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Feature: My 10 favourite watches I've ever reviewed

I’ve seen a lot of incredible watches in my time and I’ve been very lucky to do so. But which were the ones that left a lasting impression on me? Here’s my top ten favourite watches. The last one is particularly special.

Ulysse Nardin Freak 020-88

The Ulysse Nardin Freak was one of the first out-there watches I really got to experience hands on, and even to this day it’s spoilt me. Everything about it, and I mean everything, is industrial grade bananas. Let’s start with the obvious, the fact that it seems to have Galaxy Quested itself inside out, expunging the movement through the front with no discernible way to tell the time. Until you realise that is how you tell the time. The movement, stacked in a line as it is, makes up the minute hand, spinning once an hour every hour. As if that wasn’t wild enough, there’s a world first in here too. You know how any watchmaker worth its salt these days has a silicon hairspring? This was the first. Where would you even begin deciding to use melted sand as a balance spring? And then there’s the crown, or lack of it. In for a penny, in for a pound, and so Ulysse Nardin decided to ditch the crown too, because why not. Want to change the time, you twist the bezel. Want to wind the watch, you twist the case back. It’s watches, Jim, but not as we know it.

A. Lange & Söhne Lange 31 130.025

When I was a kid, I’d often get in trouble for doing pointless stuff. Things like throwing firecrackers down a drain or tying a bunch of helium balloons to my sister. My reasoning? Because. Just … because. I always feared that this kind of whimsical endeavour would be flushed out with adulthood, but thankfully a small German watchmaker proved me wrong. This is the Lange 31. Most watches have a few days of power reserve, some even eight days. A. Lange & Söhne got to wondering if it’s possible to cram in a month. And it is. How? By using a spring they probably borrowed from a car’s suspension. To get 31 days out of a single spring makes that spring so thick and tough to wind that Lange basically abandoned the idea of winding the watch with the crown entirely. You’d need the finger strength of Alex Honnold just to get it going. Getting closer to those 31 days and the crown stem just simply couldn’t handle it, so the watch gets a ratchet winding tool instead. When you have to create solutions to self-inflicted problems, that’s when you know you’ve made something great.

Breguet Double Tourbillon 5349PT/2Y/9YV

This is the first watch I held around the million-dollar mark, and of all the watches I’ve held around the million-dollar mark, this one probably felt the most like it should cost a million dollars. It’s the Breguet Double Tourbillon, and it wastes absolutely no time in getting to the point. Yes, its shrouded with an unbreakable seal of diamonds, but really where this thing pumps its gas is with the namesake double tourbillon. Breguet is famously credited with the invention of the tourbillon, a device that contains the entire escapement and spins it once per minute for reasons of science and coolness. Now every man and his dog is making tourbillons, it only seemed right that Breguet doubled down on that original statement of intent by… literally doubling down. Yes, there are two tourbillons, and that’s impressive enough as it is—but things get way more Inception-y. You’ll notice the hour hand connects the two tourbillons, and that suggests exactly what you think: that not only do the tourbillons themselves rotate, but they both orbit the centre of the dial too. It’s pure lunacy, which is good.

Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept

When I first saw the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept, I thought I’d stepped into a Looney Tunes cartoon. From the front, it doesn’t look normal but it’s not beyond the realms of understanding that it is a watch—but from the side it looks like it’s had a run-in with the Acme corporation. At 2mm thick—or should I say thin—it is comically slender. It scrambles everything that is familiar with watches into a caricaturish exaggeration of an ultra-thin watch. And it’s incredible. Yes, other watchmakers have since beaten this record by fractions of a millimetre, but those have foregone the traditional experience of a watch in pursuit of that extra thinness, and so they deviate much further into the realm of concept. This, however, is still wound and set by one crown, has a dial with two hands—yet you could also fit it in a slot machine. What I especially enjoyed about the journey in discovering this watch was the transparency around the difficulty making it. It’s something that had never been done before, and every part was a brain-scratcher. The Altiplano Ultimate Concept is a beautiful example of wickedly clever problem solving.

A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst 730.048

Yeah, you’re going to have to get over the fact that Lange are going to feature prominently in this top ten, because here they are again with the, “don’t say it too quickly in front of your Grandma,” 1815 Handwerkskunst. The last Lange was an engineering escapade, and whilst this too has many clever mechanical solutions, the overarching appeal is artistic. And painstaking. And torturous. And perhaps even cruel. If there’s one thing I admire as much as testing the untested, it’s a commitment to the tedious and repetitive. Here, the dial, in rose gold, has been carved into relief by hand-poking it with a sharp stick, over and over and over again. Why? Again, just “because”. It’s like when you dig a deep hole at the beach or stack as many pringles cans on top of one another, only here there’s an artistic merit to the net result. The whacking great big tourbillon at six o’clock only goes to make this watch one of the best things for eyes since blinking.

Vacheron Constantin James Ward Packard Pocket Watch

There are few people as influential in the world of automobiles than James Ward Packard. His motor company, Packard, was the first American luxury car maker. Also, he invented the steering wheel. This man had more money than Scrooge McDuck, and so begins the tale of his rivalry with fellow business magnate Henry Graves. It was a new money versus old money thing, and so the story goes, the two men engaged in battle to commission the most complicated watch ever made. The final watch in this series was the Patek Philippe Supercomplication, and although the story may have been fabricated by a Patek Philippe employee to enable the sale of said Supercomplication, the crazy watches owned by these crazy men are very much real. And this is one of them. It’s a Vacheron Constantin, it’s a chronograph, sonnerie and repeater, it was created for and owned by the man himself and I got to experience it in person.

H. Moser & Cie. Swiss Alp Watch 5324-0101

The internet’s given trolling a bad name over the last few years. When I were a lad, trolling was simply the art of mildly winding someone up. You might remember Ken M, the original harmless internet troll, who graced in the world wide web with such comments as, “Space has been around for hundreds of years, but scientists still don’t know much about it,” and “Today’s archaeologists seem hellbent on making discoveries at any cost, leaving nothing for future generations.” In the sleepy village of watchmaking, that harmless troll is H. Moser, and the Swiss Alp watch is one of many examples of fine trolling. It’s an Apple Watch, but mechanical, and actually amazing. Not only does it poke fun at the dominating smart device that is the Apple Watch, it also proves that Marc Newson and Jonathan Ive’s design is actually one of the all-time greats. Moser pulled out all the stops on this one to create a fantastic watch that’s become incredibly sought-after.

A. Lange & Söhne Triple Split 424.038

Okay, last one. No more Langes after this one. But I had to include this one, because even for Lange it’s pretty wild. This, for the uninitiated, is the Triple Split, and it is to watchmaking what Josh Sheehan is to doing flips on a motorbike. Everyone thought one was impressive; that is, until they saw three. The Triple Split, as the name suggests, wrangles three split chronograph complications from a single watch. This is as meta as it gets, with so many layers even Xzibit needs a sit down. The principle is fundamentally simple: a split-second chronograph uses a secondary chronograph mechanism on top of the first to control two second hands instead of one. This is important when timing consecutive laps so you can record a time without stopping the overall race time. Except Lange didn’t stop at splitting the seconds. Or the minutes. They split the hours too. Why? Come on, pay attention. Just because. And if that’s not a good enough reason then I don’t know what is.

Credor Eichi II

I watched an episode of Nile Blue recently where he made the world’s purest cookie, using lab-grade ingredients to rid his biscuity, chocolatey creation of any impurities. Spoiler: he said it was the worst thing he’d ever eaten. Refining something to its purest form isn’t always the best way to go—that is unless you’re Seiko, and then the outcome is the Credor Eichi II. I get it, such simplicity isn’t for everyone, and many people couldn’t give a fiddler’s frying pan that the dial markers are painted by hand and the movement is polished with wood, and I was kind of the same—until I saw the watch in person. It’s not so much an object as it is an artefact, where it feels almost sacrilegious to even touch it let alone wear it. It remains my maybe-one-day-but-probably-not watch I’d most like to own. There are others that are cool and crazy but the one that brings it all back down to Earth for me in the best way possible is this.

Johannes Kallinich Meisterwerk

The last watch is the one that had the biggest impact on me, and is one that isn’t even possible to own. It’s the work of—at the time—student watchmaker Johannes Kallinich, who was studying to become a master watchmaker. I first saw his work on Reddit and was really impressed, and I wanted to find out more, so I reached out. We had a very interesting chat, I shared his story here on YouTube, and that was that. His story was so inspiring that the video now sits at over 600,000 views. And perhaps more excitingly, he’s started a watch brand of his very own with Thibault Claeys called Kallinich Claeys. The original watch was good, not the best ever made, but it means so much to me because I got to see the journey start from an acorn that’s now flourishing into a tree.

Shop pre-owned Ulysse Nardin watches

Shop pre-owned A. Lange & Sohne watches

Shop pre-owned Breguet watches

Shop pre-owned Piaget watches

Shop pre-owned H. Moser & Cie watches

Shop pre-owned Vacheron Constantin watches