Every collection needs a proper tool watch, even if it’s a single watch collection. What the hell is a tool watch? It’s a watch that places priority on function, practicality, and performance; any resulting style is a nice bonus. When it’s done well, the style of those practical elements might just catch on as a trend (i.e. the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and the rotating bezel). When it’s done really well, the resulting style goes on to define a genre (i.e. the Submariner). Of course, any stylistic elements that catch on are of no concern to building a proper tool watch. What does concern the manufacturers of great tool watches is evolutionary improvement on even the smallest of components, and performing under extreme circumstances.
Let’s take a look at a few interesting examples, and what sets them apart in an increasingly crowded field of tool watches.
Let’s be honest, this isn’t the only Rolex that qualifies for a list such as this. But, the Explorer exemplifies what it means to be an everyday-usable tool watch. It’s a watch that features everything you need, and absolutely nothing you don’t. It tells you the time, and that’s it. It does so with exceptional accuracy, high legibility, and reliably within any environment you can throw at it. If you need a tool watch with some heritage, the Explorer doesn’t disappoint. It was on the wrist of Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa, Sir Tenzing Norgay, when they became the first humans to successfully scale Mt. Everest. The halls of your office and the occasional weekend getaway should be a piece of cake. Find yours here. If you fancy a GMT hand, check out the Explorer II right here.
Based on the MK XI from 1948, the IWC Pilot’s watch as we know it today, the MK XVI is basic at first glance, but getting the little details just right is something to celebrate in tool watches. The IWC MK XI was developed as a service watch for RAF pilots, meaning it had to meet some strict requirements. The resulting watch exists today in the MK XVI, it retains the large Arabic numerals around the dial, the 5 minutes indices, the large dauphine hands, and of course, the triangle with two dots at 12 o’clock. It’s simple, easy to read, and coupled with the workhorse movement and all-business steel case make this a worthy tool watch. Bid on the IWC Pilot right here.
Tudor released the North Flag just a few short years ago, so there’s no real lineage to speak of yet, but what it has done with the North Flag is build a modern take on a simple, well engineered, accessible tool watch. The North Flag features a black dial with yellow accents, large 12 and 6 numerals, a date window, and a power reserve indication at 9 o’clock. Best of all, it houses Tudor’s very own automatic movement, the MT5621, and it was designed with toughness in mind with a variable inertial free-sprung balance, silicon balance spring, and a high beat rate. It’s COSC certified as well, and while you can view it through the back, there’s no fancy fancy finishing to admire here, it’s all business. Bid on the North Flag with leather strap or steel bracelet right here.
Based on the Divers Sixty Five, the Carl Brashear is a limited edition from Oris that stands out thanks to a case constructed of bronze and a subtle deep blue dial. It’s also named after the U.S. Navy’s first African-American master diver, Carl Brashear. The watch itself is a classic diver through and through, with large, lumed hour indices and thick hour and minute hands against which reading the time is a breeze. There’s a small date window at 6 o’clock, and that’s about it. Find yours right here.
Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms dive watch help set the tone for all future dive watches when it was introduced in 1953. Developed for the the first ever French navy scuba dive unit, the watch was unique in that it had a rotating bezel that needed to be pressed in order to rotate (thus eliminating any accidental rotation) allowing divers to accurately time their dives. The Fifty Fathoms lives on today as a competent, modern dive watch that marries practicality with a touch of high end fashion that Blancpain is currently known for. The new watch makes for a great tool watch thanks to its excellent legibility, wearability, and titanium case. Find yours right here.
Jaeger-LeCoultre (or JLC) has a rich history not only in movement manufacturing, but in tool watches built for professional divers. Some of these watches went so far as to include mechanical alarms right inside the case to alert divers of their need to ascend. The Deep Sea Chronograph captures the sense of the original dive watches without forcing it with the likes of faux patina. The case and dial are understated while being purposeful in their execution thanks to pump pushers, black textured dial with white indices, and even a chronograph function indicator. It’s a practical watch that looks good enough to wear with a tux. Bid on yours right here.
If you prefer your kick around watches with a little personality, Tudor has you covered with the Heritage Chronograph. Designed after the reference 7169, or “Monte-Carlo” as it’s known, from 1973 (hence the Heritage in its name), the new Chronograph adopts the same blue, white and orange color scheme and home-plate shaped sub-dials. The watch also features screw-down pushers and a rotating outer bezel, should you need to time any of your rugged activities. Become the highest bidder on this watch right here.