The Coveted Ones: Our Favourite Watch Releases Of 2023
From Jacob & Co’s Blingy Billionaire Timeless Treasure to the pared-back elegance of the Chopard Alpine Eagle XPS, these are the watch releases that continue to have us wondering.
Yes, Watches and Wonders is long past. However, the true mark of a covetable timepiece is its ability to, well, stand the test of time. So, removed from the horological fanfare, lavish penthouse suites, and otherworldly booths of Geneva, these are the most noteworthy watches of 2023.
Rolex Daytona Platinum Ref. 126506
Brown and blue just works. Sorry, it does. And this year, The Crown—beyond what was, arguably, ownership of this year’s Watches and Wonders exhibition—went and delivered a sports model with a display caseback. Yes, an open sapphire caseback. It actually makes complete sense in this 60th anniversary year for Daytona, given that the change means a chance to show off the all-new chronograph movement, the in-house Calibre 4131—a stunning piece of engineering. The “ice blue” Platinum Daytona, or “Platona” as it’s being referred to by some (never us), is a weapon—just look at it in all that 40 mm platinum goodness, a thing of beauty, elegance and craftsmanship.
Audemars Piguet 37mm Royal Oak Selfwinding
Turquoise dials, we don’t need to tell you, have become a phenomenon. Patek Philippe started the aquamarine desire in 2021, when it co-signed a dial with Tiffany & Co. to commemorate the 170th anniversary of the partnership between the two brands (in 1851, the New York jeweller became the first official retailer of the Swiss watchmaker in the United States). Only 170 examples of the Nautilus 5711 1A-018 were made. Jay-Z nabbed one. So did LeBron James, Mark Wahlberg and Leonardo DiCaprio. The first example to be offered at auction sold at Phillips New York in December 2021 for US$6.5 million (approx. $9.7 million). The subsequent aquamarine mania sent prices of Rolex’s turquoise-dial Oyster Perpetual, launched in 2020, soaring. The craze clearly wasn’t lost on Swatch, which chose a peacock-blue dial for its Mission to Uranus MoonSwatch last year. Grand Seiko and Girard-Perregaux have also jumped on the bandwagon. This year, it was the turn of Audemars Piguet, which unveiled a new version of its 37 mm Royal Oak Selfwinding crafted in 18-carat yellow gold and illuminated by a vibrant turquoise dial. Owing to the fact that the dials are made from naturally occurring turquoise gemstones, no two watches will ever be the same.
Girard-Perregaux Laureato Green Ceramic Aston Martin Edition
Collaborations—not something we often gravitate towards. But GP meets Aston in a ceramic green Laureato? That’s not something we can walk past. In fact, the delivery here means we can’t help being rude and staring lustfully—oh boy, is this a piece! It’s the fourth alignment between GP and the British marque—not bad considering they’ve only been entwined for two years. This time, the coming together works in elegance and style, framed by the boldness of the deep Aston Martin green. This is the first Laureato to feature a fully green ceramic case and bracelet—the entire piece made of such, with the exception of the lug connectors and titanium double swing-arm deployment clasp. It’s perfect at 42 mm (know that it’s also available, on trend, at 38 mm) and we applaud the three-hand approach to design in keeping things simple and classic, not often the way with automotive collaborations. Still, it’s the materials and colourways here doing the loud talking. An in-house Girard-Perregaux calibre GP01800-2165 offers 54 hours of power reserve and is visible through the sapphire caseback with Aston Martin logo decal.
H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Perpetual Calendar Tantalum Blue Enamel
You don’t come across tantalum in watchmaking all that often. Reason being, while the element may be extremely hard, resistant to corrosion, and easy to mould, it’s also a complete pig to polish. Most watchmakers that do take on the challenge tend to either sandblast or satin-finish the bluish-grey metal. H. Moser & Cie. chose a more difficult route, taking two years to come up with a way of polishing the material so that it shimmered like darkened steel. Mission accomplished, the watchmaker having paired its new 42 mm case with a beautiful electric-blue fumé enamel dial and an in-house perpetual calendar movement. Doing away with sub-dials and hour indices, Moser lets the watch’s case and dial do the talking. And, we think you’ll agree, the watch has an awful lot to say.
Omega Speedmaster Super Racing
The most talked-about watch of 2022 didn’t fly off the production lines of Rolex, Patek Philippe or Audemars Piguet. No, whether we like it or not, the BIGGEST watch story of last year belonged to Omega and Swatch, which collaborated on a low-cost, quartz version of the former’s Speedmaster—the Bioceramic MoonSwatch. Surfing the hype created by that barnstorming co-op—and you cannot question some of what it achieved—Omega kicked off 2023 with a new “Speedie”. While neon-yellow accents, a cool honeycomb dial, and a yellow-and-black small-seconds hand all catch the eye, when it comes to the Super Racing, it’s what’s inside that counts.
Back in 2015, you may remember, Omega guaranteed that all of its watches would henceforth be accurate to within 0+5 seconds per day. That promise already positioned the brand near the top of the pyramid in terms of precision, with only a handful of watchmakers able to swear to anything close to that level of exactness. Omega has now gone even further. Fine-tuning a hairspring device, the company has come up with something called the Spirate System. Watches equipped with the mechanism, such as the Super Racing, are now guaranteed to an accuracy of 0+2 seconds per day. Significantly, that feat now puts Omega ahead of market rival Rolex, which can only promise precision rates of between -2 and +2 seconds a day. Slackers.
Piaget Polo Date 36mm
This has been available in 36 mm format since 2021, yet had you a preference for the smallest edition of the brand’s cushion-shaped sports watch, you were forced to put up with diamond-set indices or bezels dripping with ice. Not any longer, though. The 36 mm model is now available sans sparklers, with a midnight-blue dial, matching blue leather band and a stainless-steel case. Admire Piaget’s in-house 500P1 calibre doing its thang through an exhibition caseback.
Hublot Classic Fusion
In the beginning there was Carlo Crocco, a scion of the Italian Binda Group, best known for its Breil watches. In 1980, Crocco created a timepiece of his own. Well, sort of. Inspired by the porthole of a ship and featuring a heavy-set bezel with 12 exposed screws, there was no denying that the original “Hublot” (French for “porthole”) borrowed heavily from Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak (Gérald Genta’s octagonal masterpiece had launched eight years earlier). Crocco’s timepiece differentiated itself by pairing an 18-carat yellow-gold case with a strap made of natural rubber—the first time in watchmaking the precious metal had been coupled with the organic compound. In 2020, for Hublot’s 40th anniversary, the brand launched a commemorative collection that channelled Crocco’s original design. Coming in at 45 mm, the watches weren’t exactly what you’d call “wearable”. At the beginning of 2023, Hublot addressed that issue, expanding the line with a range of references in 42 mm, 38 mm and 33 mm formats. The entry-level, three-hander—available in all three sizes—is the winner.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary
In its 70th anniversary year we cannot move past this first release of 2023—and a line that dives deep when it comes to performance, functionality and appeal. Sure, the more recent Tech Gombessa release proved Blancpain’s ownership of the dive space with a piece capable like no other, but then it’s not for the everyday. Drawing its neat and obvious lines directly from the 1950s original, the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary is robust, masculine and extremely wearable at the lesser 42 mm. Powered by the Calibre 1315 movement and with a five-day power reserve, the powertrain is seen through the sapphire-crystal back and includes the oscillating weight bearing the “Fifty Fathoms 70th” logo in platinum. Bien joué.
Chopard Alpine Eagle 41 XPS
This is a piece that has to be held and be seen to really understand its brilliance and the elevation it brings to the line. Since being introduced in 2019, Alpine Eagle has done very good business for Chopard—and rightly so, given what it offers and does so accessibly. The shape, the screwed bezel, the steel (Chopard’s Lucent Steel A223) all presents as it has before—but again, it’s the dial here that is doing the dancing, the “Monte Rosa Pink” exceptional in the light, its textured pattern capturing and radiating at differing levels depending on what is above. Chopard has also worked on the size—the 41 mm case is ultra-thin at just 8mm. The automatic L.U.C 96.40-L means a 65-hour power reserve, and is decorated with Côtes de Genève on its bridges.
Franck Muller Grand Central Tourbillon Flash
Tonneau case meets the sports field meets Muller daring and some horological wizardry—all further lifted with some poppy new colours that has us from the outset. Sure, some don’t quite know what to make of Muller. But you cannot fault the craftsmanship and the desire to stand apart. It was two years back that the brand showed its mettle with the release of the Grand Central Tourbillon. Not only was it the first tonneau-shaped watch to feature a tourbillon, the position of the complication in the middle of the dial instead of at six o’clock was rather breathtaking. Cut to now and you have the added choice of bold and brilliant colourways—blazing orange, neon green and electric blue. We’ll take the blue—because you may as well go all in—with the brightly coloured indices replacing the numerals on what is a redesigned black dial. It means all eyes on that tourbillon. Housed in the redesigned Curvex CX case, it’s actually fitted to the case middle—allowing supreme visibility, with the sapphire crystal extending all the way to the lugs. Muller has only achieved this feat after perfecting a special technique of fixing the glass at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock, giving the Curvex CX an incredibly curved profile. Bravo.
De Bethune DB28xs Starry Seas
At 38.7 mm, this is a smaller play compared to its collection compatriots—notably the Starry Sky at 43 mm. But this lends the striking newcomer an agility. Still, the pull here sits with that dial—an incredible interpretation of the water (hence the name)—and which boasts a blued titanium with random guilloche pattern, a world first in its creation. Here too the trademarks align—floating lugs, delta-shaped bridge, crown at noon—to deliver a stunning piece of design that does what De Bethune does so well in seamlessly melding classic appeal to a futuristic effort. Superb.
Jacob & Co Billionaire Timeless Treasure
At just shy of $30 million, this remains a coveted piece. We managed some personal time with it in Geneva—and it truly is a marvel of craftsmanship and excess; a piece that pulls you in and demands your attention. And then some. For all that you expect of the high jewellery and horology brand, Jacob & Co’s The Billionaire Timeless Treasure is a museum-grade wonder that further heightens expectations about what they can achieve. Here, 425 yellow diamonds—an incredible 216.89 carats—feature on a yellow-gold case and bracelet, the skeletonised dial framed by 76 emerald-cut and kite-cut tsavorite, with a further 57 natural baguette-cut yellow diamonds set on the tourbillon movement. It’s phenomenal, it’s outlandish, it’s impressive, it’s gauche—and it is, truly, one of the pieces of the year.
Grand Seiko SBGW295
Marking 110 years of Japan’s first wristwatch, the “Urushi” is quite the study in alluring simplicity. Each dial is crafted by the work of master Isshu Tamura, heir to a 380-year tradition. The black layer of the dial is made from a very rare Japanese lacquer called “urushi”, which is extracted from specific tree trunks and deeply linked to Japanese tradition. Applied by hand, it is carefully polished until it reaches its unique mirror-like shine without distortion. The indexes and lettering are also hand-painted in an ancient “taka-maki-e” technique, giving the impression of 3D, with 24-carat gold powder. The SBGW295 has a 38 mm case and is powered by the familiar—and impressive—GS Calibre 9S64.
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