Want to take your love for watches a step beyond the obvious? We all know the most popular Rolex models; whether you love the Rolex GMT-Master, the Daytona, or the Submariner, almost every watch fan is familiar with them. And we all know that the Royal Oak and the Nautilus are the most iconic modern luxury sports watches, a category created by Gérald Genta, the man behind both classics. But do you also have a list of favorite watches that most people don’t talk about? I’ve previously written about some of the watch brands that fly under the radar of a wider audience. This time, I’m taking it one step further. I’ve compiled a list of watches that deserve every bit of attention, but just don’t seem to get it. While true watch fans might know of them, a lot of watch enthusiasts may not be aware of these hidden gems. So, let’s jump in with a selection of three watches that fly under the radar.
1. Omega Seamaster 300M GMT “Great White” Ref. 2538.20.00
Let’s start this list off with a sleeper from Omega that actually has its own nickname. The Omega Seamaster 300M GMT ref. 2538.20.00 is also known as the “Great White” due to its completely white dial bar a few contrasting red elements like the GMT hand, tip of the central second hand, and the inscription. Other than that, it’s an icy white affair. This watch is part of Omega’s Seamaster Professional collection, which is also known as the Seamaster “Bond” series of watches. Omega produces many more models than just the regular diver that Bond wears in blue: the Seamaster Professional 300M is their standard diver, there are several chronograph versions, and then of course this GMT version with a second time zone. The “Great White” is still very much a diving watch, with its 41.5-mm stainless steel case and water resistance to 300 m (984 ft). It comes on a beautiful stainless-steel bracelet that takes after the iconic Oyster bracelet.
Overall, the watch has a rather understated presence due to its brushed finish, which allows the crisp white dial to really shine, especially with its oversized hour markers inspired by Seamasters from the 1960s. Speaking of hour markers, these have plenty of lume to light up in the dark, so you can read the time perfectly in poor lighting. The bezel with its large 24-hour scale also immediately stands out. It allows you to set both a home time and local time, meaning this watch makes the perfect travel companion on trips across time zones. Seeing as this is a relatively contemporary watch, it features the modern caliber 1128 which is chronometer-certified and features a date display at 3 o’clock and an extra hand for the second time zone. You can find this stunner starting at roughly $3,500 and moving up to roughly $5,000. For that price, it is an absolute gem.
2. IWC Ingenieur Ref. 3227
If you are looking for a timepiece that falls into the category of modern sports watch, you have probably heard of the IWC Ingenieur. While the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak was the first of Genta’s creations in the category and the Patek Philippe Nautilus a popular second, it’s the Ingenieur that was the third and final – not to mention the least popular of the three. Don’t get me wrong, Genta’s Ingenieur from the 1970s is still a very well-respected and expensive watch to get your hands on. But part of the less impactful Ingenieur legacy has to do with what came after. IWC didn’t immediately follow Genta’s creation with models that had the same style and flair. It wasn’t until 2005 that IWC released this watch that did in fact follow in the footsteps of the famous Ingenieur from the 1970s and 80s.
One thing that is different, however, is the overall profile. While all of Genta’s creations have a slim profile, the IWC Ingenieur ref. 3227 can justifiably be called a chunky and heavy watch. It features a 42-mm stainless steel case that is 14.5 mm thick. It likewise comes with a heavy and sturdy bracelet to balance it on the wrist. But if you can handle a bigger timepiece, this is an absolute cracker of a watch. The design takes after Genta’s Ingenieur and perfectly fits into the category of watches that were shaped by the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Inside the case, IWC uses their in-house caliber 80110 – a very nice movement that features a date window at 3 o’clock. Other than that, the dial is really clean with large hour markers and numerals at 6 and 12 o’clock. This gives room for the black dial to shine with its graph-paper-inspired texture reminiscent of Genta’s Ingenieur from 1976. This is a great link to the past and reminds us of the brilliance of the model. Expect to see prices between $5,000 and $7,000, making this a much more affordable option than its famous counterparts.
3. Seiko Prospex Marinemaster 300M
The last watch for this article is the Seiko Prospex Marinemaster 300M. This 44-mm Seiko diver is the top-of-the-line in Seiko’s Prospex series. If you are looking for a professional diver and can handle a larger watch, this should be your pick. In terms of performance and specs, this watch punches high above its weight class. With a list price around $3,500, this is an expensive watch for the Seiko brand, but considering its specs and finish, it can really hold its own against divers from Omega and even Rolex. Yes, it really is that good! Have you ever considered buying a Rolex Deepsea, but couldn’t afford it? Or maybe you have thought about buying an Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean? That is the category of watches this watch belongs to. What makes it so good? Well, the stainless-steel case and bracelet are of a great quality and finished to perfection. Seiko even applies their famous Zaratsu polishing technique, which is usually reserved for Grand Seiko watches. This mirror-polishing technique leads to extraordinary results that are among the absolute best in the industry. Furthermore, it comes equipped with a ceramic bezel and is water-resistant to 300 m (984 ft).
Inside the monobloc case, Seiko equips the watch with their in-house caliber 8L35, which is based on the Grand Seiko caliber 9S55. If you know anything about Grand Seiko, you know their movements are among the most accurate and technically impressive in the industry. So, this is a reliable movement. The dial and hands link back to the great Seiko divers from the 1960s, when the brand introduced their first professional diving watches that have since become legendary among watch fans. When it comes to colors of the dial and bezel, you have the choice between black, blue, or green. The version in green has the reference SLA019, the black version is under SLA021, and the blue version is the SLA023. Prices for the black and blue versions start just under $2,500 and move up slowly to around $3,500. The green version is the most popular, with prices starting at $3,000 and moving up to its list price and beyond. But to be honest, you don’t need to pay over the list price to get your hands on one. The black and blue versions, in particular, are incredible watches for the money. They have everything you need to become a daily wearer and a watch that you will keep for life. It is that good.
There you have it, three watches that fly under the radar or are not among the most popular models from their respective brands. This is obviously just a small selection of the great watches that are overlooked by a wider audience. Stay tuned for follow-up articles with more of these hidden gems from the watch world.