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.
The Apple Watch can do far, far more than any watch in history, and continues to dominate the smartwatch segment itself. Apple studied the Swiss watch industry in developing its smartwatch and the result is a wearing experience that watch enthusiasts should appreciate — even if many are too stubborn to do so.
Diameter: 34mm or 38mm
Persistently in-demand, the Nautilus is the steel sport watch from Patek Philippe, typically selling for far above its retail price. Designed in 1976 by the luminary Gerald Genta following the success of his Royal Oak for Audemars Piguet, the Nautilus is one of the world's most prestigious watches but offers a casual wearing experience and sporty specs.
Movement: Patek Philippe 26‑330 S C automatic
Among the several models that launched the modern incarnation of A. Lange & Söhne's revival in 1994, it's the Lange 1 that catapulted the company to success. With an asymmetric layout featuring a subdial for the main time, a small dial for the seconds, a large digital date display and a power reserve indicator, it's not only striking and original, but its strong personality and thoughtful details make it a masterpiece in many collectors' minds.
Movement: A. Lange & Söhne L095.1 handwound
Dive watches as we know them today were born in 1953 when, alongside important releases from Rolex and Zodiac, Blancpain introduced its Fifty Fathoms. Originally designed for the French navy's elite Nageur de Combat, the watch was reissued back in the 2000s and the result is one of the most notable modern luxury dive watches available.
Cartier pioneered the wristwatch with a square-shaped Santos in 1904, but it was the 1917 Tank that catapulted the men's wristwatch into popularity. The collection is alive and varied today and constitutes the archetypical formal, elegant watch.
Movement: Various handouwnd, automatic and quartz
The history of its use by Italian navy divers, its swaggering panache, its simple but masculine style, its captivating luminescence, its distinctive crown guard and locking mechanism...these all contribute to what makes the Panerai Luminor an enduring icon.
Movement: Handwound or automatic
Patek Philippe's perpetual calendar chronograph watches are legendary in part because they were the first company to ever produce such watches serially. In 1941, the reference 1518 introduced this combination of perpetual calendar and chronograph — though highly complicated, it exemplifies refinement, elegance and wearability.
Movement: Heavily modified Valjoux handwound
When Gerald Genta designed the Royal Oak for Audemars Piguet in 1970, not even he could have imagined its future success or influence. It single-handedly introduced the concept of the luxury steel sport watch with integrated bracelet to the world, but even nearly 50 years after its 1972 release it's as fresh and desirable as ever, if not more so.
Movement: Various AP automatic
There's nothing quite as seductive as a chance to wear the same watch that passed NASA's stringent tests and went to the moon. The Omega Speedmaster's solid build and versatile looks further helped it become one of the most popular watches today, and it doesn't hurt that modern versions remain relatively accessibly priced.
Movement: Various Omega handwound calibers
Uncontroversially, the Rolex Submariner is the most recognized and influential watch in history, and the 5513 is the model that established the form that defines the Sub as we know it today. Introduced in 1962 largely fully formed, it was produced for around 25 years. Simple and legible but eminently versatile, the watch world without this watch at its nucleus would look radically different.
Movement: Rolex 1520 and 1530 automatic