The world of six-figure timepieces is an enchanting place. This is the realm of the watches of our dreams, populated by bespoke tourbillons, rattrapante chronographs, perpetual calendars and sonorous minute repeaters. It’s easy to get lost in the wonderment before your eyes. Which is why we’ve charted a course, so to speak, to help guide those of you with the means to make dreams come true from ending up with an expensive nightmare on your wrist.
Editor’s Note: Several watches not sold in USD have been translated into USD; their prices will be slightly inaccurate, based on shifting exchange rates.
Patek Philippe Grand Complication 5270G-018
The 5270G-018 is the latest iteration of a remarkable Patek Philippe design that debuted in 2011 and has been continually refined. A perpetual calendar is no surprise at this price point. But the symmetry and balance of the opaline dial speak to Patek’s dedication to legibility in its instrumentation. Note the leap year and day/night indicators flanking the right side of the moonphase display; both are painstaking additions, with commendable visual balance.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar
The moonphase indicator on the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar isn’t perfect. It requires adjustment every 125 years and 317 days. Provided that minor inconvenience won’t bother your great grandchild, this Royal Oak is the ultimate interpretation of Genta’s iconic design. The movement is a self-winding affair made up of 374 parts, four of which are rubies laid in a peripheral rolling ring simply to keep friction and wear on the oscillating weight to a minimum. The Manufacture 5134 movement is hand finished and proudly displayed beneath a sapphire case back; on the front, the dial’s Grande Tappiserie finish is equally stunning.
A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Jumping Seconds
The dead seconds complication, or “Jumping Seconds,” as it’s called in this Richard Lange timepiece by A. Lange & Söhne, is an interesting and extremely difficult feat to execute. To make the seconds hand tick a full second like a quartz watch, Lange employs a remontoire d’égalité on the fourth wheel of its hand-finished L094.1 calibre to control a thin lever called a “flirt.” The flirt is released and then blocked, every second, to drive the blued-steel seconds hand. The execution is exacting but even more impressive when you consider Lange has also integrated a zero-reset function as well as a slick power reserve complication into this limited edition (only 100 pieces) showcase that retails well under six figures.
Girard Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon
To celebrate its 225th anniversary, Girard Perregaux drew inspiration from the archives. Specifically, GP turned to the unique tourbillon created by Constant Girard in the Three Gold Bridges, aka La Esmeralda, a pocketwatch that took home top honors in Paris and Neuchâtel in 1889. Much like that award winner — and Girard’s earlier 1860 development of that signature, patented tourbillon design — La Esmeralda Tourbillon wristwatch employs a trio of iconic, arrow-headed, golden bridges to align its mechanism. Unlike those pocket watches of the past though, the GP09400-0004 movement employed here is a self-winding unit that takes a full month to produce.
Angelus Watches U30 Tourbillon Rattrapante
It took five years for designers and engineers at Angelus Watches to develop the A-150 Manufacture Caliber on full display in this U30 Tourbillon Rattrapante. Boasting a double column wheel flyback split second chronograph, a power reserve display, automatic winding and, of course, a tourbillon, the U30 is a marvel of timekeeping. It’s also an incredible bargain, relatively speaking.
Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1
The Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1 is a celebration of its namesake pioneering master of horology. The large, octagonal shape of the Chronometer FB 1 is a direct homage to the gimbal-suspended marine chronometers of Berthoud’s day, and the round dial is reminiscent of his own celebrated No. 6 and No. 8 units. The FB-T.FC tourbillon movement features a barrel and fusée that are linked via a chain 28cm long, comprised of 474 links and 300 pins. Much like everything else in this watch, it’s hand assembled and visible through a porthole in the octagonal case.
MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual
MB&F is constantly pushing the boundaries of timepiece design and engineering. Its Legacy Machine Perpetual may be the greatest example of that dedication yet. The platinum case, measuring 44mm, is comprised of 69 individual parts alone, and it houses a 581-piece perpetual calendar movement. The engine employs what MB&F calls a “mechanical processor” that starts with a 28-day base and knows to add days — and how many — each month. Most impressive, though, is the balance wheel perched atop the LM’s dial like a flying saucer.
Bulgari Octo Finnisimo Minute Repeater
This is the world’s thinnest minute repeater timepiece. It stands a mere 6.85mm tall, which is over 1mm thinner than the previous “thinnest” repeater from Vacheron Constantin. Equally important, though, is the level of craftsmanship that this Genta-based design exudes throughout. The titanium casing is beautifully sand-blasted; the dial’s indices are laser-cut. Only 50 watches were released, and we’re pretty sure they’ve all been bought. So expect to pay higher than Bulgari’s initial ask.
Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph
The calibre 3300 manual-winding movement that powers the Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph took seven years to develop. Working with a single pusher, Vacheron went to great lengths to engineer the 3300 to be both robust and user-friendly. While typical chronographs experience some form of internal abuse with every enthusiastic press of a pusher, the Harmony prevents its chrono gears from moving until “sufficient” pressure has been applied. In typical Vacheron fashion, the fit and finish are superlative and the design, inspired by Vacheron’s own Doctor’s Chronograph from 1928, is all elegance.
Grand Seiko Spring Drive
Boasting an 8-day power reserve, Seiko’s handcrafted Spring Drive Caliber 9R01 features a three-barrel construction, linked by simultaneously unwinding springs. The movement is held together by a one-piece bridge that is cut in the shape of Mt. Fuji’s silhouette and ensures uninterrupted power transmission while providing shock protection, too. The dial of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive also pays homage to its surroundings with a diamond-dust finish reminiscent of the Nagano region that this Seiko calls home.