This past October, Paul Newman’s eponymous Rolex Daytona sold for $17.8 million.
What you might not have heard: 2017 was also a banner for new watches.
While not as headline-worthy as some vintage timepieces, we saw Rolex embracing steel, a pair of luxury tickers so revered they sold out in hours and a Bauhaus-influenced dress piece that looked like someone took a fine-toothed saw to a piece of silver bar stock and whittled the dials out wafer by wafer.
So today, we present our five (well, seven, technically — we’ll explain) favorite watch releases of the year.
First up is a three-fer. Jaeger-LeCoultre released the Master Control series last January. The series comprises a trio of art deco-inspired pieces which fall on the dressy side of casual.
With their sector dials, hypodermic needle hands and blue leather straps, these watches boast such a throwback look with which only vintage (and really old vintage, at that) pieces can really compare.
The Master Control Date, a simple three-hander plus date, was enough to make the watch world go temporarily weak at the knees. The Master Control Chronograph, a twin sub-dialed chrono (no date, thank you) only made the condition worse. And the Master Control Geographic, a beautiful world-timer with a full display of a secondary time zone, was the coup de grâce.
These three alone would constitute a complete collection in many a watch nerd’s inventory.
Rolex is, well, Rolex. So you know their watches are going to have premium pieces. When it was introduced, the Sky-Dweller was no different. This big-for-Rolex piece is one of their most complicated editions ever, with multiple time zones and an annual calendar, all controlled by various combinations of a semi-rotating bezel and the crown. But Rolex produced it in gold only (albeit in three colors).
The Rolex faithful loved the watch but decried the precious-metal price tag that came with it.
And it seems the boys in Geneva were listening. The Sky-Dweller in steel debuted at Baselworld last spring. To be fair, the semi-rotating bezel is still 18K white gold. But the Sky-Dweller is a winning travel junkie’s watch that’s three times as accessible to the masses as its predecessor.
We hesitate to name the Seaforth in this roundup, as the watch sold out almost instantaneously (even their website is in rebuild). That’s Halios’s business model — produce a finite number of pieces of each new design, sell them quickly and move on.
But the Seaforth caught the eye of not only the lucky buyers, but the watch community as a whole. My associates Jason Heaton and James Stacey waxed poetic over it on their Grey NATO podcast and — even though it’s not a dive watch per se (I’ll catch flak for saying that) — Mr. Heaton did indeed take his diving at one point.
The Seaforth was available in four dial colors and four bezel options for a theoretical total of 16 combinations: Mr. Stacey’s “CMT” (Cheap Mean Time) rotating bezel with its 12-hour count-up scale is the one we’ve seen most.
Bauhaus design is alive and well with Nomos, who like to mix things up with colors and finishes. “Silvercut,” featured here, refers to both the dial color and the finish. Plated first with gold, then with rhodium, it looks like someone simply took a fine-toothed saw to a piece of silver bar stock and whittled these dials out wafer by wafer.
The Tangente Neomatik calipers at 38.5mm, a sweet spot for size if there ever was one. Slender too, at just 7.2mm high — that’s slim enough to fit under a French cuff without rippling in the fabric.
Offered on a black Horween Genuine Shell Cordovan strap, this one crosses the boundary from week to weekend without missing a step.
Here’s another limited edition that sold out within a day of its release: the re-issue of the Doxa Aqua Lung, known by aficionados as the “Black Lung.” This one’s a tribute piece to a very briefly manufactured dive watch that first arrived 50 years ago. Back then, Doxa collaborated with diving gear companies Aqua Lung and U.S. Divers to produce their original SUB 300 co-signed with the Aqua-Lung logo.
The first few (some say less than 10) featured the logo in black — thus, the nickname. Subsequent production watches boasted a logo with a clear center.
While some watch nerds fault Doxa for their continual manufacturing of reproductions and limited editions — this is the second SUB 300 reproduction — they scored big with this piede. The limited edition of 300 launched at midnight on Saturday, September 30, and a mere 18 hours later, the electronic dust cleared and they were all gone.