Four Gold Dress Watches For The Classic Gentleman: Yes, They Still Exist! (Gold Watches, That Is, True Gentlemen Are Even Rarer)
by Martin Green
They at times seem to be on the brink of extinction, and I was almost ready to write their obituary (see The Death Of The Dress Watch: Is It Time To Write Its Obituary?): gold dress watches. And when I sometimes observe today’s society, the classic gentlemen as well!
But there is a glimmer (no pun intended) of hope as some of the world’s most esteemed watch brands still have a mechanical, gold-encased, time-only timepiece or two hidden somewhere in their collections.
For those who would rather not spend the time looking for them, here I present you four gold dress watches for the consideration of the discerning modern-day, yet classically inclined, gentleman.
While Jaeger-LeCoultre actually has quite a few options when it comes to time-only, gold-encased dress watches, I personally consider the Master Ultra Thin Small Second to be at the head of the pack.
The reason for this is that the watch is actually so perfect it gets all the details just right. Its pink gold case is 38.5 mm in diameter: not 38 mm. Not 39 mm. But 38.5 mm. And that is large enough to be contemporary, yet small enough not to look presumptuous. And at only 7.58 mm in height it is considered ultra-thin: wearing it feels almost like wearing nothing except the tiniest flash of gold under the cuff.
This size also helps to show off that beautiful eggshell color of the dial, which goes so well with the pink gold case. The dial is pure with dauphine hands, unobtrusive triangular hour markers, and an absolute minimum of text. That makes this watch such a powerful creation because there is true synergy between all the details.
It is only when you turn the Master Ultra Thin Small Second over that it loses some of its reservation because Jaeger-LeCoultre felt the need to show off why it is one of the most respected names in the industry by installing a sapphire crystal case back to admire the manufacture movement.
Rightfully so because a true gentleman can be modest but also know how to utilize his talents. So why not expect the same from his watch?
For more information, please visit www.jaeger-lecoultre.com.
For the more Teutonically-inclined gentlemen, A. Lange & Söhne offers the beautiful 1815.
This watch also features subsidiary seconds but is more classic in its design approach than the Jaeger-LeCoultre, including black Arabic numerals, blued hands, and a railroad track to indicate the minutes.
This is a watch that brings it all back to the essence, something that A. Lange & Söhne is surprisingly good at. Yes, it is the brand’s perpetual calendars and multiple rattrapante chronographs that usually make the headlines, but underneath all that is a steady, stable collection of well made, classic dress watches.
This watch is 1.22 mm higher than the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin, and it is not even an automatic! But before you judge, take a moment to admire what the Germans have done with the extra space: one look at the three-quarter plate made of untreated German silver adorned with bright red ruby bearing jewels set within gold chatons secured to the plate by blued screws should make you more than willing to forgive the additional height. And if that doesn’t work, the hand-engraved balance cock might do the trick!
For more information, please visit www.alange-soehne.com.
While I am personally no fan of dress watches with a date function I cannot deny their practical use – even in today’s society.
If you opt for a dress watch with a date window, the Patek Philippe Calatrava Reference 5227J is one you most certainly need to consider. Apart from the date function and the fact that it is a Patek Philippe, there are two reasons to purchase it: the first is the way the lugs “merge” with the case; there is nothing like it, especially not in the world of the dress watch where most lugs are attached to the case, but not actually part of it.
The second reason is the lacquered dial. Like the coat of paint on your (of course) vintage, Rolls-Royce, Patek Philippe’s dial manufacture has applied 12 (!) layers of lacquer to give it the most beautiful, deep gloss you can imagine.
One of the features that I admire most about Reference 5227 is the invisibly hinged hunter case back, which hides the movement until you would like to see it. Patek Philippe opted for a more understated finish on the movement itself: underneath the full-sized 21-karat gold rotor that winds Caliber 324 SC, there are no hand-engraved balance cocks or blued screws, but you do find a Gyromax balance wheel and a Spiromax balance spring for optimum timekeeping.
A true gentleman will appreciate this sense of understatement, though, as the movement in this Patek Philippe is actually even thinner than that powering the Jaeger-LeCoultre, yet the brand – true to its style – did not feel the need to amplify that fact in the name of the watch or anywhere else.
For more information, please visit www.patek.com.
Can you imagine that the Villeret line was actually created back when Jean-Claude Biver was co-owner of Blancpain? The man obviously knew what was right for the brand because the Villeret line has become a classic – and also the very first gold dress watch I ever purchased myself.
Blancpain also showed a knack for keeping the Villeret collection fresh and exciting, and that included this version with retrograde seconds. While it may raise an eyebrow with some, even gentlemen like to have fun and will most certainly appreciate this small twist on an otherwise perfectly proportioned gold dress watch.
Among the rest of this distinctive – if not to say elite – group of watches, the Blancpain is the only one that favors a stamped guilloche dial in an opaline tone, which goes particularly well with the red gold case. The result is a slightly richer look than that of the Jaeger-LeCoultre, which tends toward the same color palette.
Blancpain calls the movement of this Villeret, Caliber 7663, an “ultra thin” (“ultraplate”), and it is, but at a height of 4.6 millimeters, it is actually on par with the A. Lange & Söhne 1815 as being the thickest in this rarified group.
However, this Blancpain does feature a full-sized winding rotor, and the retrograde seconds display is also a complication that takes up some space. Blancpain incorporated two mainspring barrels inside the movement to provide it with a generous 65-hour power reserve, so the discerning gentleman can comfortably wear different watch over the weekend . . . maybe Fiona Krüger’s Chaos for something completely different?
For more information, please visit www.blancpain.com.
Quick Facts Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Small Second
Case: 38.5 x 7.58 mm, pink gold
Movement: automatic manufacture Caliber 896/1, 28.800 vph, 3.98 mm in height, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds
Year of introduction: 2014
Quick Facts A. Lange & Söhne 1815
Case: 38.5 x 8.8 mm, pink gold
Movement: manually wound manufacture Caliber L051.1, 3 Hz/21.600 vph frequency, 4.6 mm high, 55-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, hacking small seconds
Year of introduction: 2014
Quick Facts Patek Philippe Calatrava Reference 5227J
Case: 39 x 9.24 mm, yellow gold, officer’s case back
Movement: automatic manufacture Caliber 324 SC, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 3.3 mm high, Gyromax balance, Spiromax balance spring, Patek Philippe Seal, 45-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Year of introduction: 2013
Quick Facts Blancpain Villeret Ultraplate Reference 6653-3642-55B
Case: 40 x 10.68 mm, red gold
Movement: automatic manufacture Caliber 7663, 4.6 mm high, twin spring barrels, 65-hour power reserve, free-sprung silicon balance with gold regulating screws,
Functions: hours, minutes, retrograde small seconds
Year of introduction: 2015
Price: 20,500 Swiss francs (including VAT)
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Also published on Medium.