To watch collectors, the term “Frankenwatch” is pejorative, suggesting an impure timepiece cobbled together from parts of questionable origin and vintage. But ask those same collectors to name the best constituent parts from any watch and you’ll be in for a rousing debate, which will eventually produce an imaginary watch that only a mad doctor could love. So we decided to jump in, building a hypothetical watch made up of the best components from a number of watch companies. The criteria are fiercely subjective, and the resulting watch is an entirely ludicrous, unsightly mongrel no one would ever wear. Which just goes to show: a watch is more than the sum of its parts.
Dial: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver
The mesmerizing texture of AP’s Mega-Tapisserie dial, that perfectly symmetrical grid of lozenges, results from hours turning under the stylus of a pantograph machine. The tapisserie (literally “tapestry” in French) for which AP is known adds a three-dimensional elegance to what is often a two-dimensional component. It also tempers AP’s Royal Oak Offshore brutes with a level of refinement.
Case: Grand Seiko 44GS
You may be surprised to see a Japanese brand among the European Masters, but nobody builds cases as well as Grand Seiko, the high-end marque of the ubiquitous watch company. Drawing on a knife-making tradition that dates back to the samurai swords of centuries past, the Grand Seiko 44GS case is a study in understated perfection, all razor-sharp angles, perfect brushwork, polishing and tight tolerances.
Crown: Rolex Triplock
This really isn’t a fair contest. Rolex pioneered the screw-down crown in the 1920s and it’s been the industry standard ever since. The modern Triplock crown is big and perfectly fluted for grip. It threads in smoothly and with authority, its three seals guaranteeing watertightness to unfathomable depths.
Movement: A. Lange & Söhne (any one)
There are lots of well-finished movements out there, but you’d be hard pressed to find an argument against the German masters at Lange producing the most exquisite. All bridges and plates are finished by steady hands wielding a quiver of wooden tools, even on surfaces no one will ever see. The balance cock is hand engraved by a single craftsman who carves his or her initials there in case you ever visit Glashütte and want to meet them. Then the movement is disassembled, cleaned and reassembled before it leaves the factory. The result is a city under glass.
Strap: IWC Santoni Leather from Portofino Handwound
If we were outfitting our imaginary watch with a bracelet, Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak masterpiece would be a shoe-in — but let’s go with leather instead. It’s a crowded field of contenders, but IWC’s partnership with Italian shoemaker Santoni has yielded some lovely skins. First featured on the Portofino watch collection, the Santoni straps are also available in IWC’s Pilot and Portuguese families. Let’s go for the dark brown, almost burgundy alligator from the Portofino Handwound — thickly padded, full of texture and burnished like a favorite pair of supple Italian brogues.
Hands: OMEGA Seamaster Aqua Terra Master Co-axial
Often overlooked, hands can make or break a watch. Since we like watches that straddle sporty and refined, let’s pull a handset from a watch that does just that. OMEGA has always done a nice job with its hands — the iconic sword hands of its Seamaster 300 and the bold orange minute hand of the original Ploprof, for example. But none are prettier than the so-called “broad arrow” hands that have graced various watches over OMEGA’s history. Nowadays, those faceted, rhodium-plated hands are found on the Aqua Terra (James Bond’s latest wrist wear, by the way). Their polished angles catch light beautifully, and the broad arrow tip of the minute hand is bold and sporty.