For many watch lovers most timepieces possess at least one design trait that is irresistible, and while they may not completely love the watch, it will at least gain his or her respect. However, every now and again, there are watches that simply garner conflicting opinions. These pieces have what is known, design-wise, as the Marmite effect: they are either loved or hated. There just doesn’t seem to be a middle ground and to be honest, it isn’t a bad thing – as long as more people love it. We have singled out three watches that we believe have this love it or hate it quality.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore
When it comes to history of fine timepieces, Audemars Piguet have tons of it. However, even they’ve had the odd Marmite moment or two. AP have been making fine timepieces since 1875, but they perhaps became more prominent with the introduction of one particular Royal Oak in the 1970s. This was AP’s first ever sports watch. It wasn’t cheap, mind you, but it was completely made of utilitarian metal: stainless steel. This Royal Oak was designed by the revered watch designer Gerald Genta, who was urged by AP to come up with an unmistakable design. Of course, he did that, and though the watch was first greeted with some skepticism, it was soon widely embraced.
Nonetheless, when Audemars Piguet first introduced the Royal Oak Offshore, the hard core sports version to the original RO, it was also greeted with wide skepticism. However, unlike the introduction of the Royal Oak, this feeling hasn’t waned much. The Royal Oak Offshore more or less shares the same porthole look of the RO, but it’s almost as if everything has been cranked up a few notches. I guess in certain circumstances it is considered brutish and far from the elegance of the Royal Oak, but that is what sports watches are all about. However, this could lead you to either hate it, because it’s so far from the Royal Oak, or love it, for the same reason.
Panerai Luminor 1950 PAM 372
Introduced in the early 1950s, the Luminor would later replace the venerable Radiomir, which successfully served the Italian Navy. The Luminor preserved the Radiomir’s emblematic watch case and dial, but also incorporated several new design advances. These included a distinctive bridge with a unique mechanism for locking the crown, a feature so unique that it is now trademarked by Panerai. In 2002, Panerai introduced the Luminor 1950, aka “Fiddy,” which hearkened back to the design of the original Luminor and thus, really embodied the brand’s DNA. This version was warmly embraced by Paneristis and due to its limited run, people soon started paying over the odds, giving it an almost Grail-like status.
In 2011, Panerai introduced a new Luminor 1950, the PAM 372, which sports the same case style and size as its predecessor: 47 mm. However, unlike its predecessor, it wasn’t limited in supply. So while those who missed out on getting a PAM 127 could now get a PAM 372, it also meant Panerai wasn’t appealing to the hard core fans only, but rather to the masses. This is where you encounter its Marmite-like status. You see, people who don’t quite get Panerai will never understand its allure, and this is especially true for the PAM 372. Again, its size, similar to the other two timepieces mentioned, is perhaps one of the reasons why it has the love it or hate it status.
IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot
Utter the words “Big Pilot” among watch enthusiasts and the letters IWC are sure to come to mind. The Big Pilot was a timepiece originally introduced as a military spec timepiece for airplane navigators. These watches were made to be big, usually around 55 mm, because they needed to accommodate a large hand-wound pocket watch movement, but of course, this also made them much easier to read. The Big Pilot sported an uncompromising design featuring a very large winding crown, unmistakable dauphine-shaped hands, and a triangle flanked by two dots at 12 o’clock.
The original Big Pilot was introduced in the 1940s to assist military personnel. However, in 2002, IWC Schaffhausen reintroduced this timepiece to their lineup. While there was no real need for the Big Pilot to return, IWC appealed to the nostalgic parts of peoples’ hearts. Was this a good move? Yes and no, seeing as it is a love it or hate it watch just like the ROO and the Luminor above. It is considerably large and still only really appeals to those who understand its brutish looks. It is not a timepiece that has mass appeal, but those who do appreciate it, do so with all their heart, and those who don’t, probably never will.