The 15 Most Underrated Watches From Luxury Brands

Apr 16, 2021

Category: Style

When it comes to the big luxury watch brands, they’ve all got their flagship iconic pieces for which they’re best known. Audemars Piguet has the Royal Oak, Omega has the Speedmaster and Seamaster, Rolex has the Submariner, the Daytona, the GMT Master, the Datejust, the… you get the idea. But all of these brands, along with many others, also have watches in their collections that don’t get nearly as much attention. The most underrated watches from luxury brands are in many cases just as appealing as their more lauded stablemates — or, in some cases, their more lauded competition — they just need someone to let people know they exist. And that’s where we come in.

We’ve studied the catalogs of 15 of the top luxury brands to come up with the most underrated watches from each of them. These watches are underrated because they tend to be afterthoughts in their respective brands’ lineups, despite all having plenty to offer. Whether it’s because of their superior styling, innovative movements, or interesting heritage, the most underrated watches from luxury brands all deserve to be on your radar when looking for a quality timepiece. So have a look below to discover our picks for the 15 most underrated luxury watches from brands you know and love.

Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT

Longines’ bread and butter these days is basically anything from their Heritage line, as it lovingly recreates vintage pieces from the brand’s pre-mid century heyday. But Longines has a pretty massive catalog, and among their more intriguing offerings are the far-more modern watches housing their Very High Precision (V.H.P.) quartz movements that are among the most accurate in the world. Especially impressive is the V.H.P. GMT, which combines its supreme accuracy with a highly innovative GMT function that uses the flash from your phone to instantly adjust to a new timezone.

Case Size: 43mm
Movement: Quartz
Water Resistance: 50m

Purchase: $1,350

Bell & Ross V2-94 Bellytanker “El Mirage”

Though they’ve only been around since the 1990s, Bell & Ross has some of the most easily recognizable design language in the entire luxury watch industry thanks to the big and bold square cases of their Instruments line. But Bell & Ross also has a Vintage line that eschews its famous design language for more traditional watch styles. And none are more attractive than this collaboration with The Rake & Revolution. The retro-styled chronograph’s champagne dial, brown accents, and satin-finished bronze case make it look like nothing else in B&R’s catalog — or anyone else’s, for that matter.

Case Size: 41mm
Movement: Automatic
Water Resistance: 100m

Purchase: $4,990

Tudor Fastrider Black Shield

As the sister brand to Rolex, most of Tudor’s watches get their fair share of attention from the watch community. The Black Bay and Pelagos divers, the Heritage Chrono, and the adventure-ready Black Flag. But ask most watch fans about the Fastrider Black Shield and you’re likely to get blank stares. You’d think the fact that Tudor makes a blacked-out all-ceramic chronograph with 150m water resistance that was initially designed in collaboration with Ducati motorcycles would get more attention, and yet, here it is, languishing in undeserved obscurity.

Case Size: 42mm
Movement: Automatic
Water Resistance: 150m

Purchase: $5,050

Breitling Superocean Heritage

Breitling is perhaps the most iconic pilot’s watchmaker in the world, thanks largely to the brand’s flagship chronograph, the Navitimer. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that the brand also makes what is arguably the best-looking luxury diver this side of Rolex and Omega. The Superocean Heritage borrows inspiration from its 1950s forebearer and turns it into a thoroughly modern diver in a way that few other brands have been able to pull off, with standout design cues like a shiny ceramic bezel, bold sword-and-arrow handset, and killer mesh bracelet.

Case Size: 42mm
Movement: Automatic
Water Resistance: 200m

Purchase: $5,100+

Omega Railmaster

When most people think of Omega, two lines likely come to mind: the Speedmaster chronograph and the Seamaster diver. But there is a third member of Omega’s professional trilogy that first debuted in 1957, and it deserves just as much love. We’re talking, of course, about the Railmaster. First created for railroad workers, the watch’s main selling point was its ability to resist magnetic fields up to 1,000 gauss. The modern version does just a bit better than that with 15,000 gauss magnetic resistance, and it also boasts a beautiful and unique vertically-brushed dial to go along with its retro styling.

Case Size: 40mm
Movement: Automatic
Water Resistance: 150m

Purchase: $5,200

IWC Aquatimer

IWC only has a handful of lines, but they’re practically all iconic. The Portugieser. The Portofino. The Pilot. The Da Vinci. The Ingenieur. Then, lurking in the background is the iconic brand’s dive watch. But the Aquatimer doesn’t just exist so IWC can say they have a diver. On the contrary, this is an outstanding luxury diver that brings something new to the table. Accompanying the watch’s unusual-for-a-diver design is the innovative SafeDive bezel system, in which the inner bezel rotates via a sliding clutch system that’s activated by ratcheting the outer bezel, making for the safest dive time bezel around.

Case Size: 42mm
Movement: Automatic
Water Resistance: 300m

Purchase: $5,400+

Zenith Elite Moonphase

When it comes to Zenith, most conversations about the brand begin and end with the El Primero movement. The revolutionary engine was among the first automatic chronograph movements to make it to market, and it’s still regarded as the most prestigious auto chrono today. But Zenith makes a ton of non-El Primero watches, including this gorgeous dress watch. Powered by the in-house ultra-thin Elite Calibre 692 automatic movement, the watch has an unobstructed moonphase display at 6:00, small seconds at 9:00, and a stunning radial sunburst dial.

Case Size: 40mm
Movement: Automatic
Water Resistance: 50m

Purchase: $7,000+

Panerai Submersible

Panerai’s modern Luminor line is easily one of the most iconic designs in modern watchmaking, while the brand’s vintage-themed Radiomir also boasts its fair share of adherents. And then there’s the Submersible which, for some reason, just doesn’t get nearly as much attention as its siblings. It’s a mystery as to why, as the watch essentially takes the Luminor’s popular case design and affixes a rotating dive bezel to it. It’s a combination of two iconic looks that works excellently together, and it makes the Submersible both the most unique and — somehow — most traditional-looking of Panerai’s offerings.

Case Size: 42mm
Movement: Automatic
Water Resistance: 300m

Purchase: $9,800+

Grand Seiko SBGC223

Grand Seiko makes some of the best-finished watches in the world, and as a result, the Japanese brand has mostly become known for their dressier pieces with highly intricate dials, like the “Snowflake” or the brand’s various “Four Seasons” collections. But — like its less luxurious older brother, Seiko — Grand Seiko knows its way around a sports watch, and here’s proof. This 46mm behemoth is constructed of titanium and ceramic and houses a particularly impressive example of the brand’s incredible Spring Drive hybrid mechanical movement that’s been outfitted with both GMT and chronograph complications.

Case Size: 46.4mm
Movement: Spring Drive Mechanical/Quartz Hybrid
Water Resistance: 100m

Purchase: $14,800

Rolex Skydweller

When it comes to iconic luxury watch brands, no one holds a candle to Rolex. Whether it’s the dressy Datejust and Day-Date from their Classic line or the Submariner, Daytona, and GMT Master II from their Professional line, Rolex makes some of the best-known watches in the world. But flying under the radar (pun intended) is the Skydweller, which manages to bridge the gap between Rolex’s two collections by combining a sporty, red-accented GMT function with a dressed-up solid gold fluted bezel. Don’t expect these to go unnoticed forever.

Case Size: 42mm
Movement: Automatic
Water Resistance: 100m

Purchase: $14,800+

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Memovox

As perhaps the most accomplished and significant maker of mechanical watch movements in history, JLC has more than their fair share of iconic releases. Chief among them are the flagship Reverso dress watches and the also-dressy Master Control series, but this relatively new dive watch shouldn’t be slept on. The stainless steel 300m diver resurrects the Memovox name and function from one of JLC’s most-beloved vintage lines, fitting a fun and still-impressive mechanical alarm into its movement.

Case Size: 42mm
Movement: Automatic
Water Resistance: 300m

Purchase: $17,600

Vacheron Constantin Overseas

As one of the “Big Three” luxury watchmakers along with Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet, Vacheron is highly respected among aficionados — but woefully underrated among the general public compared to those two aforementioned brands. That’s especially true when it comes to the three brands’ luxury steel integrated bracelet sports watch offerings. Patek’s Nautilus and AP’s Royal Oak are two of the most iconic watches ever made, with the most popular references from each line being nearly impossible to purchase new. Languishing far behind in popularity is the Overseas, which is just as well-finished as its two main competitors but infinitely easier to get. Our gain, we suppose.

Case Size: 41mm
Movement: Automatic
Water Resistance: 150m

Purchase: $20,900+

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59

The Royal Oak has become so monstrously popular that it has almost completely taken over AP’s catalog. Between the regular Royal Oak line, the larger and sportier Royal Oak Offshore line, and the experimental Royal Oak Concept line, it’s hard for non-Royal Oak APs to see the light of day. And that’s a shame because AP’s recently-released Code 11.59 line has all the hallmarks of a future classic thanks to their unique double-curved sapphire crystals, smoked lacquered dials, and innovative octagon-within-a-round-case design.

Case Size: 41m
Movement: Automatic
Water Resistance: 30m

Purchase: $29,620+

Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time

As the world’s most prestigious watch brand, Patek has no shortage of icons in its catalog. The Nautilus. The Aquanaut. The Calatrava. And of course, the brand’s incredible Grand Complications. Then there’s this watch, which, despite the name, is not cataloged as part of the Calatrava line. It looks nothing like anything else Patek makes thanks to its 42mm pilot’s watch design, dual oversized left-side pushers, and lume-soaked large Arabic numeral indices. But since it is a Patek at the end of the day, you’re still getting a white gold case and an impeccably finished in-house automatic movement with a clever dual-time function.

Case Size: 42mm
Movement: Automatic
Water Resistance: 60m

Purchase: $53,820

Girard-Perregaux Constant Escapement L.M.

Girard-Perregaux often receives less attention than other similarly (or sometimes, less) prestigious watchmakers, but the lack of fanfare paid to this watch is downright criminal. GP’s Constant Escapement L.M., first unveiled in 2013, is one of the most significant accomplishments in mechanical watchmaking in a century. The watch’s movement uses a brand new kind of escapement that maintains constant force regardless of what’s left in the power supply, meaning a consistent rate that does not diminish as the power supply dwindles. It’s completely revolutionary, but apparently, no one was ready for the revolution.

Case Size: 46mm
Movement: Manual-Wind Constant Escapement
Water Resistance: 30m

Purchase: $96,000+

The 24 Best Affordable Alternatives To Iconic Luxury Watches

Now that you’ve seen the most underrated luxury watches, you may want to see how they stack up against the best and brightest from some of these brands. For that, you should check out our guide to the best affordable alternatives to iconic watches. There, you’ll not only find details on 8 of the most recognizable luxury watches ever, but you’ll also be clued into 24 stand-ins that are much easier on your wallet.

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