The 15 Best Grail Watches to Aspire to in 2022

May 25, 2022

Category: Style

Anyone who’s been collecting watches for a certain period of time is no doubt familiar with the concept of the grail watch. It’s that ever-elusive, unobtainable dream watch, the one watch you aspire to add to your collection on some far-off day when funds aren’t an issue and the world is your oyster. That one timepiece for which you would sacrifice all others just for the chance of strapping it on your wrist. And since we love big dreams just as much as anyone, we thought it’d be fun to round up the ultimate list of the best grail watches currently on the market.

Now, it’s worth stating that the term “grail watch” has different meanings for different collectors. For some watch enthusiasts, a grail watch could be a Seiko Monster costing a few hundred bucks. For many others, it’s likely a Rolex Submariner coming in somewhere around ten grand. And both of those watches can certainly qualify as anyone’s grail — we’re not here to judge or play watch community gatekeeper. But for the purposes of this article, we’re going with the classic definition of a grail watch: timepieces so exclusive, expensive, and extravagant that we’re unlikely to ever see any of them in person — let alone own one. But hey, it’s fun to dream, right? So have a look below at the hypercars of the watch world with our guide to the best grail watches.

Rolex Daytona 116506

We’re kicking things off with a nearly-impossible-to-get Rolex Daytona that retails for over $75K, so yeah, it’s going to be that kind of list. The most opulent reference of the Daytona following the (thankful) discontinuation of the iced-out “Rainbow Daytona” a few years back, this rendition of The Crown’s classic racing chronograph boasts a case and bracelet made of full platinum, a brown ceramic bezel insert, and an ice blue dial. On paper, it’s an odd combination, but in practice, it’s a show-stopping piece that sits atop the Daytona’s impressive current roster.

Case Material: Platinum
Movement Type: Automatic
Complications: Chronograph

Purchase: $77,630

H. Moser & Cie Pioneer Cylindrical Tourbillon Skeleton

One of the standout releases from 2022’s Watches & Wonders Geneva trade show was Moser’s first-ever skeleton watch. But since this is Moser we’re talking about, inventor of the Swiss Cheese Watch and the Apple Watch parody Swiss Alp Watch, it’s far more innovative than your typical haute horlogerie skeleton. For one, its three-dimensional movement combines a flying tourbillon with a cylindrical hairspring, making for quite the spectacle. But even more impressive is the watch’s 120m water resistance and bright Globolight lume on its fumé dial, making this the rare tourbillon that you can truly wear anywhere.

Case Material: Stainless Steel
Movement Type: Automatic
Complications: Tourbillon

Purchase: $86,900

F.P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance

F.P. Journe is arguably the most respected independent watchmaker in the industry, and this impressive specimen is one of the brand’s most iconic pieces. It displays two separate dials — one 12-hour, one 24-hour — running on two different movements powered by the same mainspring. Five minutes after starting the watch, the two escapements will begin beating in unison and will remain perfectly in sync with one another for 28 hours in a fascinating illustration of the natural phenomenon of resonance. Basically a science experiment on your wrist, it’s the only watch in the world to accomplish this feat without any special mechanical transmission.

Case Material: Platinum or Rose Gold
Movement Type: Manual Wind
Complications: Dual-time (24-hour and 12-hour) Resonance, Power Reserve Indicator

Purchase: $106,800+

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Tourbillon 8 Jours

As the originator of the modern dive watch, Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms is already a worthy grail (as we discuss at length in our hands-on review), but the world’s oldest extant watch brand has tapped into its other half — the high horology side of the business — to transform its flagship diver into something truly absurd (yet awesome). This version of the iconic sports watch boasts a solid gold case with an in-house 8-day tourbillon movement and is outfitted with a power reserve indicator so you can see how many days of juice you’ve got left while exploring the depths of the Mediterranean.

Case Material: Red Gold or White Gold
Movement Type: Automatic
Complications: Tourbillon, Power Reserve Indicator

Purchase: $133,400+

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Honeygold Lumen

Like many of the brands on this list, every watch made by German standout A. Lange & Söhne is worthy of grail status, but this newer addition to its catalog is especially deserving of the moniker. The latest installment in the brand’s modern classic Zeitwerk line, known for its unusual display featuring both jumping hour and minute displays, this reference adds a couple of other brand hallmarks to the mix: the Lumen treatment, which sees the numerals of the movement discs glow beneath a smoky sapphire dial, and a case made from the brand’s beautiful proprietary Honeygold alloy. It essentially comes across as a fully-mechanical, ultra-high-end light-up digital watch, which is just too fun.

Case Material: Honeygold
Movement Type: Manual Wind
Complications: Jumping Hour, Jumping Minute, Power Reserve Indicator

Purchase: $145,000

Breguet Tradition 7047

Time for a quick history lesson. Abraham-Louis Breguet, the founder of his eponymous company, invented the tourbillon, having patented the anti-gravity escapement in 1801. And seeing as how many of the watches in this guide feature a tourbillon, it only makes sense to include a grail from the brand that started it all. From Breguet’s Tradition line, which takes inspiration from the founding Master Horologist’s works, comes the 7047. The watch combines its tourbillon with a fusée, a type of chain and pulley-based regulator system that’s half a millennia old and that practically no one knows how to make anymore. Other than Breguet, of course.

Case Material: Platinum or Rose Gold
Movement Type: Manual Wind
Complications: Fusée, Tourbillon, Power Reserve Indicator

Purchase: $175,600+

Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon Chronograph

A recurring theme in this guide is combining tourbillons with other complex complications. So far, we’ve seen the mechanism linked up with a cylindrical hairspring and a fusée (as well as tossed inside a dive watch), and now we get this impressively complicated specimen from VC. The first of the “Big Three” to make an appearance here, Vacheron has paired a tourbillon with a monopusher chronograph in one integrated and impressive movement, and then housed the whole operation in a stunning and classy solid pink gold case. There’s a reason why the oldest continually-operating watch brand (Blancpain was dormant for a few years during the quartz crisis) is a member of horology’s Holy Trinity, even if it remains criminally underrated compared to fellow members Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet.

Case Material: Pink Gold
Movement Type: Manual Wind
Complications: Tourbillon, Monopusher Chronograph, Power Reserve Indicator

Purchase: $197,000

Patek Philippe 5270P Perpetual Calendar Chronograph

Speaking of the Holy Trinity, you knew it was only a matter of time before the world’s most prestigious luxury watch brand showed up here. And while the brand’s Nautilus gets most of the hype and headlines these days, serious collectors know that the pinnacle of Patek’s catalog is its Perpetual Calendar Chronographs, just as it’s been for the better part of the last century. The latest iteration of the current 5270 generation, this take on the iconic Grand Complications timepiece sees a platinum case and a trendy emerald green dial displaying its dizzying array of elegant complications.

Case Material: Platinum
Movement Type: Manual Wind
Complications: Perpetual Calendar, Moon Phase, Chronograph

Purchase: $211,720

MB&F LM Thunderdome

By and large, luxury watchmaking is an old brands’ game, with most major players having been established in the 18th and 19th centuries. But there are a handful of younger brands on the scene, all the products of visionary watchmakers, that have quickly risen through the ranks to bring serious competition to the Pateks and APs of the world. One such company is Maximilian Büsser’s MB&F, which crafts some of the most innovative and unusual time “machines” on the market. Our personal favorite is the Thunderdome, a member of the brand’s more conservative Legacy Machines series (well, conservative compared to its wild Horological Machines line). The watch, which clearly thinks tourbillons are for squares, features a proprietary “TriAx” escapement that revolves at three different speeds simultaneously. Don’t think about it too hard, just watch it in action.

Case Material: Platinum or Tantalum
Movement Type: Manual Wind
Complications: Tri-Ax Escapement, Power Reserve Indicator

Purchase: $280,000+

Richard Mille RM 65-01

Likely to be the most controversial pick in this guide, Richard Mille gets a lot of hate from certain corners of the watch enthusiast community. If you ask us, that hate is unwarranted, but regardless of how you feel about its designs, there’s no denying the impact the two-decade-old independent brand has had on the industry, as it now ranks as the seventh highest-grossing Swiss brand, ahead of major companies like Breitling, IWC, and Tudor. And pieces like the RM 65-01 are why. The brand’s most complicated watch yet, this extreme take on a sports chronograph not only features a split-seconds complication, but also unique innovations like a button that quickly winds the watch after a period of non-use and another pusher that’s used to select the watch’s functions.

Case Material: Carbon TPT
Movement Type: Automatic
Complications: Split-Seconds Chronograph, Date, Function Selector, Rapid Winding

Purchase: $310,000

Grand Seiko Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon

For its first trip to the Geneva-hosted Watches & Wonders in 2022, Grand Seiko decided to crash the Swiss luxury party by showing that Japan knows a thing or two about horology too — and it ended up walking away with the most talked-about watch of the show. The most complicated mechanical watch ever built by Seiko’s high-end subsidiary, the Kodo is the first timepiece to combine a tourbillon and a constant-force mechanism on a single axis in the same assembly. The one-of-a-kind escapement makes for a unique and auditorily-pleasing sound thanks to the different beat rates (8 ticks per second on the tourbillon, one per second for the CFM), resulting in the watch’s name, which is Japanese for “heartbeat.” Beautifully finished everywhere you look, this is pure poetry in motion.

Case Material: Platinum and Brilliant Hard Titanium
Movement Type: Manual Wind
Complications: Tourbillon, Constant Force Mechanism, Power Reserve Indicator

Purchase: $350,000

Greubel Forsey GMT

Still a teenager, having been founded by its eponymous co-founders in 2004, Greubel Forsey is another lauded newcomer that’s right up there with MB&F as far as crazy creations go. And while the idea of a GMT watch may seem a bit mundane for a list such as this, that’s just because you haven’t seen what GF’s GMT can do. In addition to the usual second time zone, represented here by a 12-hour subdial with a pusher-operated jumping hour hand, the watch also incorporates a three-dimensional globe that rotates on its axis once every 24 hours. That globe lines up perfectly with a worldtime scale on the caseback that also takes into account areas of the world that observe summer time or DST. They even threw in one of GF’s patented 25° inclined Tourbillon 24 Secondes complications just for good measure.

Case Material: Platinum
Movement Type: Manual Wind
Complications: Tourbillon, Power Reserve Indicator, GMT Displaying Second Time Zone, Universal Time, Day/Night, Summer/Winter Time, and Cities Observing Summer Time/DST

Purchase: $635,000+

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque

JLC is often referred to as the “watchmaker’s watchmaker,” so it’s no surprise that the storied movement specialist has crafted arguably the most insane and impressive watch on this list. The star of Watches & Wonders 2021, this amped-up version of the brand’s flagship Reverso is touted as the world’s first four-faced watch, with a quartet of dials each displaying a number of complications. Featuring a total of 12 patents and 11 complications — including an instantaneous perpetual calendar, a minute repeater, and a tourbillon — it’s also the only watch in the world to track three different cycles of the moon: Synodic (for both hemispheres), Anomalistic, and Draconic. This means the watch can predict astronomical events like eclipses and supermoons, in case you’re bored with simply knowing what time it is.

Case Material: White Gold
Movement Type: Manual Wind
Complications: Tourbillon, Perpetual Calendar, Jumping Hour, Minute Repeater, Double Moonphase, Anomalistic Lunar Display, Draconic Lunar Display, Grande Date

Purchase: $1,600,000

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Openworked Grande Complication

Finally, we have the third member of Swiss watchmaking’s Big Three, and it was worth the wait. AP may have pushed some of its horological prowess to the background in recent years as the brand has gone all-in on the uber-popular Royal Oak, but this ultimate version of the iconic sports watch proves that AP can still compete with anyone on a movement level. This skeletonized titanium reference of the brand’s flagship is a true Grande Complication in the traditional sense, combining three of the most complex mechanical complications in one stellar automatic movement: a perpetual calendar, a split-seconds chronograph, and a minute repeater. It’s also entirely handmade by a single watchmaker, adding an extra dose of prestige.

Case Material: Titanium
Movement Type: Automatic
Complications: Perpetual Calendar, Moonphase, Split-Seconds Chronograph, Minute Repeater

Purchase: $POA

Jacob & Co. Astronomia Sky

If the rest of the watches in this guide are too bland for your taste, then Jacob & Co. is the watchmaker for you. Initially known as a jewelry maker favored by hip hop artists, Jacob Arabo’s eponymous brand has become a legitimate horological force in recent years. Maker of some truly groundbreaking timepieces, Jacob & Co.’s Astronomia line sits near the top of the brand’s lineup and has been fascinating watch enthusiasts for over a decade. Our favorite version is the Astronomia Sky, and while it isn’t the most extravagant (that would be the Astronomia Solar), we would argue that it’s the most interesting. Its unique rotating four-arm display sees a triple-axis tourbillon, a vertical seconds display, a timekeeping subdial, and a patented-cut diamond moon all rotating around a 3D model of planet Earth that also rotates once per 24 hours, showing day and nighttime hours. As if that wasn’t enough, this action all happens above a celestial dial displaying the constellations that makes a rotation once every sidereal year (the time it takes Earth to orbit the sun with respect to the fixed stars) in a nod to classic astronomical horology.

Case Material: Rose Gold or Platinum
Movement Type: Manual Wind
Complications: Triple-Axis Tourbillon, Vertical Seconds Indication, Day/Night Indicator, Sidereal Time Display

Purchase: $POA

The 10 Best Luxury Watches for the New Collector

Not quite ready to splurge on your grail but still looking to get started in the world of luxury watch collecting? Then have a look at our guide to the 10 best luxury watches for the new collector for a crop of stellar picks that all come in around six grand or less.

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