22 Best Watch Releases Of 2021 (So Far)
Here, our highly-curated pick of the year’s best timepieces to date.
2021 has been a heady horological year that’s seen the debut of a wealth of alluring new releases. From the dominance of green-dialled design, to the birth of ever-more complicated references and the constant drive for innovation within watchmaking, a plethora of timepieces have caught the eye of the Robb Report team. Here, our highly-curated pick of the best to land so far.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Quadriptyque
Get this: this watch will not only tell you the time, but the day, date, month, if it’s day or night, and whether or not it’s a leap year. It’s also equipped with a celestial and astronomical function, meaning you can track exactly how far we are into the synodic, draconic and anomalistic cycles. Oh, and on the fourth of the watch’s four faces, a moonphase indicator will display the stage of the Moon in the Southern Hemisphere. It does all of this via a series of cogs and gears inside a case that’s just 51mm x 31mm x 15.15mm. Astonishing.
IWC Big Pilot Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Edition Mojave Desert
For its latest ‘Mojave Desert’ models, IWC sticks to the original, larger-than-life 46mm format. Undoubtedly one of the most eye-catching launches of the year so far, the watch is now available as a perpetual calendar and a simple three-hander. We say simple … even the time-only model houses a twin spring-barrel movement that provides a seven-day power reserve.
Piaget Polo Skeleton
Every watch brand has its shtick. Piaget has two specialisms; skeletonisation and ultra-thin movements, fortes writ large in the new Polo Skeleton. The model is 30 per cent thinner than existing Polo watches, with a 42mm case that’s been slimmed down to just 6.5mm thick. An in-house, wafer-thin movement measures just 2.4mm deep. Despite its leanness, the watch has a 44-hour power reserve and is water-resistant to 30 metres. If you’re not digging the blue, choose slate grey instead.
MB&F Horological Machine N°9 ‘Sapphire Vision‘
In 2019, MB&F presented the Horological Machine N°9, the case of which was designed to mimic the flowing, aerodynamic lines of cars from the 1940s and ‘50s: MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser described the engine inside the watch as “the most beautiful movement we’ve created to date”. So it stands to reason that Büsser would want to show off that engine. Why did it take two years to create a transparent shell? Because sapphire crystal is one of the most difficult materials with which to work. Most sapphire cases are composed of two flat slabs screwed together. The HM9 is all bubbles and curves. It took two years for MB&F to crack the case—not literally, obviously.
Roger Dubuis Excalibur Double Flying Tourbillon
Fresh from its cameo in one of the most-watched documentaries of all time—see the wrists of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in last year’s The Last Dance—Roger Dubuis presents the latest interpretation of its Excalibur Double Flying Tourbillon. A quick-release system allows owners to switch between straps, although the Tourbillon club remains exclusive. Only 24 examples are being made—eight in white gold, eight in pink gold and eight in pink gold with diamond-set bezels and lugs.
Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Chronograph 41mm
AP sandwiches a black ceramic case between a bezel and case-back made of either pink or white gold. The Code 11.59 collection was launched to diversify the brand away from its seminal octagonal sports watch, the Royal Oak. While it doesn’t look like Gérald Genta’s design classic will be knocked off its pedestal any time soon, AP continues to demonstrate its commitment to the most provocative watch of the past few years.
Chanel Boy.Friend Skeleton X-Ray
When it first dropped in 2015, its dainty proportions and diamonds positioned it as women’s watch, even if the brand wouldn’t say so explicitly. Yet there was enough masculinity in the Tank-like design to widen the watch’s appeal. The brand has since described the timepiece as “gender fluid”. The Skeleton X-Ray presents Chanel’s stunning, vertically laid-out, in-house Calibre 3 in all its floating glory, thanks to an all-sapphire case. Don’t let the name put you off.
Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25
If you appreciate sophisticated watchmaking, the elegant Quattro Spirit 25—Chopard’s first jumping-hour timepiece—features an 18-carat rose-gold case and a beautiful Grand Feu white enamel dial, with an hour aperture at six o’clock. Almost the entire watch, from the enamelling process to the production of its four-barrel movement, was completed within Chopard’s manufacturing facility in Fleurier, Switzerland.
Hublot Big Bang Integral Ceramic (Grey)
There’s a lot to like about this new Hublot—the integrated bracelet, for starters. Then there’s the single-material architecture, and the fact that it’s twice as scratch-resistant as steel. Mostly, though, it’s about this particular colour; a polished-then-satin-finished, titanium-esque, gunmetal grey. The 42mm watch is also available in white and midnight-blue, but it’s this stealthy, steely number that’s the real head-turner.
Baume Et Mercier Riviera
A sense of refinement drapes the return of B&M’s Riviera, a robust piece famed for its 12-sided bezel, and which debuted in 1973. That ’70s spark remains and the reissue feels right in regards to its timing, given the ascendancy of integrated steel bracelets. The contemporary outing means three sizes—36mm, 42mm or 43mm case—with the top-spec Baumatic edition boasting the in-house Baumatic movement launched in 2018.
OMEGA Seamaster 300m Black Black
While Omega waits for its two major publicity exercises to get underway (James Bond movie, Olympic Games), they’ve delivered the Seamaster Diver 300M Black Black. That’s not a typo; so blacked-out is the latest version of Bond’s watch that one “Black” wouldn’t do. The watch’s dial is made from black ceramic, as is the minute track around its edge. The use of two different colour lumes on the Black Black’s indices and hands means it’s not impossible to tell the time.
Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385
Much more than just a sepia-tinted throwback, Zenith’s latest Chronomaster is a genuine reissue of one of the original three stainless-steel El Primero models from 1969. The original tonneau-shaped A385 featured a brown gradient dial—possibly the first “smoked” dial ever made. This year’s A385 uses the production plans from the initial model, to wit: a 37mm case, pump-style pushers and, if you opt for metal over calf leather, a stainless-steel ladder-style bracelet.
Rolex Explorer + Explorer II
Updates to Rolex models can seem to offer a new definition of the word “incremental”. Not so in 2021. The brand resisted giving its Explorer the precious metal treatment for 68 years. Finally, it caved. Not only has the watch been reduced to its original 36mm size, the Explorer is available in two-tone—a streak of yellow-gold contrasts against cool, utilitarian stainless steel. Less obvious are the revisions to the updated Explorer II. The watch features the same case size but is now equipped with Rolex’s latest-gen movement.
Ulysse Nardin UFO Table Clock
The dive watch specialist is celebrating its 175th anniversary, a milestone it marks with the Unidentified Floating Object, geddit? The table clock is said to contain all of Ulysse Nardin’s horological history in one object, from marine chronometers of the 19th and 20th centuries to the brand’s silicon-escapement-equipped wristwatches of the 21st century. CEO Patrick Pruniaux asked his watchmakers what a marine chronometer would look like in 175 years’ time. The UFO was their answer.
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph Ref. 5968G
Although the green Nautilus is certainly noteworthy. The hype machine that powers it has seen it skyrocket beyond the logic of most watch collectors. Instead, Robb Report is partial to the Aquanaut ref. 5968-G. Here the first-ever white gold Aquanaut chronograph in the khaki dial colour is a stylish addition to the wrist with the automatic calibre CH 28-520 C movement powering the watch. The 42.2mm case is water-resistant to 120-metres and showcases Patek’s otherworldy attention to detail.
Bremont Argonaut Azure
It’s already been a busy year for British brand Bremont. Not only did the watchmaker become the official timing partner to Formula 1 team Williams Racing, it also opened a sprawling new Manufacturing and Technology Centre as part of its 19-year quest to produce proprietary movements in the UK. There have also been watches, like the Argonaut Azure. A striking blue dial meets a 42mm hardened steel case and a bright-orange strap.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms ‘No Radiations’
The new Fifty Fathoms ‘No Rad’ offers a 40.3mm stainless-steel case (a size now reserved for limited-edition novelties) fitted with a matte black dial and contrasting markings on the hour, chapter ring, hands, time scale and bezel in ‘old radium’- coloured SuperLuminova. The timepiece comes powered by Blancpain’s Calibre 1151 – a self-winding movement that boats silicon balance spring and four-day power reserve. The watch arrives with a strap in ‘Tropic’-type rubber, a material popular with divers in the ‘60s due to its durability and general comfort.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar
The cult status of the Bulgari Octo Finissimo continues to gather pace. New for 2021 is the Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar, the slimmest example of the grand complication ever created—another world record for the company. The watch is just 5.8mm thick—not a lot of space to fit in a complication that will take into account the lengths of different months, as well as leap years, automatically.
Grand Seiko White Birch Forest Hi-Beat
Forged in the brand’s manufacture in Shizukuishi, Japan, the dial of Grand Seiko’s White Birch Forest Hi-Beat has been made to resemble the birch tre-es that grow in the surrounding forests. The watch houses a high-beat movement with an 80-hour power reserve, which is accurate to an impressive +5 to -3 seconds per day. You can watch the calibre do its thing through an exhibition case-back.
There was a time when Hermès was a brand more closely associated with horses than horology. Yet the Parisian leather goods specialist has been noiselessly delivering whimsical wristwatches for several years now. There’s a lot going on with the brand’s new H08. Circles in squares, matt on gloss, orange on black, vulcanised rubber on DLC-coated titanium, a fun, characterful numeral font, and a tiny date window at half past four. It’s a winner. Tactile. Graphic. Multifaceted. Mathematic, even.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921
“Classic with a twist”. That’s Vacheron Constantin’s theme for 2021. So it stands to reason that the storied horologist would choose this year to revive one the most avant-garde timepieces. It helps that the diagonal-dial Reference 11677 is celebrating its centenary. Three faithfully reinterpreted versions have been revealed, including a dazzling 40mm white gold edition. True to the original, the timepiece features a manually-wound movement housed in a case that’s just 8mm thick.
Cartier Tank Must
Based on the Tank Louis Cartier of 1922, the original Tank Must debuted in 1977 with a rectangular case and a mechanical hand-wound movement. Well, now the Must is back, replacing the discontinued Tank Solo. There are 17 references in total, split across three case sizes, which are available in steel or precious metals, and housing both mechanical and quartz movements. Most noteworthy of all, perhaps, was the announcement that Cartier is working on a movement that will be powered, in part, by light.
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