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The Best Luxury Alternatives to the Royal Oak and Nautilus

March 22, 2024

Following the success of these icons, many luxury brands have released integrated-bracelet sports watches. These are the leading alternatives.

The Royal Oak and Nautilus are two of the most desirable watches in the world. It's only logical that other watchmakers attempted to replicate their winning formula. The integrated-bracelet steel sports watch remains one of the most popular styles, although the trend reached its zenith when the prices of "hype watches" like the Royal Oak peaked in March of 2022. We've already covered more affordable watches in the category here. The high-end market is also saturated with models inspired by Gerald Genta's designs for AP and Patek Philippe in the 1970s. Here are some of the best luxury and high-horology options on the market.

$9,200: Zenith Defy Skyline

The Zenith Defy Skyline offers a tempting value proposition: a well-finished, luxury watch with a unique in-house movement for just over $9000. The Defy collection debuted in 1969, though the design has been heavily modified for modern preferences (namely the preference for the Royal Oak). The 41mm case is nothing new; the design imitates the industrial angularity of the AP with its 12-sided bezel, five-sided crown, and sharp angles. That said, you can't fault Zenith for its execution. The finishing is excellent and includes vertical brushing and polished bevels. The visually striking dial pattern features a four-pointed star, a clear allusion to Zenith's branding. The dial also includes a color-matched date wheel and sunburst brushing.

The Defy Skyline distinguishes itself from the competition with an asymmetrically positioned small seconds indication that makes a full rotation every 10 seconds. This function is facilitated by the high-frequency El Primero 3620 caliber that beats away at five hertz. The movement also features a respectable 60-hour power reserve. The 3620 caliber is arguably just as technically impressive as many other movements on this list and can easily compete with most in terms of quality despite the Defy's lower cost. If you're looking for a more affordable Royal-Oak-inspired watch that still has its own character, the Defy Skyline should definitely be on your radar. 

$11,700: IWC Ingenieur

Released at Watches and Wonders 2023, the redesigned Ingenieur is IWC's take on the '70s sports watch. Like the Nautilus and Royal Oak, the Ingenieur is based on a Gerald Genta design, in this case the 1976 Ingenieur SL. This provenance lends the model a bit more legitimacy than others in the style. It's surprising that IWC didn't bring back this iteration of the model sooner considering the success of the other aforementioned Genta designs. The release created quite a stir, with the critical consensus being that the design was very well executed but the high retail price was hard to justify.

The new Ingenieur features a 10.7mm thick case with a wearable diameter of 40mm. The design incorporates many of the hallmarks of Genta-designed sports watches, including an integrated bracelet, a porthole-esque bezel with exposed screws, and modest crown guards. The bevels and center links of the bracelet are polished while the majority of the case has received a satin-brushed finish. The dial is distinguished by a textured checkerboard pattern and a color-matched date wheel. Inside, the 32111 caliber, a quasi "in-house" movement made by Richemont's Val Fleurier but finished by IWC, provides an impressive five-day power reserve.

$13,300: Bulgari Octo Finissimo

Introduced in 2014, the Octo Finissimo collection has served as the base for Bulgari to develop some of the thinnest, most groundbreaking watches in the world. Since its inception, the Finissimo case has housed the world's thinnest tourbillon, minute repeater, automatic watch, and more. While not record breaking, the base models are still remarkably thin; the automatic 40mm model is only 6.4mm thick thanks to its slim micro-rotor caliber BVL 138. In the world of modern luxury watchmaking, an in-house, Swiss, micro-rotor movement for around $13,000 is remarkably good value. The caliber is well finished, though it lacks hacking seconds, making setting the time a bit burdensome.

The avant-garde design is certainly not for everybody. The Octo was first conceived by Gerald Genta in the 1980s. He sold his own brand to Bulgari in 1999, and the brand eventually modernized the design to make what we have today. The octagonal bezel, sharp angles, and integrated bracelet do fall in the Royal Oak/Nautilus framework, but Genta's place in the Octo Finissimo's history makes that imitation a bit more legitimate. The squarish case, which is ostensibly 40mm, wears larger than a round case of the same dimension. Due to the case shape, the bracelet is very wide. The watch also delivers a water resistance of 100 meters and a 60-hour power reserve.

$14,300: Girard-Perregaux Laureato

While often overlooked by collectors of high horology, Girard Perregeaux makes some superlative watches. The Laureato is no exception. While the model clearly follows the design language established by the Royal Oak, the watch does have genuine roots in the '70s; in fact, the brand launched the model in 1975, a year before Patek Philippe released the Nautilus. The most recognizable Laureato models feature Royal-Oak-esque Clous de Paris dials, though the watch is available in many other configurations. The brushed octagonal bezel also takes clear inspiration from AP. The curvier case, however, gives the watch an elegant softness the Royal Oak lacks.

The flagship blue-dial model measures 42mm in diameter and is only 10.7mm thick. GP really excels in the details. The color of the date disc is tastefully matched to the dial. The bracelet flows seamlessly into the case and is well liked by reviewers and owners. The watch also houses the in-house GP01800 caliber, which offers both beautiful finishing and a 54-hour power reserve.


$14,400: Chopard Alpine Eagle

Chopard has a long history of serious independent watchmaking. Introduced in 2019, the Alpine Eagle was the brand's attempt to capitalize off of the '70s sports watch trend, which at the time was just heating up. The Alpine Eagle takes inspiration from the St. Moritz, a watch from the 1980s designed by Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, the current co-president of Chopard. While the brand has modernized the design significantly, the Alpine Eagle still retains the eight exposed screws of the bezel and idiosyncratic integrated-bracelet design of the original.

Since the model's 2019 debut, Chopard has released variations in several metals, case sizes, and complications. The base 41mm model is made of Chopard's proprietary Lucent Steel, an alloy developed to be more reflective and 50% harder than other steel. Notably, the case is also a svelte 9.7mm thick. The dial features a captivating three-dimensional finish inspired by the iris of an eagle, bold Roman numerals every third hour, and a color-matched date display oddly positioned at 4:30. Like the Nautilus, two bumps on the left of the case balance the crown guards on the right. The sports watch look is completed by the exposed screws in the bezel and satin-brushed finishing contrasted against polished bevels. While perhaps slightly bulky, the integrated bracelet is well constructed. The automatic in-house caliber 01.01-C inside boasts a 60-hour power reserve and COSC accuracy.


$14,400: Piaget Polo

In recent years, Piaget has struggled to stand out from other luxury watchmakers. Consequently, its Polo model is far from the first to come to mind when thinking about sports watches above $10,000. Despite its challenges, the brand has real quality to offer. The Polo is a well constructed watch, albeit firmly in the vein of the Nautilus. The watch does indeed feature a Nautilus-esque bezel that's round on the outside and cushion-shaped in the middle. The bezel and sides of the case are brushed while the chamfers and lugs are polished. The bracelet has received a mix of brushing and polishing as well. The Polo remains compact despite its 42mm diameter thanks to its short lugs and slim 9.4mm height. The case also offers 100 meters of water resistance.

The dial, which is embossed with horizontal stripes, is impossible not to compare to the Nautilus. However, the stripes are far narrower and a date window at six rather than three provides an additional point of distinction. Beneath, the Polo houses the workhorse caliber 1110P. While ostensibly in-house, the movement's origins are a bit murky, and it's likely shared by other Richemont brands. The 1110P is certainly well finished and provides respectable specs including a 50-hour power reserve and relatively compact 4mm height. With a price tag over $14,000, the Polo is hardly competitive, but you may find some good discounts on the secondary market.


$21,900: H. Moser & Cie Streamliner Centre Seconds

The H. Moser & Cie Streamliner is unlike any watch I've ever seen. According to the brand's website, the model is inspired by the "sleek automotive and locomotive designs of the 1920s." In practice, this inspiration translates into a very unique cushion-shaped case measuring 40mm in diameter that seamlessly transitions into the bracelet. The bracelet is perhaps even more perplexing, standing out for its organic forms in a style defined by angularity. According to owners, the bracelet is extremely comfortable to wear. The case is around 10mm thick excluding the domed sapphire crystal and is water resistant to 120 meters.

The dial also offers something unique. Most obviously, the dial features a sunburst "fumé" or "smoked" effect. The hour and minute hands are composed of two parts: a steel base and a luminescent insert that protrudes from the end. The minimalist indexes are confined to the edge of the dial. The overall effect is clean and striking. Beneath the dial is the HMC 200 caliber. At Moser, practically everything is done in house. Even the hairsprings for the escapement are made by the company, a manufacturing process that requires serious investment and knowhow. The HMC 200 is automatic and features exceptional finishing, a skeletonized gold rotor, and a three-day power reserve.

Moser prides itself on making its watches very rare. So far the brand has come out with two variations: one with a green dial and another with a salmon dial. You'll likely have to wait for another limited edition to get one at retail.


$22,000: Czapek Antarctique Passage de Drake

Perhaps the most elegant watch on this list, the Czapek Antarctique leaves behind many of the harsh angles and exposed rivets of the category in favor of a refined, tasteful design. The case is available in 40.5 or 38.5mm and is finished to the high standard you can expect at this price point. Equally well finished is the integrated bracelet, which also features polished Cs for "Czapek." Like many other elegant sports watches of this type, the dial acts as a canvas for unique patterns. The Antarctique delivers in this regard, featuring a striking trapezoid motif. The layout is highly symmetrical due to the placement of the date window (which is satisfyingly color-matched to the dial) at six. The watch also offers 120 meters of water resistance.

The movement is likely the most impressive part of the watch. The proprietary SXH5 caliber was the first movement to be developed from scratch by Czapek with its manufacturing partners. It features some very modern finishing including sandblasted black plates and bridges, skeletonization, and plenty of chamfering. The eccentric platinum micro-rotor allows you to see the movement architecture without obstruction. The gear train is held in place by several skeletonized bridges. Technically speaking, the SXH5 is impressive as well. The free-sprung balance wheel features four variable inertia weights for greater chronometric precision, and owners do indeed report very high accuracy. The caliber boasts a respectable 60-hour power reserve at a four hertz frequency. Overall, the Antarctique provides the elegant looks and refined dimensions of the luxury sports watch style with the technical specs to back them up.


$25,000: Vacheron Constantin Overseas

While less known than the Royal Oak and Nautilus, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas can easily compete with the other two brands in the holy trinity of Swiss watchmaking. Introduced in 1996, the model's design follows from the 222, a watch originally released in 1977. The newest 41mm model, ref. 4520V, houses the 5100 caliber. The movement features a 60-hour power reserve and 22k gold oscillating weight. The caliber's Hallmark of Geneva ensures that it's finished to a very high standard. Above, the dial has a smooth, gradient finish, applied indexes, and a chapter ring with seconds markings.

While far more conventional than many of its competitors, the case is well executed, featuring a mix of brushed and polished finishes. The notched bezel echoes the Maltese cross, the brand's logo. The bracelet also incorporates the Maltese cross and offers an incredible amount of depth thanks to beveling and contrasting finishing. The bracelet features a useful quick-change system that allows the wearer to rapidly exchange straps for the bracelet and vice-versa without tools. Overall, the Overseas is too often slept on. With a price-tag of $25,000 at retail (or a bit more on the secondary market), the Vacheron comfortably beats the Royal Oak and Nautilus in objective watchmaking value for money.

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