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04/22/2021
 4 minutes

A Collector’s Dream: Why We All Want (or Maybe Even Need) Our Very Own Grail Watch, Part 2

By Tom Mulraney
Rolex GMT

A Collector’s Dream: Why We All Want (or Maybe Even Need) Our Very Own Grail Watch, Part 2

We’re back with our second installment of watches that make collectors go crazy, including two of my all-time favorites: the Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675 and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak ref. 15202ST. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here. Below, you’ll find a selection of five seriously cool watches, all of which are icons in their own right. Having just one of these watches in your collection would be huge – let alone all five! Regardless of which one sets your heart racing, you can be sure the best place to find one is right here on Chrono24. Happy hunting! 

Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675
Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675

Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675 

Is there a cooler tool watch than the Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675? Although it’s the second reference of the series (the original being the ref. 6542 with its Bakelite bezel), the ref. 1675 has come to be the timepiece you think of when talking about a vintage GMT-Master. One of the main reasons is its long production run, which ran from 1959 to 1980. During this time, the ref. 1675 was the only true GMT model Rolex made (the Explorer II didn’t become a GMT until 1985.) Commissioned by the now-defunct Pan American Airways – America’s largest international air carrier at the time – the GMT-Master was designed to meet the timekeeping needs of trans-Atlantic aircrews crossing multiple time zones. A key part of its functionality was its now-iconic blue and red “Pepsi” bezel – symbolizing the split between day and night when reading the GMT hand. 

Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5968A-001
Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5968A-001

Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5968A-001 

Only a few years old, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut ref. 5968A-001 is already one of the most desirable models in the Aquanaut collection. This reference debuted in 2018 and continues the Aquanaut’s foray into casual luxury sports watches targeted at younger audiences. Its bold color scheme (by Patek’s standards, at least) made quite the splash when the watch was officially unveiled. Its distinctive orange dial accents and striking orange rubber strap turned more than a few heads. This being Patek, though, the ref. 5968A has more than enough watchmaking credentials to back up its in-your-face style. Presented in a 42.2-mm case with brushed and polished finishes, it stands 11.9 mm tall. Its gray gradient dial features large, glow-in-the-dark Arabic numerals and luminous hands. In addition to the time, this model also offers a central chronograph seconds hand and a 60-minute counter at 6 o’clock. Inside is the automatic in-house caliber CH 28‑520 C – the same movement used in the ref. 5980 Nautilus. 

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo "Extra Thin"
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo “Extra Thin”

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo “Extra Thin” ref. 15202ST 

Everyone knows the story of the original Royal Oak. AP was desperate for a miracle during the “quartz crisis” of the 1970s. As legend has it, Gérald Genta designed this bold new luxury steel sports watch in a single night. The manufacturer launched it at Baselworld in 1972. Its price tag was higher than many of AP’s 18-karat gold timepieces at the time, causing quite a stir. Decades later, the company hasn’t changed much about this watch. And why would they? It literally gave birth to the luxury steel sports watch category, which remains arguably one of the hottest genres among watch collectors today. Perhaps the most faithful evolution of the original ref. 5402ST is the ref. 15202ST. It’s virtually the same watch in many ways but with more refinement and an in-house movement. The case measures 39 mm wide and has an amazing thickness of only 8.1 mm. It also features a beautifully designed integrated bracelet, which many collectors claim to be the most comfortable on the market. Inside the case, you’ll find the extra-thin, automatic in-house caliber AP 2121. And let’s not forget its stunning blue dial with its subtle “petite tapisserie” pattern. It’s a true classic. 

Omega Speedmaster 105.012
Omega Speedmaster 105.012

Omega Speedmaster 105.012 

One of the things that makes collecting vintage Speedmasters so much fun (and oh so challenging) is their variety and variability over the years. The ref. 105.012 is a great example of this. In production from 1963–1966, this was the first Speedmaster reference to feature the word Professional” on its dial. It was also the first reference to have an asymmetric case. And perhaps most importantly, it became the first watch on the Moon when Buzz Aldrin stepped foot on the lunar surface in 1969. Subtle differences to this reference can be found across its production run. The most notable is probably the fact that models produced in the final year (1966) used cases from one of two different manufacturers: Huguenin Frères, who also made the cases for the previous references, and Centrale Boîtes. Although virtually identical, you can spot the CB cases by a small facet edge on the lugs. It’s a tiny detail of watch collecting history that only a true enthusiast can appreciate.    

Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655
Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655

Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655 

Better known among collectors as the “Freccione,” the ref. 1655 marked the debut of the Explorer II in 1971. And what a watch it was. At 39 mm in diameter, it was larger than its elder sibling, the Explorer. It also boasted added functionality in the form of a fixed bezel with 24-hour markings combined with a central arrow-tipped orange 24-hour hand – hence the nickname “Freccione,” which is Italian for “arrow.” Rolex developed this model to serve the specific needs of explorers spending extended periods of time away from daylight, such as speleologists. This is why the 1655’s dial features luminescent markers at five-minute intervals, as well as small luminous squares every 2.5 minutes. The result is a total of 24 glow-in-the-dark accents that enable the wearer to read the watch even in low light. Its niche target audience and distinctive style meant the ref. 1655 was never a strong seller. Thus, even though it was in production for 14 years, Rolex didn’t produce or sell them in high numbers, making them a very sought-after timepiece today. 

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About the Author

Tom Mulraney

Growing up in Australia in the 1980s and 90s, there wasn’t much of a watch scene. There was only one authorized retailer of high-end watches in the city I lived in …

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