King Charles III has always been a somewhat unconventional royal – obsessed with climate change and a fan of alternative medicine – but something he’s conventionally royal about is his taste in watches.
Most world leaders go to great lengths to not be seen as flashy, especially when it comes to what’s on their wrists. Well, at least in democratic countries – Vladimir Putin of Russia, Hun Sen of Cambodia and Kim Jong-un of North Korea aren’t afraid to be spotted splurging on high-end timepieces, for example.
Anyway, you’ll notice that most democratic leaders tend to wear high-end but understated watches. Joe Biden wears an OMEGA Seamaster Professional Diver 300M, for example – a nice watch, but not a super flashy one. Emmanuel Macron has worn watches from a few French microbrands. Narendra Modi either wears an old Longines or an Apple Watch.
King Charles (still feels weird writing ‘King’ instead of ‘Prince’) doesn’t have any such hang-ups – the advantages of being a hereditary monarch, we guess. Indeed, Charles has one of, if not the, most diverse and flamboyant watch collections in British royal history.
We’ve dug through the royal archives to find some of the most impressive pieces in the new king’s collection.
First up we have what’s easily his favourite watch, which also happens to be the most obscure watch in his collection: his Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Chronograph. Parmigiani Fleurier is very much an aficionado’s watchmaker: launched in 1996 and boasting a distinct, neoclassical aesthetic, PF is a favourite brand of the well-heeled.
Charles wears his 18ct yellow gold PF more than any other watch – indeed, it’s the watch he’s been wearing during the entire period of Queen Elizabeth II’s mourning. According to the brand, he bought the watch in Switzerland in the early 2000s – likely in Klosters, a ski resort town that’s a frequent haunt of his.
These days, PF is known for its impressive and unique in-house movements but this Toric features a Zenith El Primero movement under the hood – which isn’t a bad thing by any means, as that movement is legendary (and was even used in the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona for a time).
The British royal family have long been dedicated Cartier customers, both for jewels and for watches. Princess Diana, Princess Kate and Meghan Markle all wear Cartier watches, for example. Charles too is known to have a Cartier watch in his collection: a Cartier Santos.
Charles’ Santos is peak 80s: two-tone steel and yellow gold, and mounted on a yellow strap. Unlike many Santos models sold since the 80s, Charles’ Cartier is understood to be an automatic model.
Charles also owns a yellow gold Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso, similarly mounted on a leather strap. It’s an appropriate watch for a man who was obsessed with playing polo as the Reverso was actually designed as a polo player’s watch: its rotating case intended to shield the watch’s glass and dial from the bumps and scrapes of a fierce polo match, and then flip back around when one needed the time.
Like Cartier, the British royal family have long had a love of JLCs. Notably, Queen Elizabeth II wore a Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 101 for her coronation – reportedly her favourite watch ever.
Now for King Charles’ most unique watch: his one-off Breguet. A gift to the royal on the occasion of his 60th birthday in 2008, it’s engraved with the Prince of Wales’s feathers, his then-seal.
The watch itself is classic Breguet, with an asymmetrical layout, power reserve display, calendar hand and three different types of guilloche decorating its dial. Like most of Charles’ watches, it’s made from 18ct yellow gold.
Breguet is a brand that just oozes old money so we can’t think of a better watch for an English king. Other royal former owners of Breguet watches include King George IV and Queen Victoria.
These days Charles is rarely seen without his Parmigiani Fleurier but his favourite watch throughout the 70s to the 90s was easily his Patek Philippe Calatrava Date.
It’s often said to be a reference 2551, otherwise known as a ‘Disco Volante’ – but that’s a misnomer as Charles’ watch features a date window. It’s almost certainly a reference 3445.
Princess Diana famously wore Charles’ Patek (i.e. this watch) on her wrist alongside her Patek when he played polo games as a way to wish him luck.
Finally we have Charles’ most humble watch, a Hamilton ‘Fab Four’ Chronograph which he would have got during his brief period of Royal Air Force service in the 70s.
The so-called ‘Fab Four’ were standardised military chronographs issued to the British military (and especially the RAF) made by four different watchmakers: CWC, Newmark, Precista and Hamilton. Hamiltons were the most commonly issued variant, and it’s a Hamilton ‘Fab Four’ that Charles has in his collection.
A utilitarian watch crafted from stainless steel and mounted on a NATO strap, it’s a far cry from the more refined pieces he normally favours… But Charles still regularly wears his Hamilton, especially for military occasions.