The United States’ eastern seaboard is frozen. The west is on fire. These are extreme times, and they call for extreme time-keepers. Among the perils of burns and blizzards, high horology offers a range of timepieces – past and present – that can help watch collectors weather the storms of fate and fortune.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Survivor
2008 was a turbulent year. Lehman Brothers. Bear Stearns. Bailouts. T.A.R.P. In troubled times, survivors emerged, and Audemars Piguet offered the year’s least likely companion for the financial apocalypse. The 1,000-piece Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore “Survivor” was both weird and wonderful; its design was as chaotic as the era in which this maniac machine emerged.
Technically a manageable 42mm in diameter, the visually overpowering Royal Oak Offshore Survivor looked as big – and as belligerent – as a Mad Max war rig. With its over-the-top combination of “heat sink” bezel, “muzzle brake” crown, and chronograph pusher-guards built like grenade pins, the Survivor hit a declining watch market like a bomb blast. The engine within is worthy of Max’s V8 Interceptor; Audemars Piguet’s in-house caliber 3126 base automatic with a Dubois-Depraz vertical clutch chronograph module.
While no more water (100M) or shock resistant (Kif springs) than a standard Royal Oak Offshore, the Survivor’s blackened titanium carapace remains the ultimate horological badlands badass; it’s a watch for the road warrior-at-heart. Values remain strong; this black blockbuster continues to command between $28,000 and $32,000 on most pre-owned watch exchanges.
Glashütte Original Sport Evo Impact
The Sport Evo Impact was the machine that proved Saxony could match the madness issuing from AP, Richard Mille, and Jaeger-LeCoultre in the mid 2000s. In its day, this expressly shock-resistant sports watch lineup offered options spanning the spectrum from “Panorama Date” automatics to chronographs to tourbillons – all with hooligan intent and red impact-absorbers to match.
As far removed from a Julius Assmann grand complication as German imaginations could envision, the Sport Evo Impact offered performance as impressive as the 46mm cases themselves. Glashütte Original’s watchmakers explicitly claimed that the caliber 94-01 tourbillon could be worn safely during golf play, and water resistance ratings of 100-meters placed these watches in a league of durability now rarely associated with Swatch’s premium German brand.
The most polarizing feature of the watch remains inextricably linked to the model line’s rough-and-tumble identity; those monstrous red shock absorbers are visible components of the dial.
Today, the Glashütte Original Sport Evo Impact watches remain attractive pre-owned alternatives to new sports watches. The Panorama Date auto can be obtained for between $6,000 and $7,000 U.S. Chronographs are available for similar money, and even the range-topping tourbillon remains ready to hit the links for between $45,000 and $50,000.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Extreme World Chronograph
Like Glashütte Original’s Sport Evo Impact series, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Compressor Extreme was a model line spanning several distinct complications. While tourbillon and world-time-alarms were built, the most memorable and iterated member of the family was the first: the Extreme World Chronograph.
Previewed in 2005, the Master Compressor Extreme World Chronograph was all its name implied. Compressor crown winglets enabled immediate access to controls, and a half-turn was sufficient to restore 100-meter water resistance. The “Extreme” 46mm+ titanium/steel hybrid case comprised an outer steel shell supporting a shock absorber-supported inner titanium impact chassis. Jaeger-LeCoultre personnel suggested that 900G momentary shocks could be overcome by the impressively robust World Chronograph.
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s first in-house family of automatic chronograph calibers was represented, and the movements added additional shock protection in the form of free sprung balances and double laser-welded hairsprings (at stud and collet). A world time complication enabled adventurers to read simultaneous hours across the globe’s 24 principal time zones.
The Extreme World Chronograph may have served as a basis for almost as many variants as the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore. From left-handed “Inverssor” specials to limited runs in rose gold, white gold, platinum, and mixed metals, there is a Master Compressor Extreme World Chronograph to suit almost every taste and every budget. Want a Singapore limited edition? That exists. How micro do these editions get? A rare 20-piece titanium / 10-piece platinum run celebrates Emmanuel Coindre, a man who paddled a kayak across the Pacific Ocean… Hey, if anyone really needs an extreme watch, it’s that guy.
The original steel/titanium chronograph tends to sell for between $7,000 and $8,500 U.S.; precious metal variants begin at approximately $15,000 and escalate to just under $25,000 for excellent platinum examples. Every conceivable strap material as well as a factory bracelet are available.
Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra >15,000 Gauss
Since its launch in 2002, the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra line has lived in the shadow of its burlier 300M Diver and Planet Ocean stablemates; the 2013 Seamaster Aqua Terra >15,000 Gauss embodied the surf/turf Aqua Terra’s solitary spotlight solo.
The Aqua Terra > 15,000 Gauss is proof that extreme watches can be elegant. All previous timepieces on this list would look at apropos alighting in a private helicopter from the top deck a Russian mega-yacht during the Monaco Grand Prix; the 41.5mm stainless steel “>15,000 Gauss” can be worn in any office or formal event with a straight face and discretion.
The Aqua Terra’s lack of the Seamaster “Professional” rotating bezels endows the AT line with unique grace lacking among its dive watch counterparts. The subtle black-yellow color alternations of the dial combine with the delicate “teak deck” imprint to reward close inspection and discourage unwanted appraisals by curbside café-lurkers.
Internally, the Omega-exclusive automatic caliber 8508 co-axial chronometer offers more than 15 times to antimagnetic resilience of a Rolex Milgauss. Critically, this extreme watch is dubbed the “> 15,000 Gauss,” so the actual magnetic immunity is far higher than the titular figure. Thanks to the Nivarox/ETA “Si14” silicon hairspring, this Aqua Terra is better described as “amagnetic” than “antimagnetic.” 150-meter water resistance completes the impressive roster of resiliencies.
Today, the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra remains available as a new watch from Omega for $6,600 U.S., but pre-owned watches are readily available from $3,500 on a leather strap to as much as $4,500 for examples with a full boxed set, steel bracelet, and remaining factory warranty.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Sea-Dweller 116660 “D-Blue”
How do you make an extreme watch more so? Add color. Although released in 2008, Rolex’s metal monolith didn’t hit its sales stride until the late 2014 arrival of the “Rolex Deepsea D-Blue” inspired by film impresario James Cameron. What better tribute to a man and his personal submarine than a watch big and tough enough to BE a submarine?
Consider just how exceptional this Deepsea Sea-Dweller is. Although Rolex often associates certain models and model lines with celebrity ambassadors, actual on-the-watch co-branding that ties a model to a specific person has proved to be extremely scarce. Rolex drew inspiration for the dial – a gradient that shifts from blue to black – from Cameron’s 2012 Challenger Deep dive in his personal submersible, the “Deepsea Challenger.” The submersible’s actual signal-green color informs the shock of yellow in the “Deepsea” dial signature of the watch.
A 44mm stainless steel case and 3900-meter dive depth round out the Rolex Deepsea’s extreme credentials. Unique use of titanium – a material rarely seen on Rolex watches – helps to secure the Rolex Ringlock system; it’s akin to a solid cylinder of metal enclosed by the steel case and bounded by the titanium caseback and the 5.5mm sapphire crystal. As is customary with Rolex Sea-Dweller watches, the Deepsea D-Blue features a helium escape valve for the rare saturation diver.
More relevant to casual enthusiasts is Rolex’s finest clasp design. A Fliplock dive extension allows for easy fitment over a diving suit or a thick winter coat. Even more advantageous to weekend warriors is the Rolex Glidelock sliding-increment adjustment system. Unlike the equivalent on Rolex’s Submariner, the Glidelock on the Deepsea can be adjusted while the watch remains securely buckled to the wrist.
Today’s pre-owned Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller market pricing is divided clearly between two variants. The conventional Deepsea trades between $8,500 U.S. and $9,500 depending on condition, boxed set, and remaining factory warranty; the D-Blue trades between $11,000 and $14,000 according to the same factors. Take note: the Deepsea and D-Blue remain in production at retail prices of $12,050 and $12,350, respectively.
How extreme is this Rolex? It’s the only watch on this list that routinely trades pre-owned above its showroom retail price.