Horology (the art of watchmaking) has always existed at the cutting edge of technology. No sooner has a watchmaker mastered a new movement system or chronograph than they (and the rest of the horology community) are looking for ways to improve upon it. The result is a constant series of iterations, with each adding something new to the mix.
Along the way, many designs and models have become classics, perhaps because they were the first to introduce one of these new iterations, or perhaps because a particular design captured the essence and imagination of an era. Naturally, a movement has grown around collecting classic or vintage watches, with some models reaching millions of pounds at auction. Nothing wrong with this – we’ve a fair few vintage watch enthusiasts among our team ourselves – but owning these watches does come with its own challenges, with maintenance and repair all part of the package.
Modern watches are much less likely to need any more maintenance than charging the battery once in a while, but that doesn’t make them any less interesting. After all, watchmaking has always been about being at the forefront of design and incorporating the most modern innovations to improve performance. Even a basic understanding of the processes that have gone into creating a modern watch provide a fascinating insight into the craft.
With that in mind, we thought we’d provide an overview of some of the most modern men’s watches available in the UK today.
For some, the definition of a modern men’s watch is all about incorporating the latest digital technology. Smart watches would provide the best example of this, giving users the ability to do everything from track their heart rate to receiving phone calls on the go. Modern digital watches have come a long way since the calculator watches of the 80s!
Apple have been leading the way in smart watch technology ever since they introduced their first model in 2015. The latest iteration includes a range of health monitoring features including a warning system if the decibel level could be harmful to your hearing and a heart monitor to help see how much effect your workouts (also available through the watch) are having. Customisable face designs, the ability to connect to stream media and make calls and numerous other features besides make this truly one of the most modern watches on the market. Available in a range of colours from a modern, black watch design to the ‘traditional’ Apple white.
TAG Heuer Connected
With the advent of smart watches, traditional watchmakers have looked at ways to get in on the digital revolution. TAG Heuer have been one of the most prominent examples so far, releasing their Connected range in 2015. These modern digital watches combine the sturdy look of a men’s watch with Android software, allowing users to receive and make calls, monitor their vital statistics and connect to the web, all while maintaining the appearance of a more traditional watch aficionado.
It isn’t necessary to go completely digital to incorporate the benefits of modern technology, and some brands are utilising modern technologies behind the scenes to improve the performance of their watches.
This model from Seiko is one example of a classic looking watch being underpinned by some exciting technology. The brand’s patented Spring Drive movement is a result of the company bringing together mechanical and electrical technology to combine the torque of a mechanical watch with the accuracy of a modern, electrical timepiece. The systems work together to create a perfect blend of old and new.
Innovations in watch design don’t just come from the technological realm. Watchmakers are constantly on the lookout for materials that can add an extra dimension to their watches as well. From lume composites such as SuperLuminova for enhanced visibility, to quartz crystals used to regulate watch mechanisms, watchmaking history is packed with materials being used to help improve design and functionality.
One recent example of this innovation in materials come from Swatch, who released their Flymagic model in 2019. This model is the first to incorporate the brand’s patented Nivachron balance spring. This is made from a titanium-based alloy that reduces the effect of magnetic fields by a factor of as much as 20, as well as being shock resistant, temperature resistant and resistant to the general wear and tear that comes with aging. As with every iteration to watch design, you can bet that other brands are already working on a way to improve upon this as well.
Of course, modern watch design can also mean taking a fresh look at classic styles. This allows those with an appreciation of vintage design to own a watch that doesn’t come with the potential hassle (and expense) of maintenance and repair that come with it.
AP Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Ultra Thin
Some watches transcend eras, managing to stay relevant despite very little change to their design over the years. The AP Royal Oak collection is a fine example of this. While the look of the watch is remarkably similar to when the model was first introduced in 1972, this model justifies its inclusion in our modern watch compilation due to the regular updates to the technology. The latest incarnation is the Self Winding Perpetual Calendar Ultra Thin, which encloses the state of the art technical watchmaking Audemars Piguet are renowned for into a 6.3mm case – making it officially the world’s thinnest perpetual calendar watch.
The Geckota G-02 Small ETA 2824 Automatic Diver’s Watch
This model draws on classic elements of watch design, with gilt coloured hands and indices and a stylish beads of rice bracelet. Underpinning these vintage design cues is are some undeniably modern watchmaking technologies, with a Swiss made ETA 2824 movement system and a robust case design built to be water resistant up to 200m. The sunburst epoxy resin bezel finishes the design, giving a modern take on a classic style.
As well as the mechanics, one element of watch design that has kept horologists busy has been finding ways to protect their designs from the elements and make them hard wearing. Rolex changed the perceptions of what was possible in the 1950s, with a series of tough watches made to resist everything from deep sea water pressure, to the turbulence of an aeroplane. Ever since then, modern watches have been judged not only by how well they tell the time, but how well they survive what life throws at them.
Richard Mille RM53-01
They don’t come much tougher than this exquisite timepiece, designed to withstand the inevitable knocks and tumbles that come with the sport of polo. The model introduces sapphire laminated glass to the market, a material able to absorb the toughest of shocks without breaking. Behind the near indestructible cover lie some fascinating mechanics, with a manual winding tourbillon movement and attractive finishes all adding to the watches high-end appeal.
There are few activities more hazardous to a delicate piece of machinery than taking it to depths where the hydrostatic pressure starts bearing down on it. Modern dive watches, therefore, represent some of the most impressive technological advances in terms of watch performance, and this model from Geckota is a fine example of this. Its design cues are inspired by the futuristic designs of the 60s, but make no mistake: this is a modern dive watch built to survive the toughest of conditions. Water resistant to 300m, the watch also features an SII NH35 automatic movement system and anti-reflective coating on the double domed sapphire crystal glass for enhanced visibility in all conditions.
Casio Men’s Pro Trek Stainless Steel
The military is another field where you are likely to find the latest technology being deployed in watches, and modern military watches combine the precision accuracy of digital timekeeping and navigation, with hardwearing case design and high performance features. This modern, black watch from Casio is a perfect example of the genre, housing a digital compass, an altimeter and much more in its 51mm stainless steel case.
Some brands make it their mission to push the boundaries of watch design with every model they make. One such brand are MB&F, and their stunning collections are testament to just how far modern watchmaking has come. With innovations such as the world’s fastest triple axis escapement in their Legacy Machine Thunderdome model, to the world’s first projected moon phase display in the Moon Machine 2, the MB&F collection is watchmaking innovation at its finest. True modern horology pioneers.
In summary – modern watches come in all styles and designs, from those that draw heavily on the classic looks of the past but use modern innovations behind the scenes, to those that are tearing up the rule book and redefining what a watch can do. As with everything, choosing modern watches for guys will depend on personal taste and how well it will suit the intended purpose, but we hope this guide has given you a taste of some of the most exciting modern watches for men around.