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.
Manufactured from 1959 through 1980, the Rolex GMT Master ref. 1675 is one of the longest-produced models from the brand and has come to define the iconic GMT Master look. The GMT Master is so culturally potent that any watch with the blue and red bezel will be called "Pepsi," but it's Rolex that coined the style, of course.
Movement: Rolex 1570 automatic
The ref. 806 is perhaps the model that best encapsulates the history and signature features of the storied Breitling Navitimer, with a slide rule bezel that was used by pilots for a range of necessary calculations at a time before cockpits went digital. A modern remake offers much of the same appeal but with updated materials and construction.
Movement: Breitling B-09 handwound
Possibly Grand Seiko's most notable model, the Snowflake combines a multitude of features that make the brand unique: It uses an innovative Spring Drive movement, features "zaratsu" polishing and places emphasis on the beautifully textured execution of its dial.
Movement: Seiko Spring Drive 9R65 Automatic
Officially the first purpose-built, serially produced wristwatch and simultaneously the first-ever pilot's watch, the Cartier Santos was made for a pioneering aviator in 1904. It remains one of Cartier's most popular collections and has an utterly distinctive personality.
Movement: Various handwound or automatic
A. Lange & Söhne's Zeitwerk was controversial at its introduction for its avant-garde looks, but quickly became one of the most unique and notable watches in recent history. It helps that every Lange watch is refined to exceptional standards and incorporates room for creativity and daring.
Movement: A. Lange & Söhne L043.1 Manual
Even at first glance, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, introduced in 1931, is an Art Deco design masterpiece, but it's most unique for featuring a case that can be reversed on the wrist — originally conceived to protect it from knocks when being worn by polo players. Today it's made in both simple and complicated versions.
Movement: Quartz, handwound and automatic
The A-11 has been called "the watch that won the War." Made by several American companies for Allied soldiers in WWII, it had to be durable, legible and accurate, traits that still define the best watches today. Despite its utilitarian purpose, it's somehow attractive — and one of the most notable watches ever made.
Movement: Various handwound
When Casio employee Kikuo Ibe smashed his prized watch, he was inspired to create one that simply "wouldn't break when you dropped it," and the first G-Shock debuted in 1983. Today, the DNA of the original reference DW-5000C carries on in the 5600 series and others and remains one of the toughest, coolest watches in existence.
This well-known watch from Heuer and then TAG Heuer has taken many different forms over the years, but all draw upon the Carrera introduced in 1964 as the reference 2447. This might still be the most perfect of them all, and a modern remake captures its charms well while adding updates like a slightly larger diameter.
The groundbreaking 1969 Zenith El Primero movement, introduced in the reference A384, was among the first automatic chronographs in the world. Operating at the unusually high frequency of 5Hz, this movement is still produced today and powers a variety of watches.
Movement: Zenith El Primero automatic