Your Bag

Nothing in cart

most iconic watches
Watch Recommendations

10 Most Iconic Watches of All Time and the Story of Each

The idea of the most iconic watches might be subjective but some hold a universal agreement for their legacy and history.
May 28, 2024

Defining the most iconic watches is inherently subjective and reaching a universal agreement on the criteria is nearly impossible. Nevertheless, several key aspects generally come to mind. An iconic watch typically possesses a timeless allure, a groundbreaking design, and a significant impact on the market. 

It should ideally stay true to its original concept over the years and be easily recognizable, even to those with a casual interest in watches. Often, a watch achieves iconic status by being associated with a celebrity or historical figure or pioneering a specific complication or widely adopted feature.

Over the years, several models have achieved iconic status, becoming legends in the world of horology. This article will look at some of the most iconic watches ever made, each with its unique story and timeless appeal.

1. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

Stands as a groundbreaking masterpiece in the world of luxury watches, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak was designed by the legendary Gerald Genta and introduced in 1972. The Royal Oak broke away from traditional watch design norms with its distinctive octagonal bezel, secured by visible hexagonal screws, and an integrated bracelet

That was a radical departure from the round cases and leather straps that dominated the industry at the time. In addition, the Royal Oak's introduction came at a critical moment during the quartz crisis, which threatened the Swiss watch industry. By opting for stainless steel rather than precious metals, Audemars Piguet redefined the luxury watch market. 

Despite initial skepticism, the Royal Oak quickly became a symbol of luxury and innovation, paving the way for the modern luxury sports watch category. Its design has remained largely unchanged over the decades, with various iterations and complications enhancing its legacy.

2. Omega Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch”

If you’re looking for the most iconic chronographs, the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch should be your go-to list. Often referred to as the "Moonwatch", this iconic watch has an unparalleled place in horological history. 

First introduced in 1957 as a chronograph for motorsports, its robust design and precision quickly garnered attention. However, its journey to iconic status truly began when NASA selected the Speedmaster for its space missions after rigorous testing for durability and reliability under extreme conditions.

In 1969, the Speedmaster cemented its place in history as the first watch worn on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin famously wore his Speedmaster as he stepped onto the lunar surface, making the watch an enduring symbol of human achievement and exploration.

Read also: 5 Watches That Have Been to Space: Beyond the Stars

3. Patek Philippe Nautilus

The next most iconic watch to consider is the Patek Philippe Nautilus which was another revolutionary design by Gerald Genta. Known for its distinctive porthole-shaped case and integrated bracelet, the Nautilus brought a new level of elegance to the sports watch category. 

At a time when luxury watches were predominantly made of precious metals, the Nautilus stood out with its stainless steel construction, combining durability with refined aesthetics. Over the years, the Nautilus has seen various iterations, including models in precious metals and versions with complications, such as a moon phase, annual calendar, and chronograph.

4. TAG Heuer Monaco

Launched in 1969, the TAG Heuer Monaco broke new ground in both design and technology. It was the first automatic chronograph with a square case, a bold departure from traditional round watch designs. 

The Monaco gained legendary status when it was worn by Steve McQueen in the 1971 film "Le Mans." McQueen's portrayal of a racing driver cemented the watch's association with motorsports and cool, rebellious style.

5. Cartier Tank

Inspired by the design of Renault tanks used during World War I, Louis Cartier created the most iconic watch that embodied both military precision and elegance. The Cartier Tank features a rectangular case, clean lines, and a Roman numeral dial that set it apart from the round watches that were prevalent at the time.

Worn by numerous celebrities, royalty, and historical figures, the Tank has become synonymous with style and sophistication. Figures such as Jackie Kennedy, Princess Diana, and Andy Warhol have all been seen sporting the Tank, further cementing its status as a cultural icon.

Read also: Affordable Watches Worn by Celebrities: Style Within Reach

6. IWC Portugieser

The IWC Portugieser, originally introduced in the 1930s, was a pioneering model that brought the precision of marine chronometers to the wristwatch. Commissioned by two Portuguese businessmen who wanted a large, accurate wristwatch, IWC responded with a timepiece that housed a pocket watch movement.

Over the years, IWC has expanded the Portugieser line to include various complications, such as chronographs, perpetual calendars, and tourbillons. The Portugieser's blend of nautical heritage, technical excellence, and timeless design ensures its place as one of IWC's most iconic watches.

7. Breitling Navitimer

Introduced in 1952, the Breitling Navitimer is a quintessential pilot's watch that has become an icon in the aviation world. Its most distinctive feature is the slide rule bezel, which allows pilots to perform essential flight calculations, such as fuel consumption, airspeed, and distance.

Despite its complexity, the watch remains highly legible, a crucial attribute for aviators. The Navitimer’s legacy as a tool for aviators and its distinctive design make it a beloved icon in the world of horology.

8. Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso was originally designed for British polo players in India. The unique reversible case allowed the watch to be flipped over, protecting the delicate crystal from the rigors of polo matches.

That innovative design quickly gained popularity, leading to a title as one of the most iconic watches of all time – not only for its practicality but also for its Art Deco styling. The Reverso's rectangular case, clean lines, and minimalist dial are hallmarks of its timeless design. 

The watch's versatility has been showcased through various models, including those with complications, such as a tourbillon, moon phase, and dual time zones. The Reverso remains a symbol of elegance, innovation, and craftsmanship, beloved by collectors and watch enthusiasts for its unique combination of form and function.

Read also: Sailing Time: Top Yachting Watches for Your Next Regatta

9. Rolex Submariner

For the most iconic dive watch, the Rolex Submariner stands out as one of the most popular ones. Introduced in 1953, the Submariner is the epitome of dive watches. Its rugged construction, water resistance, and legible design have made it a favorite among divers and adventurers. 

The Submariner's unidirectional rotating bezel, luminous markers, and robust Oyster case set the standard for dive watches and have been widely imitated. It has been worn by numerous celebrities, most notably by James Bond in several films, which has significantly contributed to its iconic status.

10. Seiko Astron

Last but not least, the most iconic watch to note is the Seiko Astron as the world's first quartz watch. The Astron was a feat of engineering, boasting unprecedented accuracy and reliability compared to its mechanical counterparts. 

Seiko's introduction of the Astron marked a revolutionary shift in the watchmaking industry, challenging the dominance of mechanical movements and ushering in the era of quartz technology.

Powered by a quartz crystal oscillator, the Astron was capable of keeping time with an accuracy of within five seconds per month, a level of precision unheard of at the time. Seiko's decision to mass-produce quartz watches had a profound impact on the watch industry, leading to what is now known as the Quartz Crisis

Final Thought

These iconic watches are more than just instruments for telling time – they are symbols of human ingenuity, style, and history. Each model tells a unique story and represents a milestone in the evolution of watchmaking. 

Whether through innovation, association with historic events, or sheer design brilliance, these most iconic watches have earned their place in the pantheon of horological legends. Owning or admiring one of these watches is to connect with a rich legacy of craftsmanship and heritage that continues to inspire and captivate.

Read also: The Top 6 Invaluable Grail Watches for Your Watch Collection

You may like this

Related Articles

Compare watches
Comparison Chart

No watches in comparison chart

Artboard 1
Artboard 1



Lug width

Water resistance


Lug Width
Water resistance