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The 18 Best, Rarest, and Most Fun Watches on Instagram

This is an edition of the newsletter Box + Papers, Cam Wolf’s weekly deep dive into the world of watches. Sign up here.

The most anticipated gambit in mid-sized watch newsletter history is finally back. I haven’t ranked the best watches from Instagram since November, and there were more goodies than ever to sift through. For the uninitiated, the idea is simple: I’ve been saving every eye-catching timepiece I scroll across in a folder to sift through and determine the best, weirdest, rarest, and most delightful specimens among them. It’s a useful way to dip into some news, catalog trends, and hopefully uncover your next grail. Let’s get to it.

ODDS AND ENDS

18. @arthuroduro’s Rolex bracelet

This bracelet could make a throwaway plastic watch appear decadent. Rolex’s Crown logo repeats across every link in the most welcome form of logomania I’ve come across. It’s unclear if this is a custom aftermarket bracelet or something Rolex produced itself, but Arthur Pfister, the vintage watch consultant who owns the piece, is “fairly certain it isn't [custom] considering the experimentation on bracelets [the brand] did in the ’50s and the conversations I’ve had with collectors,” he said over DM. It’s noteworthy that a handful of near-identical bracelets are also floating around.

17. @johnson167’s Cartier Tank tie pin

If you really love watches, you’ll quickly discover that there’s a whole world of timepieces out there to be worn on more than just your wrist. We’re talking watch rings, necklaces, anklets, and beyond.. This Cartier tie pin, for one, could bring neckwear back from the dead all on its own.

DIALS THAT MAKE ME GO 😍

16. @tonytraina’s Lego Watch

Salute to Hodinkee editor Tony Traina and his Reels content. Tony’s love of curios don’t only apply to super-rare and expensive horology (although he goes in-depth on pieces fitting that description, too). He recently found this Lego watch on eBay for only $30, a bargain for a watch that is totally customizable. You get to build the bracelet yourself while popping on and off a colorful selection of bezels. Any time there’s a watch this cheap and this much fun, it deserves a shout out here.

15. @little.old.watches’s Sutton

Speaking of absolutely killer watches that can be found for the price of a pack of gum: Little Old Watches, who has one of my favorite oddball collections across all of Instagram, picked this Sutton watch up for just $9. The big red crystal is as juicy as a Jolly Rancher.

14. @markchodotcom’s Sinn U50 S Mother-of-pearl S

Mark Cho, the owner of Drake’s and The Armoury and a certified Watch Illuminati member, is best known for his elegant dress watches. But this Sinn, which Cho wore skiing, proved there’s more range to his collection than you might think. “You participate in physical activity?” collector Phillip Toledano wrote in the comments. “Only to wear sport watches,” Cho wrote back gamely. Even on the slopes, however, Cho couldn’t help but embrace a few dressier elements. While Sinn is best known for its hard-wearing tool watches, and this particular watch’s case is made out of “German Submarine Steel,” it still features an elegant, icy blue, mother-of-pearl dial. I can easily imagine Cho smoking a cigar back at the chalet by the fire, tie loosened ever so slightly, finding this a prettier sight than the snow.

13. @ante.japan.watches’ Cartier Tank

The Cartier Tank is like a perfect bowl of vanilla ice cream: wonderful on its own but open to all sorts of toppings. The blood-red Arabic numerals on this particular reference makes it a total showstopper.

I LIKE TO GO FAST

12. @on_the_dash’s Tag Heuer Carrera

Tag Heuer expert Jeff Stein says he spent over a decade investigating the mystery of Carreras with this dial. He recently solved the case when he met a man who owned one (and is now parting with it through Sotheby’s). As far as custom-dial watches go, the backstory is pretty standard: It was made to celebrate a successful racing season in 1967 for the Sunray DX team, which drove Corvettes. The watch itself—with a creamy white dial, a matching pair of subdials, and a tachymeter scale with red text—is a rare, beautiful find.

11. @bazamu’s Heuer Carrera 2447NST “Volvo”

It’s exceedingly rare for a watch brand to relent its prime dial position to the logo of a collaborating company like Volvo. But that’s exactly what’s happened here, with the Heuer shield hiding out shyly in the 6 o’clock subdial. This watch was made in very limited numbers for the Swedish carmaker’s board of directors. As Bazamu, our 2022 collector of the year, explained, the person who sold it to him found it under the seat of a minivan he bought and was in the process of repairing. Van finds > barn finds.

OOOOH, SHINY

10. @timebyraf’s blingy Cartier

Navy blue dial, a bezel set with sapphires and diamonds, and even more gems on each bracelet link? Even Michael Jordan didn’t have slam dunks like this.

9. @wrist_wanderer’s Piaget

A watch that uses diamonds as liberally as Paula Deen uses butter. I am a sucker for a concealed watch and this is one of the more hypnotizing examples I’ve seen. This thing is much like a treasure chest: the ornate exterior design hides the actual goods underneath. Rows of diamonds and emeralds comprise a dial that quite literally proves that time really is money.

8. @foundwell and @dimepiece.co’s Blancpain

Have you read Brynn Wallner a.k.a. Dimepiece’s GQ story on women in the watch industry? You should! One of the bigger developments over the past few years is how the walls are breaking down between “men’s” and “ladies’” watches. One of the many welcome benefits is that it’s surfacing more watches like this lil’ Blancpain, a brand that typically makes timepieces for exploring the bottom of the ocean. You could also envision this one spending time at the bottom of the ocean…in the opening scene of Titanic 2: Wear Me Like One of Your Swiss Watches.

7. @johnson167’s Rolex Day-Date

Bees are dying at alarming rates, but this honeycomb-dial Rolex might give them something to live for.

AN UNEARTHED TREASURE

6. @t_swiss_t’s Rolex Explorer

This Rolex doesn’t bring the va-voom quite like the Day-Date above, but its magic is in the teensiest of details. T_Swiss_T, who writes incredibly in-depth guides all focused on specific references, uncovered what was a totally unknown dial in the Explorer family. It’s amazing to see him string the web together, connecting this dial to one used on an early Rolex GMT. Pay attention to the nubbed “bandage” texture on the hour markers and the tiny “Swiss - T <25” at the bottom of the dial, signaling the use of tritium.

SHINY THINGS THAT LIKE TO GO FAST

5. @__heist_out’s Audemars Piguet Car

Next month, Sotheby’s is launching an exciting sale in partnership with Heist-Out, the self-described outcast watch magazine. The sale is called Rough Diamonds, and it’s focused on watches that are blingy, daring, and incredibly fun. They’re slowly rolling out the catalog, but this is my favorite piece so far. This car made of diamonds actually comes from Audemars Piguet, whose name you’ll find on a mother-of-pearl dial when you flip the cutesy automobile up. The story goes that the Sultan of Brunei commissioned this piece, along with ones shaped like teddy bears, for his kids. Children really are the future!

ELITE PATEK

4. @a.dose.of.time’s Patek Philippe ref. 3270

Jaclyn Li takes the best watch photos in the game. It doesn’t hurt when she has subjects like this: a dainty Patek from designer Gilbert Albert, whose work for the brand inspires fervor among certain collectors. As Li points out, the bracelet really makes this piece, with a repeating pattern that matches the shape of the dial.

3. @fumanku’s Patek Philippe 565

The Calatrava 565 is already one of Patek’s more famous references. Designed to be slightly sportier, it was the first-ever waterproof Calatrava. This reference is also notable because it was one of the first Patek models that came in a range of different metals and with varying dials. Ku’s version features a sublime combination of yellow gold and a pinkish-orange dial—the same hue as the wild-caught organic Alaskan Sockeye you find at an upscale grocery store.

ANIMAL KINGDOM ROYALTY

2. @veraletwatches’ Kieselstein-Cord’s Alligator watch

American designer Barry Kieselstein-Cord had a thing for alligators and made plenty of watches featuring the scaly reptiles. Any timepiece that uses the form of an animal, like the Patek Philippe chameleon watch, holds a sacred place in my heart.

1. @mr.a’s Gübelin enamel lion watch

The king of the jungle also reigns supreme in the watch power rankings. “I saw it,” Mr. A said in an escalating series of DMs. “Fell in LOVE. WENT CRAZY.” The watch is rare, but it bounced around between Robert Maron and a series of other buyers before finally landing in its current loving home. The dial is made of enamel, which gives the lion and its radiant orange backdrop an irresistible softness. The star dial alone would make this a standout watch. This is, in my opinion, the platonic ideal of a timepiece in 2024: it’s fun but not so far out there that it couldn’t be worn every day.

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Originally Appeared on GQ