A few years back, the period in which brands would launch new watches came and went with near Swiss precision. Spring time – one week here; one week there.
But that has all changed.
There are tactical seasonal drops; releases that coincide with films or even computer games; and some even launch without sharing anything publicly at all – and just let social media spiral.
Having witnessed ‘Geneva Watch Days’ (from a distance at least), it’s clear that Autumn has become just as exciting as Spring in the annual watch industry calendar.
Here, I’m delighted to share my top ten launches from the second half of 2021 – including two nominees for the Square Mile Watch Awards 2021.
Royal Oak Offshore 42mm
The AP Offshore is like Marmite – you love it or hate it. Whichever side you fall, one thing you cannot argue with is the fact that it really has become a cultural icon – transcending the, at times, insular watch world.
This watch is more about design, hip hop and swagger than pinions and anglage. Back in the early 1990s, the Offshore blew up the sports watch category – and case sizes, too. It played with materials, rubber and celebrity.
Five new Offshores were released earlier this year in 43mm. This marked the first redesign of the Royal Oak Offshore since the evolution of the 44mm collection in the early 2000s. Now, five new 42mm versions join their stablemates. Forty-two has a significance here – it’s the same as the very first Offshore launched back in 1993. And this size really hits a sweet spot for the model, which can be overbearing in larger guises.
The new chrono versions all have the same cal. 4401 automatic flyback chronograph movement (that made its debut in the Code 11:59). And each of these now comes on an interchangeable rubber strap (a real win) as well as an additional interchangeable strap, so no excuses when you leave the office to get down to the coast this weekend.
Overseas Everest Titanium limited editions
Cory Richards – an American Leica photographer and adventurer – climbed Everest in 2019 wearing a prototype Vacheron Overseas. It took the watch world by storm. Social media went nuts for it.
With a grained blue dial, orange accents, dual time zone – a sexy AM/PM indicator and titanium case – it covered all the bases.
It sold at Phillips in December 2019 for more than $100,000 (including fees) and we all hoped we might see it again – this time in the catalogue.
Well, our dreams became a reality – well, kind of, as we saw a limited edition drop in late September this year of 150 GMT variations and 150 Chrono variations.
One of the great sadnesses is you are unlikely to ever see one in the wild as they are all already spoken for. Here’s to dreaming.
It’s fair to say Parmigiani has been caught in some rather heavy head winds over the past few years. Bankrolled by the Snadoz family, it has struggled to find its audience. Which is kind of crazy when you see the watches, which are refined and elegant.
Guido Terreni’s first collection at Parmigiani Fleurier charts a new course for the company (let’s not forget that Parmigiani Fleurier has created more than 30 in-house movements in 25 years, which is remarkable).
The Tonda PF Chronograph, which kicked off this year’s Geneva Watch Week, is an integrated, high-beat chronograph. Available in stainless steel or rose gold, and sized at 42mm, boasting a rich dark blue dial with sub-dials at three, six, and nine.
The caliber PF070 inside is operated by a column wheel, and the cushion-shaped pushers add to a flowing and beautiful case. If you’re in the market for a lesser spotted sports watch with real charm, you’re in business. The PF logo is a nice touch for those who prefer their Parmigiani with less cheese on top.
Tourbillon with Three Flying Bridges
Square Mile Watch Awards 2021 nominee
Girard-Perregaux might be one of the most underrated makers out there. Not only does it have some truly spectacular designs in its roster (think 1966 and Laureato), but its finishing and in-house capabilities are right up there with the very best (hi, Patek!).
Invented in 1860, the Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges is synonymous with GP. Since its modern-day revival in 1981, the triple-bridge tourbillon has evolved, and this new 18k rose gold 44mm tourbillon variation does away with the base plate altogether, resulting in a floating, see-through movement. This is the very definition of horological art.
Top Time Classic Cars
Breitling has always had links with the automotive world. And this year was interesting for two reasons. Firstly, it formally ended its relationship with Bentley, downsized and went vintage.
Secondly, it went across the pond and worked with three American automotive brands to produce a trio of Top Time Chronographs. The result is a new collection called the ‘Classic Car Squad’.
Following in the footsteps of its Surf Squad and Cinema Squad (and very much in line with CEO Georges Kern’s vision for its segmentation), each watch takes the theme of a specific 1960s classic car.
There's the early 1960s Shelby Cobra; the second-generation Corvette (circa 1963 to 1967); and the first-generation Ford Mustang (circa 1964 to 1969).
With all models coming in at 42mm in stainless steel, with vintage-inspired coloured dials, there’s no doubt these will go well.
It’s rare in the modern watch world to see true inspiration – and true design innovation. With the Moser streamliner, launched last year in 2020 (with a killer green fumé dial), it really stopped us all in our tracks.
This year, we see an extension of the family, adding a perpetual calendar. I’m always one for ‘less, but better’ – but this might be an exception to the rule.
The Inspiration for this line development came from two sources: firstly, the grey dial of the Flyback Chronograph Automatic, and secondly, the minimalist design of the original Streamliner central seconds. Merging that dial layout with the uber sexy lines of the Streamliner makes for a magical mix.
Oh, and the cherry on the cake? You can also enjoy the hand-wound HMC 812 manufacture calibre through the caseback.
Octo Roma Central Tourbillon Papillon
Bulgari has made waves in the watch world with the Octo Finissimo – in fact, it has broken almost every record out there for complexity and thinness.
But a lesser-known fact is that since its acquisition of Daniel Roth (at the same time as Genta), it is making some extraordinary watches elsewhere.
The new Octo Roma is obviously Roth inspired – and let’s not forget, it’s a time-only watch with centre seconds and a central tourbillon with a jumping hour display.
The real kicker is the way in which it combines the Papillon indication for the elapsed minutes, making for a composition that keeps the mechanical fascination front and centre, while managing to be balanced and beautiful.
This is for the collector who has had it all.
Gérald Genta is of course the famed designer of the Royal Oak and Nautilus (among many others) – but few also know that he presented his first character watches in Geneva in 1984.
In partnership with Disney, he produced a Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, and Goofy watch (I would have loved to see the response from visitors).
When Bulgari bought Genta’s company, it had high hopes for the back catalogue – and now we see this Gérald Genta Retro Mickey edition.
Designed in spirit like something from the 1990s, it has a cool, nostalgic vibe with one of my favourite complications – the jumping hour.
It’s wonderful to see the great man’s designs live again, and seem to capture what the world needs more of now – fun and playfulness in abundance.
Sub 600T Pacific Edition
Doxa has enjoyed a steady rise in popularity over the last few years.
(See last year’s Square Mile Watch Awards as an example – where the DOXA SUB 200 took the Best Tool Watch gong.)
As we have craved the outdoors, so too, these rugged tool watches have benefited. Starting life in the world of diving – and known for its bright orange dials – vintage Doxa pieces have become collectable.
This new Sub 600T measures in at 40mm, with a depth rating of 600m. So, you’re set for that dip in Majorca next summer.
This watch is all about fun in the sun. With a matching blue for both the ceramic bezel insert and the rubber strap. This no-date diver is limited to 200 pieces so best be fast.
GMT Earth Final Edition
It’s hard to believe that it was ten years ago that Greubel Forsey released its first GMT. And the wonderful paradox is that while the GMT complication is associated with tool watches, adventure, and travel, Greubel is known as one of the most technological, haute horological makers out there.
This GMT Earth Final Edition, available in a limited run of 11 pieces, is made from titanium (both case and bridges). The hours and minutes are displayed off-centre, with a small second’s sub-dial on a sapphire disc tucked to the side of the main display.
To the left is a primary GMT function and power reserve on the other side. The dial and movement are both blackened for added stealthy vibes. With a price tag of CHF 590,000, it’s a proper f**k you watch – and the perfect finale to my AW21 Top Ten.