Sports watches Heavyweight champions
Whoever said that sports watches should be light and comfortable? The category of active watches crafted from precious metals represents an increasingly imposing presence in the market.
In watchmaking, it’s inspiration that counts. A watch must be genuinely capable of performing the activities for which it is intended, regardless of whether it will ever actually be tested in the field. The most obvious example is diving watches, which spend far more time on dry land than under water. And when they do get wet, it’s rarely more than a token splash. But they are nevertheless capable of diving as deep as an orca hunting a shark.
Rolex Yacht-Master 42 in white gold © David Chokron/WorldTempus
Exceptions to this golden rule are nevertheless increasingly common. The category of gold sports watches continues to gain ground, visibility and popularity. For a long time this niche was the preserve of the Rolex Submariner in gold, and the Royal Oak Offshore, which a certain clientele has insisted on having in platinum (weighing in at 400 grams, carry a serious risk of tendinitis…). This demand for casually styled watches made of precious materials has developed from an exception to a full-blown trend.
Octo Finissimo Automatic Sandblasted full rose gold © Bulgari
The movement is driven by the informal tone of contemporary luxury consumption. It’s no longer unusual to see a 30-something guy in shorts and baseball cap behind the wheel of a Rolls-Royce coupé or a Lamborghini Veneno. A collectible pair of designer sneakers can set you back as much as $2000, and it’s entirely possible to spend a similar sum on cashmere joggers. So a watch that in times past might have been classed as a “weekend watch”, in solid gold, worth CHF 50,000, is by no means an anomaly.
Aquanaut 5168G in white gold © Patek Philippe
There’s no point raising an eyebrow at the news that the Aquanaut has been reissued in a 42.2 mm diameter, in white gold. The reference 5168G with khaki green dial and strap is the successor to the all-blue model launched in 2018. The progression of the Yacht-Master range follows a similar logic: it’s now available with a 42 mm diameter, in a white gold case. Less military than a Submariner, and edgier with its radical combination of black and silver, it brings together the very best in contemporary luxury sports watchmaking. The significant increase in Audemars Piguet’s revenues owes a great deal to a deliberate reorientation towards full gold models, such as the new Jumbo Ultra-Thin in white gold with a salmon-pink dial. Although it’s thin, this timepiece still exerts its massive presence on the wrist.
Royal Oak Jumbo Extra Thin, full white gold © Audemars Piguet
Hublot, another iconic example with a strong focus on sport in all its forms, has offered its ranges in gold for a long time. The latest, the Classic Fusion Ferrari GT, features parallel versions in Carbon 3D and King Gold. Even the most technical brands are doing it. Richard Mille sells timepieces made of precious metals alongside Carbon TPT models that weigh virtually nothing. The best-selling men’s model, the RM11-03 chronograph, has even been released in rose gold.
Classic Fusion Ferrari GT © Hublot
To truly understand what that implies, you have to bear in mind that gold is very heavy. Moving from a steel case and bracelet to a full-gold version can increase the weight by 40 to 70%, depending on the volume of the watch. A Royal Oak Chronograph, for instance, jumps from 180g (already no featherweight) to 260g (pretty heavy). To take another example, a Rolex GMT Master II 126710 BLRO on a Jubilee bracelet tips the scales at 135g, while its big sister, the 126710 BLRO in white gold with meteorite dial, weighs in at 220g.
RM 11-03 in rose gold © Richard Mille
But it’s not just about the case. In accordance with the luxury aesthetic of some brands, the rotor can also made of precious metal. This is the case for Blancpain, which makes the most of the greater inertia supplied by a higher weight. Looking at a Fifty Fathoms Automatic, with a diameter of 45 mm and a depth of 15 mm, the weight difference between steel and gold is considerable, but the rotor adds just another 20 to 30 grams. The next thing you know, they’ll be delivered with a voucher for 10 free sessions at the osteopath.
Fifty Fathoms Automatic in rose gold © Blancpain
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