If you’re sick and tired of seeing the same old steel watches like the Submariner and Speedmaster, you’re not alone. Today, I’m taking the liberty to look at three original watches for nonconformists. Don’t worry: I’m not going to recommend models in every color of the rainbow, or watches that would blind you with sparkling diamonds. I’m talking about interesting, original watches from well-known brands that keep pace with everyday life, but still have that special something, and are not exactly commonplace.
Japan’s Answer to the Rolex Datejust: The King Seiko SPB279J1
If you search for the model and reference of this Seiko on Chrono24, you’ll understand why the King Seiko is first on my list of original watches for nonconformists: The watch, with origins reaching back to the 1960s, is not exactly to be had en masse. Cynics would now claim that the King Seiko is a wannabe Rolex Datejust, and while there are similarities, I’m more inclined to call the King Seiko Japan’s answer to the Rolex Datejust. I’m particularly taken with the 37-mm diameter; it’s the perfect size for this type of watch. That said, the silver dial makes the watch look a tad larger than it actually is, so it’s still a good fit for sturdier wrists. Another thing I really like about the King Seiko is its distinctive case, which, compared to the Rolex equivalent, is a lot less dainty. You’ll also notice that the domed bezel also has a much rougher finish than its Swiss competitor. The overall package makes the King Seiko the perfect companion for all sorts of scenarios, especially considering its healthy 70-hour power reserve and water resistance to 100 meters (328 feet) – provided by an in-house movement, no less. As a proud owner of the Rolex Datejust, I can tell you one thing with a fair amount of certainty: the fluted bezel is a must on the Rolex icon. I don’t really care for the version with a domed bezel on the Jubilee bracelet, but there’s something about the Grand Seiko’s combo of domed bezel plus five-piece link bracelet that just works. And, well, there’s the matter of price. The King Seiko SPB279J1 comes in at $1,500 in mint condition; quite a deal if you ask me.
Unique and Unfairly Underrated: The Hublot Classic Fusion
Hublot is far from the most popular brand out there, but why is that? As I see it, Hublot deserves a lot more credit for trying new things that older manufacturers wouldn’t dare do. Obviously, the results don’t always resonate with the community, but for all their creativity and willingness to experiment, Hublot do have one or two original watches up their sleeve that have proven successful. One of them is the Hublot Classic Fusion. The design is fleetingly reminiscent of watch superstars like the Patek Philippe Nautilus and, best of all, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, but this particular Hublot has its own DNA. In fact, its design is faithful to that of the Hublot MDM Genève, which first appeared in 1980, the same year the brand was founded. When you try the Hublot Classic Fusion on for size, you’re also absorbing the brand’s history and getting one of their best timepieces to boot. But unlike all other bestsellers, you won’t see it on every other watch fan. The 42-mm watch titanium watch comes on a leather strap and hugs the wrist comfortably. And with a height of just 10 mm, the underrated Hublot Classic Fusion feels almost like a refined dress watch with sporty inclinations. It’s too bad that it doesn’t offer an in-house caliber, but instead uses a reworked Sellita movement. For a watch that costs around $6,500 new, you’d be forgiven for expecting a little more – probably one of the reasons why Hublot earns so little affection from watch fans. However, if you can overlook this flaw, the Hublot Classic Fusion really does offer you a handsome all-rounder that still stands out from the crowd.
The Runner-Up Rolex: The Rolex Yacht-Master 40
Okay, yes, I have included a Rolex in my list, and you’re probably wondering how I can use “Rolex” and “nonconformist” in the same sentence. But if you think about it, the Rolex Yacht-Master 40 is a no-brainer. The Rolex Submariner is the most copied and replicated watch in the world, the Rolex Datejust is just as iconic and is often the first Rolex that a budding watch enthusiast buys, and even the Rolex Day-Date is a typical Rolex purchase, as long as the funds are available. The Rolex Yacht-Master 40 is not like its brethren: It flies virtually undetected under the radar and doesn’t get much attention at authorized Rolex dealers. Although the Yacht-Master is clearly overshadowed by other sports classics such as the Rolex Submariner, Rolex Daytona, and Rolex GMT-Master II, it is regarded by watch fans as one of the most beautiful Rolexes, especially if you choose the slate gray variant. This makes the runner-up Rolex the perfect choice for those looking for something more original; you can stride confidently into uncharted territories, where others have hesitated. The Yacht-Master’s DNA does overlap somewhat with that of the Submariner, but it feels considerably more elegant and lively thanks to its higher bling factor and bidirectional platinum bezel. The slate gray sunburst dial creates some stunning visual effects, depending on how the light hits it, and looks almost jet black on cloudy days. The light blue second hand adds some color and gives the watch that certain something that sets it apart from all the other sports icons. If you’re interested in the lore behind the model, you should know that the Yacht-Master’s similarity to the Submariner is no accident: The Yacht-Master was originally supposed to be a new version of the diving watch in 1992, but because the design strayed too far from its muse, Rolex decided to turn the Yacht-Master into an entirely new model. And I’m very glad the brand made that decision. The Yacht-Master masterfully combines elegance with a sporty flair, and is definitely not a Rolex that you see every day. However, at around $15,500 pre-owned, this watch isn’t cheap. But it’s worth saving up for, in my opinion.