Are you willing to take your love for watches one step outside the box? We all know the most popular Rolex models; whether you love the Daytona, the Submariner, or the GMT-Master, almost any watch fan will know something about them. Most people will also have heard of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus, the most iconic modern luxury sports watches around, both of which were created by Gérald Genta.
But do you also have a list of lesser-known favorites? I previously wrote about some of the underrated watch brands out there. This time, we will take it one step further and look at specific models that deserve more attention. While experienced watch fans might already know them, a lot of watch enthusiasts may not be aware of these hidden gems. So, let’s jump in with our selection of four watches that fly under the radar.
1. Sinn 103
Let’s start this list with a watch from a brand that I covered in my previous article about watch brands that fly under the radar. Sinn from Frankfurt am Main, Germany has a great deal of history to look back on and plenty of iconic models to back it up. In my opinion, the best Sinn classic that is still in production is the Sinn 103. The history of this iconic pilot’s chronograph dates back the 1960s — the decade of great chronographs.
The Sinn 103 was first released in 1966. During the late 1960s and 70s, Sinn introduced a number of absolutely amazing versions of this watch. Models with a reverse panda dial and the legendary Valjoux 72 or Valjoux 726 movement are among the best chronographs of the era. In 1988, Sinn introduced the third generation of the Sinn 103, which laid the foundation for the current model.
The current Sinn 103 collection consists of several different models, including standard stainless-steel watches and titanium editions. There are also a number of complications available, but the two models that still ooze the power of the 1960s classic are the stainless steel 103 St and 103 St Sa. On a leather or fabric strap, they both absolutely look the part. And the best thing is that you can get one for around $2,000, depending on your choice of a strap or bracelet. If you want something truly magical, however, try to get your hands on a vintage version from the 1960s. Sure, it’s a lot more expensive with prices between $8-10k, but it’s phenomenal.
2. Girard-Perregaux Laureato
Have you heard of the Girard-Perregaux Laureato? Most watch fans know that the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus are among the watch world’s hottest properties at the moment, but they aren’t the only 1970s luxury sports watches that are still around today. We have already witnessed the glorious return of the Vacheron Constantin 222 — the watch that inspired the current Vacheron Constantin Overseas — during the most recent edition of Watches & Wonders. Another classic from that era is the Girard-Perregaux Laureato. This watch was first released in 1975 as a two-tone quartz sports watch. The timepiece got its name from the 1967 film The Graduate, or Il Laureato in Italian.
At the time of its release, the Girard-Perregaux Laureato was among the first modern sports watches; the Patek Philippe Nautilus and the IWC Ingenieur had not yet been released. The watch stunned a lot of fans and became quite a hit. The current version of the Laureato is a lot more modern than the original, but it still has the same characteristic bezel shape. The 42-mm watch comes with a Clous de Paris, or hobnail pattern on its dial and features the signature integrated bracelet. Inside you will find an in-house caliber. With a list price of just over $13,000, this is the perfect watch for people who aren’t willing to spend a fortune on a Royal Oak or a Nautilus. If you’re interested, check out the brilliant Infinity Edition that comes with a stunning black onyx dial for a little over $15,000 — that is the true hidden gem. The Girard-Perregaux Laureato is a bit of a sleeper, but it has the design, the movement, and the history to be a lot more popular with a wider audience. And the best thing? You can actually get one without spending an arm and a leg.
3. Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra
There aren’t many Omega watches that really fly under the radar. The brand is incredibly popular and so many people are aware of the numerous great watches they produce. Most fans know the brand for the legendary Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch and the James Bond favorite, the Seamaster diver. However, the greatest daily wearer and most versatile timepiece the brand has in its collection is arguably the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra. This watch is actually part of the Seamaster family, so its official name, the Seamaster Aqua Terra, can be a bit confusing. But once you take a look at Omega’s collection, you’ll quickly realize that the Aqua Terra is marketed as a watch for yachting rather than diving. In any case, the watch is the perfect daily wearer because it suits a wide range of situations. This model was first introduced in 2002 and quickly established itself as a welcome addition to the Seamaster family. The current Aqua Terra is kind of a secret gem in the Omega collection. It’s available in several different sizes, but the most popular are the 41-mm and 38-mm versions. There is a wide selection of different dial colors on offer, each of which features a pattern that resembles the wooden deck planks on a yacht. Inside the case, Omega has equipped the watch with its brilliant caliber 8900. This movement is METAS-certified and resistant to magnetic fields up to 15,000 gauss. Add the choice between a very comfortable bracelet or a classy leather strap, and this is the perfect timepiece if you’re in the market for something like the Rolex Explorer or Oyster Perpetual.
4. Grand Seiko SBGJ237
Grand Seiko is always a good choice, and so is the SBGJ237. This brand offers incredible timepieces that combine impeccable technology, fantastic accuracy, the highest levels of finishing, iconic designs that date back to the early 1960s, and dials that are among the most spectacular in the industry. The level of craftsmanship that goes into creating each Grand Seiko watch is truly impressive, and when you consider the prices, there is no denying that the brand offers some of the best value for money in the industry. Bigger crowds are slowly catching on to the incredible Grand Seiko story. It used to be a connoisseur’s brand, but more and more people are seeing what makes this manufacturer so special.
The Grand Seiko SBGJ237 is a great example of the quality of this brand’s watches. It’s a sport GMT watch that is a direct competitor of the popular Rolex GMT-Master. The SBGJ237 features a 44.2-mm case that makes it seem large, but I guarantee that when you have it on your wrist, it doesn’t feel that big. Inside the stainless-steel case, Grand Seiko uses their great Hi-Beat caliber 9S86. This automatic movement ticks at the high rate of 36,000 vph, which makes the second hand move almost seamlessly. Seeing a Hi-Beat movement in action is truly magical. Additionally, the watch is equipped with a dark blue dial featuring immaculately-finished hour markers. The blue and white 24-hour GMT bezel is made of sapphire crystal and features Seiko’s proprietary LumiBrite luminous material. The watch truly lights up spectacularly in the dark. The GMT hand is independently adjustable, making this the perfect travel watch for displaying the time in up to three different time zones at once. There is also a version available with a dark green dial on a leather strap, if you’d prefer that over a stainless-steel bracelet. Both versions are available for well under $7,000, and make great alternatives for people who are looking for the perfect travel watch, but don’t want a Rolex GMT-Master.
There you have it, four watches that fly under the radar or are not among the most popular models from their respective brands. This is obviously just a small selection of the great watches that go largely unnoticed by a wider audience. Don’t worry, there will be follow-up articles with even more hidden gems from the watch world. Are you interested in seeing some more underrated watches?