7 discreet, under-the-radar flex watches

‘If wanting to go even bolder, plump for the model that most totally disregarded’

Some wear watches to cause a stir. Others do it simply for themselves. This week, I’ve looked at seven timepieces that, despite not being the most obvious big-hit picks, still make a statement in their own subtle ways, from the Piaget Polo 79 to the The Monsieur de Chanel…

Piaget Polo 79

There are few makers that exude an elegant, low-key flex better than Piaget. The ultra-thin-movement maker and jeweller is riding the wave of collector community love right now, and for good reason. It has made watches for Roger Moore and Andy Warhol, among other big names, with restrained designs such as the Altiplano and the sports chic Polo. The latter launched in 1979 in response to the steel-sports-watch movement, except it approached the challenge very differently to its competitors, as it made a solid yellow-gold, integrated bracelet timepiece in quartz.

The 2024 Polo 79, launched this week, is larger than the original round model, spanning from 27mm to 34mm and 38mm, and it now includes the ultra-thin 1200P1 in-house self-winding calibre with micro-rotor movement to ensure a thin profile. You can see it from a mile off with that wonderful combination of polished and matte gadroons. Though being a solid-gold watch – which I appreciate may not be an entirely under-the-radar style choice – it retains that insider-pick status.

Laurent Ferrier Blue Origin

This watch blew me away when I saw it at Watches & Wonders, in 2022. At 40mm, and made in titanium, it's a wonderful juxtaposition of elegance, wearability and, dare I say it, sportiness. It features the brand's iconic Galet case, which looks and feels like a worn pebble, and has African-spear-inspired hands and a striking blue-gradient dial.

Additionally, its hand-wound calibre on the back is finished to the very highest standards in the industry, ones that architecture watch geeks drool over. It also retails at the mid-£20,000 mark, which is pretty astonishing for a maker that produces only a handful of designs a year in relative terms (a few hundred, maximum, which is little compared to Rolex’s million).

AP Starwheel Code 11:59

Audemars Piguet is known for its Royal Oak, and rightfully so. It was, of course, the steel sports watch that came first, changed everything and is still in production. But, the cool factor, to me, is in going the other way and finding something really obscure and technically brilliant that maybe others may have missed. If wanting to go even bolder, plump for the model that most totally disregarded: the Code 11:59.

Now, I, like a few others, actually saw huge potential in the watch – an amazing case, a new movement and top-notch build quality. The Code 11.59 Starwheel has a wandering hours complication inside an 18ct white-gold Code 11.59 case with a black ceramic midcase. It's a time-only watch. In practice, the 12-hour disks ‘wander’ across the dial, with the current hour pointing to the current minute that sits along the 120-degree minute track at the top of the dial. It's actually a somewhat intuitive, elegant way of telling the time, and is odd and romantic, both at once.

Andersen Geneve Jumping Hours Rising Sun Edition

Andersen Geneve is the godfather of independent watchmaking having spent many years at Patek Philippe honing his craft, and is a maker who produces a few dozen watches a year – mainly World Timers and Jump Hours whose creative flair and artisan efforts are charming on so many levels. This new Jumping Hours Rising Sun Edition, made for the Japanese market, is equal measure elegant and enchanting.

The 38mm white-gold case is spot on in my mind; combine that with a fascinating dial read out and salmon dial and you have a winner. The watch splits the time into two separate indications; the hours are indicated in a window at noon with a jumping motion, meanwhile the minutes are discreetly displayed in a sub-dial at 6 o’clock. Moreover, the minute hand points to a railway-style chapter ring printed in dark blue, matching the brand’s logo above the hour window. The rest of the dial displays a solid pink-gold design that's decorated with a guilloché pattern.

The Monsieur de Chanel

Launched in 2016, The Monsieur de Chanel is Chanel's debut watch dedicated to men; is certainly the brand's first with a complication; and is entirely designed and built in-house. It may be the ultimate flex as no one in the horology world has given too much attention to the watch, and I believe it deserves an awful lot more love than it gets.

The hour at 6 o’clock is shaped to echo the famous fragrance bottles from the brand, the font is unique to this creation and the movement is designed by maestro independent watchmaker Romain Gauthier – could you want anything more?

Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921

The 1921 is based on – as the name suggests – a small cushion case from the 1920s, and it features an instantly recognisable off-centre dial, and a crown at the traditional 2 o’clock location. At 40mm, and with the brand’s in-house hand-wound calibre 4400 (which is both beautifully constructed and beautifully finished) you have a proper insider’s watch that has heaps of character.

Breguet Classique 7147

Few have done as much in the watch universe as Abraham-Louis Breguet, and among his venture's many innovations are the overcoil and the tourbillon, features that rendered the escapement immune to errors caused by the changing position of the watch while being carried.

Still to this day, the brand’s engine-turned dials are iconic, and every collection needs one. My pick from the current line up is the Classique 7147 – showcasing a white grand feu enamel dial, a white-gold 40mm case, a delicately fluted caseband, welded lugs with screw bars and elegantly painted Arabic Breguet numerals, it is a pure expression of the craft.

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