01/03/2023
 5 minutes

Underrated Watches of the Top 5 Brands

By Jorg Weppelink
Top-5-brands-that-fly-under-the-radar-2-1

There are plenty of watch brands on the market. However, five watchmakers are the most popular. What are the most successful brands on Chrono24?

1. Rolex: 41.45% of overall purchase volume
2. Omega: 9.13%
3. Patek Philippe: 7.10%
4. Audemars Piguet: 5.0%
5. Breitling: 3.58%
(Others: 33.74%)

We’re all familiar with the iconic (and hyped) watches of the big brands. But as we all know, these five watchmakers produce plenty more models than just their icons. That’s why we’ve selected one watch per brand that flies under the radar. These are watches you might not know, or watches you might have forgotten about. Let’s jump in and find out more about the lesser-known jewels of the big brands.

1. Rolex Datejust Ref. 16220

Does any Rolex really fly under the radar? Being honest, it’s pretty safe to say that, although no Rolex really does, there are in fact models that are less talked about. If you’re looking for a great Datejust, the Rolex Datejust 16220 is an excellent option. Let’s focus on a special version of the ref. 16220 with the Roman numerals dial. It’s a spectacular version of the Datejust that doesn’t always get the love it deserves.

Here are some basics: The Rolex Datejust ref. 16220 was produced from 1989 to 1996. The watch features the familiar 36-mm Datejust case and an engine-turned stainless steel bezel. It was part of the first generation Datejusts with a sapphire crystal, and it’s powered by the legendary caliber 3135 with a Quickset date, praised for being an ultra-reliable automatic movement. Search for the dial variant with the Roman numerals, and you’ll find real magic. There are the stunning pink salmon dial and lovely cream dial versions. Really, any color in combination with the Roman numerals looks phenomenal. Expect to pay anywhere between roughly $5K and $8K for one of these beauties.

The Rolex Datejust ref. 16220 deserves more attention than it receives.

2. Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M Ref. 2201.50.00

With Daniel Craig’s run as James Bond over, there are a string of great releases to choose from when it comes to the perfect 007 daily wearer. Although the obvious choice would be the Omega Seamaster Professional 300M, for this list I picked the less obvious Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M ref. 2201.50.00 that Daniel Craig wore in Quantum of Solace, arguably the worst of Craig’s 007 flicks. That doesn’t however mean this isn’t a great watch. 

The 42-mm Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean was smaller than the 45-mm model that he wore in Casino Royale. Furthermore, the stainless steel bracelet is a great improvement over the rubber strap. The 42-mm case is 14.5 mm thick, equipped with a helium escape valve, and water-resistant to an impressive 600 meters (60 bar, 1968 feet). Inside the case, Omega used its Co-Axial 2500 caliber. This automatic movement operates at 25,200 vph, and has 27 jewels and 48 hours of power reserve. This is a great modern daily wearer that can be yours for between $3K and $4.5K. It’s perhaps the best Bond watch from the Craig era. 

The Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean: A Bond watch under the radar

3. Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 5527

Looking at Patek Philippe, the first timepieces that come to mind are the Nautilus, Aquanaut, and all the watchmaker’s impressive complications and grand complications. But another big name is the Calatrava, probably the most famous dress watch in the world. What if I told you that you can buy the brilliant current Patek Philippe Calatrava ref. 5227 for far under its list price? The watch has a 39-mm case in white, rose, or yellow gold. The rose gold and yellow gold versions come with a stunning ivory lacquered dial on a brown strap, while the white gold version features a black dial with a black leather strap. All three of them look amazing and suit a variety of different occasions. 

Turn the watch around, and you’ll be greeted by the brilliant self-winding caliber 324 S C. As you’d expect from Patek Philippe, it looks amazing and is one of the main reasons watches from the brand are so impressive. Typically, you wear a dress watch on special occasions, with the appropriate attire. But in recent years, we’ve seen a shift to dress watches for more informal occasions. That’s why this current generation Patek Philippe Calatrava ref. 5227 definitely deserves more attention. The watch goes used on Chrono24 for between roughly $25K and $35K. If you can buy it between $25K and $30K, you’ll be getting the most iconic dress watch for under its list price, and have a fantastic piece of horological history on your wrist. 

The Patek Philippe Calatrava ref. 5227 is available for under its list price.

4. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 15450ST

For many watch fans, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra Thin is the one and only Royal Oak to go for. And I personally agree with that. But what people might forget is that the 39-mm “Jumbo” wears big with its integrated bracelet. For smaller wrists, the 37-mm version is a great option that delivers the same iconic look in a slightly smaller size. You’ll be amazed at how little difference this smaller size matters when it comes to overall appeal.   

For this list, I picked the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak ref. 15450ST that was replaced earlier this year by the new ref. 15550ST featuring a new in-house movement. The previous generation is still a brilliant piece, and available for considerably less. The watch’s 37-mm case is a slim 9.8 mm thick. Inside, you’ll find the automatic caliber 3120, which provides 60 hours of power reserve. If you have smaller wrists and want to rock this iconic Royal Oak, the ref. 15450ST can be yours for between roughly $30K and $45K. Anything above that is unnecessary, and will save you from spending six figures on the  “Jumbo.” 

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak ref. 15450ST proves that a 37-mm watch can also look “Jumbo.”

5. Breitling Chronomat B01 42

The last watch on this list is the brilliant, current generation Breitling Chronomat B01 42. This timepiece was introduced only two years ago and goes for a lot less than its current list price. Although the Chronomat name dates back to the 1940s, most people know the Chronomat name from the 1980s and 90s. This latest generation Breitling Chronomat definitely takes inspiration from that generation of Chronomats that saved the brand. 

This chronograph features a 42-mm stainless steel case and comes in a variety of different dial colors. My personal favorites are the copper dial, and the panda and reverse panda versions. These look stunning in combination with the iconic Rouleaux bracelet that was also part of the legendary Chronomat from the early 1980s. Add the brilliant in-house B01 chronograph movement, and the current Breitling Chronomat B01 42 is the full package. The watch goes for between roughly $4.5K and $7K, making it more affordable than its list price. For that money, you get a fantastic modern chronograph. 

The Breitling Chronomat B01 42: A brilliant chronograph that deserves more attention.

There you have it, five watches that fly under the radar from the five biggest brands. Although perhaps not the most talked-about models, they definitely deserve more attention than they receive.  


About the Author

Jorg Weppelink

Hi, I'm Jorg, and I've been writing articles for Chrono24 since 2016. However, my relationship with Chrono24 goes back a bit longer, as my love for watches began …

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