Rolex.

Chopard’s L.U.C. watches

Look up the definition of if-you-know-you-know in the watch world, and you’ll find the L.U.C. collection from Chopard. These watches, named after Chopard’s founder, Louis-Ulysse Chopard, offer incredible value for money, and are the best the brand has to offer. Let's take this L.U.C. 1937 for example. While you can pick this 150th-anniversary watch up for around £6,000 pre-owned, it's built like a watch that costs ten times that.

Aside from the 42mm stainless steel case, decorated with a mixture of brushed and polished finishes, and the clean, large, white dial with black hour and minute hands, numerals and minute track—the contrast of which helps to make the watch incredibly legible—the 1937 boasts the automatic in-house calibre 1.010. This 60-hour calibre is chronometer-rated and beautifully decorated with Côte de Genève, polished screws, and anglage—all of which are easier to observe thanks to a skeletonised rotor-weight.

Breguet Tradition

Abraham-Louis Breguet is to watchmaking what the Wright brothers are to aviation. Breguet is credited for some of watchmaking’s biggest breakthroughs, like the tourbillon, and is also responsible for creating the world’s first wristwatch all the way back in 1810, a commission from the Queen of Naples. The Tradition—seen here—is a watch inspired by his early work, his souscription pocket watches from the mid-1790s.

And you notice that influence straight away. The 50-hour Calibre 507 is displayed dial-side for all to see, arranged in the same configuration as Breguet’s early pocket watches. While the Tradition line does offer some of the complications most synonymous with Breguet, this 7057, in Rose gold, enjoys the extra breathing room to effortlessly display the time; power left within the watch—displayed using a simple indicator to the left of the small off-centre dial—and its array of finishings, like the Guilloche on the dial, the frosting of the mainplate and bridges, the circular graining on the wheels, the list goes on. A watch in honour of one of the great watchmakers, with incredible finishing, for less than a pre-owned Daytona? This one’s underrated, for sure.

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Skeleton Power Reserve

The Bulgari Octo Finissimo is a record-breaking watch, to put it mildly. World’s thinnest tourbillon watch—both hand-wound and automatic—world’s thinnest minute repeater watch, world’s thinnest automatic watch, world’s thinnest perpetual calendar watch, I’ll stop or we’ll be here all day. And because of all that, Bulgari has firmly planted itself as one of the watchmaking big boys, flexing its horological muscles for all who glance in its direction.

While you would have seen this bead-blasted titanium case before, I’m betting you’ve never seen it in this form. The regular Bulgari Octo Finissimo is a little more restrained when it comes to its dial, but not this, skeletonised, leaving nothing to the imagination. At just under £25,000, this watch not only grants you access to the ultra-thin club—with the whole watch only 5.37mm thick—but it also shows you how all that was achieved, thanks to its truly open-worked design.

Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921

I’d argue that Vacheron Constantin as a manufacturer is overlooked, but for time’s sake, I’ll stick to one watch: the Historiques American 1921.

The watch this Historiques American 1921 is based upon was produced exclusively for the American market in—no prizes for guessing—1921. It served as a driver's watch, with the movement and highly legible dial rotated 45 degrees to make glancing down at the time while driving significantly easier—and less dangerous.

Like many other Vacheron Constantin watches, the quality of this rose gold Historiques American 1921 is second to none, with the calibre 4400 AS inside even boasting a Geneva Seal, one of watchmaking’s most prestigious accolades.

And it’s also a great conversation starter. Looking down at your wrist, someone may ask: “Why does your watch look broken?” To which you would respond with a brief—horologically superior—chuckle, and answer: In the 1920s, Vacheron Constantin was looking to the American market, so it decided to...

Which watches do you think are overlooked?

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