So, for those of you who have not been avid followers of the Urban Gentry and Hodinkee and who have subsequently never come across this phrase before, what are Luxury Beater watches? Put very simplistically, it is an informal umbrella term for all sports, diving and professional luxury mechanical watches. After the Quartz crisis triggered by the Seiko Astron in 1969, the use of diving watches, such as the Rolex Submariner and Blancpain 50 Fathoms, as legitimate tools to aid diving expeditions became obsolete. The same can be said for pieces such as the Rolex Oyster Perpetual that was used by sir Edmund Hillary in his Mount everest expedition, the inspiration of the modern Rolex Explorer, that no one in their right mind would choose to wear in the present day to scale the face of the world’s most treacherous and demanding mountain range. After the invention of the Casio G-shock (DW-5000C) IN 1983, a watch designed to be 100 meters water resistant and able to withstand a fall of 10 meters , these complicated, seemingly delicate and precious watches, became in practical and expensive. So why is it that these seemingly useless pieces are still so valuable and in high demand?
This is actually a very difficult question to answer. My attempt is two fold. Firstly, it is an appreciation for horological history and iconic timepieces from a time when it was function over style and yet style was still effortlessly achieved. The likes of Paul Newman’s Daytona, Steve Mcqueens’s Monaco and Explorer II, in modern times, John Mayer’s beloved IWC big Pilot and of course, Sean Connery’s James Bond’s iconic Submariner, all represent, the adventurous, active and daring modern man who needs a resilient and practical yet undeniably cool time piece. Secondly, the beater watch is just practical. They are a watch that is office-proof, night-out-with-the-lads-proof and, in general, life-proof. This is a watch you can wear everyday in the office, then to after work drinks and then to watch the footy/rugby on saturday morning with jeans and a polo.
Ilkay wearing Paul Newman's rolex daytona 6239: truly an icnonic mans beater watch from yesterday year which is now a highly desired collectors piece
The Idiot’s guide to Beater watches
A beater watch is almost always a steel, water and shock resistant piece with an automatic (over manually wound) piece, with a rotating bezel or tachymeter and sometimes a chronograph. These attributes make these pieces practical, robust and functional. However, dressed with a suit they are not out of place like your bright, orange, rubber casio G-shock. In my mind when i think of the quintessentially beater watches, i think of the Omega Speedmaster Professional, Rolex Submariner 5513 or 16610 and the Tag Heuer Professional sported by Mr Obama during his presidential campaign.
Rolex submariner 16610. The perfect all round watch: the perfect beater
The Different Levels of The Beater
Depending on your financial situation, circumstances and lifestyle, what you deem your beater piece will differ. It is our job here at The Young Horologist to inform those of you who might not be aware what these different pieces and levels may be.
The Seiko 5/ prospex Level
Seiko, the japanese time piece conglomerate whose models range from £50 seiko astron all the way up to £10,000 Grand Seiko and Credor Minute Repeaters, has a sport range known as seiko 5, formally Sportomatic. These pieces represent a phenomenal value for money with in-house Seiko movements and a huge range of designs from conservative pieces to 80s omega esque pieces all cased inside exceptionally robust well made cases. I am a huge advocate for seiko after owning a 7002, a SNKK55 and recently acquiring a rare PVD seiko Sea-urchin. With the work horse 7S36 automatic movement, found in most of their seiko 5 pieces, and a 100 metre water resistance it is the perfect holiday/weekend/everyday piece. The most important part to note is the incredibly modest price these pieces demand. Ranging from about £50-£300 the seiko 5 models offer an excellent value for money. My sea-urchin was purchased from www.creativewatches.com for £135 and even my father was impressed; a man who currently owns a Big Pilot and a 1965 18kt gold Omega Sea-Master. The prospex range includes models such as the marinemaster which are a further development of the seiko 5. High beat movements inside 300-1000 meter water resident cases at a price point ranging from £500-£2000, they are a Rolex Sea-dweller on a budget, without compromising the quality. Another of our editors here sports a Seiko 7002, a vintage dive watch that perfectly embodies the beater watch, especially as it comes from a time when this was probably still considered a tool watch. The original 7002 can only really be compared with the original Nokia mobile phone: in millennia it shall be dug up as a fossil and will most likely still run and be fully water tight, owing to the amazing quality and robustness of these watches. If you do not believe that Seiko are all that I am talking them up to be try one for yourself. Both Ben Clymer and Archieluxury (Paul Pluta), of all people, admitted how amazed they were at the pieces from the japanese watchmaker. Ben Clymer does in fact have a seiko 5 dress watch tucked away along side his Rolex Paul Newman 6263 and A. Lange 1815. An extremely affordable, robust yet stunning watch is a great example of a beater watch.
My incredible Seiko Sea-urchin in PVD; perfect for diving followed by cocktails
Tag Heuer, Tudor, Omega and Breitling Dive Watches
This group represent the slightly higher end swiss timepieces that, again, are still affordable, robust and practical. Essentially any dive watch from these four brands will be very good everyday beater watches. In fact, many gentleman you’ll meet with “one watch” will be sporting one of these. The editors here at The Young Horologist are no exception to this. Between us there is a Tag heuer Aquaracer chronograph, a breitling superocean Professional, a Tudor Fastrider Blackshield (not a dive watch but rule still applies) and soon (hopefully) a Tudor Black Bay Black. These pieces are luxury swiss brands all with a very long history in watchmaking and, in particular, making watches for pilots, divers are race car drivers that are affordable, steel, robust and practical. With a Tudor Black Bay costing me £2,100 and the top range omega Sea Master Planet ocean Chronograph setting you back about £6k, these pieces sit in the low to medium luxury swiss watches category and in the scheme of things are still very affordable. In every essence they are luxury Beaters.
My Tag Heuer Aquaracer braving the harsh northern winter
The icons: Rolex Submariner, Omega Speedmaster and Panerai Luminor
In my opinion, I believe this is the highest level of Luxury Beater watches. Some can argue that a Patek Aquanaught or an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore might be a Beater but, at £12k-£30k, I do not think many can argue these are affordable pieces. The submariner is probably one of the most iconic steel sports watches worn by CEOs, Sportsman, actors, your dad and, once upon a time, soldiers and marines. Even if you have no idea about watches you could probably recognise a Rolex Submariner in a line up. Steel, 40mm, 300m water resistant and a plastic/ceramic rotating bezel. Your perfect everyday watch then wear it with a suit and you’re James Bond, especially with the edition of a black and grey nato (Although the actually James Bond Nato was grey, black and green and was too small for the lugs FYI). The most popular beater watch, if not the most popular watch of all watches, the Submariner is the quintessential everyday Beater watch. Similarly, the Omega Speedmaster is as equally iconic and respected among enthusiasts. However, in all steel, with 100 meter water resistance, a tachymeter, a chronograph and all in a 40mm case this is a perfect everyday watch that doesn’t look out of place at the gym or in an office. Second hand, you can pick up a Sub 16610 or a 116610 from £3.5-£4.5k. Brand new the Omega Speedmaster Professional moonwatch will cost you around £3.5K which is exceptionally good value- but that is for another article. Finally the panerai Luminor, in particular the PAM 111, is an iconic diving watch originally made for the Italian Navy. Moreover, the name Luminor comes from the name given to the first watch they made with luminescent hands and dial. Bigger watches usually in at a large 44mm, though there are smaller size options, they definitely appeal to the bigger man. Panerai enthusiasts include Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone but i have seen many Chinese businessmen at a slight 5’4 who still sport a Panerai. At £5k it is the higher end of the Beater Watch Category but all in steel, waterproof and on a rubber strap it is a fantastically practical Luxury Beater.
Editor and Co-Founder