Six Watches That Made History

From Audemars Piguet’s iconic Royal Oak to the legendary Rolex Submariner, these are the timepieces that went down in history.

The Moonwatch – Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronograph

Timepieces will always be measured by their achievements, and it doesn’t get much better than being the first watch to land on the moon. Worn by Buzz Aldrin for the 1969 moon landings, the Speedmaster Professional Chronograph has a special place in history and has been known as the ‘Moonwatch’ ever since. The pictured version also incorporates another of the brand’s notable achievements – the co-axial escapement – which was invented by the famous English watchmaker, Dr George Daniels, and is used extensively by Omega.

The Game Changer – Ulysse Nardin Freak

There was a time when every watch was pretty much the same: A dial, a case and hands to display the time. However, back in 2001, Ulysse Nardin blew the whole concept of what constitutes a watch wide open when it released the Freak. Doing away with the crown, dial and hands, the Freak completely turned the conventional watch on its head. Also the first watch to utilise silicon components in it escapement, there’s no doubt that the arrival of the Freak changed everything.

The Icon – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

The brainchild of legendary watch designer, Gérald Genta, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is undoubtedly one of the most iconic watches in history. The distinctive octagonal bezel, ‘tapisserie’ dial and integrated bracelet were a radical change from the prevailing codes of watch design when it was first launched in 1972, and although eyebrows were originally raised at the high price point for a steel watch, the Royal Oak has since proved to be a modern-day design icon. 

The Diver – Rolex Submariner

The archetypical diver’s watch, Rolex’s Submariner made an impression thanks to its simplicity, good looks and rugged versatility, which made it pretty much the only choice for serious divers. Launched in 1953, the watch also gained notoriety through its plethora of celebrity endorsements – perhaps most notably from Sean Connery, who famously wore a Submariner as James Bond in 1962’s Dr. No.

The Tourbillon – Breguet No. 169

Widely regarded as the father of modern watchmaking, Abraham-Louis Breguet is the man credited with inventing that most sacred of mechanical watch complications: the tourbillon. The mechanism first appeared in a pocket watch that Breguet presented to the son of his friend, fellow watchmaker John Arnold (founder of Arnold & Son) in 1808. While the original No. 169 now resides in the British Museum, it spawned perhaps the most significant horological movement in history and inspired many after it, including this Tourbillon Extra-Plat 5377.

The Sports Star – Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

The first wristwatch designed to be worn while playing sport, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso was manufactured specifically for Britain’s elite polo-playing society. Debuted in 1931, the piece became famous for its ingenious reversible case, which allows the glass watch face to be hidden and therefore protected during play. The distinctive angular shape of the case also helped the watch become an Art Deco classic.