By Roberta Naas
Photography by Jeff Crawford
Styling by Terry Lewis | September 29, 2014 | Watches & Jewelry
When Boston imagines a legend, Paul Revere or Nathaniel Hawthorne may come to mind, but in the watch world a select group of storied Swiss brands has created legends that rival those of local lore.
Origins: The Cartier brand is credited with creating the first modern wristwatch, based on a timepiece that Louis Cartier designed for aviator Alberto Santos Dumont at the beginning of the 20th century. About a decade later, the renowned Cartier Tank was unveiled, with a bold square case said to be inspired by tanks driven in the First World War.
Evolution: One of the world’s first square wristwatches, the Tank quickly became an icon. Regularly over the last century, Cartier has updated the collection, adding the Francaise, Americaine, and Anglaise versions, which feature rectangular and square shapes that mimic the original Tank design.
Lovers of the Legend: Greta Garbo; Cary Grant; Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; Truman Capote; Andy Warhol; Diana, Princess of Wales; and Michelle Obama.
Details: This watch combines history and modernity in its skeletonized movement. Crafted in 18k gold, it contains the Caliber 9619 MC, which is designed in-house and features bridges ingeniously built to form Roman numerals.
Where to buy: Cartier, 40 Newbury St., 617-262-3300
Reasons for renown: This year, Patek Philippe celebrates 175 years of regularly setting the standard for craftsmanship and innovation in watchmaking while remaining an independent, family-owned brand. Known as the Master of Complications, the company has created the most complicated watch in the world, raising the bar for aesthetic and technical excellence.
Iconic look: Part of the famed Calatrava series created in 1932, this watch is distinguished by its enduring appearance and uniformity in tone, thanks to the rose-gold bracelet and the warm brown dial. The moonphase complication adds another level of artistry and beauty, demonstrating Patek Philippe’s technical prowess.
Details: Mechanical self-winding movement, 18k rose gold, brown sunburst dial, day and date indication, moon phases.
Noted wearers: Pieces in the Calatrava collection have been worn by Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, and Vladimir Putin, the Russian president (and noted watch collector). Pablo Picasso embraced the artistry of Patek’s moon-phase designs.
Where to buy: Dorfman Jewelers, 24 Newbury St., 617-536-2022
Brand history: Vacheron Constantin has the distinction of being the oldest Swiss watch brand continually in production. The company was founded more than 250 years ago, in 1755, and has always been committed to setting standards for excellence in its movements and craftsmanship. This pedigree alone makes the brand’s timepieces coveted collector’s items.
Skeletonization: Long a specialty of Vacheron Constantin, skeleton watches demonstrate the brand’s technical and aesthetic prowess. Skeletonizing a watch—wherein every part of the movement (in this case, 144 pieces) is carved away until less than half of the original metal remains—requires countless hours of intricate and precise workmanship. For this timepiece, Vacheron Constantin’s artisans spent dozens of additional hours meticulously engraving and finishing each component of the Caliber 1120QP SQ.
Details: 18k 5N pink gold, 39mm diameter case, automatic movement, skeletonized caliber, sapphire caseback, Geneva Seal certified, perpetual calendar functions (day of the week, month, year, leap year, and moon phases).
Boosters of the brand: Napoleon Bonaparte, the Duke of Windsor, Pope Pius IX, and Harry Truman
Where to buy: Shreve, Crump & Low, 39 Newbury St., 617-267-9100
Why it’s legendary: Founded by Hans Wilsdorf, Rolex is renowned for many firsts. In the 1920s, the brand created the first truly waterresistant watch, and later a Rolex descended to the deepest part of the oceans, the Mariana Trench—twice. A Rolex was the first timepiece to ascend Mount Everest, on the wrist of Sir Edmund Hillary in the 1950s, and the company has achieved many other historical and technical breakthroughs as well.
Origins: The Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master was introduced in 1955 in cooperation with Pan Am, under the leadership of aviation pioneer Juan Trippe. The original timepiece was designed to help pilots who were traveling across time zones with increasing frequency as the passenger airline industry flourished.
Famous face: In the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger, Pussy Galore (played by British beauty Honor Blackman) was a daredevil pilot who wore a man’s Rolex GMT-Master, making a bold cultural statement for both women and the brand.
Turning point: Reintroduced as the GMT-Master II in 2005, the watch featured a rotating 24-hour graduated bezel to display three different time zones. The new version also included two-tone bezels made from high-tech ceramic.
Details: Stainless steel, 40mm case, rotating black and blue ceramic bezel, 24-hour hand, independently adjustable 12-hour hand, Oysterlock bracelet.
Where to buy: Sidney Thomas Jewelers, The Shops at the Prudential Center, 617-262-0935