15 Watches to Remember From a Year We’d All Like to Forget
Most things were bad, but the watches were good
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You certainly don’t need a year-end roundup to tell you that 2020 was a weird year. We all went through it, and while it was anything but normal, there were a lot of aspects that attempted to go on as “business as usual” as possible. On the horology front, though the major trade shows and debuts were completely disrupted, 2020 still saw the debut of a number of seriously cool timepieces from all across the spectrum. Here are fifteen new watches we’d most want to have on our wrists.
A Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater
Navy Blue was a big trend for watches in 2020, with the color popping up on straps and dials across a number of brands. Case in point, this year brought us the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater — which combines the Zeitwerk’s “digital” display with a sonically beautiful and complex minute repeater function which audibly chimes the time, a combination first released a few years ago — with a dark blue and sterling silver dial and matching blue strap setting off it’s white gold case. Any version of the Zeitwerk is going to be a piece that makes a watch aficionado’s neck crane, but we think this one is particularly handsome.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Frosted Gold Flying Tourbillon
The AP “Concept” series produces some seriously avant garde — and seriously expensive — watches, and this year’s addition is certainly no exception. This watch is space-aged maximalism at its absolute finest. The uniquely shaped 38.5mm Concept case we’ve seen before, but this time it gets a frosted gold finish with contrasting polished outer bezel. The real visual treat is the multi-layered dial, which “steps” back into the case before leading to the watch’s ultimate wow-factor: a flying tourbillon with a cage of concentric ovals that mimic the shape of the dial, set with 19 brilliant diamonds. The watch is available in white or pink gold, both with a dark blue dial and matching leather and rubber strap.
Bamford GMT x Goodlife
George Bamford is no stranger to great watches, as his Bamford Watch Department has been customizing high-end timepieces to customer’s unique specifications for years, but his foray into producing his own watches has been much more recent. This year saw the introduction of the Bamford London GMT, a watch the bulldozer scion says was inspired by his own travel needs. The “retro-future” design harkens back to some of the great watches of the sixties, with details like a cushion case and concave dial. As with Bamford’s previous watch, the Mayfair, the GMT came in a number of limited edition colorways and collaborations. Our favorite is with NYC based clothing brand Goodlife, whose GMT collab honors their first foray into denim shirting. It’s available in two colors, both sporting denim texture dials and actual optional denim straps. The first is a matte black case with espresso accents and the second is the very 2020 white and navy with a washed indigo strap and dial.
In the world of unexpected celebrity endorsements, late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is certainly up there, but that’s is exactly whom Bremont’s latest collection of watches pays tribute to. Bremont, which has become England’s largest watchmaker, has found great success embedding limited-edition watches with pieces of historically important metalwork from such things as the Enigma coding device or the HMS Victory. The Hawking series continues this trend, and the back of the watches are where the action is. The caseback features an engraving of the the night sky over Oxford on January 8th, 1942 — the date Hawking was born — and four of the planets depicted are made of pieces of wood from Hawking’s own desk, while the serial number is printed on a piece of paper taken from one of his most important manuscripts. A peculiar watch for sure, but also a great talking piece for a well heeled fan of physics.
Breitling SuperOcean Heritage ‘57
“Heritage” watches — faithful homages to vintage versions of watches from a brand’s own catalog — have been very popular for a number of years now. As the popularity of vintage watch collecting has pushed the price of many once approachable collectible watches into the stratosphere, we applaud brands paying attention to what their customers want, and allowing great vintage-inspired style to be attainable en masse. One of our favorite examples this year was the Breitling SuperOcean Heritage ‘57, a tribute to their beloved dive. The result is a retro-without-at-all-being-cheesy piece that has some serious beach boy vibes. With a 38mm case and a trademark saucer dial extending out to 42mm, it’s a wonderfully dimensioned sports watch that could work just as well under a suit as it does under the sea.
Cartier Prive Collection Tank Asymetrique
Faithful reissues of watches from their archives is certainly nothing new to Cartier, who created the Prive Collection to do just that in 1998. During the decade that followed, several rare designs were given a new limited-edition life and since then several of them — notably the Crash and Tonneau — have been given more permanent places in the Cartier lineup. The latest reintroduction is the Tank Asymetrique. While the design of the watch, first introduced in 1938, may seem strange, there is a method to the madness. When one glances at their wrist, the body’s natural propensity is not to hold their arm at the 90 degree angle one requires to read a traditional watch dial, but rather at something more resembling 45 degrees. This also happens to be the tilt at which most hold their arm when operating a steering wheel. The shape of the Tank Asymetrique was designed for a customer who desired a watch which was easier to read in either of those positions, and the result was the quirkily shaped case we now have before us again, now limited to 100 pieces each in white gold, yellow gold, and platinum.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Chronograph Calendar
Any mention of great Swiss watch brands with a legacy of building beautiful, technically complicated timepieces would be remiss not to mention Jaeger-LeCoultre. Their Master Control series has been introducing great looking, flawlessly engineered watches at a price point well below some of the “other” most-respected Swiss legacy brands for almost twenty years now, and the new for 2020 Master Control Chronograph Calendar is no exception. Measuring 40mm with a perfectly balanced dial, the MCCC is Jaeger-LeCoultre’s first watch in the brand’s 187-year history that combines a moonphase with a full triple calendar displaying day, date and month. The watch is available in stainless steel or rose gold, but we’d opt for ours in steel.
Omega Speedmaster 321 Ed White
One of the biggest announcements in the watch world came very early in 2020. In news that set many watch geeks drooling, Omega reintroduced one of its most legendary watches: the Speedmaster with a 321 movement in a non-platinum, non-limited capacity. Yes, Omega was recreating what would essentially be an exact replica of its most famous watch. Omega went so far as to scan the original 321 movement from an actual watch worn into space as the basis for its new tooling. While there are some subtle updates to aesthetics, this watch is extremely faithful to the original, right down to the 39.7mm case. Omega priced these well above their current modern Speedy, but the positive reaction from buyers has us hoping this is a trend more manufacturers will embrace.
Patek Philippe 6301p Grande y Petite Sonnerie
2020 saw the release of Patek’s 6301p, the latest in their lauded line of chiming watches. Chiming watches, as the name suggests, audibly announce the time through a series of tiny musical hammers and gongs activated by the user, and generally fall into three categories: Grand Sonnerie, which chimes the hours and quarter hours, a Petite Sonnerie, which chimes just the quarter hours, and a minute repeater, which chimes out the individual minutes. What sets the new 6301p is that it contains all three. This makes for a movement featuring no less than 703 pieces, all housed under a grand feu black enamel dial within a case of solid platinum. It’s the type of massively expensive yet somehow understated watch only Patek can pull off.
Rado Captain Cook Bronze
Bronze cases were another popular trend in 2020, particularly on vintage-inspired dive and sports watches. While it was a remarkably crowded field, our favorite among them is probably the Rado Captain Cook. The Captain Cook dates back to 1962 and was long considered one of the great classic dive watches, so its faithful reintroduction in 2017 was well received. 2020’s update pairs a tarnish-resistant bronze case with the signature ceramic, now offered in green, blue and dark grey. At 42mm it’s plenty legible underwater and not too overpowering ashore, and the polished bronze case isn’t as flashy as gold but still more distinctive than stainless steel.
Rolex 36mm Oyster Perpetual Colors
Rolex’s big news this year was their minutely updated Submariner, while the rest of the models got the typical subtle changes — a new rubber strap for the Skydweller, some different dial colors here and there. The most fun of the latter was a new line of Oyster Perpetuals in 36mm, 2mm larger than the classic OP, but what we still believe to be the “correct” size for a non-sport Rolex. The new dial colors exemplify the exact sort of push-pull that so frustrates the Rolex faithful. This new series is an homage to the colorful Stella dials of decades past, which have skyrocketed in price. The new pink, red, aqua, yellow and green shades are also a nod to a trend a few years back where hip boutiques in resort destinations often featured older Air Kings and Oyster Perpetuals with brightly refinished dials. Rolex is clearly making a play for the unisex market here, and we predict these will become a very popular “first” Rolex.
Tag Heuer Connected 2020
Tag Heuer introduced their first line of “Connected” smart watches a few years ago, but the Connected 2020 model is an improvement in every possible measure. Tag Heuer’s goal here was clear — to introduce a smart watch that had as much of the aesthetic of a classic mechanical luxury watch as possible — and they’ve pulled that off here better than perhaps any other brand. With touches like a sapphire crystal and ceramic bezel, when the face of the watch is switched to a graphic of a traditional dial, you’d be hard pressed to realize you were glimpsing a smart watch. Tag Heuer has also addressed one of the other complaints about Smart watches with the design of the Connected 2020 — that while a traditional watch is built to last a lifetime, smart watches will be obsolete. They’ve done this by adding a replaceable battery and an app-controlled software system that can easily update the watch’s operating system with the latest advancements. We’ll still take a traditional watch over a smart watch most days, but if we had to embrace the future, this is the route we’d go.
Timex Navi XL Automatic
This is far and away the least expensive watch on our list, but it didn’t earn a spot just because it’s affordable. It earned a spot because it’s a really solid watch with a proper automatic movement. And it’s handsome, as well. With a 41mm case and very legible dial that harkens back to vintage military and dive watches, this is a watch that could, and some might say should, be much more expensive. But kudos to Timex for making a good-looking, reliable automatic watch approachable to all, and if you’ve been looking for an inexpensive travel watch you can take on adventures without worry, you’ve just found it.
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue
The 2020 trend of dark blue colorways has also made it over to one of our favorite retro dive watches, the Tudor Black Bay, this time in their wonderfully sized 39mm Fifty-Eight line. Yet one thing that sets Tudor’s Navy Blue watches apart from other brands is their history of actually producing blue watches for a Navy, specifically the French Marine Nationale. The new Fifty-Eight Navy Blue is a fitting modern equivalent of the blue bezeled, snowflake handed military-issued Tudors that have become serious collectors items, particularly when fitted with the optional blue fabric strap with silver stripe, which is exactly how we would spec ours.
Zenith Chronomaster Revival Shadow
While a lot of brands are delving into models they produced decades before for inspiration for their newest watches, Zenith went with a design they wanted to make but never did, a prototype from the early 1970’s. Though black-cased, black-dialed watches may seem like a more modern trend, Zenith proposed this unique shape in a black PVD Coating almost fifty years ago. The updated model is not actually PVD, but rather micro-blasted titanium, which gives it a shade that goes from black black to a dark graphite depending on the light. Most importantly, however, the Chronomaster Revival Shadow retains one of the most legendary chronograph movements of all time, the Zenith El Primero. While the sharply angled case and monochromatic colorway make for a pretty badass looking watch that would perfectly compliment the all black wardrobe adopted by certain creative types, the fact that an only subtly modernized version of the El Primero that ticks beneath it is reason enough to own one.
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