With year-end vacations calling and hopefully some sizable bonuses on the way, here’s a recap on some of my favorite watches of the year. Hopefully you’ll find something to reward yourself for the year of hard labour.
Although chronographs and vintage-inspired pieces were the top trends, as always there is tonnes more for everyone at both the premium and entry level in the world of luxury watches.
And, with many brands looking to present better value propositions to new collectors, they are releasing a number of their icons in more affordable and practical stainless steel.
DIVE RIGHT IN
With beach or pool front of mind, and the growing concern for our oceans, there’s no better time to dive in with a practical sports watch that’s perfect for the boardroom and getting a little wet.
1. Seiko Prospex 1968 Divers Re-Creation
As a huge fan of Japanese classic cars and watches I was thrilled to see this diver receive the 2018 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) Sports Watch prize.
For over 50 years, Seiko has had a reputation for making tough, reliable and affordable diver’s watches that fulfill all the requirements of ISO 6425 international standards. Their classic SKX007 has a lineage that dates back to the very first Japanese dive watch released by the company in 1965. It is the best value-for-money automatic timepiece – under R5,000 – and one that everyone should own. In 1968, their engineers raised the bar with the hi-beat diver’s watch with water resistance to 300m, a 10-beat, high precision automatic movement, a one-piece structure, a screw-down protection crown and a uni-directional rotating bezel.
The Seiko Prospex 1968 Divers Re-Creation pays homage to this exceptional timepiece, which has no pretence to superiority. The Seiko Prospex 1968 Divers Re-Creation retails at $5,400 (approx R75,000).
2. Tudor Black Bay GMT
A most welcome surprise this year is the addition of a 41mm “Pepsi” bezelled Black Bay GMT (about R57,000) with three time-zone function. You don’t have to be a scuba enthusiast to wear a diver’s watch and, what’s more, this timepiece combines the rugged good looks and strict regulatory requirements of a diver – robustness, reliability, accuracy, legibility, waterproof (200m) – with GMT functionality to make it the perfect companion for globetrotting cosmopolites who don’t want to be plugged in 24/7. Visit Tudor.
3. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver
“Primed for any adventure”, dressed in “funky” new colours like Round-the-clock-Purple; believe me it wasn’t their marketing for this one that got my vote.
Stainless steel is now de rigueur but when the original Gérald Genta-designed Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Ref 5402 was released in 1972, it was the world’s first luxury sports watch and overturned the prevailing codes with its steel case, octagonal bezel, “tapisserie” dial and integrated steel bracelet.
The Emmanuel Gueit-designed Royal Oak Offshore, launched in 1993, is an even more sporty, masculine take on that icon.
The Offshore Diver features a rotating inner bezel and is water-resistant to 300m. Sand Buff, Charismatic Khaki or Tropical Turquoise are the other new colours for 2018, applied to the “Méga Tapisserie” dials and matching rubber straps. POA, Picot & Moss 011-669-0500.
I cheated a bit here as this one was actually launched in 2017 but is still one of my favourites so stays on the list. Its retro styling fits with the revival trend yet still came as something of a surprise from a brand synonymous with innovative, futuristic designs, and slim timepieces in revolutionary materials. Named after the 18th century British explorer Captain James Cook, this dive watch is a reimagined collection of three watches for men and women, based on the original 1962 Rado with the same name. Priced at around R27,000. Swatch Group 011-911-1200.
ONE FOR THE ROAD
Motoring enthusiasts will also appreciate the intricate, miniature engines that drive mechanical timepieces. Especially when it comes to the chronograph, which is this year’s number one complication with the most spectacular pieces being inspired by the world of motor sport.
5. Omega Speedmaster CK 2998 Limited Edition
The first wristwatch to feature the chronograph complication was the iconic Omega Speedmaster 'Broad Arrow' created in 1957. US space agency NASA celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and the Speedmaster was the agency’s official watch of choice for all space missions and the first to be worn on the moon.
This year’s update on the classic Omega Speedmaster ‘Moonwatch’ Professional Chronograph (R66,000) with manual-winding Caliber 1861 is a fitting timepiece for a gent with an adventurous spirit. However, the second generation Speedmaster CK 2998 was the first in space, worn on the wrist of astronaut Walter Schirra in 1962 and is the inspiration for one of my favourite special releases this year, the Moonwatch Chronograph 39.7mm (R81,000). The micro-perforated black leather strap completes a watch inspired by the track.
Swatch Group 011-911-1200.
This chronograph is winner of the GPHG Chronograph Watch Prize and is made by Singer, the American company that rebuilds and restores Porsche 911s in collaboration with watch designer Marco Borraccino. Their shared love of cars, music and watches – particularly the iconic chronographs of the late 60s and 70s – lead to the creation of timepieces “that would reimagine high-watchmaking”. Price at 44,500 CHF (approx R620,000).
Last of the big spenders? Because there’s a Liberace in all of us and it’s just too fabulous to leave off the list, this version of Rolex’s highly prized watch, named after the birthplace of motor racing, Daytona Beach, is presented this year in 18kt Everose gold and adorned with gemstones. POA.
DRESS IT UP. PLAY IT DOWN
Conscientious consumers will always be less conspicuous but this also highlights the trending return to classic style and old-fashioned values.
IWC celebrates its 150th anniversary this year with the release of this elegant timepiece. POA, subject to availability due to limited edition. RLG Africa 011-317-2600.
9. Santos de Cartier
The Cartier Santos was the first purpose-designed wristwatch to be produced, but the redesigned and renamed Santos de Cartier celebrates its 40th anniversary with new streamlined models and a new bracelet design. Priced online at $6,850 (approx R94,000) for the 39.8mm case in steel. Cartier boutique Sandton 011-666-2800.
10. AkriviA Chronomètre Contemorain
One to watch, this piece is the year’s winner of the Men’s Watch prize at the prestigious GPHG awards.
Created by 31-year-old Kosovo-born Rexhep Rexhepi, the AkriviA Chronomètre Contemporain is both classical and modern, presenting a visual tension through the marrying of symmetrical and asymmetrical forms.
Rexhepi founded AkriviA (Greek for precision) in 2012 at the age of 25, after spending five years at Patek Philippe and at the FP Journe manufacture. POA.
With its trademark mechanism and Art Deco styling, the Reverso is without doubt one of the most recognisable icons of fine watchmaking. Designed and launched for polo players in 1931, its reversible case made the watch more robust to withstand any potential impact from stray balls on the field.
The Tribute Duoface was originally released in 2016 as part of the 85th anniversary of the Reverso and this year in celebration of the company’s 185th anniversary it presents in very limited numbers this impressive edition. POA, Visit Jaeger-LeCoultre or RLG Africa 011-317-2600.
THE VALUE PROPOSITIONS
Eager to attract the Millennial market, manufactures are offering good value proposition for new-comers seeking the prestige of a luxury brand and mechanical movements but at more accessible prices.
12. Nomos Tangente neomatik 41 Update
The GPHG ‘Challenge Watch’ prize is for watches that retail under CHF 4,000 (R57,000) and was awarded to Nomos Glashütte this year for the update to their iconic Tangente.
Nomos was founded 28 years ago with the goal to make affordable, well-made mechanical watches with a clean, modernist aesthetic and the Tangente is no exception with its unmistakable typography. The classic men’s watch is made bigger this time (41mm diameter) but is still incredibly slender and features an innovative date display ring that encircles the dial. Price $4,100 (R56,500).
13. Baume Iconic
Baume draws on the expertise and 188-year heritage of its mother company, Baume & Mercier. Watches are designed by Sylvain Berneron (aka Holographic Hammer), the 29-year-old automotive designer best known for concept commissions such as the Ducati Scrambler Project Hero 01, BMW S1000RR and the BMW Concept Ninety while on the design team at BMW Motorrad, which led to the production of the “customisable”, retro-styled R-NineT roadster.
The highlight for me is the Iconic 41mm “upcycled timepiece” crafted in aluminium on a 100% recycled plastic resin bracelet. It features an automatic calibre 82D7 from Citizen-owned Miyota, which is partly revealed through its unusual dial configuration and open sapphire case back. About R15,000.
BLACK IS THE NEW GOLD
Hi-tech ceramic, carbon fibre, and rubber are not only lighter and more durable but offer a slightly more discrete aesthetic.
14. Zenith Defy El Primero 21
Zenith celebrates the 50th anniversary of its legendary El Primero movement early next year (2019). This is not only an important date for the brand, but also one of the most significant in modern watchmaking history.
The original, revolutionary El Primero, with its date or triple-date and moon-phase options, was at the heart of the very first automatic chronograph, which enabled exceptional 1/10th of a second precision.
This is the latest edition on the world’s most accurate chronograph with the magic of its ground-breaking El Primero 9004 automatic movement exposed inside a black ceramic case. POA, Picot & Moss 011-669-0500.
This one gets my vote for its audacious design. Like its predecessors, this black PVD titanium version of the Freak Out has no crown, dial or hands – the minute hand is also the movement – but the 45mm case and bezel (the grooved ring holding the cover of the in position) has been restyled to echo the InnoVision 2 Concept Watch seen at SIHH in 2017. It is powered by the in-house manual-wind caliber UN-205 with central “flying carousel” tourbillon. Listed online at 48,000 CHF (approx R660,000).
16. Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater Carbon
Some complications are worthy of inclusion as we try to simplify our lives, even if only to keep brand designers and engineers on their toes as they eagerly try to outshine each other on innovation, speed, precision, and extreme slenderness. Featuring the world’s thinnest minute repeater, this minute repeater is a case in point. POA, Picot & Moss 011-669-0500.
TIME TO INNOVATE
As a former architect and product designer, I appreciate Ressence founder Benoit Mintiens’s different view on watchmaking. Thinking about the user experience first, his ‘beyond hands’ approach to reading time eliminates conventional raised hands, with sub-dials set seamlessly into a main disc.
Everything on the pebble-shaped dials is presented on one plane, rotating in an orbit and slightly convex. After meeting Mintiens in Geneva earlier last year, I’ve been keeping a close watch and was excited to read about ‘e-Crown’, which the company launched in June in the new Ressence Type 2, the world’s first self-setting mechanical watch. POA.