One of the most popular categories of timepieces today is arguably the luxury sport watch. Thanks to their mix of practical functions and high-end materials, they can easily be dressed up or down in a world where playing with high and low elements is increasingly en vogue (think of a classic power suit with the button down swapped for a tee or loafers swapped for leather sneakers). The sport watch is the ideal accessory for today’s jet-setting businessperson, taking them from a meeting in London to an F1 race in Monaco.
The category first rose to prominence in the 1970s with the birth of the original luxury sport watch, Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak, which debuted in 1972. Nearly half a century later, the category has grown and evolved in many ways. Yet, models like the Royal Oak have only risen in popularity, proving the timelessness and staying power of the design.
Unlike a true tool watch, which favors function over form, the luxury sport watch is the perfect blend of the two. It’s utilitarian enough for a casual scrimmage and stylish enough for dinner and drinks afterward. More and more, brands are pushing the bounds of both elements—technical prowess and superior design—and these are ten watches that prove it.
Breitling’s Top Time collection dates back to 1964. The birth of the model was a direct reflection of the era, which foreshadowed the advent of the luxury sport watch a decade later. At the time, Willy Breitling (grandson of the brand’s founder, Leon Breitling) saw the need for a contemporary sport collection with greater focus on aesthetics rather than strictly performance. The collection launched with a stainless steel chronograph, but over the years, Breitling has elevated the collection with new materials and complications. The latest incarnation is the perfect example of how the line has evolved into a luxury sport watch today. The new Top Time Classic Cars Tourbillon offers combinations of bronze, ceramic, and titanium for the cases, and walnut burl on one of the dials, and each comes equipped with Breitling’s own in-house Caliber B21 tourbillon movement. The use of new materials is a direct ode to the cars that have inspired the watches in the collection, reflecting the colors and textures of the paint, steering wheel, and dashboard inlays found in the vehicles. In addition, the Caliber B21 is particularly unique for its combination of two complications: a tourbillon and a chronograph.
Zenith has been another forerunner in creating some of the best luxury sport watches on the market that perfectly blend aesthetics and performance. At the core of the brand’s collections is its famous El Primero movement, which offers precision to an impressive 1/100th of a second. Like Breitling, Zenith’s designs have gotten more and more refined over the years. The Defy collection is emblematic of this evolution of the brand’s luxury sport watches. The line first debuted in 1969 as a precursor to the luxury sport watch. It notably boasted a robust and angular, octagonal case and fourteen-sided bezel, the ring that frames the dial and secures the crystal. The watch was originally marketed for its utility and only enjoyed a short run for about a decade. When the Defy was revived in 2006, it received an elevated design, which continues to reflect throughout the collection today with models like the brand new Defy Extreme Mirror. With this latest model, you get a fully mirror polished case along with an open-worked, multi-layered dial featuring a central element in sapphire crystal with a metallic mirrored finish that’s translucent yet reflective.
When it comes to some of the most luxurious sport watches, look toward brands who collaborate with luxury car manufacturers. There’s no better way to up the ante on the “luxury” aspect of the sport watch than with a powerhouse pair. Roger Dubuis is a newer brand, first established in 1995. Since then, it’s built a reputation for its chronographs. A little over a decade after its founding, Roger Dubuis began teaming up with the famed Italian sports car manufacturer Lamborghini on a number of collaborative timepieces. The latest is the limited edition Excalibur Spider Revuelto Flyback Chronograph, which marks the brand’s fifth generation of chronograph design. The model offers superior functionality thanks to Roger Dubuis’ RD780 movement and pairs it with a sporty design inspired by the Lamborghini Revuelto. The RD780 is an integrated chronograph caliber that’s particularly notable for boasting two exclusive patents: one linked to the second hand of the chronograph and the other to the display of the minute counter.
Carl F. Bucherer is a watchmaker who’s become widely known for its sophisticated dress watches and highly complicated movements thanks to the brand’s proprietary peripheral technology. Over the years, the brand has accumulated an expansive catalog, which they refined in 2023 as part of CFB’s incredible 135th anniversary. Here, the watchmaker distilled its offerings down to three core collections: Heritage, Patravi, and Manero. The Manero line is stylish and urban, perfectly capturing the spirit of the luxury sport watch. The Manero Flyback first joined the lineup back in 2016 and has seen a number of iterations since. The latest showcase two new dial configurations—one in silver with black chronograph counters and one in black with silver chronograph counters. Both evoke the iconic panda and reverse panda style combined with the elegant lines of the Manero collection with the added bonus of a sporty flyback chronograph complication.
It’d be impossible to talk about luxury sport watches without including Rolex. The Crown has been at the forefront of the category with models like the Daytona, which has been the brand’s flagship sport model since its inception in 1963. The watch, named for the famous Daytona 500 race, has become one of the most highly coveted sport watches on the market, with waitlists in the primary market, prices above retail in the secondary, and records shattered at auction. The most expensive Rolex ever sold at auction was Paul Newman’s Daytona, which went for a staggering $17.75 million at Phillips in 2017. This year marked the monumental 60th anniversary of the model as well as the 100th anniversary of the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans race. To mark the two occasions, The Crown launched a limited edition of the Daytona in white gold as opposed to the typical stainless steel.
Similar to CFB, Parmigiani Fleurier is a brand who’s built a reputation for its ultra-luxurious dress watches and complicated timepieces. In 2021, the brand welcomed a new CEO, Guido Terreni, who wanted to establish a fresh new design language for Parmigiani that would come to define the brand and make its timepieces uniquely recognizable. The result was the debut of the Tonda PF collection, which followed the brand’s Tonda GT and Tondagraph GT models launched the year prior. Each marked a new sporty direction for the brand. This year, the collection evolved further with the introduction of the Tonda PF Sport line. Initially released in two variations—a chronograph and an automatic—the Tonda PF Sport collection served to push the bounds of both sport and luxury with subtle design updates and the option of rose gold as an alternative to stainless steel.
Partnerships with luxury car manufacturers continue to be a theme among today’s leading luxury sport watches. Girard Perregaux and the prominent British carmaker Aston Martin have only been teaming up for two years, but in that time, we’ve seen a number of collaborative watches emerge from the dynamic duo. One of the latest additions to the partnership offers a unique take on the luxury sport watch. The Neo Bridges Aston Martin Edition draws inspiration from the carmaker’s iconic Super Tourer, DB12 with sculpted contours and sharp lines that have been trademarks of the luxury sport watch since the debut of the Royal Oak. Here, the case is rendered in lightweight titanium that’s received a black DLC treatment, giving the model a modern, blacked-out look that’s still elevated.
Norqain is another newer brand, first launched just a few years ago in 2018. In short order, it’s become known for its highly accessible timepieces. Last year, the industry legend Jean-Claude Biver joined the company as an advisor to the board and helped develop a brand new collection for Norqain called Wild One. The line debuted with four rugged and colorful sport watches that introduced an all-new proprietary material called NORTEQ that’s six times lighter than steel and three-and-a-half times lighter than titanium. Now, Norqain has firmly elevated the line and crossed it over into the luxury sport watch category with the introduction of the first-ever gold Wild One. The model uses the brand’s proprietary NORTEQ as the base for the case, then casts it in solid 18-karat rose gold. The result is the ideal balance of form and function, retaining the collection’s ultra-lightweight construction with the added bonus of a precious metal.
Last but not least among the luxury sport models that draw inspiration from motorsports is this limited edition from Laurent Ferrier. Like Rolex, the brand also has ties to the 24 Hours of Le Mans that trace back to the brand’s founders who met while participating in the iconic race in 1979. The Sport Auto 40 pays homage to the legendary Porsche 935 Turbo No. 40, the racing version of the Porsche 911 Turbo—the car driven by the founders during the race. With this watch, you get all the classic design cues of the quintessential luxury sport watch, like a robust case design and integrated bracelet. Then, you have the added bonus of a decidedly playful dial design rendered in a bold green, fuchsia and orange color palette reminiscent of the Porsche 935 Turbo No. 40.
It’s safe to say the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is still the ultimate luxury sport watch. Over 50 years later, the model’s design and popularity is simply unmatched. The “Jumbo” moniker didn’t appear in the AP archives until the 1990s. However, the term could be used to describe the original Royal Oak whose 39mm proportions were oversized for the era. Beginning in 1992, the brand began equipping several “Jumbo” models with its ultra-thin caliber 2120. It started with the Royal Oak 14811, and since then, we have seen many iterations of the design. One of the latest versions combines two contemporary materials: titanium and bulk metallic glass (BMG). BMG is a cutting-edge material co-developed by AP with a base made of palladium, a rare and lustrous silvery-white metal, which makes it particularly shiny and resistant to scratches.