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06/18/2024
 5 minutes

The Exit Watch Concept

By Aaron Voyles
Audemars-Piguet-Royal-Oak-Chronograph-Stainless-Steel-26240ST.OO.1320ST.04—COM003495-2-1

The “Exit Watch” Concept

There are a plethora of terms within the realm of watch collecting, as well as sayings and phrases that pertain to various things within the industry and hobby. From the mundane “factory set” to the exciting “grail watch,” just about every idea has its corresponding phrase. Another interesting term is the “exit watch.” Holding a unique and almost mystical significance, this phrase might seem perplexing to those not immersed in the horological community, but it essentially refers to one’s ultimate, final timepiece. The watch that will allow the collector to stop and exit from watch collecting as a hobby. An exit watch is the crowning jewel of a collection, and sometimes also called the “holy grail” because it signifies the end of the perpetual quest to collect more or even better watches.

Like everything in watch collecting, everyone’s exit watch is deeply personal and varies widely from collector to collector. For some, it might be an 18-karat yellow gold Day-Date, while for others, it could be a Greubel Forsey GMT Quadruple Tourbillon. Some collectors might not even have an exit watch. Ultimately, your exit watch is the timepiece that you envision wearing for the rest of your life, one that embodies your preferences in design, reliability, and personal taste, and lifestyle.

Three Common Exit Watches

While everyone’s exit watch is uniquely personal, it would still be naïve to think that certain watches aren’t more popular than others when it comes to the general community’s chosen exit watches. I certainly haven’t spoken to every collector out there, but when I talk to people about their preferred exit watch, the same handful of timepieces come up time and time again. Let’s take a look at a few models that I’ve been told on more than one occasion are people’s exit watches.

Rolex Day-Date

Rolex Day-Date
Rolex Day-Date

The most common brand of exit watch is inarguably Rolex. Among the models mentioned by collectors as potential exit watches are the Submariner, Daytona, and GMT-Master, with the most notable and common one being a version of the iconic Day-Date. With its wide variety of materials, dial designs, etc., this is a watch that can easily be the one to end your days of collecting. As Rolex’s flagship timepiece, it offers everything you could want in an exit watch. It is, after all, the watch of US presidents, so if it’s good enough for them, it’s probably good enough for us mere mortals.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

Another frequently-cited exit watch is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Introduced in 1972, the Royal Oak was revolutionary for its time, featuring a unique octagonal bezel and an integrated bracelet designed by Gérald Genta in the span of a single night at the request of AP, who at that time needed something to combat the so-called ongoing “quartz crisis.” Since then, it has evolved to epitomize the luxury sports watch with its distinctive avant-garde design elements, rich heritage, and AP’s famed craftsmanship. It’s a no-brainer for those who want something that can still be casual, yet perfectly functional. Let’s also not forget that an exit watch is supposed to have a certain aura or gravitas about it, and much like the Day-Date, the Royal Oak has that in abundance.

Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar

Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph

For those who favor a more classic, elegant aesthetic, Patek Philippe is the perfect exit watch brand choice. Known as arguably the greatest mainstream watchmaker in the world, Patek timepieces adorn the wrists of the world’s most powerful politicians, rock stars, celebrities, and generally impressive people, so it’s only natural that almost every watch they release has that aforementioned aura. But which Patek do people typically pick?

Patek Philippe’s perpetual calendar models, of course. Offering some of the highest levels of watchmaking imaginable, Patek’s perpetual calendars, like the ref. 3940 and ref. 5140 (among their other masterpieces), all operate at the very apex of artisanal watchmaking. No wonder they’re what most people’s idea of an exit watch is. It doesn’t get much better than a perpetual calendar from Patek, so you can’t blame someone for bidding farewell to the watch collecting game if they manage to get their hands on one.

My Personal Exit Watch

Now that you’ve read my ramblings about what other people’s exit watches, which one is mine? That’s easy: the Patek Philippe Nautilus Moonphase ref. 5712A, and specifically the latest generation of models with the upgraded micro-adjust clasp. Even though my Chrono24 author’s bio lists my dream watch as the Patek Philippe ref. 2499 on an original Gay Frères bracelet (if there’s no bracelet, it’s going right back!), I think that if I got a ref. 5712, I could honestly stop collecting watches. The ref. 2499 on the other hand would be more of my “I won the lottery” kind of watch, if you know what I mean.

Patek Philippe Nautilus Moonphase ref. 5712A

Among the myriad of remarkable timepieces that I adore, the Nautilus collection has always resonated with me. When I was first able to try it on as a budding 18-year-old watch enthusiast in 2014, it just felt right, and I’m happy to say this was all long before the current Nautilus hype. In other words: I’m not just saying this because social media told me to.

Designed by the legendary Gérald Genta, the Nautilus has long been celebrated for its distinctive porthole-inspired design and seamless blend of sportiness and elegance. The reference 5712A in particular stands out to me with its unique asymmetrical display, functional complications, and overall aesthetic appeal. While the 5712 was first launched in 2006, it was updated in late 2022 with a new deployant clasp featuring a micro-adjustment that can provide an additional 2 mm of space per side. It might seem like a trivial modification, but it completes what was a nearly perfect design up to that point.

Like an exit watch should, the Nautilus ref. 5712 is a watch that resonates with my personal taste, lifestyle, and fashion. Owning it would certainly give me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. I suppose, in a poetic way, the Nautilus ref. 5712 would be the culmination of my watchmaking journey. A timepiece that I fell in love with in the early days of my interest in collecting, and something that I can imagine wearing for the rest of my life. For me, that is the very essence of an exit watch.


About the Author

Aaron Voyles

I love everything about watchmaking, from the artistry of their design to the engineering hidden within their movements and the history that breathes life into their stories.

Read more

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