Watches are far too subjective to rank, you say? We did it anyway. For this list of the 50 Greatest Watches of All Time, we identified timepieces with a combination of compelling features, influence and lasting popularity, as well as a few overlooked but exceptional models. Deriving from all watch categories and from the past hundred or so years, this ultimate tally culminates in the single greatest, most perfect watch ever created.
Looking for watches you can actually buy? Check out our stories "The 50 Best Watches for Men" and "The 30 Best Affordable Watches Under $1,000".
A design classic, the Timex Weekender is the humble and affordable timepiece that's led to many an illustrious collection. Available in more colors and configurations than you can shake a stick at, it just might be the ultimate everyman, everyday watch.
Decades after their introduction, calculator watches are still somehow cool, and Casio's Databank is easily the most iconic. (Michael J. Fox wore one in Back to the Future.) For very little money you can still get a watch with a useful feature and scads of nostalgia.
One of the most basic and rugged mechanical watches you would actually want to wear every day, the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical is a contemporary classic. A thoroughly modern product, it references the brand's history of producing military watches.
Movement: ETA 2802 handwound
The cult following surrounding Seiko's SKX series (and the SKX007 in particular) is nothing short of a phenomenon. Its solid specs and personality have won over minions of watch enthusiasts and regular Joes alike, and its basic characteristics still underpin the Japanese brand's image today.
Movement: Seiko 7S36 automatic
Created in 1967 with input from none other than Jacques Cousteau, the Sub 300T epitomizes a brand known for its dive watches. It was the first watch to offer a unidirectionally rotating bezel and the first with a bright orange dial. The Conquistador version featured the first commercially available helium escape valve.
Movement: ETA 2852 automatic (modern: 2824-2)
The Nomos Metro Datum Gangreserve was designed by Mark Braun and introduced the brand's in-house movement with Swing System escapement technology. One of Nomos's most notable models, it also stands out visually, with a quirky design featuring minty green highlights and an off-center power reserve indicator.
Movement: DUW 4401 manual
Few modern watches are as recognizable and iconic as Bell & Ross's smaller flagship design, first released in 2005. Based on cockpit instruments, the look was introduced in the large BR01 series, but the 42mm BR03 makes it the wearable success that it is today.
Movement: Sellita SW300-1 Automatic
Based on an Oris pilot's watch from 1930s, the Big Crown Pointer Date offers a timepiece with formal styling but a shot of aviation influence. A centrally mounted hand that indicates the date at the dial periphery is an uncommon feature that adds an unusual twist.
Movement: SW 200-1 Automatic
The Parmigiani Ovale Pantographe solves a basic watchmaking problem in a wonderfully over-engineered way: In order for the hands to reach the hour markers on this elegantly elliptical dial, they extend and contract like accordions as they travel around it. Inspiration was taken from a 19th-century pocket watch.
Movement: Parmigiani PF111 handwound
Urwerk seems to break all the "rules" of watch design and aesthetics and yet, somehow, the result is captivating. The UR 105 is perhaps the brand's most representative model, with a bizarre case and hands that themselves display the hours while pointing to the current minute along a track.
Movement: Urwerk UR 5.03 Automatic