05/02/2023
 5 minutes

Royal Watches: From the Traditional to the Unexpected

By Barbara Korp
Cartier-2-1

The British Royal Family has no shortage of headlines credited to their name, especially in the run-up to King Charles’ coronation. While the rest of the world is wondering about the finer details of the ceremony itself, we watch enthusiasts are curious to see which watches will be on display. Of course, we can’t know for certain who will wear what, but it’s safe to make a few assumptions based on the royals’ past favorites. Read on to discover some of the classics beloved by the Royal Family, as well as some unexpected surprises. Hey, you might even discover your new grail watch!

King Charles

Like his mother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III is an avid watch enthusiast. As such, he boasts a fine collection of exquisite timepieces. His passion dates back to his youth, when he was often seen sporting a Patek Philippe Disco Volante. That wasn’t his only love, however; he would also don a two-tone Cartier Santos on occasion or a yellow gold Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso.

In recent years, his selection has become a bit more eclectic. For large public events, such as weddings, he typically opts for rarer models, e.g., a Toric chronograph from Swiss brand Parmigiani Fleurier. The choice of a small-batch manufacturer that still lives and breathes haute horlogerie certainly showcases the King as a true connoisseur. So, what do you think? Will the Toric make another appearance at his coronation? It made the cut for his first official act as King, but it remains to be seen whether it turns up again.

Parmigiani Fleurier Toric chronograph

Camilla, Queen Consort

Camilla, Queen Consort, has officially been part of the Royal Family since 2005, and she definitely has the watch to prove it. She’s followed the precedent set by other female royals and worn a Cartier ever since. More specifically, she wears a gold Tank Française on a leather strap. This may come as a bit of a surprise given that Camilla is known for her down-to-earth style – you’d think a gold dress watch would be far too elegant – but somehow the Tank Française just works. The watch perfectly suits her attire, coming across as stylish but not attention-grabbing. The Tank transitions seamlessly from galas to leisure activities. In fact, this is where Cartier’s strength lies: in crafting discreet timepieces that are statements of tradition and good taste. What’s not to love about that?

Cartier Tank Française in Gold
Cartier Tank Française in gold

William, Prince of Wales

Unlike his father, Prince William isn’t a keen watch collector. He is almost exclusively seen wearing the same watch: an Omega Seamaster Professional 300M with a quartz movement. No, he is not following in the footsteps of the famous British secret agent from film and fiction; the watch was a gift from his late mother, Princess Diana, and he hasn’t replaced it to this day. While he may not actually exhaust the 300 m (984 ft) of water resistance, this robust timepiece is perfect for any sport or activity he may be involved with. And yet, thanks to the timeless Omega design that we know and love, it is still elegant enough to pair with a suit. It’s unlikely that Prince William will become an avid collector any time soon; he’s already found a watch that is both functional and meaningful for him. What better way to remember a loved one…

Omega Seamaster Professional 300m
Omega Seamaster Professional 300M

Catherine, Princess of Wales

Classy, but as down-to-earth as a person in her position can be, Catherine, Princess of Wales, or Kate, is a favorite among the British public. She joined the Royal Family through marriage in 2011. In 2014, she also joined the ranks of Cartier wearer. That’s the year Kate’s husband and heir to the throne, William, gifted her a 33-mm Cartier Ballon Bleu in celebration of their third wedding anniversary. The Ballon Bleu boasts classic lines; even in her stainless steel version without diamonds, it looks like a piece of jewelry. The rounded design with its embedded crown is downright extravagant. This steel timepiece with blue hands perfectly complements Kate’s sapphire engagement ring and reflects her personality. Wife to the heir, mother, photographer, Kate is pure class, and the Ballon Bleu, her perfect watch.

Cartier Ballon Bleu 33mm
Cartier Ballon Bleu

Harry, Duke of Sussex

Drama aside, we’re including Harry and Meghan in the Royal Family for the purpose of this article – for the watches’ sake! Like Prince William, Harry doesn’t usually sport a classic dress watch. Instead, he can often be seen wearing one of two sporty timepieces: a Rolex Explorer II ref. 216570 or a Breitling Aerospace Avantage. The latter is awarded to all pilots upon completion of a combat mission, which Harry has done. The high-quality quartz watch not only boasts a digital calendar, but also a chronograph function. However, it is first and foremost a reminder of his time serving in Afghanistan.

The Rolex Explorer II is another robust watch fit for use in extreme situations. The orange second hand ensures the time is legible and also adds an eye-catching pop of color. If you own a Rolex Explorer II, you hardly need a classic dress watch. One of the major strengths of Rolex sports watches is that they look the part with a suit or leisurewear – and Harry has proven this time and again.

Rolex Explorer II
Rolex Explorer II

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex

Meghan Markle, as she was known in her days as an actress, has certainly shaken things up in the Royal Family, but we’re just focusing on the watches here! When it comes to her wrist, she is fully integrated into royal life. She, too, wears a Cartier, namely a two-tone Tank Française. Meghan purchased the watch herself to mark her success in her acting career, and has said she plans to pass the timepiece down to her daughter one day. There is, however, another Cartier in her personal collection: a gold Tank Française that used to belong to Princess Diana. While Patek Philippe famously advertises their watches’ suitability as family heirlooms, the same can be said for Cartier timepieces. Thanks to the model’s flawless craftsmanship and timeless design, the Cartier Tank is a watch you don’t just buy for yourself, but also for the next generation.

Cartier Tank Française
Cartier Tank Française

Summary

A look at the lineup of royal watches reveals that they are more than just beautiful accessories, each has an emotional meaning that goes beyond the timepiece’s material value. Whether you’re honoring a loved one, commemorating a special moment, making a statement, or symbolizing family cohesion, choosing a watch comes down to so much more than looks, technology, or price alone. So, next time you find yourself chasing after the latest and greatest novelty, pause and ask yourself whether the object of your desire carries any emotional weight for you. If you do, you’re much less likely to have buyer’s remorse afterward – trust me.


About the Author

Barbara Korp

The moment I learned that watches were a lot more than just simple jewelry, I was hooked; I become enamored with the elegance of timekeeping. But there was one small hitch: most models were just too big for me to wear! That didn't discourage me, however. In fact, I developed quite a niche interest.

Read more

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