5 of the best two-tone watchesTom Austin
Full gold watches are not always the most practical pieces to wear every day. If you’re anything like me who has a heart attack when scuffing your polished centre links, then a full gold piece may not be the best route, you can scratch it just by looking at it funny. Luckily, there are other options if you’re looking for something timeless and elegant, while still retaining that certain element of flashiness. Two-tone watches offer the best of both worlds. Usually, the stainless steel bits add durability and reduce the cost, while the touches of gold bring out the bling. The contrasting colours can sometimes be a point of debate, and over the years have often shifted in and out of fashion. Right now, however, we’re seeing a resurgence, with two-tone watches making a clear comeback, and most of the big brands offer something to fit the bill.
Rolex GMT-Master II 126713GRNR “Guinness”
The GMT-Master II needs little introduction. Originally released in stainless steel in the mid 1950s, Rolex eventually introduced their first two-tone GMT-Master in the 1970s with the ref. 1675, the precursor to today’s 126713GRNR, with the final part of the reference number standing for “Gris Noir” (Grey/Black) to denote the bezel configuration. For 2023, Rolex added another fresh colour for the GMT bezel, with a half-black-half-grey tone, which pairs with the gold and steel finish perfectly. Inside, the watch is complete with the 3285 GMT movement, connected to a solid yellow gold GMT hand that rotates every 24 hours, and of course one of the best quick-set, true GMT complications on the market. Finished in a two tone Jubilee bracelet, the watch was one of the showstoppers at Watches & Wonders 2023. Known for their glacially slow product changes, Rolex simply introduced a new bi-metal finish and subtle bezel change, and it sent the Rolex fanbase going wild, immediately earning the watch the nickname “Guinness”, after the Irish stout which features black, silver and gold on its labelling.
Girard-Perregaux Laureato Gold and Titanium
Two-tone watches usually pair gold and steel, however, known for doing things slightly different, Girard-Perregaux opted for pink gold and titanium with this Laureato. The marriage of two very different materials produced something clean and almost dress watch-like, but with a sporty twist. Titanium usually gives watches a darker appearance, so GP went with a brushed finish all around for an understated and subtle look, matching the titanium finish sublimely. This 42mm watch is paired with an integrated bracelet, also finished in bi-metal, but swappable for a leather strap. The dial is a simple three-handed affair, but finished impeccably with a clous de Paris pattern in slate grey. The sapphire caseback reveals the in-house GP01800 calibre, boasting an ample 54 hours of power reserve, and is finished wonderfully, making it a pleasure to look at when you flip the watch over. Overall, the Girard-Perregaux Laureato Gold and Titanium is a versatile, but sporty, watch that looks great for everyday wear, but also scrubs up nicely under a cuff.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 37mm 15550SR
Audemars Piguet’s foundation piece, the Royal Oak, is available in a multitude of flavours. Stainless steel, rose gold, ceramic, and titanium – the choices are endless – providing you have an equally endless bank balance. While no Royal Oak forgoes attention exactly, the 37mm 15550SR is somewhat overshadowed by the steel or all-gold hype pieces. It stands as a nod to AP’s heritage and the ref. 5402 from the 1970s, with its traditional sizing and two-tone styling. AP’s signature Grande Tapisserie dial is in a classic champagne, with stunning pink gold furnishings. Inside is the Calibre 5900, visible through an exhibition caseback, and partially thanks to its thinness, the watch is a mere 9mm in height.
Glashütte Original SeaQ Panorama Date
Just because it’s two-tone with precious metal doesn’t mean it can’t be a tool watch. Inspired by the Glashütte Spezimatic diver from the late 1960s, the SeaQ tries to be a piece of equipment first and a fashion accessory second. With its 43.2mm diameter and 51.5mm lug-to-lug size, it lends itself well to the larger-wristed, or being worn over diving suits. This size results in a functional and legible dial, brilliant for viewing in the depths, especially with the abundance of lume added to the sunburst-grey dial. For Glashütte, elegance is always of importance, and given the sophistication of the rest of their catalogue, it was befitting for them to sprinkle some of that onto the SeaQ. Available in stainless steel, 18k red gold, or this marvellous two tone variation, the SeaQ brings some classic style to the range, with red gold touches to the crown, rotating bezel, dial and hands. There’s two strap options, either rubber or synthetic nylon, so there’s no doubt of this watch’s intentions to be functional and durable, while also appearing laid-back but stylish.
Patek Philippe Nautilus 5980/1AR
The other watch in this line up to be designed by Gérald Genta, the Nautilus 5980 is about as big of a hard-hitter as they come. Its sculpted lines are deserving of being called iconic, and are instantly recognisable as one of the most elegant sports watches ever made. The construction of the watch is unique, clamped together in a porthole design, the rose gold bezel presses down onto a 40.5mm steel case, finished with a display caseback, showing off the sublime Calibre CH 28‑520 C flyback chronograph. The octagonal look is finished off with a blue sunburst dial and rose gold indices, with a combined chronograph totaliser at six. The beauty of the 5980 is that it looks at home regardless of the outfit, as long as you’ve got the swagger to pull off such a piece.
Honourable mention – Rolex Datejust
If I were a betting man, I’d put money on you thinking about the Datejust the moment you saw this article. Arguably the two-tone watch, the Datejust has made it through the decades as one of the most timeless, iconic pieces in the Rolex catalogue, so much so it’s likely to be a piece that will exist in their lineup forever. Many people will think of the steel and gold Datejust when they think Rolex, and that shows the power of marketing and influence of the Swiss powerhouse. Available in multiple styles, the Datejust is now produced in 31, 36 and 41mm variations, along with the now seemingly tiny 28mm Lady-Datejust, and can be configured with a combination of differently coloured dials and of course, either the chunky Oyster, or absolute classic Jubilee bracelet. The two-tone Datejust is one of the most celebrated and desired bi-metal watches ever made, and will forever be ingrained in the minds of watch enthusiasts.