When it comes to the world of luxury watches, there are a few timepieces that even people only passingly familiar with watches know: the Rolex GMT-Master, the OMEGA Speedmaster, the Cartier Tank or the Patek Philippe Nautilus, just to name a few.
Sometimes these watches are so popular that we forget that these watchmakers make other watches – Audemars Piguet makes more than just the Royal Oak, for example – or maybe these brands have so many different models in their range that we forget about some of the less well-known ones.
Well, we’d like to rectify that. We’ve assembled a shortlist of a few underrated, underappreciated watches from some of the world’s most popular and well-known luxury watch brands that you ought to consider for your next watch purchase.
In this underrated watches article…
IWC Schaffhausen Ingenieur
Let’s start off with IWC Schaffhausen’s Ingenieur. IWC are mostly known for their pilot’s watches, such as the famous Big Pilot or their ‘Mark’ series… But there’s much more to IWC than just pilot’s watches, as the Ingenieur attests.
First introduced in 1955, the Ingenieur was one of the first anti-magnetic watches on the market – an invaluable tool for engineers or scientists. But it was later in 1976 when the Ingenieur really became an icon, thanks to a total redesign by the legendary Gérald Genta.
In recent years, the Ingenieur has fallen by the wayside somewhat – it hasn’t seen a major update in years so that probably doesn’t help. Yet it’s still an elegant and understated watch that perfectly splits the difference between sporty and dressy.
In fact, many watches in IWC’s back catalogue are grossly underrated. The Portofino doesn’t get nearly as much love as it deserves, nor does the Aquatimer, which is quietly one of the best dive watches on the market.
Retail Price: AU$7,100
UPDATE: IWC just unveiled a huge new update to the Ingenieur at Watches & Wonders Geneva 2023. Read more about it here.
TAG Heuer Monza
Another wildly underrated watch from a well-known watch brand is the TAG Heuer Monza. Back in the day, Heuer had a number of sporty chronographs all named after famous race tracks – the Silverstone, the Monaco, the Montreal, the Monza… Of course, the Monaco has become a bona fide icon, whereas some of Heuer’s other designs haven’t quite captured the public imagination.
Thankfully, in 2023, TAG Heuer has revived the Monza, and in dramatic fashion, too: with a carbon fibre case, skeletonised dial, sapphire crystal subdials and a chronometer-certified flyback chrono movement. Hopefully, this marquee model will help more watch fans wake up to the brilliance that is the Monza.
The Monza’s cushion-shaped case and elegant proportions make it a real standout among TAG’s range and it represents one of the most stylish sports chronos on the market. Get amongst it, we say.
Retail Price: AU$20,000
Hamilton Jazzmaster Face-2-Face
Hamilton is another brand that’s mostly known for just one watch: the Khaki Field, which represents around 80-90% of all Hamilton’s sales in Australia. That’s perhaps not a surprise – it’s the quintessential field watch, steeped in history, and one hell of a timepiece. But Hamilton actually has a rather extensive range, and they can do a lot more than simple hand-wound field watches.
Case in point: the Jazzmaster Face-2-Face. Hamilton’s probably not the first watchmaker you’d associate with high complications, but the Face-2-Face is an incredibly unique, highly underrated and extremely good value piece of haute horlogerie that we’re shocked more people don’t talk about.
As the name implies, the Face-2-Face features a reversible case with two dials – a time-telling face with chronograph functions and another with measurement scales and an exhibition movement. Unlike other watches with reversible cases, e.g. the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso (more on JLC in a moment), the cool thing about the Face-2-Face is that the outer portion with the chrono pushers and crown stays put while the watch body itself rotates vertically within the frame.
It’s trippy and really impressive – especially for a Swiss-made watch that costs less than $5,000.
Retail Price: AU$4,500
Jaeger-LeCoultre is perhaps best known for its stylish dress watches, such as the classic Reverso or the Master Control, but the storied Swiss manufacture also makes a cracking diver’s watch: the handsome Polaris, which is one of the most underrated diver’s watches on the market.
The Polaris is available in a wide range of case materials and complications, but for our money, the most unique is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Memovox with its mechanical alarm: a complication steeped in history that was invaluable during the early era of deep-sea diving.
JLC also blessed the Polaris with a perpetual calendar variant at Watches & Wonders Geneva 2022, which helped spark interest in the model amongst the watch cognoscenti. Anyway, we still reckon it’s a very underrated dive watch and definitely one you should consider investing in.
Retail Price: AU$30,700
Grand Seiko SBGH255
Another underrated dive watch for you, this time from Japan’s masters of horology: Grand Seiko. Despite the fact that Seiko is pretty famous for its dive watches, dive watches from its luxury arm are largely overlooked. People recognise Grand Seiko more for its dress watches – which is a shame, as its dive watches are also pretty amazing.
The Grand Seiko SBGH255 is the most amazing of them all, however. As Grand Seiko’s most capable dive watch, it’s the perfect marriage of utility and refinement. Water-resistant to 600m, it features a bulky yet light zaratsu-polished titanium case and a unique pure-iron dial for extra magnetic resistance (which also features a cool Royal Oak-like hobnail pattern).
Think of the SBGH255 as Grand Seiko’s answer to the Rolex Sea-Dweller or OMEGA Ploprof… Except that it’s much more affordable and wearable than either of those ‘superdivers’. It’s one hell of a watch.
Retail Price: AU$14,950
Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet
First launched in 2019, the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet has had a somewhat mixed reception among watch fans: while it’s good to see AP doing more than just Royal Oaks, the Code 11.59 has been criticised for being too simplistic in its design.
It’s an unfair criticism, as the Code 11.59 is actually deceptively complex. A clever ‘sandwiched’ case design with trick floating lugs; a subtly double-curved sapphire crystal; a design that mixes octagonal design codes from the Royal Oak with rounded elements… It’s a real watch fan’s watch.
The Code 11.59 received a big update from AP earlier this year, with new entry-level stainless steel models with cool stamped dials introduced (which are now the most affordable watches in AP’s lineup) as well as the insane Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4, which is not just the most complicated Code 11.59 ever released but the most complicated AP watch ever full-stop.
Now that the Code 11.59 is in the spotlight, maybe people will start taking it more seriously. In any case, it’s a really underrated watch that deserves to be considered as more than just a second banana to the RO.
Retail Price: AU$46,100
WATCH our guide to the most expensive watches of all time below.
Chopard Alpine Eagle
Integrated bracelet luxury sports watches have never been more popular, but in-demand models like the aforementioned Royal Oak and Nautilus seem to get all the love… And they’re almost impossible to get your hands on.
We don’t understand why more people, then, opt for a Chopard Alpine Eagle – an equally refined and prestigious integrated bracelet timepiece. In gold, it’s particularly tasty: its bracelet is like a swathe of gold bullion dripping down your wrist. The Chopard Alpine Eagle’s dial, modelled after an eagle’s iris, is also super unique and mesmerising to look at.
The best bit about an Alpine Eagle is that you stand half a chance of getting one before you die. Because they’re a little bit underrated, they also fly under the radar a little more (if you’ll pardon the pun): it’s more likely to attract the right kind of attention. A connoisseur’s choice.
Retail Price: AU$59,000
Luxury maison Hermès might not be the first brand you think of when it comes to watches, but they’re actually pretty competent in this department, and highly underrated.
A huge departure from the French brand’s typically restrained, artistic watch offerings and a real contender in the luxury sports watch space, the Hermès H08 features a 39mm cushion-shaped titanium case and the option of either a titanium bracelet or rubber strap, which looks particularly nice in signature Hermès orange.
Retail Price: AU$8,320
Like the IWC Ingenieur at the top of this list, the Rolex Milgauss is an anti-magnetic engineer’s or scientist’s watch. Actually, the Ingenieur beat the Milgauss to market, but the Milgauss is probably more famous… Although that’s relative, as it’s also probably the least well-known watch in Rolex’s current lineup.
These days, most watches and indeed all Rolexes are anti-magnetic, so the Rolex Milgauss’ once-cutting-edge conceit is a bit of an anachronism. Still, it remains a rather unique Rolex, thanks to its green-tinted sapphire crystal, fluoro-coloured highlights, double caseback and lightning bolt-shaped seconds hand.
Much like the Ingenieur, the Milgauss is crying out for an update. In the meantime, it remains an underrated and accessible choice that you stand a much greater chance at copping for retail than the rest of Rolex’s insanely popular watches.
Retail Price: AU$13,150
UPDATE: Rolex has discontinued the Milgauss. Read more here.
Everyone knows the OMEGA Seamaster and Speedmaster. Even less know the Globemaster, and even less still know the Railmaster. But just because it’s obscure doesn’t make it a bad watch by any means. In fact, the OMEGA Railmaster is a bit of a hidden gem.
The original Railmaster introduced in 1957, was an anti-magnetic timepiece intended for railway workers, scientists, or anyone who worked near electrical fields, like the Milgauss and Ingenieur. Sensing a theme here? Confusingly, the Railmaster sits underneath the Seamaster range (not sure what the ocean and trains have in common).
More spartan in its design than many of OMEGA’s models, the Railmaster is still a tough and handsome tool watch that these days boasts a chronometer-certified movement and boatloads of retro charm.
Retail Price: AU$11,250
Van Cleef & Arpels Pierre Arpels
Finally, we have the Pierre Arpels from Van Cleef & Arpels. The 127-year-old brand is best known as a jeweller, and their women’s watches are far better known than their men’s models, but VC&A is no horological slouch.
Take the Pierre Arpels: an understated and underrated men’s watch. First introduced in its current guise in 2012, it was actually designed exclusively for VC&A scion Pierre Arpels himself back in the 40s. With its signature ‘floating’ lugs and minimalist design, it’s a masterclass in French classiness.
Most Pierre Arpels models are simple, time-only affairs, but occasionally it’s a canvas for some more creative affairs, like this Heure d’Ici & Heure d’Ailleurs (which charmingly translates to “Time Here & Time Elsewhere”): a dual time complication with a double jumping digital hour display and retrograde minutes.
Retail Price: AU$43,000