The Unlikely Watch Collector: Queen Elizabeth II
Arguably the most famous person on earth, everyone knows the Queen and her colorful outfits. For this writer, it is not the dazzling tiaras that catch my eye, but the watches.
As Great Britain’s longest-reigning monarch since Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth II has a good number of stories to tell after more than 68 years on the throne. The 93-year-old has seen 14 different U.K. Prime Ministers, 13 U.S. Presidents, and has owned at least 30 corgis. Being one of the most photographed people on earth, our discerning eyes naturally turned to her wrist.
Over the years, QEII chose particular wristwear. Sensible yet stylish, the watch should never overshadow or clash with the famous Crown Jewels. If we trust the number of portraits in which Her Majesty wears a watch, we can easily deduce that she, too, is a great watch collector.
The War Time Princess
During the Second World War, women in England wanted to be a part of the war effort. And as a pioneer of women's equal rights, Princess Elizabeth embodied that spirit. So, when she turned 18, she decided to go against her father, King George VI, and royal privileges to actively serve during the war. You could always find her with her hands on the engines of the military trucks.
On her coronation day, the queen-to-be famously wore a Jaeger-LeCoultre 101. With a movement that is still the smallest in the world, it was discreet and perfect for the occasion. And with the 101’s movement carefully “hidden” between two rows of diamonds, it did not take any attention away from the ceremonial jewelry worn during coronation ceremonies. The whereabouts of the watch are currently unknown. However, back in 2012, for the queen’s diamond jubilee, Jaeger-LeCoultre gifted a new version of the iconic 101 to celebrate the long-reigning monarch.
What’s even more impressive is, if you study her official portraits since 1943, you can spot a bracelet on her right wrist. Upon closer inspection of the bracelet, an avid horological eye will notice a small dial. It wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that Queen Elizabeth may have had a custom Jaeger-LeCoultre 101 for daily wear in white gold and no diamonds.
Judging by the number of times Her Majesty is pictured wearing the Jaeger-LeCoultre 101, it must mean the watch was very dear to her. Whether out with the corgis or sitting for an official photograph, it was there, always on her wrist, year after year, decade after decade. A true heritage to pass on.
This is probably one of the most candid shots of the queen out there, and her watch is on full display! Upon closer inspection, it seems that the queen is wearing an art deco Omega Ladymatic. This shot dates to 1992. Back in the day, the Ladymatic from Omega was quite big, but the queen, as a fine connoisseur, would not be bothered.
For the past few years, the queen seems to be wearing a Jules Audemars watch from Audemars Piguet on a daily basis. The Jules Audemars is the most classic collection of Audemars Piguet. Perfect under a sleeve or above her famous white gloves, the queen definitely has a penchant for watches from La Vallee de Joux. The roman numerals, coupled with the gold bracelet, are the perfect complement for her daily engagements.
Her Royal Highness Patek Philippe
Maybe it should go without saying, but Patek Philippe is royalty in the watch world. They are the most known, the most sought-after, and some pieces are rare to even lay eyes on. It seems natural, then, that the queen owns a couple of the famous watchmaker’s watches.
More recently, while on her way to open the Parliamentary session, the queen opted for a new Patek Philippe ref. 4975. It is a bit more precious and ladylike, but still discreet. Coupled with the Crown Jewels, including the Imperial State Crown, the queen adorned this Patek Philippe reference with pearls and diamonds for one of the most significant days in the political year. She then loaned the watch back to Patek Philippe for their traveling exhibition a couple of years ago.
Over her 93 years of life, Queen Elizabeth II must have owned many watches never worn in public. In fact, she is rumored to own over 14 luxury watches, including a Cartier, more Patek Philippes, and a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. It's even rumored that the Swiss government gifted The Queen a Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos during her first visit to Switzerland.
We may never know the full extent of Her Royal Highness’ collection. In the meantime, we'll keep our keen eyes on Her Majesty's wrists and perhaps one day, we'll see a few of these Royal watches on exhibition with the Crown Jewels at the London Tower.