Avant-garde is a French term that means “advance guard,” which is the first part of an advancing army, frequently a reconnaissance unit. In the arts, avant-garde is used to describe experimental, unusual, boundary-pushing creations. Frequently, avant-garde works are considered radical and shocking, but they can become accepted as great art over time. Think of Edouard Manet’s painting Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe from 1863, which is considered today to be a great Realist-Impressionist work and a highlight of any trip to the Musée d’Orsay, but was so shocking at the time of its creation that it was refused by the Paris Salon.
In horology, avant-garde frequently refers to unusual dials, radical ways of telling time, or watches with an unconventional mechanical look. When Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet launched the steel Nautilus and Royal Oak watches, they were considered shocking, but now they are two of the most sought-after watches on the market and have spawned countless watches with similar aesthetics. Our selection of the best luxury avant-garde watches today features some watches that might look unusual now but could become the next cult classics alongside exceptional timepieces with industrial yet refined looks.