After the relative restraint of 2020, watch manufacturers have really gone to town this year: 18 months of pent-up creativity have been unleashed with some of the most exciting watch launches this century. And it’s our job to decide which ones are the best in the annual Square Mile Watch Awards.
But we don’t want to hog all the fun; we’d love you to make you call, too. We’ve rounded up the highlights from 16 different manufacturers; now all you need to do is vote for your favourite in the poll below.
A Lange & Söhne
Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of the Lange 1 to the Saxon kings of watchmaking but, suffice it to say, without this 20th-century icon there would be no modern-day A Lange & Söhne. The Lange 1 represents the return of German watchmaking to the upper echelons of haute horlogerie. Its unorthodox dial and impeccably finished movement beguiled those who first laid eyes on it in the 1990s – and continues to do so today. Perhaps surprisingly it has taken until 2021 for the maison to release its first traditional perpetual calendar in the collection. It’s worth the wait.
From £87,900, alange-soehne.com
Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin 39mm
The eminent nerdiness of the watch world is such that small details, such as the rather lovely sunburst-green dial present on this new Royal Oak “Jumbo”, can quickly become points of contention between hardcore collectors. Why such a big deal? Well, this is a Royal Oak without one of its key distinguishers: the checked tapisserie dial we’re most accustomed to seeing. But the execution of the graduated green dial alongside the use of a platinum 39mm case and white gold markers is incredibly elegant. It’s a little less sporty and more dressy than its 1970s roots, but that’s no bad thing in our book. It’s really rather fetching.
CHF 97,100, audemarspiguet.com
Premier Heritage Collection
The Roaring Forties continues to provide inspiration to the watch fraternity in spades. Breitling’s latest addition to its classic Premier range – the Premier Heritage collection – comprises three 1940s-inspired models: the Chronograph, Duograph and Datora, all available in either stainless steel or 18k red gold. All feature Arabic numerals, vintage-inspired hands and semi-shiny alligator straps with tone-on-tone stitching. Every watch is a COSC-certified chronometer and water-resistant up to 100 meters. Old school is still very much the new school.
From £6,200, breitling.com
Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar
Bulgari is fast becoming the Lewis Hamilton of watchmaking; another race, another record. This year, Bulgari can add “the slimmest Perpetual Calendar ever made” to its mantelpiece. The superb Octo Finissimo racks up its seventh world record with this latest ultra-thin iteration. It crams 408 components into a 5.80mm case – and its movement, the caliber BVL 305, is only 2.75mm thick. It comes in two variations – the now familiar ‘signature’ sandblasted titanium, and a platinum version with a rich sunburst blue dial. Bulgari has never made an Octo Finissimo case in platinum before, so this version is definitely getting the collectors excited.
CHF 57,000, bulgari.com
Tank Must Solarbeat
Louis Cartier first designed the Tank in 1917 and more than a century on it’s still one of the most recognisable silhouettes in all of watchmaking. By 1977, Cartier had created the Tank Must: a more accessibly priced quartz version of its iconic creation, launched in order to reach a wider audience. Re-released in 2021, the Tank Must once again has the same goal of broadening appeal to a larger demographic. The jewel in the crown is of course the Solarbeat technology. Powered by a photovoltaic quartz movement, it converts light into power similar to the solar panels on a roof. How much power? According to Cartier, enough for at least 16 years of battery life. Now, that’s what we call blue-sky thinking.
Glashütte Original’s Spezimatic Typ RP TS 200 from 1969 was a masterclass in how to make a dive watch. Indeed, when the Saxon brand launched the SeaQ in 2019 as a tribute to this original, it really didn’t need to change much to make it work for today’s market: a boost in case size here, an updated font there, and you have a vintage-inspired yet contemporary proposition. For this year, Glashütte now offers the SeaQ in bi-colour. This latest colourway is a cap doff to the 1969 version, which unlike 2019’s relaunch model, was also produced in a bimetal construction. It’s rugged yet sophisticated – just like you, right?
From £10,700, glashuette-original.com
Platinum High Beat Black Dial Tree Rings Ref SLGH007
Grand Seiko makes some of the most creative and beautifully executed watch dials in the business. Its latest offering – the Platinum High Beat Black Dial Tree Rings Ref SLGH007 – is a perfect example. This model takes inspiration from the passing of time as denoted by tree rings. The minuscule but visible variations in the dial’s depth reveal the subtlety of the dark and light tones of wood grain; it’s a delightfully organic effect. The Black Dial Tree Rings may stand out for its original dial, but what lies beneath is just as impressive: the Caliber 9SA5 high-beat movement, which delivers a precision rate of +5 to –3 seconds a day and an 80-hour power reserve.
Big Pilot’s Watch 43
IWC’s iconic Big Pilot’s Watch – despite having the word Big in its name – is getting, er, smaller. Available in a new case size of 43mm for the first time, the new Big Pilot’s Watch 43 is considerably more wearable than its 46mm predecessor. It still has presence by the bucket load – from its audacious crown to the rivets on the leather strap. Prefer a bracelet? No problem, thanks to the integrated EasX-CHANGE system that lets you swap at the touch of a button. The in-house 82100 calibre features pellaton winding with ceramic components, and if you want to go big on complications, then there’s the Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar option. Its in-house 52615 calibre builds up a power reserve of seven days in two barrels – lending a whole new meaning to ‘giving both barrels’. IWC has proved that big – but not quite as big – is beautiful.
From £7,200, iwc.com
Every now and again, Jaeger-LeCoultre likes to remind its peers that while it may be one of the oldest maisons on the planet (dating back to 1833, don’t you know) it still has the firepower to create something totally new. And when we say new, we mean complicated. And by complicated we mean, “Holy moly!” Meet the Reverso Quadriptyque. What we have here is not simply the most complicated rendition of the brand’s iconic Reverso, but one of the most complicated watches Jaeger-LeCoultre has ever made. Count ’em: there are a whopping 11 complications in total across four dials. It’s as simple (or rather not…) as that.
Metro Neomatik 41 Update
A few years ago, Nomos released its Neomatik Caliber DUW 6101 in-house movement. The brand debuted it in its Tangente Neomatik 41 Update, an eye-catching watch that transposed its modern classic Tangente design and added a distinctive feature: a date indicator around the edge of the dial where today’s date was highlighted by a block of colour either side of the number. Now, the newest addition to its Metro line gets this movement, as well as that charming date mechanism, too. The Metro Neomatik Update still carries a lot of the classic Nomos DNA in its look and feel: the dial’s big in the case while the bezel’s slim, and those spider-leg hands, reminiscent of a Tim Burton animation. It’s a look Nomos does so well.
Depending on what corner of the digital watch space you occupy, Nautilus news from Patek Philippe is either the biggest of 2021, or a rather innocuous colour change. The story began in January of this year when the watch giant confirmed rumours that the blue-dial version of its iconic ref.5711 Nautilus model (the ref.5711/1A-010, to be specific) was being discontinued with immediate effect. We had to wait until April to find out what its replacement would look like, but Patek finally broke the news to fans: the new-look ref.5711/1A-014 features a sunburst olive green dial. It’s rather lovely. A little more military and utilitarian in disposition, but it’s already selling like hotcakes.
You might think of the Submariner first when you think of Rolex’s specialised tool watches, but it was the Explorer that kicked off the manufacture’s professional-grade watch lineup in 1953. Let’s fill you in on the new update: out goes the 39mm Explorer first released in 2010, and in comes a more historically accurate 36mm addition. There are new mechanics, too: the automatic 3230 calibre – a movement we’ve recently seen in the new no-date Submariner and Oyster Perpetual models of 2020 – that features a Chronergy escapement, proprietary Rolex tech that boosts movement efficiency and reliability over an extended time.
King Seiko KSK SJE083
The King Seiko moniker first caught the imagination of the watch-loving public at the tail-end of the 1960s, thanks to the King Seiko KSK – a watch whose striking, forward-thinking design gave it instant-classic status. Now, it’s back to celebrate Seiko’s 140th year in business. The SJE083, released as a limited run of 3,000 pieces, is every bit as pretty as its inspiration: it sets that crisp dial in a 38mm case, with a simple date window at 3 o’clock and the King Seiko logo above 6. Under the hood, it’s powered by the brand’s Caliber 6L35 movement, with 36 jewels and a power reserve of 45 hours. But despite all its impressive capability, it’s probably not the technical side of the watch that’ll endear it to Seiko’s fans; rather, it’s the combination of its exquisitely clean, classic dressy aesthetic, and the fact that it harks back to a time when the innovation of this iconic brand was pretty much unmatched.
Black Bay Chronograph
The panda dial is a watch industry failsafe. There are few watches that don’t look cooler once the designers have pressed ‘invert’. And Tudor’s steel Black Bay Chrono is a case in point. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of its first chronograph, Tudor has rebooted its already awesome Chrono with the choice of white-on-black or black-on-white contrasting subcounters. Both look great; but the panda edges it in our book. The Chrono has had much more than just a paint job, though. There’s a reworked case – it’s thinner than its predecessor; there’s a new fixed bezel with a black aluminium disk; and there are three strap options – including a new Paul Newman style cuff in black aged leather – or a riveted steel affair. They say life begins at 50 – and it seems Tudor’s Chrono
is only just getting started.
Historiques American 1921
This year’s Vacheron Constantin MO is ‘classic with a twist’. The manufacture is taking that mantra pretty literally with the Historiques 1921, which revolutionises the traditional watch dial – 45 degrees on the diagonal to be exact. It’s designed as a driver’s watch so you can see the time perfectly with your hand still on the wheel. (Safety first!) And you may have noticed the date: watch companies love an anniversary – and with 100 years passing since the original American model was launched, this is one worth celebrating. There are three new variations: two white gold models and a 100-piece Collection Excellence Platine limited edition. All come loaded with a manual-winding in-house movement, Calibre 4400 AS, that packs an impressive 65-hour power reserve.
From £31,200, vacheron-constantin.com
You can’t utter the name Zenith without mentioning the watchmaker’s fabled El Primero calibre 400 movement. When it was originally fitted inside a timepiece in 1969, it was one of the first high-frequency automatic chronograph movements ever made. This year, it’s finally been replaced by the brand-new calibre 3600 movement, with its modern materials and improved functionality running rings around the old boy. It’s every bit as dependable as its iconic forebear, and comes with
a fresh face: the rather natty Chronomaster Sport model.