Best of the Best: The most innovative timepieces for men of 2018

The best watch releases of the year take complicated watchmaking to new heights.

By James D. Malcolmson 03/06/2018

Mens Timepiece of the year: Bulgari Octo Finissimo Collection

Bulgari released no fewer than five references of the Octo Finissimo so far this year, each brimming with different measures of bravado and technical fortitude. The headliner of these latest models, which first debuted in March at Baselworld, is undoubtedly the Automatic Tourbillon, a drool-worthy, openwork beauty that is the latest salvo in the ongoing battle between Bulgari and Piaget for world records in ultrathin watchmaking.

In designing the Octo Finissimo, Buonamassa Stigliani took threads from the original Octo model, compressing its various geometric shapes into a slate-like wafer. The finely linked bracelet introduced by Bulgari last year and the sandblasted finish first seen in the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater of 2016 are now essential elements.

Rounded out by a fully carbon-fiber edition of the brand’s ultrathin minute repeater—a development that markedly increases the chime’s volume – the latest Octo Finissimo timepieces seem like an entirely new breed of modern watch.

Unlike so many of their Swiss counterparts, the watches’ technical qualities are second to style. The logic of the design is apparent the minute you place the texture of these pieces next to skin and fabric – the essential test for any kind of timepiece.

Design: Richard Mille RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough

Richard Mille has devised a perfect way of demonstrating his notions of extreme performance by designing an openwork tourbillon calibre capable of withstanding the brutal shocks subjected on champion polo player Pablo Mac Donough.

Unlike the brand’s first Mac Donough watch, which showcased an “armoured” titanium carbide case with small ports for the time display, the RM 53-01 looks like most Richard Mille timepieces except for a tensioned cable-suspension system that protects the movement from as much as 5,000 gs of shock. Less apparent than that elaborate construction is a laminated sapphire crystal that may crack but will not shatter. Think “safety glass” for the wrist.

Finishing: Greubel Forsey GMT Earth

Few watchmakers are able to play with dimensionality the way that Greubel Forsey has with its latest GMT Earth model, an initial limited-edition series of 33 pieces in white gold. Though equipped with a mechanism similar to the brand’s original GMT movement, the watch features a complete architectural redesign. A pair of thick, elaborately constructed sapphire crystals and a window on the side of the case show not only the full three-dimensional globe, but also the frosted surfaces and the many instances of perfectly executed black polishing.

Chronograph: A. Lange & Söhne Triple Split

While its name suggests a performance increase over the now-famous Double Split rattrapante chronograph of 2004, the new A. Lange & Söhne Triple Split surpasses its predecessor by orders of magnitude.

The addition of a third splitting counter on the hours subdial enables the watch to record intermediate times or two simultaneous events for up to 12 hours—far exceeding the length of its predecessor or any other chronograph of its type. The movement has been largely redesigned to accommodate the new counter and a larger barrel with 55 hours of power reserve, but it remains a magnificently finished forest of complexity.

Sports Watch: F.P. Journe Chronographe Monopoussoir Rattrapante

The latest entry in F.P. Journe’s LineSport collection, the Chronographe Monopoussoir Rattrapante emphasizes elegant design with the addition of a multilevel dial, a scaled bezel, and case options in red gold, platinum, and titanium.

The strongest feature is the rattrapante chronograph movement, modified from the one-of-a-kind piece that the brand’s founder and head watchmaker, François-Paul Journe, produced for 2017’s Only Watch auction. Rather than putting his idiosyncratic twist on the complication’s function, Journe seems to have preferred emulating some of the fondly remembered chronograph movements of the past in the looping levers and flowing bridges seen on this calibre.

Complicated Watch: Patek Philippe Reference 5531R World Time Minute Repeater

Patek Philippe has added a multitude of complications to its prized minute repeaters over the years, but it was the recent addition of a world-time function that precipitated the most substantial revision of the brand’s automatic repeater calibre in a quarter century.

Changing the home time on the Reference 5531R – now available in the company’s regular but very limited production of repeaters – interfaces directly with a movable hour snail in the mechanism, which keeps the repeater function in sync with the local time rather than the home time. A new gong arrangement attached directly to the case chimes the hour, quarters, and minutes in a slightly different but equally pleasing tone from previous models.

This article features one category winner in Robb Report’s annual ‘Best of the Best’ feature, which also covers jewellery, travel, drinking, home and design and will hit the stands in early July. Subscribe to the print edition here, to receive our full Best of the Best roundup

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