Aristocrats and royalty were some of the first folks who could afford hand-made luxury watches. Before the industrial revolution began democratizing timekeeping, it was often the wealthy and powerful who could pay watchmaking artisans to ply their trade. Watchmakers worldwide now have much wider audiences than ever before, with plenty of design choices to conceive or recreate. So what does that mean for the British Royal Family? In the digital era something as archaic as monarchy is already a unique cultural tradition. Wristwatches must take on their own old-school sort of role (one might wager). Or at the very least, the nature of their timepieces must be changing in some way as new royalty is born. Regarding this, we’ve decided to explore the horological aspect of this famed family. As it turns out, both contemporary timepieces and classic Swiss mechanicals can be found down the generational line.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles
Queen Elizabeth’s coronation took place almost 70 years ago—in 1953. It’s no stretch of imagination, surely, that she wore a luxuriant and cutting-edge piece to suit the occasion. As it were, she wore a diamond-encrusted cocktail-style wristwatch from Jaeger-LeCoultre (JL). What’s more stunning about this piece than its appearance is its specialized movement. Her coronation wristwatch contained JL’s Calibre 101 movement—the smallest mechanical watch movement in the world. This world record is actually older than the Queen’s reign itself. Boasting a 90 year run, JL’s Calibre 101 is its own form of royalty in watchmaking. Aside from this piece, Queen Elizabeth II is also known to own other traditional Swiss watches from Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe. She’s certainly not stirred the pot on classic mechanical timekeeping.
Keeping things traditional himself, Prince Charles has a similarly Swiss watch box—without as much diamond-filled flair. Men’s watches from JL and Cartier were some of his very firsts. He’s also been spotted wearing a Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Chronograph (say that one five times fast). Each piece he wears stays strictly concealed quite often—considering his soldier-like attention to his suit jacket fits. Charle’s military background shines through best in one of his most notable pieces: His Hamilton RAF Pilot’s Chronograph. This utilitarian piece is still technically Swiss, though Hamilton has its origins in the United States. It’s an emblem that regards his military training.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (Duchess of Sussex)
In contrast to the elder-royals’ traditional roots, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stand as a modern pair. Their marriage itself was something of an upset—considering Markle worked as a Hollywood actress and was born in the United States. A less traditional watch box comes naturally to them both—but more so to Prince Harry. During his military service he wore G-Shock and Pulsar watches, like most everyday British soldiers. After two years of service he did eventually rank up his watch game to a Rolex Explorer II. This was likely due to the fact that he’d volunteered to become a helicopter pilot in the Army Air Corps—an area of service where his watch would have some utility. Each Explorer II is equipped with a GMT setup and plain white dial, which is ideal for timekeeping in flight. Eventually Harry’s pilot service landed him a Breitling Aerospace Advantage, a wristwatch awarded to pilots who fly Apache helicopters in combat missions. It seems Harry takes a bit after the old guard (Prince Charles) in regard to military duty. However, not so apparently in his horological endeavors.
Far from militaristic, Megan Markle (Duchess of Sussex) keeps things more elegant and simple. What’s more, her tastes seem to align more with the rest of the royal family. Though her marriage was an upset, her timepieces are all pretty tame (albeit luxurious). Like her now sister-in-law (Kate Middleton), Markle wears Cartier exclusively. Her most unique piece in her collection is her Cartier Tank. It’s a sentimental watch that she had engraved as a gift to herself. It bears the phrase, “To M.M. from M.M.”, as a tribute to her success as an actress.
Kate Middleton (Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge) and Prince William
This pair is perhaps the simplest couple when it comes to timekeeping. Both are very set on their tastes and have not shown any signs of wavering. As mentioned prior, Kate Middleton exclusively wears Cartier wristwatches. Multiple sources agree that her preferred pièce de résistance is their Ballon Bleu. This is likely due to the fact that the crown on this watch is a similar shade of blue to her engagement ring.
Speaking of blue—Prince William has a blue-dialed wristwatch. More specifically, he almost exclusively wears his Omega Seamaster Professional 300 quartz. This particular watch was gifted to him by his deceased mother Princess Diana. Having received the gift at a much younger age, he’s been photographed for years sporting the watch at various events. It seems that both Kate and William wear blue to have matching attire, as well as pay homage to the late Princess Diana.
Prince Andrew and Our Final Note
Prince Andrew wears Rolex wristwatches exclusively. More specifically, he takes on the “Presidential” look of the Day-Date—a watch that was released three years after his mother’s coronation (1956). He came into the world not long after (1960) and would later bring his own child into the royal family, though his marriage fell apart in the 1990s. His daughter is set to be married soon and he will likely wear a Day-Date to the ceremony. However, he’s also been spotted wearing a Rolex Submariner. Hopefully things stay above water for himself and his soon-to-be-wed daughter at said ceremony.
While Prince Andrew and the rest of the old guard continue to wear traditional Swiss mechanical pieces, the newer generation appears to wear sportier quartz pieces (especially Harry). While each of these timepieces is enviable from virtually every background—the newer timepieces have a very modern implication. Quartz manufacturing and mass production have changed the psychology of the wristwatch. As well, further democratization in a globalized economy has pared the sentiment of prestige and wealth down to everyday value. Where luxurious finery once graced the wrists of royalty, it’s becoming increasingly popular to take a more modest approach. Perhaps, at the end of the day, we’re all worthy of our own royal wristwatches. If you find yourself with any kind of timepiece, no matter the prestige, we here at TimesTicking will give it the crowned treatment.
Times Ticking has been in operation for more than 30 years, since 1982. We have performed watch repair for customers both locally and internationally. If it Ticks! We KNOW it! Our team of watch repair technicians have a combined experience in watchmaking of over 120 years.