Now that the 2010s are about to go marching out, it’s time to meet the decade’s most important watches. These timepieces are not only historically significant for the brand, but they would go on to almost define the category they operate in. We invited colleagues and experts to chime in with their choices, here’s goes: 

Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime

The heavyweight that chimed in for Haute Horlogerie this decade.

By Roger Ruegger, Editor-in-Chief, WatchTime

Looking back AT the last 10 years, one watch deserves to be mentioned for its role as a global ambassador for the whole industry: The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300A-010 (the only stainless steel version of the Swiss manufacturer’s Grandmaster Chime) and the most talked about timepiece of the 2019 Only Watch charity auction. The watch, equipped with a reversible case, two dials and 20 complications, sold in November for CHF31,000,000 to an Asian collector, making it the most expensive wristwatch in the world. In other words: an incredible testament to the significance of watchmaking for collectors worldwide.

The most expensive wristwatch sold ever at any auction

Launched in 2014 on the occasion of Patek’s 175th anniversary, the Grandmaster Chime became part of the manufacture’s regular collection in a white-gold version in 2016. The most complex Patek Philippe wristwatch features 20 complications, including five acoustic functions, two of which are patented global premières: an alarm that strikes the preprogrammed alarm time and a date repeater that sounds the date on demand. The double-face case with the guilloche hobnail pattern is endowed with a patented reversing mechanism.

Rolex GMT-Master II “Pepsi”

The steel sports that watch is on everyone’s wish-list.

By Rüdiger Bucher, International Editorial Director, Ebner Media Group

The second decade of the third millennium has, especially at its end, seen a dramatic surge in desirability for some already strongly sought-after watches, especially Rolex’s sport models in stainless steel. One of the most notable timepieces that was responsible for activating this hype machine was – and still is – the GMT-Master II in its red-and-blue “Pepsi” execution. Introduced by Rolex at Baselworld 2018, no sooner was the new watch presented than literally everybody wanted to have one.

Probably the most desired watch on the planet now

Of course, this phenomenon holds true not for the Pepsi alone but also for other Rolex models like the Daytona, Submariner, and even other GMT-Masters like the black-and-blue “Batman.” But the Pepsi is a good example for the reasons that stand behind the afore-mentioned hype. Rolex watches have long been known for their excellent product quality: their extraordinary sturdiness, reliability and longevity, for their extreme precision and for the perfection in detail – all of which you will find in the new Pepsi.

The current model features a lot of the technical details that Rolex has improved over the years: a top-notch scratch-resistant ceramic bezel in blue and bright red (a color extremely difficult to obtain and is resistant to fading over time), the latest generation of a world-class chronometer movement that now offers a power reserve of 70 hours, as well as the sophisticated Jubilee bracelet with an in-built extension, to name but a few. And while the technical specs represent the best of today’s standards, the Pepsi preserves an iconic design that has been cherished for decades by so many watch lovers: a classic, recognizable design that never looks old-fashioned. Last not least, a Rolex watch like the Pepsi offers its owner a steady increase in value.

Tudor Heritage Black Bay

Flying the flag for accessible, quality, old-fashioned watchmaking.

By Nitin Nair, Editor, WatchTime Middle East

In 2012, Tudor launched a diver’s watch inspired by the Prince Submariner from 1964. This vintage inspired diver, called the Heritage Black Bay, carried itself like a vintage timepiece despite its 41 mm case size. It had a distinct burgundy bezel that framed a matte black dial with rose gold indices and hands. The dial further carried the vintage Tudor rose logo (Tudor printed these on dials between 1947 and 1969) and was topped by a highly domed sapphire crystal that was reminiscent of acrylic crystals of yore. And the best bit? It was priced around $3,400 on the steel bracelet, even less when paired with leather strap.

The Black Bay was launched in 2012

This Black Bay put Tudor firmly back in the spotlight, and more significantly ushered in the most dominant trend of this decade – neo-vintage watches. The Black Bay was not the first vintage revival, but its success meant brands began scouring their brand archives for inspiration. Since 2012 Tudor has grown the Black Bay line to include more bezel options, fitted them with in-house movements, introduced bronze cases, added a couple of chronographs and a GMT model too. Also, it bagged a clutch of GPHG awards along the way.

It even produced unique watches that consistently pulled in the big bucks at consecutive Only Watch Charity Auctions. The Black Bay Bronze One from 2017 sold for $350,000, nearly 90 times its pre-sale estimate of $4,500. This year, the Black Bay Ceramic One had a pre-sale estimate of $4,500-$5,500 but sold for more than 60 times its pre-auction estimate at CHF350,000 (approx. $350,000). For years Tudor was seen as the poor man’s Rolex, the Black Bay has changed that conversation and some.

Bulgari Finissimo Octo

The Octo is the perfect blend of Italian design flair and Swiss technical ingenuity. 

By Alejandro Estrada, Editor-in-Chief of WatchTime Mexico

Years ago, when THE renowned brands Gérald Genta and Daniel Roth were merged into Bulgari, everyone thought this a bizarre occurrence. What did a renowned fashion house famed for its jewelry, bags, and perfumes want with two high-end watch brands considered as part of the most respected indie names around then? And if that wasn’t strange enough, the second step was almost akin to blasphemy — around 2010 Gérald Genta and Daniel Roth ceased to exist in order to strengthen the power of the mother brand in the unexplored field of high watchmaking.

Combines Italian flair with Swiss technical ingenuity

As it sounds, both brands smoothly merged into the identity of Bulgari, first as a secondary name on the dial — just below the Bulgari logo — before entirely disappearing from it. And this was just the the beginning; two years later, Bulgari unveiled the Octo, one of the most beautiful and technically-impeccable models in the market today.

The Octo is a modern icon today. The model integrated key elements from Genta’s design, such as the octagonal case and a round bezel, and it was initially called Octo Roma. Today, the Octo, under the Finissimo surname, has earned some of the most prestigious awards given out in this decade. It has also made it a habit to chalk up world records in the ultra-thin watches category. Bulgari now has the thinnest timepiece in different categories: automatic, automatic GMT chronograph, automatic tourbillon, and minute repeater.

VINTAGE: Paul Newman’s Paul Newman Daytona

The most expensive Rolex ever sold at any auction reignited demand for Paul Newmans.

By Tariq Malik, co-founder of Momentum Dubai, a vintage watch boutique in DIFC

Rolex’s affiliation with motorsport goes back all the way to the time they lent a Rolex Oyster to Malcolm Campbell who wore it whilst breaking the land speed record on September 4, 1935 at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The First Rolex Daytona, a Reference 6239 with a stainless steel bezel and pump pushers was launched in 1963 after Rolex took over as the official timekeeper of the Daytona International Speedway in 1962. In October 2017, a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Oyster belonged to legendary actor Paul Newman was auctioned off by Phillips Watches in New York for a whopping $17.8 million. But this wasn’t just any old celebrity-owned timepiece but the mythical watch that spawned the vintage ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona craze.

One Paul Newman to rule them all

The Paul Newman Daytona was already among the most coveted vintage watches in the market. To recap, Daytona models that featured an ‘Exotic dial’ (the dial uses art-deco numerals in the chronograph counters) was handed the nickname ‘Paul Newman’ after the actor was seen sporting one on the cover of an Italian magazine. The ‘Paul Newman’ was singularly responsible for elevating Vintage Rolex Daytona Collecting to the level we can observe it at today. In the aftermath of publicity the watch received after the sale, demand for Paul Newman Daytona models went up to an all-time high and subsequently pushed the average price for the model northwards from the $80,000-100,000 figure it was fetching prior to the historic sale.

Not just watch collectors but just about anyone with the necessary wealth to afford one wants one now, such is its collectability value. It has become extremely difficult to find a good example today, no matter how much one is willing to pay for it thus making it among the most desirable and recognizable vintage watches in the world today.

HONORABLE MENTION: The Apple Watch

The device that lead the smartwatch tsunami that changed the watch industry landscape forever.

On September 9, 2014, tech giant Apple showed off its first smartwatch, its first wearable device and a product that CEO Tim Cook described as the “next chapter in Apple history.” Though it was launched only six months later in April 2015, news of the unveiling had already set the cat among the pigeons. Watch industry executives looked on nervously, worried that just like the Quartz Revolution in the 1970s, the “smartwatch tsunami” would leave the industry in tatters again.

Apple sold more than a million watches on Day 1 alone

Apple received pre-orders from almost one million customers in the U.S. alone on its first day of accepting orders. About two-thirds of them were for the $349 Apple Watch Sport model. In just one day, Apple had earned more money than some of the established Swiss watch brands. While industry executives including Jean-Claude Biver were initially in denial, Swiss brands were forced to respond to Apple’s incursion. TAG Heuer fired the first major salvo for the industry with its Connected Watch, Frederique Constant unveiled the Horological Smartwatch and fashion brands like Fossil, Kenneth Cole, and MVMT hurried to drop Android Wear-based (now Wear OS) smartwatches, but Apple continues to dominate the sector.

Whether they would like to admit it or not, Apple forced the watch industry to step out of their comfort zone and push the pedal on innovation. We have the Apple Watch to thank for the sheer number of brands that have introduced quick release straps and sports loops. While it was never really going to stop consumers from buying a top shelf haute horology timepiece, entry-level quartz and fashion watches that continue to bear the brunt of the smartwatch invasion.  – Nitin Nair