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Top 5 List of Watches that Changed the Way We Look at Luxury Timepieces

by Marco 16 November, 2009 View Comments

For over five years, Matt Baily has set itself apart from other watch stores in Montreal by bringing in exciting, new, up-and-coming brands. When looking at a possible new brand to carry, quality is the first prerequisite and is followed by value and potential. This is how we took up dealership of brands like Bell & Ross and U-Boat for which we were the first dealers in Canada. With this list, we highlight five watches from our collections that have swayed trends and turned the most heads.

#5. Alpina Avalanche Extreme Manufacture Regulator

The Avalanche Extreme Manufacture Regulator represents the future of mid-range luxury watches. It is a sporty watch; able to withstand the strain of outdoor activities with a water resistance rating of 200 meters and a rubber strap. Like many watches in its class, the elements of its case are almost as complex as those of its movement. Several different tones, wild shapes, and a multi-layered dial make up the head of the watch. With watch enthusiasts accepting mechanized manufacturing as an integral part of watchmaking, many modern watches portray the same attributes.

What makes the Manufacture Regulator special is its movement. The automatic-winding AL-925 calibre is manufactured in the company's Geneva factory. The reason that this is so important is due to the restricted supply of mechanical movements that will take effect in 2010 (more on ETA's change in supply in this past blog post). Alpina's in-house movement adds great value and uniqueness, yet the Manufacture Regulators are offered at prices comparative to those of watches equipped with ETA mechanisms. The Regulator attracts many collectors thanks to its traditional complication and fine finishes. It reinforces the notion that a rugged sport watch can portray many features of sophistication.

#4. Hamilton Jazzmaster Maestro.

Aside from being unusually large compared to other elegant watches, it's styling is not particularly unique; nor are its day, date, and chronograph functions. What sets the Hamilton Jazzmaster Maestro aside from other watches in its class is value. This is true for every Hamilton watch, making it difficult to choose one that has been most influential. It finally came down to choosing a watch that is amongst the best sellers and also captures Hamilton's long history.

The Maestro is an automatic-winding chronograph, with a sizable 44mm stainless steel case and a simple, classic look. The infamous 7750 calibre movement is what runs its functions and is also a major reason for its great value. ETA's 7750 is a proven, precision mechanism. Thousands of these have been certified by the COSC to be chronometers, a denomination symbolizing superior precision and quality. It is the movement of choice for many high-end automatic chronograph watches. The Portuguese Chronograph, Chronomat, and Daylight chrono are three examples of models that rely on the 7750. These three models are also priced between three and six times more then the Maestro.

Thanks to their extraordinary value, the Hamilton line of watches has enabled many watch lovers to purchase their first high-end, Swiss-made, automatic chronograph.

#3. Corum Golden Bridge

The Golden Bridge did not "change" how we see luxury watches as much as it "reminded" us how we should look at them.

Corum has always staid current with trends such as the large size of watch cases and extreme luxury for sporty watches. However, they never severed their strong relationship with the traditional methods of watchmaking. This is what makes the Golden Bridge such an important watch. While modernized in design, with a relatively large case and precise machining, it could not exist without the skilled hands of traditional watchmakers.

To manufacture the narrow, manual-winding CO113 movement that gives the watch its name, the skilled hands of watchmakers and artists are essential. Due to this labour intensive process, the production quantity is naturally limited to small numbers each year. A video produced by Corum captures some key aspects of manufacturing the Bridge movement like engraving, assembling, and finishing, which are all done by hand. Visit the Film Gallery in the Communication section of Corum.ch.

Once completed the Golden Bridge watch embodies all the aspects of what luxury watches represent. Value, technological innovation, precision, and the artist's touch that is unreproducible by any machine. I don't think I have ever heard a negative comment about the Golden bridge watches, and their value is obvious to first-time watch buyers and ardent collectors alike. The Golden Bridge is in this list because it re-sparked our fascination with the storied trade of watchmaking.

#2. U-Boat Italo Fontana Classico

U-Boat watches are definitely buzz worthy. Amongst all the articles that I have posted on mattbaily.ca and other sites, the ones that receive the most tweets, clicks, and visitors, are almost always about U-Boat watches. This is not to say that everyone that reads these articles is a fan, but they are certainly interested. This visibility is what accounts for the inclusion of U-Boat Classico watches in this list.

When Matt Baily discovered U-Boat watches and was the first to bring them to Canada, they almost all worked on quartz movements. Italo Fontana decided to improve the quality of those original, fashion-oriented watches and equip them with high-end Swiss mechanical movements. The prices naturally increased and many were sceptical of U-Boat#39;s breaking the higher end, luxury market. Instead it was the market that was drawn towards the new and improved U-Boat Classicos.

U-Boat does very little advertising. The vast majority of the U-Boat Classicos that we sell are discovered in our window or on the wrists of friends and family. They are watches that you just fall in love with. What we learn from their success is that the style of a watch - if backed by quality - is still its most important attribute. U-Boat watches also show that if the product is valuable, then advertising and branding is of lesser importance.

#1. Bell & Ross BR-01 92

When this watch was released by Bell & Ross, the company was already steadily growing thanks to its high quality, value, and brand image. While it was obvious from the start, that the "Instruments" would be a success, it was less evident how profoundly they would affect the company's popularity.

When the BR-01 92 was released, many people seeing it for the first time reacted as if they had never seen a square watch before. It is arguable that before this point, square watches were a niche that went largely unnoticed. Judging from the amount of square, military-style models that were released after the advent of the Instruments, it is safe to say that they have had a strong, positive impact on the watch making industry.

Since the BR-01 92 and 94, Bell & Ross has greatly expanded the Instrument collection including extremely complicated watches such as the BR Tourbillon and the more fashion oriented BR-S Ceramics. While this article is meant to feature only watches amongst those we carry at Matt Baily, the BR Instrument would surely figure on any list of top influential timepieces of the past ten years.


While all these watches have had an impact on the luxury watch industry as a whole, we chose pieces from our brands only, so it is likely that many watches that you may consider more influential are not present.

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