All collections have their go-tos, from the navy blazer that looks great with everything to the classic album where every track is as good as the last. Your watch wardrobe is no different — and the steel sports watch has just the right balance of ruggedness and refinement to be your go-to any day of the week. Whether you’re suiting up for the workday or sipping Negronis by the pool, these stylish selects will never let you down.
If you were to listen to headlines alone, this category is unequivocally dominated by Rolex; that doesn’t quite paint the whole picture. It is indeed accurate that all steel Rolex sports watches have become incredibly difficult to acquire from Rolex authorized retailers — unless you have a longstanding relationship with your AD — and the waits for models like the Daytona and even the GMT-Master II can still be several years. That said, there’s absolutely no shortage of steel sports watches in the market that are also worthy of your hard-earned dollars.
In recent years the steel sports watch category has evolved dramatically. On one end of the spectrum, there’s been a huge boom in popularity of integrated bracelets, notably encouraged by the soaring secondary market prices commanded by highly collectible watches like the Patek Philippe Nautilus and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. That said, we’re seeing demand move away from those watches and towards elegant alternatives from other makers. Like many trends, collectors begin to grow weary when hype hits a threshold. Both Vacheron Constantin and Chopard, among others, have benefited greatly from this shift in tastes, as the Overseas and Alpine Eagle have become rather highly sought after of late.
There’s certainly more to the steel sports watch category than all thing integrated. After all, there’s something to be said for the versatility of a watch fitted with conventional lugs; the range of strap type and materials options are nearly boundless. Most love a good steel bracelet, but sometimes the softness of leather or the ruggedness of rubber are a better fit for the day, event, or adventure that lies ahead. As always though, our advice remains the same: always buy a watch on bracelet, as it’ll cost you more in the long run if you go back to buy it separately.
Because the category is still equal parts diverse and ubiquitous, the way the bracelet connects to the watch case is only the beginning of the conversation. Under the umbrella of sports watch, there’s still room for interpretation in regards to how dressy or casual a particular watch can be. Just looking at our layouts below, where the Aqua Terra, Commander, and Carrera can easily pass with shirt-and-tie vibes, the Polaris and Grand Seiko are more California casual at best.
For so long, the broader perception was that a gold watch was the pinnacle of luxury, yet now looking at market values and auction records around the globe, steel is where it’s at. When you also consider that steel watches draw less attention in places like London and Los Angeles where watch theft continues to rise, there’s all the more reason to lean towards the more “utilitarian” of metals.
Photography: Michael Kazimierczuk (Impossible Studios)
Prop Styling: Zach Noftall (Plutino Group)
Styling: Haley Dach
Photo Assistant: Ethan Allen