While many of us beg for innovation to come from the watch industry, some things don’t really need to change. Sure, this statement might sound exceedingly traditionalist in nature, but some designs have endured for so long simply because “they got it right the very first time.” As a result, when brands attempt to revamp these designs, most of the time the execution falls short of anything noteworthy – there are just some things you shouldn’t mess with. So, we thought it would be fun to compile a handful of these watches simply to admire their thoughtful design and execution. And, if it’s a dressy watch you’re looking to add to your collection, you can’t go wrong with any of these.
Unveiled in 1917, the Cartier Tank is a perfect example of a simple design that sparked a whole new genre of watchmaking. The earliest examples were basic with a two-hand layout and beautiful Roman numeral hour markers that became a staple in the collection. The model pictured above used to belong to Jackie Kennedy and went up for auction not long ago. Through the years, Cartier has released countless iterations of the Tank – some more bloated and forgettable than others – but you really have to admire the original styling since it comes really, really close to the perfect timepiece.
Unlike the Cartier Tank, the Saxonia was first revealed much later in 1994. But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t on its way to becoming a modern-day classic – in many ways, it already is. The A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin pictured above is perhaps the dressiest in the collection and serves as a symbol of what high-end German watchmaking is all about. At 37mm it rests perfectly on the wrist and the clean dial design is something that I hope never changes too much. Thankfully, Lange hasn’t really messed with the Saxonia too much beyond offering a larger size and a running seconds sub-dial on some models.
This list wouldn’t be complete without the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. Even though it has probably seen just as many iterations as the Tank, the more basic models still represent fine and unadulterated watchmaking at its finest. Since 1931, the watch has endured as one of the most iconic designs of all time and even though Jaeger has perhaps strayed a bit far in their modern versions, the Reverso is still a huge favorite of mine. It also walks a fine line between sport and dress watch, which makes it just as quirky as its distinct case-flipping mechanism.