Watchmaking is an artform. The bare bones of it may consist of nothing more than a smattering of precious materials – some no larger than a grain of rice – but the journey that transforms these tiny pieces into the watches we wear proudly on our wrist is a thrilling confluence of science, craft, and history. Few walks of life offer this unique balance – and that’s what keeps us watch geeks hooked.
As with all art, however, it’s a daunting world for the uninitiated: plenty of people can appreciate a good timepiece, but wouldn’t necessarily know where to start in buying one for themselves.
That’s why we created the Square Mile Watch Awards back in 2018. We wanted to compile an annual list of the latest and greatest examples of watchmaking, chosen by a panel of 12 industry experts, to help watch lovers of every age and experience decide on their next timepiece.
This year’s winners were announced at a gala ceremony in the City of London on 17 October, attended by some of the biggest names in the industry, including honorary guest Jean-Claude Biver.
Feast your eyes on the winners below:
The Watch of the Year in association with Creed
The 2019 Watch of the Year rethinks one of the classic complications – bringing true functionality, innovation and cool design to the world of perpetual calendars. In the words of our judges, Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar will have made its competitor brands deeply envious.
The Icon in association with Heathrow VIP
The Icon award is one of the most hotly contested categories in the Square Mile Watch Awards, and pits the classics of watchmaking against one another. This year, the award goes to a timepiece that started as a concept watch in 2018 and is now one of the most genuinely exciting models in the brand’s collection.
The Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Ultra Thin was in development for five years. It was worth the wait.
Best Military-Inspired Watch in support of Help for Heroes
Inspired by a rare and little-known vintage piece, the winner of this year’s military-inspired watch award goes to a timepiece that has kept all the right design cues from the original in a more contemporary case size.
It’s particularly exciting to see Blancpain reach out of its dive watch comfort zone.
Best Technical Innovation in association with Tumi
Vacheron Constantin has come up with a brilliant solution to a perennial problem and presented it in a typically elegant package.
The Traditionnelle Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar might solve a niche problem, but its solution is as ingenious as it is beautiful to look at.
Best Value watch in association with CV Villas
This was the year that confirmed once and for all the belief that the Black Bay collection is the most significant of the last decade. When a new model lands, everyone pays attention – including our judges.
The Tudor Black Bay Bronze was a raving success when it launched in 2016, but the new slate grey colourway is an altogether different prospect – bringing an austere elegance to this excellent value timepiece.
Best Women's Watch in association with Rob van Helden
All too rarely do the high-end independent watch manufacturers take on women's watches, but this brand has executed theirs with wit, flair and exquisite finishing. It’s everything we’ve come to expect from MB&F.
The Legacy Machine Flying T is in a field of its own.
Best Complication in association with Swiss Kubik
Bulgari makes incredible horology seem effortless – and, once again, it has found the perfect blend of engineering and design genius.
The Octo Finissimo is rapidly becoming a new horological icon, and the Chronograph GMT Automatic might just be the best – though, certainly the most practical – addition yet.
Best Heritage watch in association with Ettinger
Breitling has given the fans what they were crying out for, with a reissue of one of the most important watch designs ever – and they’ve done it beautifully.
More perfect imitation than brand-new timepiece, the Navitimer Ref. 806 1959 Re-Edition is a smash hit.
Best Independent Watchmaker in association with the Decas Membership at Innerplace
Comparisons in this category are almost impossible, but the consistent ambition, quality and volume of Chopard watch output, for both men and women has been deeply impressive in 2019.
Readers' Choice in association with Oeno
In a year of phenomenal new timepieces and pristine reissues, Square Mile’s readers have selected their favourite new watch. The winner is a brand that needs no introduction, other than this: here, Patek Philippe has taken an already incredibly coveted design and made it even better.
The Ref.5172G-001 Chronograph is the perfect blend of contemporary and vintage good looks.
Rewriting the blueprint of how a sports watch looks and feels isn't easy. That's mainly because watchmaking royalty Gerald Genta remains the preeminent influence behind almost every sporty watch nearly 50 years after his feverish creative period in the 1970s, but Urban Jürgensen has resisted his magnetic pull to create something altogether different in 2019.
The sports watch is a timeless timepiece, but in the new Jürgensen One it has a fresh face that stands proudly apart from its forebears.
The Lifetime Achievement Award in association with Rémy Martin
This year, our lifetime achievement award goes to an individual whose influence on the watch industry is simply unrivalled.
This is a man who was responsible for the rebirth of Blancpain, for the monumental growth of Hublot, for putting the first Omega on James Bond, and for helping save the luxury watch industry from the quartz crisis.
Harvard Business School has devoted a two-part case study exclusively to his career.
There are frankly not enough superlatives.
He is, of course, the incomparable Mr Jean-Claude Biver.