Great design lives forever. Just ask the fans of the Porsche 911. It’s one of the great icons of the auto world, introduced in 1964 and still going strong. Today, there are 11 variations of the car. Like the 911, modern versions of iconic watches are instantly recognizable but have been refreshed with tweaks that make sense and render improvements without destroying the familiar aesthetic. Their manufacturers keep making them because they are winners, and why fix something if it’s not broken? Here are some up-to-the-minute takes on old favorites, with newer movements, new case materials or new functions, because time marches on.
Bulgari Serpenti Tubogas Infinity
The serpent, a symbol of vitality and passion, has evolved to become Bulgari’s most recognizable motif, identified with the Rome jeweler/Swiss watchmaker than with any other brand. The diamond-studded wrap-around bracelet of the Serpenti watch is Bulgari’s version of a classic, a watch that can be worn every day—by both men and women, by the way. The “Tubogas” in the name refers to the intricate engineering that went into the bracelet. The gold links are threaded onto a metal inner part that wraps around the wrist or upper arm. It features a total of 486 diamonds, weighing 5.85 carats, set into the case, dial and bracelet. This is the first time Bulgari has set diamonds into the flexible bracelet of the wrap-around Serpenti, made possible by using thicker links. The movement is quartz. Priced in Euros at €92,100 (about $98,000).
TAG Heuer Monza Flyback Chronometer
This watch is a truly rare beast. It was first introduced in 1976 to commemorate TAG Heuer’s sponsorship of the Ferrari F1 racing team–and its 1975 win–and it was named for the legendary racing track in Monza, Italy, near Milan. It is not part of the brand’s regular catalog, and has only been produced sporadically and in limited editions since then. This year’s model is the first refresh since 2016. Like most Monzas, it has a black case–it was the first TAG Heuer model to be draped in black. The 42mm case is made of forged carbon. Previous Monza models had a red/black palette, synonymous with Ferrari, but TAG Heuer now partners with Red Bull Racing, so the red accents are replaced by Red Bull’s blue and red colors. The movement is Flyback Chronograph Heuer 02, a premium caliber with an 80-hour power reserve. $13,850
Hublot Big Bang Tourbillon Neon Yellow Saxem
Most watches we think of as icons were introduced in the 1940s through the end of the 1970s. Hublot didn’t come along until 1980, which makes it a new kid on the block compared to Switzerland’s 18th and 19th century legacy brands. Still, Hublot has produced solid, continuously recurring designs that have become symbols of high-level cool. The Big Bang is one of them. The collection’s claim to fame is color, usually in the form of modern case materials like ceramic, carbon, sapphire, and now, a sapphire-like material called Saxem (which stands for Sapphire Aluminum oXide and rare Earth Mineral). The goal was to create this specific shade of neon yellow. Saxem is transparent and scratch- and chip-resistant. The automatic tourbillon caliber HUB6035 is skeletonized, allowing lots of light to pass through the case, creating a crazy glow. It comes on a neon-yellow rubber strap, of course. It is a limited edition of 50 pieces. $211,000
Breguet Classique Phase de Lune Dame 9085
Technically, this is the 2023 “Valentine’s Day” edition of the ladies’ version of the classic Classique Phase de Lune, but it is so subtle that it is actually the perfect year-round gift–or perfect self purchase. Nothing wrong with a little bit of self-love. The subtle modifications on this very classic watch push it just over the edge into romance territory: the red strap and red ruby indexes represent love. Otherwise, it is a traditional Breguet Classique, with blued Breguet hands, a mother-of-pearl inner dial and a coin edge case band. It also comes with an interchangeable pearly white strap to match the dial. The bezel and lugs are set with 66 diamonds, and it contains the automatic caliber 537L, with hours, minutes, seconds and moon phase indicators. The Classique Phase de Lune 9085 Valentine’s Day Edition is a 28-piece numbered series. Price on request.
Franck Muller 30th Anniversary Tribute Chronographs
This trio of limited editions includes remakes of one of Franck Muller’s most sought-after creations from the ’90s, the heyday of Muller’s reign as one of the world’s most important independent watchmakers. The first, Grail Watch 2, is a replica of one of his most iconic creations, a double-sided rattrapante chronograph with two dials, one in the front for the chronograph and one in the back for the for tachymeter, telemeter and pulsometer scales. Miraculously, the company was able to retrieve original movements—new old stock—from the its archives: manual-wound Lemania-based movements that were heavily modified by Muller. The other two models are a bi-compax chronograph with silver lacquer dial ($19,500) and a tri-compax chronograph with black lacquer dial ($20,500). The rattrapante is priced at $25,500. Each of the three watches will be made in a series of 50 pieces.
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Automatic White Gold
The blaze of light coming from this dial is the result of nearly 1,000 diamonds, which surely can be seen from outer space. Each diamond is surrounded by narrow webs of gold wires that together form a barleycorn pattern. It’s a novel way to set gems on a watch dial, because it’s not unlike the way layers of color would be fired onto a dial between gold rims on a cloisonné technique, except that here, the enamel is replaced by diamonds. Lots of diamonds. They total 2.90 carats and all are certified F-G color and VVS, an exceptional and rare standard of quality. The very wearable 36mm case is 18K white gold. The movement is the automatic PF310, made by Parmigiani Fleurier, with a power reserve of 50 hours. $65,000
Richard Mille RM 66 Flying Tourbillon
This is a watch for your rock star–your inner rock star with means, that is. The skeleton hand on the dial is the “horns” hand sign that has symbolized a state of mind for an entire generation. The thumb holding the middle fingers down can be seen through the open caseback. It’s an edgy, modern take on Richard Mille’s iconic tonneau case design, and the memento mori theme he introduced in the RM 052 Tourbillon Skull. The message: it’s important to live each moment to the fullest. The base plate and bridges are made of titanium. They are skeletonized, which is not an easy feat on such a rigid metal. The bezel and caseback are made of TPT, an extremely durable carbon with a unique damascene pattern throughout. Rock ‘n’ roll elements include the clous de Paris hobnail pattern on the gold case bands and indexes shaped like a guitar plectrum (pick). It is limited to 50 pieces and priced at $1,095,000.