STEALTH WINNERS
World of Watches|Spring 2021
Our search for the next big thing enters its second year. Here are 10 contenders for future must-haves
KELVIN TAN, ASAPH LOW AND ASHOK SOMAN

To be a collector is to always be on the hunt for that which others overlook. Well, that is part of it, and the part we will be exploring in this continuing series on watches that might well be worth keeping on your radar. So why does this story open with an image of a Japanese whisky, you might ask. Well, the world of whisky is defined by Scotch but, within the last 20 years, the Japanese first proved their worth against them, then bested them. You might see a parallel to watchmaking there, but that is up to you.

Now, Suntory may not have been surprised that the Yamazaki 18-Year-Old won top marks at the International Spirits Challenge in 2012 (mainly because it, and Nikka had been gaining positive notices since 2000), but it certainly did not anticipate how sought-after its spirits would become. In the supply crunch that followed, prices shot up. For example, a Yamazaki 50-Year-Old scored a record US$343,000 at a 2018 Bonhams auction in Hong Kong. The bottom line is this: if you are a connoisseur of whisky who understood the appeal of Japanese whisky early, when it was only for the domestic market, you might have found yourself with a pretty sweet collection.

Like you, dear reader, we like to think of ourselves as savvy, at least about timepieces; unlike most of you, our jobs depend on this, so it is not a small matter. I am sure that you always keep in mind that we are bringing you this magazine because it is in our commercial interests to do so. As you might imagine, this does lead to some conflicts for us, as it does for everyone else, whether at other traditional media houses or even on YouTube, where silliness is rewarded in a way that makes me envious. I assure you, we can be very silly indeed.

Going back to that point about being savvy, we also have a responsibility to not get caught up in a false sense of superiority. We do not want to end up like the whisky snobs who were blinded by the status of Scotch, or the wine lovers who could not stomach the Judgement of Paris in 1976. It is not a lack of smarts, but an inability to learn that is the issue.

Coming back to watches and the Internet, anyone with a press release and a few collector friends can impress a wide audience – watch some YouTube creators and this becomes very evident. While we do not play the name-and-shame game here, we do try to remind ourselves that there is a lot about watches that we still have to learn. After 20 years in this trade, which is itself largely obsolete, you would think that we would have picked up enough know-how to have mastered the A-Z of watchmaking. As you might have noticed in our last issue, no such watchmaking compendium is ever really complete. Our solution is to learn as we go, which is why ditched the best-of list last year and went with this approach instead – looking for hidden gems.

It occurs to us here that this is one of the most valuable things we can do – most collectors do not reveal what such treasures might be, lest they provoke a stampede. Think it cannot happen? Look no further than the Patek Philippe Nautilus in steel for an example of just such a treasure that was relatively under the radar just five years ago. Sure, the brand heated things up in 2016, but watch brands celebrate anniversaries all the time so I cut the folks at the manufacture some slack. The model was just waiting to explode, having been on a slow burn for decades. Anyway, the point is that what was once a hunt open only to serious collectors became the equivalent of a gold rush. Yes, given the watch in question, the irony is not lost on me (and yes I just did it again).

In all seriousness, such watches are all around us. Most are far from completely unavailable. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is a great example of a watch that seems to never have its time. If you select the right Reverso, you are guaranteed a genuine rarity that the manufacture does not produce in vast numbers. Obviously, if rectangular watches are not your thing, do not even consider this. In collecting circles, there is nothing worse than the geezer who shells out for street cred that he intends to keep in a safe. On the other hand, we know that traders gonna trade (as absolutely no one says) but we implore you to keep it classy. That said, here are 10 watches we think are worth keeping an eye on to see what the market decides.

BREITLING TOP TIME LIMITED EDITION

It seems the secret recipe to success for Breitling is to put out tongue-in-cheek or colourful watches that punctuate its lineup of serious-looking professional watches. After the wild success of the rainbow Superocean Heritage ’57 limited editions, Breitling revived an archival piece with a sense of humour — the Top Time. The Top Time pulls on the heartstrings of vintage watch lovers with its 1960s bi-compax and pump-pusher chronograph style execution. A striking dial which earned it the “Zorro” nickname further strengthens its appeal. While some might have reservations about remakes, Breitling has no qualms about it, given the second iteration release of the Top Time made in partnership with Australian lifestyle brand Deus Ex Machina at the time of writing. Both pieces are limited editions and we strongly believe the Top Time will continue to flourish.

GREUBEL FORSEY HANDMADE 1

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