5 Watches for Travelers With Adventurous Spirits

You don’t need to be Jacques Cousteau to enjoy these voyaging timepieces.
April 21, 2019, 2:00 PM UTC
From left: Courtesy of Tag Heuer, Rolex, Patek Philippe, Breitling, Tudor
Courtesy of Tag Heuer, Rolex, Patek Philippe, Breitling, Tudor

On the wrist of every great adventurer of the 20th century was an equally great watch.

Take early aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, whose friend Louis Cartier created a watch for the wrist so he could read it while flying; Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who conquered Everest alongside Sir Edmund Hillary wearing a Rolex Oyster Perpetual; or Buzz Aldrin, who strapped an Omega Speedmaster over his space suit before leaving the Eagle lunar module. While the modern mechanical watch is, in essence, a luxury—superseded in practical use by digital technology—these timepieces were life-preserving equipment in their day.

It’s the romanticism of these adventures that attracts collectors to so-called tool watches—ones built for a purpose, whether it be flying, diving, or driving.

Here are five new timepieces that capture an adventurous spirit, whether you’re exploring the globe or dreaming of doing so.


Patek Philippe Aquanaut


WAT05.19-Patek Philippe
The Patek Philippe Aquanaut, $39,690Courtesy of Patek Philippe
Courtesy of Patek Philippe

While Patek Philippe’s Nautilus sports watch commands waiting lists eight years long, it was its oft-overlooked cousin the Aquanaut that was among the stars of the show at the recent Baselworld watch fair in Switzerland. Its jumbo-size 42mm case has serious wrist presence, and its white gold, which could pass for steel to the untrained eye, provides a stealthy touch of luxury. With its military-esque olive green dial and matching rubber strap, this piece would look equally at home on safari or by the pool.


Tudor Black Bay P01


Tudor Black Bay P01, $4,200Courtesy of Tudor
Courtesy of Tudor

In the late 1960s, Tudor proposed a new dive watch for the U.S. Navy—a project ultimately shelved and consigned to the archives. Fifty years later, Tudor has released the watch that had become a subject of horological lore. With its unique bezel locking system and oversize lugs, it’s a bold departure in design from the rest of the Black Bay line and certainly stands out in a crowd of Submariners and Seamasters. One for the daring.


Breitling Norton Chronograph


Breitling Norton Chronograph, $8,500Courtesy of Breitling
Courtesy of Breitling

Breitling has long been associated with British luxury carmaker Bentley, but a more recent partnership with legendary motor­cycling brand Norton has produced this elegant chronograph. Its visually balanced black dial, with white sub-dials and gold numerals, pairs perfectly with the rugged leather strap. Ride on.


Tag Heuer Autavia Isograph


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Tag Heuer Autavia Isograph, $3,600Courtesy of Tag Heuer
Courtesy of Tag Heuer

Autavia—a portmanteau of “automotive” and “aviation”—tells you exactly what this watch is about. The Isograph is built with TAG’s latest technologies but with a styling nod to pilots’ watches of the past. With a titanium case, ceramic bezel, amagnetic carbon hairspring, and water resistance to 100 meters’ depth, it’s a go-anywhere adventure watch.


Rolex GMT-Master II


Rolex GMT-Master II, $9,250Courtesy of Rolex
Courtesy of Rolex

In 2018, Rolex took Baselworld by storm when it debuted a stainless steel GMT-Master with a red-and-blue ceramic bezel on a jubilee bracelet. This year it gave the same treatment to its blue-and-black-dialed variant—nicknamed “Batman” by fans. With the ability to track three time zones at once, it’s the perfect piece for the frequent flier.

A version of this article appears in the May 2019 issue of Fortune with the headline “Time for Travel.”