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You'll Never Guess the Origin of This Unique Watch Design

The regulator watch offers not only a practical alternative to traditional dials, but a fascinating history.

xeric regulator automatic silver bullet watch

Watches should be accurate and legible. These principles underpin the most successful and familiar watch designs in history, but a purer expression exists in a type of watch known as a regulator. Today, regulator watches are uncommon but offer a unique alternative to standard time-telling that's simultaneously highly functional and rooted in horological history.

Before the availability of hyper-accurate timekeeping, watchmakers set and tested their watches against a regulator clock. Workshops would have a regulator positioned where all the watchmakers could easily reference it from their desks, and these were some of the most accurate clocks of their time — as specialized watchmaker tools, they even look a bit special compared to traditional clocks.

Regulator clocks (and watches) are immediately identifiable by their unique layout: One large hand in the center indicates the minutes, while the hours and seconds are measured on smaller subdials of their own. Separating the displays makes for quick and precise reading, and emphasizing the minutes was particularly important for watchmakers regulating their watches and clocks.

This design has been reinterpreted on modern wristwatches, and although uncommon, they remain easy to use and represent a link to the history of horology. They also offer a look and experience that stands apart from that of standard dial layouts without feeling eccentric. Below are some notable modern examples.

Xeric Regulator Automatic Silver Bullet

xeric regulator automatic silver bullet watch

As a brand focused on retro-themed designs and alternative concepts, it's no surprise that Xeric would have its own interpretation of the regulator watch. It has the separated displays of a traditional regulator, but is characteristic for the brand's typically funky design style and also its affordable price point.

Diameter: 42mm
Movement: Miyota 82S7 automatic
Price: $499
Manufacturer info: xeric.com


Hamilton Jazzmaster Regulator Auto

hamilton jazzmaster regulator auto

Hamilton is great at offering classic styles with its own American-informed personality and reasonable pricing. Designed with generally traditional styling, the Regulator Auto doesn't look too conservative with its separated time displays featuring the hour and seconds hands positioned asymmetrically.

Diameter: 42mm
Movement: ETA 2825-2
Price: $1,275
Manufacturer info: hamiltonwatch.com


Louis Erard Excellence Régulateur

louis erard excellence regulateur watch

Louis Erard is one of very few brands that has made the regulator a central part of its identity. One of the most striking watches in recent memory was the brand's collaboration with designer Alain Silberstein on an exceptionally compelling and colorful regulator-style watch (now sold out), but the brand's wider collection and other collabs are some of the most interesting out there.

Price: ~$2,500
Manufacturer info: louiserard.com


Chronoswiss Regulator Classic

chronoswiss regulator classic watch

Chronoswiss is credited with pioneering the regulator as a wristwatch, starting back in 1988. Today, the majority of their collections remain focused on the concept, and most of them lean toward technical, modern, bold and sporty styling. The Classic is a conservative exception to its many colorful and skeletonized models, but it remains representative of Chronoswiss as one of the few watchmakers that has built a brand around the regulator concept.

Diameter: 37mm
Movement: Chronoswiss C. 295 automatic
Price: $4,700
Manufacturer info: chronoswiss.com


Sinn 6100 Classic B

sinn 6100 classic b watch

A elegantly styled regulator seems unusual for Sinn, best known for its tough tool watches — but the German watchmaker can also offer a striking take on traditional designs. The simply named 6100 Classic B uses a modified pocket watch movement fitted into a 44mm case.

Diameter: 44mm
Movement: Unitas 6498 (base) manual
Price: ~$3,000
Manufacturer info: sinn.de


Glashütte Original Senator Regulator

glashutte original senator regulator watcg

Anything you get from Glashütte Original is going to offer high-end watchmaking with a refined in-house movement, and a G.O. regulator is no exception. In addition to the separate displays of the hours, minutes and seconds, the brand offers a power reserve display as well as its signature "big date" complication.

Diameter: 42mm
Movement: Glashütte Original 58-04 manual
Price: $26,600
Manufacturer info: glashuette-original.com


Patek Philippe 5235

patek philippe 5235 watch

At first glance, the Patek Philippe 5235 looks somewhat like a traditional regulator watch, but the brand simply doesn't make typical anything. In addition to its industry-topping level of refinement and finishing (the movement is visible through a case back window), annual calendar complications have been tastefully integrated with the day, date and month in subtle apertures.

Diameter: 40.5mm
Movement: Patek Philippe 31‑260 REG QA automatic
Price: $55,590
Manufacturer info: patek.com


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