Watchmakers and brands are constantly looking to bring something new to their catalogue. This means they often look to celebrate historic milestones in their past with anniversaries in the present. To do this they create special one-off watches to celebrate the anniversary of something, such as the year the watch was launched. They can also commemorate famous events connected to a watch, or simply broader anniversaries of the company or something connected to the company. We are not talking about watches bought as an anniversary gift for someone, but a watch that celebrates an anniversary important to the watch brand. This year (2023) contains many anniversaries of important watches, including Casio G-Shock, Swatch, Blancpain and even Rolex, who have never yet made an anniversary model, but who knows if this year is a first?
What is an Anniversary Watch?
Anniversary watches often celebrate the anniversary of the company that makes them. Patek Phillippe, the high-end Swiss Manufacturer has celebrated their company founding date repeatedly, producing a limited edition timepiece for their 150th Anniversary in 1989, and in 2014 they introduced their most complicated wristwatch in production, the Grandmaster Chime for their 175th Anniversary. It has 21 different functions and in order to order one you have to pass an interview with the company in Geneva. To get that interview you have to already be a really big client. They even made pop star Ed Sheeran have an interview (yes really!).
The most expensive and complicated series production watch Patek Philippe make was introduced for their 175th Anniversary. It's called the Grandmaster Chime and has 21 functions, and the case is entirely engraved. Image courtesy of patek.com
This Platinum version of their Worldtimer complication was also introduced with additional moon phase and star calendar in the centre. Image courtesy of patek.com
The caseback of the Worldtimer celebrates the 175th anniversary of the company Patek Philippe. Image courtesy of patek.com
Another great example of a series of famous anniversary watches is the Omega Speedmaster range. They have created a very large number to commemorate anniversaries of different versions of the Apollo space missions for which they are most famously associated with, being the first watch on the moon and the first watch on a long spacewalk. It's quite entertaining to see just how many special edition Omega Speedmasters there are, but this large number is great for collectors as there are some very cool dial designs. Omega has produced a new limited edition celebrating the Apollo XI mission that landed on the moon every five years since the 20th anniversary in 1989, so that's seven just for one mission!
The Omega Speedmaster Apollo XI released in 1989 to mark the 20th Anniversary of the mission which featured the first landing on the moon. Note the unusual engraving on the side of the case. Photo courtesy of fratello.com
Front view of the 20th Anniversary of the Moon Landing model of the Omega Speedmaster. Photo courtesy of fratello.com
Unusual Anniversary Watches
50th Anniversaries are a very common reason for watch brands to celebrate their historic models. The Jaeger LeCoultre Polaris dive watch relaunch on its fiftieth anniversary was a particularly well-received highlight of a popular function, the alarm, in the very stylish dive watch design. The range is still doing very well for them today.
2023 sees many watch models have their 70th anniversary, including two of the most important and famous dive watches of all time; the Rolex submariner and the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. Rolex does not do "anniversary watches" but the world is eagerly anticipating their new models for the year to see if they commemorate the Submariner's first year of production in 1953. Luxury brand Blancpain has already released their new version of their famous Dive watch, the Fifty Fathoms, with an interesting new complication, a three-hour timer for divers using high-tech rebreather technology. This fun update is the latest addition to their very popular (but also very large and expensive) dive watch range.
The brand new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Tech Gombessa
Some brands celebrate the anniversaries of their own collaborations, including Patek Philippe. At the end of 2021 they created what is probably the most hyped watch ever to celebrate the Anniversary of their relationship with US Jewellery Retailer Tiffany & Co., a version of their Nautilus model with a Tiffany Blue dial.
Even young brands can create anniversary watches. The British watch brand William Wood, which makes firefighting-themed watches, used its five-year anniversary to create and sell a brand new watch for charity. This auction was a great success and the watch is truly unique, in both colour and dial design.
The unusual and extraordinary purple Anniversary watch from William Wood Watches. Note the single numeral at the 5 O'Clock position to celevrate five years in business.
Anniversary watches are and interesting and quite common way for brands to dream up new versions of past classics. If there is a brand or watch model that you particularly love it is worth searching for any anniversary models to see if they have interesting designs. It's also worth noting any coming up that you might want to reserve buying power for! Anniversaries are a fun and interesting discussion point for collectors of all kinds. Keep your eyes open at this year's Watches and Wonders watch show at the end of March for any interesting ones to go alongside the Blancpain.
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