Going Gold: Coming to Terms with My Desire for Gold

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I don’t own a gold watch. Well, at least not solid gold one. You know, the kind you’re given after 80 years on the job? I do have a vintage Gruen with a plated case that had been collecting dust in a family member’s closet until it was dug out and given to me. Now it mostly collects dust in my watch box – but should I need a little gold in my life, it’s all I can reach for. Otherwise, I avoid gold PVD watches, especially when they are sporty designs where gold seems like a forced marketing decision. In other words, for all intents and purposes, I lack the glint of gold in my life.

Yet, I yearn for it.

Why? I’m not sure. Perhaps as I get older my appreciation for things I once found tacky has grown, even changing into a genuine appreciation. As of 2021, I own a pair of Tevas and a tie-dye shirt, for example. But back to gold. Luscious, precious, gold. I’m not talking white gold either. Nothing wrong with it, but that’s more of a sleeper-gold. It’s gold for people who don’t want to wear gold. I’m talking about yellow and rose gold. Gold that is unmistakably gold.

The Artisans De Geneve Honey Blue is not included below but gets an honorable mention because just look at it

So, with that in mind, I wanted to put together a little group of gold watches that I’ve come across or admired from afar (on a monitor) that left an impression, for one reason or another. These aren’t the best, nor perhaps even the most universally appealing, so much as golden watches that planted their 18k seeds deep in my psyche. Some are new, some are old, some are sporty, while others are best with a french cuff. But all are gold.

On a serious note, before getting into it, there is of course nothing wrong with liking gold, if it is to your tastes and budget. As I try out more and more watches, I seek new experiences in my potential purchases. Though I once thought “how different can two watches really be,” having recently acquired a Spring Drive as well as a regulator, I can safely say that the difference can be great and that that likely extends to materials as well. With a collection that is 95% steel only broken up by a little titanium, I can’t help but feel some gold, with its delicate constitution, yet increased density and heft could supply some unique satisfaction.

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Universal Geneve Polerouter

image courtesy of analog/shift

I would hardly be the first person to write a love letter to the Universal Geneve Polerouter if I espoused my undying affection for this most perfect, mid-century timepiece here (plus, Ilya once wrote it here). Genta’s first, and most undervalued, masterpiece, is impossibly balanced. An elegant design combined with a micro-rotor movement that kept it as thin as a manual wound watch, it’s as luxurious as anything that has followed in nearly 70 years since. But, have you ever seen one in solid gold?

Well, I have, once, and it left an impression. That svelte 35mm case with its gently twisting lugs takes to the precious metal with ease. The fact that it’s small, and therefore not featuring too much gold, only adds to its restrained elegance. Yes, it’s somehow modest. This is a good watch for dipping your toes in gold without going full Scrooge McDuck.

Image by @wonger.bonger

Though rare in solid gold they do exist, typically featuring matching gold-toned dials. For something that gives you the same effect, but has more of that classic Polerouter look, the gold-capped options are a good choice as well. Not quite solid, but more gold than a plated model, and more readily available, they are an even gentler introduction to gold. And, as seen in this photo courtesy of @wonger.bonger, completely gorgeous.

Omega Speedmaster Sedna Gold

The use of gold on the dial is “chef’s kiss”

If a Polerouter looks good in gold, you know that a Speedmaster does as well, though the attitude changes quite a bit. From reserved elegance to FU – but in style. Yes, the Speedmaster in solid gold is and has been on my mind for years. For all the space-lore around the watch, people seem to forget it’s just a damn sexy watch. The asymmetrical 42mm case with its voluptuous curves is, to this day, unchallenged by other sports watches, yet its exotic lines are miraculously balanced out by a surprisingly minimal dial.

Gold Speedmasters are nothing new, the first being a well-documented model from 1969, but they’ve been uncommon over the years, generally only coming out as special editions. Well, earlier this year when Omega launched the new generation of Speedy Pros with Master Co-Axial 3861 movements, they did so in steel, as well as two types of gold, including 18k Sedna gold. A proprietary alloy that is resistant to patina, it gives the curves of the Speedmaster a warm, coppery luster that is just drool-worthy.

The view from the back isn’t bad either

But, what I really like about this one is that they kept the dial and bezel black, in keeping with the Moonwatch, but made all of the markings a matching gold-tone, adding in some applied gold as well, as though the gold case had infected the dial. It’s a lot of gold, especially on the bracelet, but sometimes if you go gold, you just have to go all the way.

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Rolex GMT Master 16758

The 16758 is one the few gold watches that looks better beat up

This is one of the watches on this list I’ve spent the most time with, and it’s left a lasting impression. Where even to begin. Well, it’s a Rolex, so it has that going for it. It’s also one of their ever-popular GMT Master models, but a weird one. It’s not the overly-adulated Pepsi or Coke models, rather it’s all black and gold. And to make it even better, it’s got a chuckle-inducingly named “nipple” dial. Which is to say, the solid gold applied markers, umm, stand off the dial. The rest I’ll leave up to your imagination.

Back to the watch. An 80’s model, it’s got the solid, tool-watch appeal of classic Rolex sports watches of the day, from thick, drilled lugs to crown guards, just made out of gold. The gold bezel features a black aluminum insert with yellow-ish markers, the black dial features all gold accents including the hands. The gold and black are in correct proportion to balance each other out, giving the watch a sleazy-cool style that is hard to deny.

What I like about this watch is that it makes sense. It’s a traveler’s watch with a sporty build, but jet-set attitude. The, ahem, nipple dial drives this home as it forfeits some legibility for more gold, yet looks the part. Though I dare say I would drop the bracelet for some black leather, as pictured above, no matter how you wear it, it’s a statement piece, and a gold watch that doesn’t seem overly precious.

Grand Seiko SBGA384

It works in steel, titanium, and platinum, so 18k rose gold shouldn’t be a stretch for the 44GS case

What I like about the Grand Seiko 44GS design is that it embodies the “Grammar of Design” perhaps more clearly than any of their other cases. Massively wide, perfectly flat surfaces flank either side of the dial, showing off their Zaratsu polishing technique like no other. The ever-tapering case comes to nearly a point on the side, revealing only a thin strip of beautifully brushed metal, which complements the brushed lines on the inside of the lugs, which are just a unique detail. There isn’t another case like it, unless by Grand Seiko, and it’s utterly gorgeous. Am I biased? Yes… I own an SBGA375 and it has become a regular fixture on my wrist.

But, we’re here to talk about that watch’s limited edition solid gold buddy, the SBGA384. Released as a US-exclusive model (the first, in fact) this model takes the magic of the 44GS case into the warm world of rose gold. As I watch that redefined “good finishing” to me in steel, in gold, it must be transcendent (photos, like the one above, do not do it justice). It’s also a solid little watch, featuring more metal than it would seem, so I imagine out of gold it would be surprisingly hefty. They combined the case with a champagne-toned Kirazuri dial (yes, the same texture that is on the new green LEs) giving it an almost linen-dial look.

this is not the SBGA384, but a close runner-up for a gold Grand Seiko

Perhaps best of all (well, a nice perk at least) is that the SBGA384 also features the Spring Drive 9S15 caliber, which is accurate to +/- .5 seconds a day and has a solid gold lion emblem attached to the rotor. Though I don’t think this would be an everyday kind of watch, unlike the 375, as a special occasion piece – you know, those times when you want a quarter pound of gold on your wrist – you could hardly ask for anything more interesting.

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A. Lange & Sohne Saxonia Thin

Just like lying in a field and gazing at up at the stars – if the field were made of gold and german silver

Look, the heart wants what the heart wants, and when Lange (that’s how the cool kids say it, right?) revealed this surprisingly reserved, elegant watch, it got under my skin. The two-handed Saxonia Thin is so restrained, so conservative that it verges on, neigh rides the line, of being boring. Why spend five figures on something so… plain? Well, I’m sure wiser people and Lange experts have good answers, but for me, it normally wouldn’t. Yet, rendered in rose gold and featuring the incredibly fun to say “gold-fluxed face in dark blue” dial, it becomes something different altogether.

I’m a bit of a sucker for aventurine glass dials, of which this is a variation. The dark blue (though sometimes other colors) glass is flecked with metallic particles in a random array and at varying density, closely resembling a star-filled sky on an impossibly clear night. Already a combination of warm and cool tones, being surrounded by a rose gold case brings those flecks to the foreground. In the setting of this ultra-conservative watch, it adds just the right amount of randomness to give it a personality.

I mean, just look at that dial

Combined with the 6.2mm thin case, which in turn is housing a 72-hour hand-wound movement crafted out of German silver and finished to the nines, what you get in is a watch that is so painfully tasteful, that you likely need to rethink your whole wardrobe to support it. In fact, barring black-tie events in Geneva, I’m not really sure when one breaks this kind of watch out, but perhaps you need to own it to understand.

Well, that’s my two cents on gold. What do you think? If you were to go gold, what watch would you get? Let us know in the comments.

Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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