Thanks to the Patek Philippe museum and the brand’s travelling Watch Art Grand Exhibition, it is well-known that Queen Victoria was a fan of Patek watches, being presented with an open-face, keyless-winding, fob-watch (No. 4,536) and matching brooch during the Great Exhibition of London in 1851. Following in the footsteps of her great-great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II has been spotted wearing a Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse, as well as a ref. 4975/1G with pearl bracelet. And who could forget the Jaeger-LeCoultre 101 that she wore on her Coronation Day and which sadly went missing, to be later replaced during her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 when Jérôme Lambert (at the time Jaeger’s CEO) presented her with a modern version of the watch. But what of the other Royals and their timekeepers?
The Prince of Wales is rarely seen without a watch. Currently, he favours a yellow-gold Parmigiani Toric Chronograph but, in earlier years, he was often spotted wearing a bi-metal Cartier Santos, a yellow-gold Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso and a Hamilton RAF Pilot’s Chronograph.
Presumably Charles’s Hamilton was issued during his training at RAF College Cranwell, where he qualified as a jet pilot in August 1971. Produced by CWC, Precista, Newmark and Hamilton, the RAF Pilot’s Chronograph 924-3306 was one of the timepieces of choice for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy – as well as the Royal Australian Navy – throughout the 1970s and early-1980s. Made to the specifications laid out in the UK Defence Standard document DefStan 66-4 (Part 2)/Issue 2 of April 1970, the watch in question is a two-register chronograph powered by a Valjoux 7733 movement. The asymmetric 41mm steel case features a bulge on the right-hand side to protect the pushers and crown.
Prince Charles continues to wear his old military-issued watch to this day. It seems he now uses the Hamilton as a “beater” and is regularly photographed wearing it with combat dress while preforming forces-related duties – as well as when skiing. One of the watch’s earlier off-duty outings was captured in 1981 by photographer Tim Graham when Charles was visiting New Zealand’s Lake Manapouri. The Royal managed to beat the prevailing style choices of today’s millennial hipsters by a good few decades when he paired a navy double-breasted blazer and tie with the utilitarian Hamilton Chronograph on G10 strap.
Charles’s youngest son, and the current fifth-in-line to the throne, Prince Harry, has also worn his military issue watch both in and out of uniform. After completing officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2006, Harry was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Household Cavalry, going on to reach the rank of Captain and complete two tours of duty in Afghanistan – making him the first Royal to serve in an active war zone since his uncle, Prince Andrew, in the Falklands War.
Initially seen wearing a Casio G-Shock, by the time of his first tour of duty (2007) Harry had switched to the standard MoD-issued Pulsar G10. Wearing it both on the frontline in Afghanistan and to a society wedding in Windsor.
In October 2008, Clarence House announced that Harry had volunteered for helicopter pilot selection with the Army Air Corps – a decision made after he was informed he would not be deployed to Afghanistan again with the Household Cavalry. He successfully completed the training two years later and was awarded his wings by his father during a ceremony held at AAC Middle Wallop. It appears that sometime during this period, Prince Harry upgraded from his Pulsar to a white-dial, Rolex Explorer II, a fitting and practical choice for a pilot thanks to the GMT complication. Harry was photographed wearing the watch while on his second deployment to Afghanistan in 2012 as an Apache Gunship co-pilot and gunner with 622 Squadron, 3 Regiment, Army Air Corps.
Befitting his membership of 622 Squadron, Harry’s next daily-wear watch was a squadron Breitling Aerospace Avantage. Only available to Apache pilots who have flown combat missions, the watch displays the Army Air Corps Wings at 9 o’clock and an illustration of the Apache helicopter at 3 o’clock. Breitling’s production of special-edition squadron watches is an established (albeit confidential) part of its business, the brand has produced watches for units ranging from America’s F-16 Flying Falcon pilots to Britain’s GCHQ intelligence officers.
Unlike his father and brother, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge has stuck to one watch throughout his adult years – an Omega Seamaster Quartz 300M, said to be a gift from his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.
According to Vanity Fair’s September 2003 issue, shortly after Diana’s death in August 1997, William and Harry each selected memento from their mother’s personal possessions: Harry picked her Garrard engagement ring while William chose one of her Cartier Tanks (today, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge wears the ring, the Princes swapped when William decided to propose to his now wife). According to hearsay, the Tank that the then 15-year-old prince selected held particular sentimental value, as it was a watch his mother had used to help teach him how to read time. Bringing things full circle with Cartier, William gave Catherine a steel Ballon Bleu at the start of the couple’s 2014 tour of Australia and New Zealand.
A favourite of the House of Windsor, Cartier was granted its first Royal Warrant in 1904 by King Edward VII. Loved by generations of the family, Princess Diana was a keen patron, owning not only the Tank mentioned above, but also a Tank Française and a Panthère de Cartier. Photographic evidence also shows Diana wearing a unique platinum Vacheron Constantin Lady Kalla cocktail watch. Set with 134 emerald-cut diamonds, the piece was originally presented to the Queen by the Swiss Federal Republic on occasion of her wedding in 1947. The Queen gifted the watch to Diana in celebration of her engagement to Prince Charles in 1981.
On at least two occasions in the early-1980s, Diana was seen doubling up on timepieces, wearing both a dainty, yellow-gold, bracelet watch (reported to be a Patek Philippe given to her by Charles and which she stopped wearing post-divorce) and a larger, leather-strapped, men’s dress watch. Fashion-forward but all in a day’s work for a woman described by Vogue as a “fashion icon”.
Duke it Out
The Queen’s first cousin Prince Michael of Kent, is another noteworthy royal watch lover. Educated at Eton, the Prince then embarked on a 20-year career in the Army that took him to Hong Kong, Germany and Cyprus, retiring as a Major in 1981. Alongside his royal duties, Prince Michael went on to start and run a private consultancy business as well as supporting many charities and non-profit organisations including Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and the Russian Poets Fund.
The Prince’s tasteful and well-informed watch collection includes, a bi-metal Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, a Bulgari-Bulgari, a “Pepsi” bezel Rolex GMT-Master, a Rolex 50th Anniversary LV Submariner and a Cartier Tank Americaine. However, Prince Michael is most commonly seen wearing his Royal Oak and even wore it in a picture that featured on the cover of Revolution’s sister magazine The Rake.
Zara Tindall, like her cousin Prince William, has stuck with one watch brand throughout her adult life: Rolex. A professional equestrian, highlights of Tindall’s career include representing her country at 2012’s Olympic Games and being voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2006. As a part of her sporting activities, Tindall holds the coveted position of Rolex Testimonee, alongside the likes of Sir Jackie Stewart and Roger Federer, and has been formally partnered with the Swiss company for 12 years now.
An organic relationship, Tindall was clearly a fan of Rolex before becoming an official ambassador. In 2001, when she was 20, she was pictured wearing a two-tone Lady-Datejust on Jubilee bracelet. More recently, she has been seen wearing both an all-steel and a platinum Lady-Datejust, a Pearlmaster and the 2016 Oysterflex Yacht-Master.
Coincidentally, Tindall’s husband, England rugby legend Mike, has recently become an unofficial friend of Rolex’s sister company Tudor, wearing a Heritage Black Bay S&G during a screening of the opening game of the 2017 British Lions Tour of New Zealand.
From Princess Beatrice’s Rolex Air King to Prince Edward’s Graff GraffStar Grand Date and Lord Louis Mountbatten’s Rolex Bubbleback, the British Royal Family is a dynasty with impeccable horological credentials – and one that we will no doubt visit again in the pages of Revolution.