Although everyone’s preferences are unique, and as Italians say: “Tutti Gusti sono Giusti ”, (all tastes are right) – nonetheless there is a whole world of watches from which you can choose your holy grail. A holy grail watch is a watch that you prefer the most, the grand prize that you want to add to your collection, have as soon as possible, and treasure forever. In most cases, at least for watch collectors, a grail watch is considered to be the exit watch. It tops other watches of your collection and is the timepiece you pick to be resting on your wrist the most for the rest of your days.
To me, it is a vintage Patek Philippe Ellipse with a gold Milanese bracelet and a blue dial. (pictured above) (Other preferences are shared below). It is an exclusive vintage watch with a timeless design that would look good on my wrist as well as start a conversation. To support my choice, although I don’t need to; I can say that a Patek Philippe Ellipse is a mature watch, it is highly exclusive, and comes from a reputable brand like Patek Philippe.
But what makes a holy grail watch? Well, there are no written rules as everyone sets their standards as they prefer. As for me, below you will find the standards I follow to come up with my holy grail watch.
From Switzerland to Japan, and every other country in between, the world of watches is filled with innovations and timeless designs that are created for centuries by different watchmakers. What I was trying to say is that there are hundreds of different watch brands from which you can choose. And they don’t necessarily need to be world-known brands like Rolex. There are other popular and worthy watchmakers that make Rolex and similar brands have a run for their money. This is one of my first but not necessarily strict standards of a holy grail watch. However, having a reputable brand name on the wrist is always welcome.
Mass-produced watches cannot be grail watches. That’s a no-brainer! For one, a watch that is mass-produced usually falls at an entry-level price range. Although the price range is relative, what is absolute is that these watches won’t be worth more than $2000. This makes them easier to be purchased, unlike highly-exclusive sought-after masterpieces like Greubel Forsey’s GMT Earth Final Edition or the least expensive but also exclusive: the Classic Collection of watches from Kurono Tokyo.
Although, on second thought, the GMT Earth Final Edition from Greubel Forsey would be a bit too much to be worn on a daily basis. Not to forget that it is priced at nearly $ 1M, making your wrist feel like a target.
Learn more about independent watchmakers and microbrand watches
The less expensive yet crafted with care watches from the Kurono Tokyo Classic collection (pictured above), are priced reasonably (around $3000). Every model of the collection is limited to small quantities and they are crafted with care from the independent Japanese watchmaker Hajime Asaoka and his team.
In addition to the above-mentioned watchmakers, there are other craftsmen that thrive for precision and accuracy. Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, Rexhep Rexhepi, A. Lange & Sohne, Grand Seiko, Minase, Seiko, Credor – are all world-leading watch brands, the watches of who can be treasured forever and become family heirlooms.
Finishing & Workmanship
It is not too much to seek excellence in a watch. Especially if that watch will sit on your wrist for the rest of your days. Therefore to me, quality is one of the most important touchstones when it comes to watches. It must be well-built, and there should be no irregularities. Details like uneven watch lume, uneven brush finishing, irregular placement of markers, misaligned hands, or the quartz ticking too much. These are all small details that will eventually make you jump to another watch soon or later.
However, being this picky won’t serve you if you’re looking for an entry-level watch. Or at least up to $2500. If I may suggest, I would be looking in the inventory of Oris (pictured above), Tag Heuer, Junghans, Nomos, and Grand Seiko. Expect to find their fine watches priced anything from $2000 up to $7000 or more if you’re after a Grand Seiko. These brands not only can provide decent quality and finish, deliver exceptional customer service, but do it at a fraction of the price Rolex or other brands charge. Don’t get me wrong though! Rolex is by no means overrated.
Country of Origin
I believe we can all agree that the country of origin has little to do with choosing your grail watch. The world of watches has passed the boundaries of countries and many watch brands have developed business relations with multiple nations. Many Swiss brands rely on Japanese movements and vice versa. Other brands keep their manufacture in Japan and their design team in the UK or Switzerland. Therefore it doesn’t matter where your grail watch comes from for as long as you like it. Whether it be a badass durable Russian Vostok Amphibia (pictured above), a US-made Timex Expedition Scout watch, a personalized Chinese Undone watch, a mechanical timepiece from the German brand Damasko, or a classic dress watch from Credor – what does matter the most is the effort put in the making of the watch and not it’s country of origin.
You might already have your eyes on that one watch that puts a smile on your face and makes you feel good. If not, there are a few key touchstones you can focus on making a perfect choice. The design of the watch is one of its most important features. It is the first correlation you have with a watch. And if you enjoy its aesthetics and how it looks on your wrist/ you should probably wear it. As previously said, the primary purpose of a watch, timekeeping, is no longer as crucial as it once was. Instead, we wear them to make ourselves feel special and as a kind of self-expression. So, if you’re looking to make a statement, a nice watch may accomplish the job wonderfully.
Is the watch going to serve any purpose? And most importantly: What movement ticks underneath? If these questions have already crossed your mind, you know that you can choose from these different types of watches: Dress Watches, Field Watches, Dive Watches, Pilot Watches, GMT watches, Chronograph Watches. Or judging by movement: Quartz Watches, Automatic Watches, Mechanical Watches, Chronograph Watches. You can also sort by the dial type: Digital, Analog, Analog-Digital. If I can suggest, opt for an automatic or mechanical watch. These types of watches house movements that are made to last forever and can be serviced easily. On the other hand, digital watches, smartwatches, or analog-digital watches, are consumables. Although packed to the extreme with features, sensors, and options that can help you perform countless tasks on a daily basis, they are not made to last longer than 10 or 20 years.
What’s ticking underneath depends on the accuracy of the watch. Although even the most reputable watches can lose or gain a few minutes every day, it is important to opt for an accurate watch. Quartz watches, for example, are some of the most accurate watches, surpassing even the most reliable Swiss brands. However, entry-level quartz watches can soon become prone to some irreversible damages. For one, corrosion and oxidation can form around the battery. Or the step motor can’t receive power because the wire breaks. Nonetheless, decent quartz watches like Tissot PRC200, Citizen Nighthawk, Longines Conquest VHP, TAG Heuer Formula One (pictured above), will last for decades.
Editor’s Final Thoughts
Ultimately, a grail watch can be a watch worth as little as $30. Your old man’s Timex which he has been wearing with pride his entire life would shine brighter on your wrist more than any watch. If your father or grandfather wasn’t a watch enthusiast, it is up to you to start a family tradition and make your grail watch a family heirloom. A watch you would never flip is what a holy grail watch is.