The Unlikely Watch Collector: Prince Charles
Unlikely Watch Collector

The Unlikely Watch Collector: King Charles III

The future king represents the epitome of longevity, he's also recovering from the coronavirus. Prince Charles's recent confinement gave us the ideal opportunity to take a deep dive into his watch collection.

By Frédéric Brun

Fresh off our profile of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II (HERE), we take a look at the future King in waiting, Prince Charles penchant for watches.

Prince Charles was one of the first world figures to become infected with COVID-19. Luckily, after a few days of self-quarantine, the disease had run its course. When it came time to reassure an entire nation concerned about his health, the Prince of Wales took to social media.

During a message broadcast on the IGTV channel of his Instagram account, which boasts over a million subscribers, the future king proclaimed, "None of us can say when this will end but end it will. Until it does, let's try to live with hope and faith, in ourselves and each other, (and) look forward to better times to come." The very picture of endurance at 71 years old, more than 60 of them spent as the Prince of Wales, the future heir to the throne has long been wont to measure the passing time on many an elegant dial.

His current preference: the Parmigiani Fleurier Toric chronograph

During his IGTV broadcast, one detail certainly did not go unnoticed by his thousands of followers: a rare Toric chronograph made by Parmigiani Fleurier. The elegant gold watch was clearly visible on his wrist.

Founded by the watchmaker Michel Parmigiani in May 1996, with the support of the Sandoz Family Foundation, the British royal wearing one of their timepieces is a mark of great esteem for this modest Swiss maison. Moreover, as an informed watchmaking enthusiast and discerning collector, it is the connoisseur's choice for the Prince of Wales. And after a modicum of research, it is believed the watch was probably purchased surreptitiously on Prince Charles’ behalf by a member of his inner circle on an incognito trip to the brand's London store.

This was the second public appearance for this watch, which is, seemingly, a go-to choice for the future king. In fact, during Prince Harry's wedding, as millions of onlookers' eyes were glued to the bride's gown, Prince Charles cast a discreet glance down at the watch peeking out from his grey jacket sleeve, thus signaling the ceremony could begin on time. Royal British protocol – as reliable as Swiss clockwork.

His Favorite Watch: A Patek Philippe Calatrava Disco Volante

For a long time, his favorite piece was a Patek Philippe Calatrava Disco Volante reference 2551. The three-handed watch, with its remarkably elegant classicism, became a talking piece when Princess Diana took to wearing Charles’ Patek Disco Volante along with a gold Patek Philippe her new husband had given her for her 30th birthday.

This romantic gesture made the Princess of Wales an unwitting trendsetter as the practice of wearing two watches simultaneously, now known as double wristing, was still several decades away.

Jaeger-LeCoultre, Cartier, Hamilton: A rich and varied collection

For a period of time, Prince Charles also favored an interesting aviator watch: a Hamilton RAF Pilot’s Chronograph 924-3306. Charles is thought to have received this in August 1971 while training as a jet pilot at RAF Cranwell. Highly sought-after among collectors of military watches, the 41mm asymmetric steel chronograph belongs to a series of four models produced by the watchmaking brands CWC, Precista, Newmark, and Hamilton in response to a special tender issued by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. The four watches came to be known by the nickname the "Fab Four," just like the Beatles.

In the 1980s, he liked to switch between a Santos de Cartier watch, in a square gold and steel version, and his gold Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. The Swiss manufacture had presented an engraved Reverso to Edward VII in 1937 specifically for his coronation. The watch was probably never worn, however, since it had to be specially engraved and ended up being delivered to Buckingham Palace just a few days before the king's abdication.

As a collector and aesthete, Prince Charles takes great care in choosing his watches, matching them to his outfits with great discretion and discernment. In October 2018, for example, when attending a ballet at London's Royal Opera House held in honor of his 70th birthday, he wore a Patek Philippe reference 2503 with his evening attire, instead of the Breguet watch he'd received as a gift eleven years earlier. The case of the latter classic gold regulator-dial reference 3680 BA with automatic winding, bore the inscription "In commemoration of your 6Oth Birthday. 14 November 2008." The vintage rectangular Patek Philippe watch in gold, however, is a rare collector's item, very seldom seen gracing the princely wrist.

Badge Of The Prince’s Trust

Fans of Prince Charles also had the opportunity to contribute to a good cause by purchasing a commemorative coin bearing the Prince's heraldic badge.

Although some of the badge's visual motifs were first used by Prince Edward following the Battle of Crécy in 1346, the modern heraldic badge was adopted by Prince Arthur at the beginning of the 16th century. Composed of three ostrich feathers emerging from a gold coronet, it is this version that is the official emblem of the current Prince of Wales and is the logo of The Prince’s Trust.

Founded in 1976, The Prince’s Trust supports numerous charitable endeavors for the betterment of young people, including initiatives to combat poverty, improve mental health, fight illiteracy, and end malnutrition. Working in strict compliance with the rigorous requirements, Hublot is one of only two watch brands that have thus far been granted the privilege of affixing the Trust’s logo to their dials, with a major proportion of the proceeds going directly to the charitable organization.

The Hublot Classic Fusion Chronograph Prince’s Trust

Released in 2017, this special edition charity timepiece featured a 45mm polished and satin-finished titanium case with a blue sun-ray satin-finished dial and blue rubber and Alcantara strap. It was powered by the HUB1143 Self-winding Chronograph Movement, which has a 42-hour power reserve. Limited to only 100 pieces, the Swiss manufacture donated no less than £750 to the Trust for each piece sold.

By choosing to partner with Hublot, a hugely popular brand in Great Britain, Prince Charles hoped to extend his fundraising campaign to a new generation of watch enthusiasts and collectors.

Though perhaps not as classic as the special Prince's Trust series produced by Chopard in the late 1990s, which was based on the elegant L.U.C Tonneau model. A word to the wise: they are now, of course, collector's pieces.

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