True Story. On an evening at the beginning of 2018, I was sitting on the couch at home after a full day of being a watch journalist. The doorbell rang and my wife opened the door for one of my best friends. He entered our living room and the first thing he noticed was the watch I was wearing. The conversation went a little like this:
-“What is that on your wrist?” (my wife starts to sigh at this point)
“Cool eh? It just came in today, it is the first Omega Constellation ‘Manhattan’ from 1982 in bi-colour. I have been looking for one like this for ages, and now I found one complete with box and papers.” (my wife leaves the living room)
For a moment, he just stared at me and I thought he was just in sheer disbelief. I wouldn’t blame him as it is a typical 1980s watch. Small with its 32.5mm diameter, thin and on top, in gold & steel. I expected a rant on how on earth I could buy (and wear) something like that. But after this brief moment, the conversation took a strange twist.
-“So, what does that cost?”
“I paid 500 Euro for the set.”
-“I need one too.”
The rest of the evening was spent on websites like Chrono24 and eBay to find a vintage Constellation Manhattan (and he succeeded the same evening).
When I got my first watch in 1998, it was also a bi-color Constellation, the 1995 model. I wore that watch for a couple of years during my university years and at some point I stopped wearing it because it was in bi-color and relatively small. The trend was big sports watches and with big I am referring to 40mm at that time. Over the years, I bought and owned several bi-color watches, like a Rolex OysterQuartz 17013 and a Breitling Navitimer’92, but always find myself selling them again. My bi-color Constellation is a watch I received from my mother for my graduation, and it ended up in the safe and was there for many years. However, bi-color never left me untouched. Whenever Gerard Nijenbrinks received a bi-color watch in his shop (he used to have a watch shop in The Hague for 15 years or so), I needed to try it on.
He himself also has and had his fair share of bi-color watches, or “bico” (we pronounce it like bee-koh) as we refer to them. I remember that he purchased a 1978 Cartier Santos, “bico” of course which is basically the only way I like them. A Rolex Datejust is to me also the typical watch that should be in “bico”, and not only because Patrick Bateman wore it like that in American Psycho. It just looks good. The contrast of gold and steel is awesome and has a perfect fit for some watches. Somehow the use of gold and steel wasn’t accepted any longer by the crowd, as people would just frown upon a Rolex GMT-Master or Submariner in “bico”, or a Daytona even. It is probably still the cheapest Daytona version you can buy today. Anyway, it was like a forbidden fruit for a long time, but since a few years that changed quite a bit.
My ever slumbering love for the “bico” Constellation ‘Manhattan’ was revived when I found one early 2018 for 500 Euro and since then, I bought a few more. But I have to say that it is partly to blame on Mike Stockton as he thinks bi-color is cool and isn’t shy of hiding it. As you may know, he lived in Florida for a while during his high-school years where he found himself surrounded by bi-color watches. It is most probably the case that two-tone watches are often found in the more exotic (and warm) places than in cold Northern-Europe for example. But especially then, we – in cold Europe – could use a bit of gold.
You could say that most of our editorial team has a weak spot for these watches, as the gold and steel Seamaster 300M, for example, was definitely a favorite from the new 300M line-up. Also, the Oris Sixty-Five in “bico”, be it done with bronze and steel, was a straight hit among us as well as the Tudor Black Bay in gold and steel combination. Rolex hit us up with their new GMT-Master II in bi-color, instantly becoming my favorite in their current collection. Where most of our moms and dads probably couldn’t care less about what others thought of their Ebel Sportwave watches in “bico”, or similar pieces favored in the 1990s, we frowned upon them in the 2000s and 2010s. And I realize that was not being fair. Some watches just look better with a touch of gold in my opinion. Another example is the Omega Globemaster that comes in steel and Sedna gold. The blue dial and rose gold bezel just match perfectly. The Cartier Santos is another example that simply looks stunning with a touch of gold, including the new edition that was introduced in early 2018 for its 40th anniversary. Not all brands want to fulfil this ‘new’ demand for bi-color though, where Breitling was always strong in bi-color watches and (for now) seems to stay strong, a brand like IWC has nothing in two-tone. Longines, Montblanc and Baume & Mercier though, have plenty.
In this overview, I share 10 new watches with you in bi-color, or at least watches that you will find in today’s available collections. Later on, in another article, I will share with you 10 discontinued watch models in bi-color. These might have a friendlier price tag, in case you want to explore the world of gold & steel before you really go all out. Also, some discontinued models just look better than some of the modern versions. Being discontinued doesn’t always mean it is cheap though, think of a Royal Oak or Nautilus and you will still have to cough up a lot of money.
Loosely based on the GMT-Master that is nicknamed the ‘Clint Eastwood’, this reference was released this year in Basel. Combining Everose gold with stainless steel and a touch of brown for the ceramic bezel. For me, this was definitely one of the coolest releases this year. But also quite uncool, as they are just not available at authorized dealers. If you want to spend over list price (13.000 Euro), the pre-owned and grey market is there for you to help with currently 136 pieces on Chrono24 for example. Not limited by being a limited edition, but by production or delivery (or whatever). Regardless, the Rolex GMT-Master II reference 126711CHNR rocks and among my favourite modern bi-color watches.
More information via rolex.com
Also released this year is the Cartier Santos. 40 years after the introduction of the Santos (1978) in bi-color with the typical Santos bracelet with screws, Cartier decided it was time to release a true update of the original. My favorite version is the bi-color (as was the original) version. A gold bezel and gold screws give a nice contrast with the stainless steel. I wrote about it in this article earlier this year, with some background on the Santos as well. The Cartier Santos in bi-color has a retail price of 8700 Euro for the medium model (as pictured) and 9900 Euro for the larger model. The larger model also comes with a date aperture at 6 o’clock. Unlike the Rolex GMT-Master II above, for example, I think that the Santos is best in bi-color. Forget about the steel version, you need the bico.
More information via Cartier online.
The Globemaster was introduced in 2015 and unfortunately, there wasn’t much ‘marketing’ around it. It is part of the Constellation collection and gives a nod to the early 1950s and 1960s Constellations due to the pie-pan dial. In my opinion a Constellation – much like the Santos above – should always have a touch of gold, and I feel the Globemaster is also very good looking with a bit of gold. The blue dial version above, with Sedna gold bezel and crown, is an underappreciated watch in my humble opinion. This reference 126.96.36.199.03.001 model has a retail price of 7900 Euro. Also available with a bi-color bracelet (10.100 Euro) but I think you should stick to the version with alligator strap. We wrote about this specific version in this article.
More information via the Omega website.
This 41mm Royal Oak reference 15400SR was introduced in 2015 (we covered it here) and is identical to the regular 15400 reference. It seems that the normal Royal Oak (meaning non-Offshore) has an increased interested by watch consumers and enthusiasts over the past few years, and this bi-color variation was a daring move back in 2015. In the (far) past, there was also a bi-color version of the Royal Oak “Jumbo” and although that model is now also available in yellow gold, rose gold and titanium & platinum, there’s no bico version (yet). So this is the one to get if you are after one. Or go vintage of course. The retail price on this Royal Oak 15400SR is $25,600USD.
More information via AP online.
Baume & Mercier became suddenly a bit more interesting when they introduced their Baumatic movement. A movement produced in-house by the Richemont Group, for the Baume & Mercier Clifton collection. This 40mm version comes with a gold bezel and crown (18-carat gold) and a porcelain-like white dial. Quite an interesting combination, and so is the price (3300 Euro). The gold adds a bit of playfulness to the watch and reduces the risk of the watch becoming too boring over time. With a steel case and white dial, nothing much is happening (and perhaps you like this of course) and with a touch of gold, it suddenly becomes more lively.
More information via Baume & Mercier’s website.
Oh yeah! If there’s a sportswatch that belongs in bi-color it is the Breitling Chronomat. This is the Breitling Chronomat 44 in steel and 18-carat gold with bracelet. This watch is impressive on the wrist due to its looks and weight. Inside, you will find the Breitling B01 chronograph manufacture caliber. The Chronomat is that typical watch I would only buy in bi-color to be honest, it just suits it perfectly. With a retail price of 12630 Euro for the bracelet version, and 9880 Euro for the model on an alligator strap. This needs to be with their Pilot bracelet though. The tapestry subdials are also in gold color, giving not the best contrast with the gold hands, but I am sure you’ll manage. We wrote about the Breitling Chronomat 44 B01 in this article.
More information via Breitling online.
This is really a no-brainer. A Datejust needs to be in bi-color, period. It adds so much to the cool-factor of this watch, aside from the whole Patrick Bateman thing. The contrast with the steel is awesome on both the case and Jubilee bracelet. In this case, you’re looking at a gold dial version, but there are many to choose from, including black, silver, slate-grey (with green hour markers) etc. It is perhaps the mother of all modern wristwatches. Since the very first Datejust in 1945 to now, you will find that there are all clearly related. This reference 126333 is from the current line-up of 41mm Datejust models, but the classic 36mm size is also still available. The bico with fluted bezel and jubilee bracelet (and no diamonds on the dial) retails for 11.750 Euro. You can use the configurator on the Rolex website to find your favourite version.
More information via Rolex online.
Tudor is rapidly becoming a favorite among many watch enthusiasts ever since their Heritage Chrono and Heritage Black Bay collection. Every year, they add a few new models to the Black Bay for example. This year we saw the GMT, Fifty-Eight and this S&G (Steel & Gold) models for example. Available with a gold dial, like above, and a black dial. This 41mm watch has, of course, Tudor’s in-house chronometer movement fitted (MT5612) and comes with a bi-color bracelet (optional). This watch has a retail price of 4350 Euro (with bracelet) and 3530 for the version on a leather strap. How come so ‘cheap’? Well, the gold links you see for example are not really solid gold but gold capped. This means that the core of the links for example, are stainless steel, wrapped in gold. So it is definitely 18-carat gold, but just as a ‘layer’. We did some explanation on that here. Anyway, if you like the look and price, this is an awesome bi-color sports watch to own (and wear).
More information via the Tudor website.
Perhaps a bit of foul play here, because the two-tone watch you are looking at is not really using gold. It is bronze. Nevertheless, bi-color it is, and the warm tones of bronze remind perhaps most of a dark kind of red gold. Mike Stockton did not only write an article on this BaselWorld 2018 novelty, but he also ordered one. Available in both 36mm and 40mm and with a bracelet (just steel, not bico) or a variety of straps. Prices start at 1900 Euro and that is the cheapest bi-color watch in this overview. Oris has an interesting line-up of watches and are easy to fall in love with. This Sixty-Five Diver is perhaps our most favorite collection and the bi-color gives the original re-edition of this model a very nice bit of ‘extra’.
More information via the Oris website.
As I wrote in the intro of this article, the stainless steel version with Sedna gold bezel (and crown) was our team’s favorite Omega Seamaster 300M model this year. The tri-color version using not only titanium and Sedna gold but also tantalum, is a very interesting version as well, but this black dial version was our favorite. The new 300M has a larger case (from 41mm to 42mm), in-house developed and manufactured movement and (again) a wave dial. We will soon hit you up with all details in a hands-on review (or perhaps you already have our Seamaster 300M print magazine we did for Omega), but we expect a lot from this watch. Although Omega selected the steel version with blue bezel and grey dial for James Bond to wear, we choose this one. The retail price is 6100 Euro for this version on the rubber strap.
More information via Omega’s website.
The message is clear: bi-color is nothing to be ashamed of and some watches actually look better in two-tone. Don’t be bothered by what other people might think of you when they see some of that gold. Buy and wear what you like and love. Don’t be shy of wearing some gold on your wrist. If you have a favourite two-tone watch, let us know in the comments below.
Ever since he was a young child, Robert-Jan was drawn to watches, even though it were digital Casio and quartz Swatch models at the time. In the mid-1990s, his interest increased when he started to read about mechanical watches in... read more