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Steel sports watches: 6 picks from the world of high horology

The success of steel watches combining sport and elegance, such as the Nautilus and Royal Oak, puts them in great demand.

Stainless steel watches are supposed to be the cheaper, thus more accessible versions of precious metal originals. Cut away the complications and the price tags become even less intimidating. But there are legendary exceptions, namely Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak and Patek Philippe’s Nautilus. These are so popular that you’d be hard-pressed to find any stock in boutiques, and their prices in the secondhand market often far surpass the original retail price. The Nautilus Ref. 5711/1A is even said to have a waiting list of up to eight years.

Material worth and function clearly aren’t the draw here, so their pull is derived largely from rarity and incredible design. Throw in an integrated bracelet and a sports watch instantly becomes chic enough for formal wear, so the versatility is an added bonus. Even brands that are better known for their dress watches have started to pick up on this trend. Vacheron Constantin and Girard-Perregaux have brought back their Overseas and Laureato collections respectively and this year sees the return of Chopard’s St. Moritz in the form of the Alpine Eagle, as well as Bell & Ross’s entirely new BR05.

(Related: Chopard revives its first-ever sports watch, the St. Moritz)

Even without the investment potential, we recommend these full-metal tickers because they successfully straddle the worlds of sport and elegance, and are usually engineered for utmost comfort to boot. Here are the ones to put on your shopping list – if you can.

  • Patek Philippe 5711/1

    01 Patek Philippe 5711/1A

    It only took a few minutes for Gerald Genta to come up with the design for the Nautilus, but that quick sketch in a restaurant went on to result in one of the most sought-after collections by Patek Philippe. The Nautilus is now available in various materials and with numerous complications, but it is the steel, time-only Ref. 5711/1A that is considered the true successor of the original Ref. 3700. It may be modest in appearance and function, but Patek Philippe is only able to meet 10 percent of demand for the Ref. 5711/1A.

(Related: The 7 best luxury sports watches that boast performance and stunning looks)