It’s been a heck of a year in the watch world. We’ve seen important anniversaries reached, world records set, and a host of captivating new creations vying for a spot on your wrist.
But what is the fairest watch of them all? That’s for you to decide in our annual Readers' Choice award.
We’ve selected 12 of the most exciting launches of 2022 from the biggest names in the business – and we want you to help us choose your favourite.
Have a read of the shortlist below and scroll to the end to cast your vote.
Royal Oak Ref. 16202BA Jumbo “Smoked Gold”
The watch world owes a fair debt to the mighty Royal Oak, the genre-defining sports watch created by Gerald Genta 50 years ago. To celebrate hitting the big 5-0, Audemars Piguet has released a slew of anniversary models, including the first new Jumbo reference for 22 years – and, boy, is it worth the wait. Featuring a smouldering ‘smoked gold’ dial, and a new and improved calibre 7121 movement inside, it might be one of the finest Royal Oak models ever. Seriously.
Octo Finissimo Ultra
You would be forgiven for feeling somewhat desensitised to the unmistakable genius of Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo collection. Since launching in 2014, it has set seven world records for ultra-thin watches: the thinnest tourbillon, minute repeater, self-winding watch, self-winding tourbillon, chronograph, tourbillon chronograph, and perpetual calendar. It’s a frankly ridiculous set of achievements for such a short time period. Well, earlier this year it finally bagged the big one: world’s thinnest watch. Or at least it did until Richard Mille decided to beat it mere months later (more on that below). Still, the Octo Finissimo Ultra is a marvel at just 1.8mm ‘thick’.
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? The Santos might be acknowledged as the first men’s wristwatch ever made – created for Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont in 1904 – but in its new contemporary guise it’s a collection that will continue to be adored the world over for decades to come. Cartier has released a trio of new models this year featuring a lacquered finish on both the case and bezel. It adds a tremendous Art Deco flourish to this iconic model, especially in the cream colour you see here.
Few watch brands can boast the same level of vertical integration as Glashütte Original. It produces roughly 95 percent of its movement components in house at its German headquarters – a fact that gives it vast autonomy over its watchmaking capabilities. It’s for this reason that our eyebrows were raised when we learned that Glashütte had launched its first ever annual calendar just this year. Well, the asymmetrical PanoMaticCalendar certainly extols the virtues of patience: it’s really quite lovely. This limited-edition skeletonised version, finished in platinum, is our personal favourite.
Evolution 9 Spring Drive GMT ‘Mist Flake’
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: nobody does textured dials quite like Grand Seiko. Walk around the beautiful Shensu region, home to Grand Seiko’s Spring Drive watchmaking facility, and you’ll find the inspiration behind many of its latest timepieces: the Snowflake, Skyflake and Silver Birch need no introduction. Now we have the Mist Flake to add to the roster. Inspired by winter morning mist, this ethereal dial oozes elegance. Add to that a GMT complication and a sporty guise, and you have Grand Seiko at its rip-roaring best – masterfully combining form and function in one gorgeous, practical package.
Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Lake Tahoe”
In 1963, the Pantone Colour Institute revolutionised the printing industry by creating an international language of colour to facilitate the global printing industry to select and communicate colour with greater accuracy. This year, the institute has partnered with IWC to help create the ceramic case of its new Top Gun models in a range of specifically designed shades. Pick of the bunch in our books is the fabulous “Lake Tahoe” model finished in a bold shade of white with a matching rubber strap. Contrasted against the black dial, it looks absolutely fantastic – bringing a whole new guise to IWC’s lauded pilot’s watch. Colour us impressed.
Calatrava Ref. 5226
Patek Philippe introduced the Calatrava wristwatch in 1932 but its latest iteration shows that the watchmaker is still finding ways to perfect its icon. The Ref 5226 brings together a number of elements that you would perhaps not expect to sit together and yet the result is quite compelling. The beige syringe hands and applied Arabic numerals sit on a lacquered charcoal dial that features a textured finish similar to that of a vintage camera. There’s also a black minute track along the outer perimeter of the dial, as well as some rather lovely hobnail decoration on the case band itself. Patek seems to have cherry picked its favourite classic watchmaking details and packaged it up under a new contemporary guise.
RM UP-01 Ferrari
Over the last few years, Piaget and Bulgari have been locked together in a battle for ultra-thin supremacy: a game of horological oneupmanship for the title of the world’s thinnest watch. Earlier this year, Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo Ultra knocked the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept off the top spot, but just a few months later it was dethroned by an unlikely source, Richard Mille. The Frenchman has turned his expertise in the area of boundary-pushing timekeeping towards the ultra-thin market and the RM UP-01 was born. Measuring 1.75mm in total thickness, it’s just a shade thicker than a penny. For good measure, Richard Mille has teamed up with Ferrari and slapped the prancing horse logo on the dial. Beat that, Bulgari.
GMT-Master II ‘Destro’
Rolex launches tend to err on the side of caution – evolution rather than revolution – when it comes to refreshing its iconic models. Yet we find ourselves with a rather unusual proposition in 2022: in a move that nobody saw coming, Rolex has introduced a new iteration of its incredibly popular GMT-Master II model with the crown, crown guard and date aperture swapped to the left-hand side of the case. Rolex had to flip the movement 180 degrees and reverse stamp the date disk in order to accommodate the new position of the crown. Because why the hell not? This feels like Rolex saying: “I may be left-handed but I’m always right.” Touché.
King Seiko SPB281J1
Back in the 1960s, Seiko operated two watch factories independent of one another, Daini Seikosha in the Kameido area of Tokyo and Suwa Seikosha in the Nagano prefecture. The idea was simple: create a little in-house rivalry and the quality of the output will increase. So it proved: Grand Seiko watches, primarily created at Suwa, became the blueprint for Japanese luxury watchmaking, while Daini’s King Seiko models created high quality timepieces at a competitive price point. King Seiko ceased production in 1975, but it has made a triumphant comeback this year with a model plucked straight from the archives. Inspired by the beloved King Seiko 44-9990, with a few contemporary tweaks, this is ‘modern retro’ at its best.
Black Bay Pro GMT
It’s incredible to think that the Black Bay collection has only existed for ten years – so pervasive is its definitive modern-retro dive watch design. In that time period Tudor has continued to push the boat out, experimenting with materials, improving the movements at the heart of its models, and adding new complications to its roster, but its latest play is one of its boldest decisions yet: the Black Bay Pro GMT. Utilitarian in both its looks and practical application, this is a big departure from the comfort zone of the Black Bay’s usual style. It’s a move that has totally paid off. We love it.
Les Historiques 222
The 1970s was a period of immense creativity for the watch industry. Catalysed by the genre-defining Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the world’s biggest watchmakers rushed to create their own sports watch: a novel but highly sought after new category of timepiece. Vacheron Constantin’s 222, named in honour of the watchmaker’s 222nd anniversary, might just be the loveliest of the lot. Discontinued in 1985, after just nine years of production, its relative scarcity means that it has become something of a cult favourite among collectors. We’re delighted to see Vacheron bring it back as part of its Historiques collection. Finished in 18k yellow gold, with a new in-house movement, and a couple of minor contemporary tweaks, it’s an absolute homerun for the brand. This is as good as it gets.