HERO: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 18k YG / SS Ref. 25594SA.OO.0789SA.01

19 of The Best Two-Tone Watches at European Watch Company

In the world of watches, nothing says luxury quite like gold does. However, not every collector wants to walk around wearing a watch with that level of flash on their wrist. First introduced in the 1930s or 40s, two-tone steel and gold watches really hit their stride in the “decade of decadence”, the 1980s. Optimally balancing a touch of gold with the more sedate stainless steel, two-tone watches occupy a nice middle ground that makes them easier to wear than their all-gold relatives. By the early 2000s, though, many watch brands had distanced themselves from two-tone, regarding them as played out relics of the previous decades. In the last few years, public sentiment has begun to turn and the popularity of two-tone has once again surged. Collectors have rediscovered their appreciation for a tasteful amount of gold, and more and more Swiss brands have started to experiment with unique and innovative ways to incorporate two-tone details into their designs. Today, we are taking a look at some our favorite two-tone pieces that have come through European Watch Company. Which is your favorite?

Rolex Daytona 18K YG / SS Ref. 116503

The heyday of the two-tone Rolex was undoubtedly the 1980s, a time when hair and shoulder pads were big and everyone wanted a gold Rolex. While the reference 116503 Daytona is a more recent piece from the brand (introduced in 2016), the model actually feels a bit more vintage that you might expect. Unlike ceramic bezel Daytonas, the 116503 has a yellow gold bezel with engraved tachymeter scale. Compared to older references, this Daytona feels a bit more in line with the metal-bezeled pieces like the ref. 16523 from the 90s and early 2000s. The Daytona design is extremely well-suited to the two tone treatment and makes for one of the best gold and steel chronographs on the market. 

Rolex Datejust 41 “Wimbledon” 18k Everose / SS Ref. 126331

Another extremely popular two-tone piece from the Crown, the Rolex “Wimbledon” Ref. 126331 is no ordinary 41mm Datejust. Featuring a gray dial with black and green Roman numerals, the design is meant to evoke the green grass of Wimbledon’s legendary courts, celebrating Rolex’s historic relationship with the tournament. While the story behind the watch is quite cool, perhaps more importantly, the 126331 makes for a great unisex everyday watch. If you add this one to your collection, don’t be surprised if your wife or significant other grabs it from your watch box! 

Rolex GMT Master II “Root Beer” 18k RG / SS Ref. 126711CHNR

First introduced in 1970 with the reference 1675/3, the Rolex GMT “Root Beer” is one of the most recognizable two-tone timepieces on the market today. We would actually argue that no watch is more synonymous with two-tone steel and rose gold than the Rolex Root Beer, period. Released in 2018, the reference 126711CHNR is the modern interpretation of the 1675/3 Root Beer of old, featuring more contemporary details such as a ceramic bezel, solid link construction, and an updated movement. 

Rolex GMT Master II 18k YG / SS Ref. 126713GRNR

While rose gold has enjoyed a moment in the spotlight lately, the most classic two-tone combination is definitely yellow gold and steel. In the 80s and 90s, two-tone yellow gold and steel GMTs and Submariners ruled the world, but lately, we have seen less of the combination. In 2023, Rolex decided it was time to bring the classic pairing back and released the reference 126713GRNR. While this new model features the traditional two-tone Rolex aesthetic, it still manages to feel extremely fresh and current. The black and gray bi-color ceramic bezel adds some subtle contrast to the design and adds a bit of extra character to a style of wristwatch that typically skews more utilitarian.

Tudor Black Bay GMT YG / SS Ref. 79833MN

If you are an admirer of the two-tone Rolex GMT aesthetic but are looking for a more affordable alternative, the Tudor Black Bay GMT in steel and gold is a compelling option. Coming in at a fraction of the price of the Rolex, the Tudor Black Bay GMT is styled after earlier Rolex references and shares much of the DNA that has made the GMT so successful. One notable difference between the Tudor and Rolex is that the Black Bay is gold plated, as opposed to the solid 18k gold used by Rolex. While the thickness of the plating on the Tudor is quite substantial (far thicker than most at .2mm), there is really no comparison to Rolex two-tone. That being said, if you are chasing the look but you’re on a tight budget, give this watch a look. For just a couple thousand dollars, you can get yourself a vintage inspired, reliable watch with some two-tone flash that will set you apart from the crowd. 

Santos de Cartier 18k YG / SS Ref. W2SA0007

The Cartier Santos enjoys one of the most interesting (and possibly least known) histories among luxury watches. The very first commercial pilot’s watch, the Santos Dumont was produced in 1904 for Brazilian aviator Carlos Santos-Dumont. The watch’s case was inspired by a Cartier pocket watch and has gone on to become one of the brand’s most enduring and popular designs. While initially produced in steel only, the Santos makes for a great two-tone watch as well. In addition to stainless steel case and the gold bezel, Cartier has accented the unique Santos steel bracelet with distinctive yellow gold screws. These screws are an important part of Cartier’s design language (think the Love bracelet among other pieces) and have become a signature of the Santos collection. Tastefully calling attention to the subtle two-tone detail, this is a great everyday watch that incorporates just the right amount of gold without looking ostentatious.

Cartier Santos-Dumont XL 18k RG/SS Limited Edition Ref. W2SA0025

Not satisfied to include only one Santos on our list, the Cartier Santos-Dumont  XL Ref. W2SA0025 is a limited edition steel and rose gold model that was introduced in 2021. The 500 piece limited edition watch features a solid 18k rose gold dial with a spiral-engraved guilloche pattern and applied Arabic numerals. Since this model is an XL Santos-Dumont, the caseback has been subtly sculpted to allow the watch to better fit the contours of the wrist. Plus, this piece uses a manually wound Cartier caliber 430 MC (based on Piaget’s 430P) which makes for an extremely thin watch at just 7.5mm thick. This Cartier strikes the perfect balance of a beautiful and unique aesthetic with a traditional ultra-thin mechanical movement.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 18k YG / SS Ref. 25594SA.OO.0789SA.01

Much like Cartier does with the Santos de Cartier, Audemars Piguet also uses two-tone as a way to call attention to defining design attributes. On the Royal Oak ref. 25594SA, AP has accentuated the unique link structure of the bracelet by using steel for the main link and 18k yellow gold for the small connecting pieces (similar to a two-ton Rolex Jubilee). More importantly, because of the collecting community’s general aversion to vintage two-tone pieces, the 25594SA is far more affordable than a comparable full-steel Royal Oak. Call us crazy, but we think this would be an incredible piece even if it wasn’t selling at a discount. Beyond the materials, the 25594SA features day, date, and moonphase complications, adding utility to one of the most iconic watch models in the industry. It is always exciting to see how brands incorporate two-tone into their collections, and in our view, AP has done a great job here.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 18k WG / 18k RG Ref. 15210CR.OO.A002CR.01 

The next piece on our list is one of the coolest — and certainly one of the most innovative — approaches to a two tone integration that we’ve seen. From the dial side, the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 in white and rose gold looks like a simple, all-white-gold watch with rose gold hands. Turn the watch on its side, though, and a rose gold octagonal midcase appears. The Code 11.59 is one of the more polarizing releases from AP in the last few years, but from a pure design standpoint, the watch is brilliant. It’s an extremely complex construction, featuring a multi-contoured sapphire crystal, pierced sculptural lugs, and a midcase design that pays tribute to the Royal Oak. Like it or not, this is one of the coolest two tone pieces out there, and with no steel used anywhere, one of the most luxurious!

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Black Ceramic Ref. 77350CE.OO.1266CE.03.

Our last entry from AP is a women’s watch that once again takes the concept of two-tone in a completely new direction. Fashioned from black ceramic, the 34mm ref. 77350CE Royal Oak is a special piece. The model was at risk of appearing monochromatic and lifeless but AP managed to avoid this with some strategically placed rose gold screws on the bezel, rose gold hands and indices. The effect is striking and provides a nice strong contrast and a softening of the overall aesthetic. This is a beautiful watch, and one of the best women’s sport pieces out there, two-tone or not!

Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph 18k RG / SS Ref. 5980/1AR-001

Our next pick is another example of the wacky pricing that is often found in the two-tone category. For not much more than the price of a steel Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5980, you can get the two-tone rose gold and steel version with a classic blue dial. Blue dials on rose gold watches are extremely popular (think the rose gold AP Royal Oak, Patek 5396R, or rose gold Vacheron Overseas), and for good reason – it makes for a striking combination! On the 5980/1AR, the bezel, pushers, and center links of the bracelet are all executed in rose gold. It isn’t quite as loud and flashy as an all-gold variant (which Patek also produces) and provides a great opportunity to add a little flash without going all out. The 5980 also offers an impressive slate of complications including a date and flyback chrono that strike an ideal balance between complexity and legibility. 

Patek Philippe Nautilus 18k YG / SS Ref. 3800/1

If you’re looking for a watch from smack dab in the middle of the two tone era, consider the Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 3800/1. The two-tone yellow gold and stainless steel model is an overlooked value in the Nautilus market. Simple, clean, straight-forward, and iconic, it’s no surprise that a design from the 1970s works so well in two-tone! 

Breitling Chronomat B01 18k RG / SS Ref. UB0134101C1U1

Breitling’s Chronomat collection dates back all the way to the 1940s when the brand first established its reputation for high-quality, dependable pilot’s watches. Today, Breitling continues to make capable, rugged pieces inspired by this history. The Chronomat B01 in two-tone rose gold and steel combines the DNA of Breitling’s oldest sports watch with luxurious modern materials. The bezel, crown, and pushers are all executed in 18k rose gold and Breitling has also incorporated rose gold into the unique retro “bullet” bracelet design. Paired with a gray dial and stainless steel base case, the rose gold details on this one really pop. 

Omega Speedmaster Apollo 15 “Scott Irwin” 35th Anniversary SS / RG Ref. 3366.51.00

If you are looking for a watch that sprinkles a light dose of two-tone without going quite as far as our previous picks, then the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 15 Ref. 3366.51.00 is the watch for you. The Speedmaster needs no introduction – the collection is one of the single most iconic and historic in the industry. In celebration of the 35th anniversary of the Apollo 15 mission of 1971, Omega presented a unique limited edition of the Speedmaster that featured some subtle gold finishes. While not a two-tone watch in the truest sense, the pushers, crown, bezel, hands, and subdial surrounds are all fashioned from red gold. This watch stands out from the rest of the Speedmaster line and provides a unique spin on the two-tone theme. 

Girard Perregaux Laureato 18k RG / Titanium Ref. 81010-26-232-BB6A

If you are looking for a 1970s-era sports watch with geometric details that isn’t the Royal Oak or Nautilus, the Girard-Perregaux Laureato is a great choice. Unlike our previous picks, the Laureato Ref. 81010-26-232-BB6A is composed of a two-tone titanium and rose gold case. With a design that is similar to its famous relatives (which were also designed by the one and only Gerald Genta), the GP Laureato has a rose gold octagonal bezel, rose gold indexes, and a Clous de Paris patterned dial. Beyond the aesthetics, the case tapers aggressively downward to help the watch conform comfortably to the wrist. Add this one to the “iconic design at a bargain” category.

Bvlgari Octo L’Originale 18k RG / SS Ref. 103085

Another watch that brings two-tone finishes to an iconic modern design, the Bulgari Octo L’Originale ref. 103085 is primarily fashioned from DLC-coated stainless steel. To contrast with the matte tones of the DLC case, Bulgari added polished rose gold finishes. The crown, hour markers, and handset are made of 18k rose gold and the two-part bezel is made of a rose gold octagonal ring with a round DLC-coated bezel cap. While gold by itself can look flashy, when paired with a matte DLC coating (a finish typically more associated with tactical and sport watches) the result is far more reserved. The Bulgari Octo L’Originale is one that will easily fly under the radar.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Extreme Lab 2 18k RG / Titanium Ref. Q2032540

Yet another tactical-styled two-tone piece, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Extreme Lab 2 features an 18k rose gold case with a titanium bezel. The model is one of JLC’s lesser known references and was a limited edition of only 200 examples. The dial is skeletonized and features a chronograph, digital minutes counter, date, and GMT. While this is likely not the first watch that comes to mind when talking about JLC (or two-tone for that matter), for the collector that values performance and an advanced level of horological engineering (think RM, AP Concept, etc), this is a great option. 

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso “Memory” 18k / SS Ref. 255.5.82

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso "Memory" 18k / SS Ref. 255.5.82

Moving on to a more classic option from JLC, this Reverso Memory ref. 255.5.82 in two-tone yellow gold and steel features one of the more interesting Reverso complications. While the watch looks like any other Reverso on its primary face , once the watch is flipped over, there is a countdown timer that is actuated with a pusher on the side of the case. It’s a niche compilation, but for the collector that appreciates something unusual, this two-tone piece has a lot to offer and is an exceptional value. The front-facing dial features two types of guilloche – one on the main dial and a second on the subsidiary seconds counter. On the “reverse” side, the black dial features a third guilloche radial finish. Definitely a weird one, but if Reverso’s are your thing, the Memory is a must have!

Rolex Day-Date Tridor Ref. 18039B

Rolex Day-Date Tridor Ref. 18039B

The final watch on our list might just be one of the most obscure Rolexes you will ever see. While it is technically a tri-tone watch and not two-tone, our list of Best Tri-Tone Watches would be a little bit too limited. The Rolex Day-Date Tridor Ref. 18039B is a funky slice of 80s nostalgia. Yes, it’s your typical Day-Date, but what makes it truly special is the mix of precious metals used, particularly on the bracelet. While most of the Tridor is white gold (including the case and outer links of the bracelet), the middle links are an interesting combination of rose gold, yellow gold and white gold (hence the name). To top it all off, the solid yellow gold bezel is fluted, adding even more visual appeal. Truly a special piece, the Tridor is clearly number one on our hypothetical tri-tone watch list.

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