The terms ‘limited edition” or “collectible” have become somewhat debased of late. Rather than referring to items produced on a highly restricted basis for the discerning connoisseur, they have been hi-jacked by mass market chocolatiers and the like, all keen to slap a premiumish price tag on a 10-million run movie tie-in of some barely-themed confectionery.
Fortunately, in the world of haute horology at least, such terms have retained a modicum of meaning. A “limited edition” remains a timepiece that seldom troubles the double digits in production terms, while the “collectible” tag is still reserved for items of such investibility that any future down-on-its-luck generation could be wholly-schooled on the proceeds.
One watch clearly worthy of both appellations is the Omega Seamaster Diver 300m Rio 2016 Limited Edition. As its name suggests, this particular timepiece offers a knowing nod to the Olympic Games, the ultimate sporting competition, the latest incarnation of which is scheduled to romp into Rio this very month. Taking its inspiration from the Games’ dynamic spirit, it is a true combination of watchmaking excellence and timeless craftsmanship. Beyond that, it also find space for an apt homage to the beauty and diversity that is 21st century Rio.
The wave pattern on its classic lacquered black dial is more than a little reminiscent of mosaic design that graces many of the Copacabana’s sidewalks, while its lacquered red, green, yellow and blue numbers are a clear echo of the princely Olympic rings. Its ceramic black diving bezel, meanwhile, is the perfect counterpoint to its brushed stainless steel case. In an apt finishing touch, its screw-in caseback comes neatly stamped with the Rio 2016 logo. Reassuringly, it is also engraved with an individual limited edition number, proof undeniable of its collectible stature.
Similar assured of its position among the true stars of the most-collectible constellation is Breitling’s Chronoliner Limited Series. With the company committed to producing just 250 pieces, this truly limited edition time piece – courtesy of one of the world’s most admired watch brands – should be on every collector’s Christmas list. Encased in 180karat red gold and featuring a scratch-resistant high-tech black ceramic bezel, the Chronoliner can rightly claim to be every bit as aesthetically pleasing as it is functional.
Engineered to a standard designed to appeal to the most discerning of aviation professionals, the watch features a dedicated chronograph, ideal for measuring flight times, while its triple time zone display is a must for any world traveller. Its star-shaped cut-out facilitates easy handling, while its rubber strap harks back to the steel mesh design of the Breitling Classic Aero Bracelet. For those looking for a more distinguished look, contrasting leather and crocodile straps are also available.
Water-resistant to 100 metres the size is a comfortable 46mm. Powered by Breitling’s calibre 24 – officially certified by the COSC (Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute) – the watch is self-winding, high frequency (28,800 vibrations per hour) and features 25 jewels studded throughout its cambered sapphire crystal glare-proofing.
Taking its inspiration from nature’s aviator, Jaquet Droz’s Charming Bird champion the stylings of the very finest of our feathered friends. Its roots go way back to the Age of Enlightenment, a time when a young watchmaker of peasant stock first set about making his mark on his chosen profession.
That aspirant watchmaker was Pierre Jaquet-Droz and he, in turn, embraced the naturalist movement that was prevalent amongst many 18th century intellectuals. This gave him a particular sensitivity to the beauties of the natural world. He was the first watchmaker to introduce a singing bird motif to his pocket watches. Ultimately, it became almost his trademark, proving ubiquitous across a range of snuffboxes and other objets d’art.
The brand’s long tradition of artistic renderings is given full rein on the Charming Bird’s upper dial section. This is home to a fetching time display, while the section below is devoted to a notably artistic impression of a bird in full song, all neatly housed within a sapphire crystal dome. The collector’s edition also comes with a delicate mother-of-pearl evocation of the Swiss countryside.
The technical aspects of this timepiece are no less impressive than its aesthetic impression. This sees two different mechanisms employed to drive, the watch, apparently the result of several years of R&D. In an another innovation, the bird’s song is generated by the passage of air through three miniature sapphire crystal tubes.
On to more strictly mechanical matters and the built-in regulator harnesses a magnetic effect in order to prevent contact between any metallic components. This also acts to eliminate auditory interference within the 47mm-diameter which. The piece is available in red or white gold, with each version limited to just eight pieces.
Coming in a slightly less limited edition is Chophard’s 20-run L.U.C. Perpetual Chrono. Created with the modern gentlemen very much in mind, this watch boasts one of the “most sophisticated styles and constructions in the world of Haute Horlogerie”, at least according to its manufacturers. Powered by the L.U.C. movement, Calibre 3.10L, at its heart the piece is a hand-wound chronograph, complete with a finely crafted perpetual calendar. It is available in fair-mined 18 karat white gold and 18 karat rose gold.
Some 42 jewels are housed within its 45mm case, while the dial itself features large twin-aperture calendar/date displays, a day/night indicator and an orbital moon phase display – said to provide accurate readings to within a day’s deviation over a 122-year period. A truly unique watch, it embodies Jaquet Droz’s exceptional uniquely artisanal savoir-faire.
Another watch to celebrate the arcane arts of the aviator is IWC Schaffhausen’s Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition. This is the first time the marque has incorporated an annual calendar into its Pilot’s Watch range. There is also a special edition that pays tribute to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, legendary writer and passionate aviator himself, and takes its name from Le Petit Prince, his much-loved children’s story.
In line with Saint-Exupéry’s long association with both literary and aviatory pursuits, the Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition Le Petit Prince celebrates these two pursuits. The special edition watch comes encased in red gold, an attribute that perfectly compliments the dark brown of both its Santoni calfskin strap and the shimmering blue sun-pattern finish on its dial.
The dial has three separate windows, all arrange in a semi-circle at 12 o’clock, showing the month, date and day of the week. The classic elegance of the watch is further underlined by a number of its more exquisite details, notably the white and red gold outline of the hands, numerals and appliqués, the polished bezel, the satin finished case and the beige coloured ornamental seams on the strap. The hands and indicators also come coated in white Super-LumiNova, something that helps ensure legibility even in low light situations.
This hand wound time piece comes with a seven-day power reserve, with the watch’s movement viewable through the watch’s sapphire glass back. Based on a drawing by Saint-Exupéry himself, the rears of the watch is adorned with a representation of the little prince standing on an asteroid and staring at the heavens with his eyes wide open. The very embodiment of classic understatement and technical mastery Le Petit Prince model is limited to just 250 pieces and is a true collector’s gem.
Aficionados of luxury time pieces will be reassured to hear that, while these watches are true collector’s pieces and only available in limited numbers, there is no need to pitch a tent outside a showroom and queue up. Although they are nominally available on a first-come-first-served basis, the only thing you need to do make your nearest retailer aware of your abiding interest in such high-end horological items of desire.
In fact, should your local dealership be worthy of the trust placed in them by many of the world’s foremost marques, there’s a better than evens chance that they will already have you on their radar. Gentlemen of true discernment and means are available in a far more limited edition than even the world’s most wantable watches. Once you have properly registered your interest, you can be sure that all of the latest information with regard to the most hard-to-get and collectible of chronometer should find its way to your mailbox – actual or virtual – with all the regularity and reliability of the very finest Swiss craftsmanship.