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Patek Philippe stands at the very top of the luxury sports watch pyramid. Just below you will find Audemars Piguet. Both the Nautilus and Royal Oak were famously designed by the legendary Gérald Genta. He firmly believed an integrated bracelet transforms a watch into a perfect object and looking at the current state of watch affairs, it looks like he wasn’t wrong. The 1972 Royal Oak was the first true king of luxury sports watches, but now in 2021, the Nautilus (introduced in 1976) reigns supreme. Both in terms of desirability and in its (preposterous) gray market prices.

In a futile attempt to cool down the heated attention on the watch, Patek’s Thierry Stern decided to raise the price of the Ref. 5711 from €20k to €30k.

Here’s some food for thought, in the form of ballpark figures for these watches. The steel Nautilus Ref. 5711 has a list price of around €30k. You could call it an artificial price, as it was carefully engineered with a purpose. In a futile attempt to cool down the heated attention on the watch, Patek’s Thierry Stern decided to raise the price of the Ref. 5711 from €20k to €30k. To make matters worse, the retirement of the Ref. 5711/1A-014 with a final green edition had the market completely boiling over. It even led to someone paying €400k for a watch with a retail margin of around fifty percent. The AD who sold it made ±15k. The guy who bought it left it in the box untouched, and auctioned it off at Antiquorum, making ±300k. Just let that sink in, and please remember this: the market is always right.

The Patek Philippe Nautilus and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

A battalion of luxury sports watches far too often overlooked

The market, right as it may be, sure has become an unhinged place, with flippers and investors taking center stage. So, when prices go absolutely bonkers and hype leads to total mayhem, there’s nothing like some cold, hard numbers to cool things down. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind paying for image, prestige, history, and even brand ambassadors, but there needs to be a healthy balance between the hardware and the fluff on top. The amount of fluff, between a commercially understandable €30K and the €400k paid at auction, is beyond comprehension.

… if you look just at the design aspect, the world of watches opens up to you.

So allow me to be the voice of reason. I understand that both a Royal Oak and a Nautilus are desirable watches. Because of their prestige and exclusivity, but also because of the way these watches look. And if you can stop yourself from staring obsessively at the brand name or logo and shift your focus solely to their design, finishing, and details, the world of watches opens up to you. There are so many of these “shadow warriors”, clad in very similar-looking attire that also bring their beautifully decorated in-house “hearts” to the battlefield that is the marketplace. Amongst them, big historical brands like Vacheron Constantin and Girard-Perregaux, but also a string of ambitious newcomers.

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph

Vacheron Constantin Overseas: by Hysek

Back in 1977, Vacheron Constantin wanted to celebrate its 222nd anniversary with a watch. The brand didn’t turn to Genta to design a luxurious sports watch with an integrated bracelet. Instead, Vacheron Constantin let a 24-year-old Jörg Hysek design the 222, which later transformed into the Overseas. A watch that certainly has the pedigree, but still walks in the shadows of the “RO” and the Nautilus.

… “VC” hasn’t taken the “Rolex Way” to only ever so slightly evolve the Overseas models.

A complaint I sometimes hear regarding the Overseas is that it changed too much over the years. Indeed, “VC” hasn’t taken the “Rolex Way”, and instead has pushed the evolution of the Overseas models beyond the blueprint of the initial models. But nevertheless, the original 222 still shines through in the different executions of the 34-watch 2021 “VC” line-up. My personal favorite is the €22,400 41mm Self-Winding with its blacker-than-black dial. I say that because the drop-dead gorgeous white gold Overseas Ultra-Thin model, with its extremely flat 2.45mm automatic movement caliber 1120, is no longer in production. The Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin and the Chronograph are pretty sweet too, albeit pricy. But at least they’re available.

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Ultra-Thin

Girard-Perregaux Laureato: thanks to an anonymous architect

If you want a cool story to tell, as well as an amazing watch, the Laureato definitely should be on your list. Girard-Perregaux introduced the Laureato in 1975 as a two-tone three-hand watch. Not with a mechanical movement, but with a quartz chronometer movement. Genta had nothing to do with it. It was an Italian architect who created this design. “GP’s” Italian distributor suggested the name, inspired by the 1967 movie “The Graduate”, which Italians saw dubbed, available in cinemas under the title “Il Laureato”.

Shadow Warriors: A Battalion Of List Price Luxury Sports Watches Too Often Overlooked

The €13,700 Girard-Perregaux Laureato Absolute Chronograph

A black and blue chronograph in carbon glass

The main features of the Laureato are the integrated bracelet, but also the thin, octagonal bezel, and the curved and rather elegant case. The Laureato features a more fluent design than the edgy Royal Oak but still belongs to the same realm. The subtly shaped case is enhanced by its beautiful satin finish.

The Laureato Chronograph was a logical addition to the line-up that followed later …

The modern Laureato was first introduced in 2016. Beefier than ever, but without pushing the boundaries into the obscene. The Laureato Chronograph was a logical addition to the line-up that followed later on. With the introduction of the boldly colored “Absolute” line, made of different exotic materials, GP shows a sense of adventure. A good example is the Laureato Absolute Wired, a black and blue €17,900 chronograph in carbon glass. A basic 42mm steel Laureato with a Clous de Paris pattern on the dial and an in-house automatic caliber GP01800 inside its 100-meter water-resistant case, will set you back €12,200.

Shadow Warriors: A Battalion Of List Price Luxury Sports Watches Too Often Overlooked

Girard-Perregaux Laureato Absolute Wired

Chopard Alpine Eagle: from St Moritz with love

The new Alpine Eagle from Chopard also comes with a nice history. It all started with the St Moritz, a quartz watch designed by Chopard’s co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele back in 1979. The 22-year-old Karl-Friedrich had to convince his dad to put it into production. When Karl-Friedrich’s son Karl-Fritz rediscovered the original watch a few years ago, he decided to convince his dad to start making a new version of it. He got help from his grandfather, and the fruit of their labor is the Alpine Eagle — leaving behind the St Moritz name, which must have been unavailable for all kinds of reasons.

Shadow Warriors: A Battalion Of List Price Luxury Sports Watches Too Often Overlooked

Chopard Alpine Eagle

The eye and feathers of an eagle

The Alpine Eagle is made in a number of 44, 41, and 36mm iterations, and comes in steel, two-tone and full gold. The dial is inspired by the eye of an eagle and has a rock-like textured dial. Additionally, the hands are inspired by the shape of an eagle’s feathers. The case of the Alpine Eagle retains the protrusions at three and nine of the original St Moritz. The prominent, brushed bezel on top is secured by eight polished screws. The 41mm Alpine Eagle Large made of Chopard’s own tough and highly reflective Lucent Steel A233, has a price of €12,800. There’s also a larger, €19,100 Alpine Eagle Chronograph in the line-up with an impressive wingspan of 44mm.

Shadow Warriors: A Battalion Of List Price Luxury Sports Watches Too Often Overlooked

Czapek Antarctique Passage de Drake Ice White

Modern-day integration

Younger brands like Czapek and H. Moser & Cie. more recently joined the party with the Antarctique and the Streamliner. Their own delvings into the realm of the luxury sports watch. We were so in love with the Antarctique here at Fratello, that we decided to collaborate with Czapek in creating the incredible Fratello × Czapek Antarctique Viridian Green. Completely sold out in just under 40 minutes, this model is no longer available, but there are other Antarctiques in their lineup with a price of CHF 18,570.

Shadow Warriors: A Battalion Of List Price Luxury Sports Watches Too Often Overlooked

H. Moser & Cie. Streamliner Centre Seconds

There has been no Fratello collaboration with H. Moser & Cie (yet). But we do love the Streamliner collection. The 40mm Streamliner Centre Seconds with a green fumé dial is my personal favorite. Its brilliantly smooth design reaches its climax in the insanely subtle, organically shaped bracelet that wears like a dream. The in-house automatic caliber HMC 200 is certainly no slouch. Priced at CHF 19,900, it competes with the Czapek and beats out the old-guard “VC” and “GP” offerings.

Shadow Warriors: A Battalion Of List Price Luxury Sports Watches Too Often Overlooked

Bvlgari Octo Finissimo S GMT

Other watch-ways to integrate

If you insist on the integrated bracelet looks and don’t mind less illustrious names, you could always take a peek at quite the long list of luxury watch brands that recently joined the battalion of Genta-inspired luxury sports watches. There’s the €12,100 Piaget Polo S, the €17,400 Bvlgari Octo Finissimo GMT in titanium, and also Hublot’s Big Bang Integral for instance. Surprisingly enough it’s the brand’s first model featuring an integrated bracelet with prices ranging from the titanium at €20,700, all the way up to the proprietary King Gold alloy at €51,800.

Shadow Warriors: A Battalion Of List Price Luxury Sports Watches Too Often Overlooked

Hublot Big Bang Integral in King Gold

A bit further down the ranks of the battalion there are also the Bell & Ross BR-05, the Maurice Lacroix Aikon collection, and Frederique Constant’s Highlife Automatic COSC. Another watch I’m really curious about is the Citizen the Series 8. All the watches listed above also sort of have the look too. The look of the luxurious sports watch with an integrated bracelet, that is. And that look can be yours too if you so desire, as there’s a watch with the look in almost every price bracket.

Caught you lookin’ for the same thing It’s a new thing, check out this I bring

But only if you can overlook the logo on these sports watches. If you can, it’s definitely worth it. Public Enemy knew what was going on all the way back in 1988. “Don’t Believe The Hype” starts with Chuck D’s prophetic words: “caught you lookin’ for the same thing It’s a new thing, check out this I bring”. Don’t believe the hype, and check out the new and the other thing. It’s ultimately up to you to bring the shadow warriors into the limelight.

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