Asking for a universal definition of a hypebeast is like asking Rolex when you can get your hands on the new Submariner. In other words, it's vague. But the applicability of the term "hypebeast" in the world of watches is a little bit more obvious and is unofficially known as the collective umbrella for a handful of watches that are, in a word, utterly unobtainable. Not because of their price-tag, but because of how much demand surrounds each model. From Patek Philippe's Nautilus and Aquanaut to Rolex's Daytona and GMT-Master II, from Audemars Piguet's Royal Oak to virtually any Richard Mille model, there is such an incredible amount of demand for these watches that we have waiting lists of up to 5 years. The only alternative to waiting is paying the market price for these watches, which is often more than double their value. So, we went out on a limb and put together what we think is a pretty solid list of alternatives to 2021's hypebeasts, including watches from Piaget, Girard-Perregaux, Franck Muller and Omega. Enjoy!
Patek Philippe Nautilus - Bulgari Octo Finissimo
The Patek Philippe Nautilus, in almost any of its many variations, is one of the most difficult to purchase watches at retail on the planet. If you walk into any authorised dealer or Patek Philippe boutique and inquire on a Nautilus model, you'll be met with a wait-list years-long. And even after paying a deposit, your allocation isn't guaranteed. A plausible and affordable alternative to the Nautilus is Bulgari's Octo Finissimo. Clean and sharp lines, balanced and slim dimensions, proportionally similar to the Nautilus and surprisingly still accessible, I can definitely see the Octo Finissimo's stock rising soon. A solid comparative piece to the Nautilus if there ever was one.
Patek Philippe Aquanaut - Piaget Polo S
The other Patek Philippe piece that is apparently made of unobtainium is the Aquanaut. What I like to think of as the Nautilus' more casual and laidback brother, the Aquanaut's rise in demand seems like it occurred in unison with the Nautilus, but in actual fact began once the Nautilus-seekers realised that they weren't able to get their hands on anything in that collection. The end result is sky-high demand and equivalent market pricing for what is an altogether ultra-luxe casual sports watch. The best alternative out there for the Aquanaut is definitely Piaget Polo S. Apples for apples, oranges for oranges, and to be quite frank with you the Polo S has a lot going for it, especially in comparison to the Aquanaut, which in itself is a fantastic watch. In fact, you could also say that the Polo S is a suitable candidate for a Nautilus alternative, too.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas - Zenith Defy Classic
The Vacheron Constantin Overseas' popularity has risen as folks swarmed it after realising they couldn't get their hands on the Nautilus or the Royal Oak. So now, what was once a wonderfully inconspicuous alternative, the Overseas is now a bona fide hypebeast. A lovely watch through and through in all of its variations, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas' succumbing to the hypebeast-phenomenon has opened the door for other lesser known watches, namely Zenith's Defy Classic. With a similar aesthetic, the Defy Classic holds its own as a very possible alternative to the Overseas. And where it lacks in detail and execution it more than makes up for in bang-for-your-buck quality.
Rolex Submariner - Tudor Black Bay 58
Ah yes, the Rolex Submariner. Standing firmly next to the Nautilus as being as sought after as it is revered. How could we not add it to this list?! The ultimate tool-watch-turned-hypbeast example, the Submariner is the quintessential professional stainless-steel Rolex to own. That's if you can buy one at retail. The alternative? Well, it comes from none other than Rolex's sister company, Tudor! And the watch in question is, drum roll please, the lovely and highly affordable Black Bay 58. When it was released it was on the cusp of being a hypebeast, but since then its demand has whittled away, paving the way for it to be one of the best pound-for-pound watches in the world, period.
Rolex GMT-Master II - Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean
The Rolex GMT-Master II in all of its variations is unequivocally one of the best travel-friendly watches in the world. Such has been its popularisation that it's now as hard to come by as the Submariner and the Nautilus. With names like "Batman", "Batgirl" and "Pepsi" being spoken to in the same sentence as "5 year wait-list", it's no surprise to find exorbitant market prices being branded on every modern reference. The alternative? Look outside the box. Here we have one of the best Rolex GMT-Master II alternatives and a personal favourite of mine, the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m GMT. Dripping with quality and meticulous details, the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m GMT arguably has more going for it than the GMT-Master II, especially so with its Master Chronometer certified Co-Axial movement. Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak - Girard-Perregaux Laureato
Like Patek Philippe's Nautilus and Aquanaut, Audemars Piguet's Royal Oak has seen an astronomical rise in demand matched only by its going market price. In almost all of its collection's references, the Royal Oak is just untouchable. Want one? Too bad. Have one? Sell it and make a pretty penny. My alternative is another complete sleeper. Girard-Perregaux's Laureato. From its time-only model to the chronograph model and its openworked references, the Laureato has enough aplomb and oomph to go toe-to-toe with the Royal Oak. But it seems that the market has gotten wise to the Laureato, with its demand steadily but surely creeping up.
Rolex Daytona - Omega Speedmaster
Oh boy. The Rolex Daytona. Rewind to early last decade, and the Daytona was but an afterthought. It was the watch you buy just for the sake of buying. Then came along the new ceramic bezel version in its distinct black and "Panda" variations, and then came the winds of change. Those winds were more like a hurricane, to be honest with you. And now, in 2021, the Daytona remains one of the most hardest to find and buy watches in the world, with market prices more than double its retail. The alternative here is a generational watch with as much history and prestige as the Daytona, the Omega Speedmaster. The original moonwatch, the Omega Speedmaster is an altogether fantastic alternative. From its exposed caseback to its clean and distinct dial, the only real watch that can jump in the ring with the Daytona is the Speedmaster. I wonder who will win....
Zenith Chronomaster Sport - Zenith El Primero
The new Zenith Chronomaster Sport was met with much acclaim by the collective watch community, so much so that it quickly rose to be the latest hypebeast. I think it's position was being in such demand is well justified and I like how much positivity met the new Chronomaster Sport. So, what's an alternative? Well, let's keep it in the brand and focus on Zenith's alternatives. Case in point, the fantastic and heritage-inspired Chronomaster El Primero. A legend in its own right, the Chronomaster El Primero is Zenith's saving grace and really captures the chronometrical excellence of the maison. Yep, no better alternative to Zenith's Chronomaster Sport than Zenith's Chronomaster El Primero
Richard Mille - Franck Muller
You want to talk about ultimate hypebeasts? Then Richard Mille should be front and centre on your list. I left the best until last because I thought this was a fairly obvious one. In any of its variations, Richard Mille is THE hypebeast of modern horology. From the RM 11 to the RM 25, from the RM 35 to the RM 65, from the ROM 74 to the damn butt-ugly Bonbon collection and everything in between, anything that comes out of the Richard Mille maison is deemed worthy as being a hypebeast. So, what's the alternative? Well, for those of you not readily willing to part with a minimum of six-figures of your hard-earned, let me reintroduce to you Franck Muller. The original watchmaker producing tonneau-shaped watches, Franck Muller's timepiece represent great value for money and wonderful horological attributes. They may need a bit of divvying up with some modern materials and finishings (take the wonderful Skafander diver for example), but they do offer some serious bang for your buck. Here's an afterthought: Combine the openworked beauty of any of the FM 7042 models within the Skafander's emblematic and distinct tonneau shaped case and what do you get? Mhmm!
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