Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date “Emoji” 36
The Icon award is designed to celebrate the watches that bring a novel interpretation to a classic collection; a model that stirs fresh intrigue in the path well travelled.
It would be fair to say the Rolex Day-Date 36 “Jigsaw Dial” has achieved this feat – and then some. Yes, you’ll find the typical hallmarks of the Day-Date: the dressy Oyster case design, the fluted bezel, and the cyclops date window, but the “Emoji” watch displays neither the day nor the date. It instead showcases seven positive words printed in different colours, and 31 Rolex-designed emojis, including rainbows, hearts, and animals. It’s joyous.
Our panel were wooed by the champlevé enamel dial with its vibrant jigsaw motif, as well as the silliness of the complication that one judge said they must “begrudgingly commend”. But, at the end of the day this “most un-Rolex of Rolexes” won the day by proving that the “Grand Dame of Swiss watchmaking isn’t as straight-laced as might be imagined.”
Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Universelle
It would be easy to summarise the success of Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59 Universelle by its list of 40 functions, 23 complications, 1,100+ components and 17 special technical devices that enable its operation. After all, it seems almost improbable to house watchmaking feats like a Grande Sonnerie Supersonnerie, minute repeater, perpetual calendar, split-seconds flyback chronograph, and flying tourbillon all under one roof, but this ‘ultra-complication’ watch has managed exactly that.
However, the cherry on the cake of “this INSANE haute horology,” our judges determined, is that “Audemars Piguet has created such a complex watch in a wearable case and an appealing design.”
Yes, it’s a maximalist watch, but it’s far from bombastic. In fact, it’s really quite majestic.
Collaboration of the year
Oris Pro Pilot X Kermit Edition
Over the last few years, watch brands have begun to open their doors to the outside world, to companies with similar sensibilities from the industries of fashion, sport, and motoring, in the form of collaborations.Collabs are, of course, nothing new but their novelty in horology has created some of the most exciting releases in years, which is why we bring you our new Collaboration of the Year award.
Our winner is the most unlikely partnership of Oris and, er, The Muppets who have teamed up to create the ProPilot X Kermit Edition. Along with an amphibian green dial, the beauty behind this model is Kermit the Frog’s jolly face which reveals itself in the date aperture on the first of the month.
The judges “loved the wit of this watch” and found its “reined-in” humour to be “one of the most fun additions to a watch” they’d seen in some time.
Heritage Watch of the year
Chopard L.U.C 1860
One glance at the magnificent Chopard L.U.C 1860 is enough to affirm the old adage, ‘good things come in small packages’. The independent watchmaker has utilised every nanometer of this dainty 36.5mm case to create a timepiece full of vintage charm and warmth.
There’s real poise on show here, but simplicity, too: the swirling guilloché centre, the chapter ring surrounded by two textured lines of contrasting white gold, and the perfectly apportioned case to set it all off.
It left our judges swooning: “The sizing, the salmon dial colour and finish – don’t even get me started on the micro-rotor movement. It’s incredible.”
The original L.U.C 1860 was launched in 1997. Now, 26 years on, this wonderful update “pulls out all the stops” to create a watch with “so much personality and character for anyone that cares to take a second look”.
Seiko Prospex 1965 Diver’s Re-Creation ‘62MAS’ SJE093
The dive watch is a prevalent design style in the modern watch market. Its robust case, the legible and luminescent dial, and water resistance – all features that facilitate its underwater escapades – are perfect for whatever life can throw at you. It’s an ever-present style in our Adventure Watch category.
This year’s winner takes its inspiration from Seiko’s very first dive watch, the Seiko Diver ref 6217, from 1965. Affectionately referred to as the ‘62MAS’, this is not the first time we’ve seen a reprisal model, but this “brilliant version of a brilliant dive watch” is the most faithful to the source material. In fact, it’s nigh-on identical, save for the movement.
“The 62MAS is a solid adventure watch and at this price point it’s one that you can truly take on an adventure without being too worried about damage,” our judges concluded.
Baltic Hermétique Tourer
In a world that views almost everything we own as an investment asset, it’s easy to forget that watches are designed to inspire joy – and, occasionally, tell the time. That horology has somewhat descended into a game of ROI is a sad fact, but it’s also created great opportunity at the lower end of the price spectrum. It’s exactly this sector that the Gateway Watch award highlights.
This year, the Baltic Hermétique Tourer claims the prize in “maybe the toughest category to judge”, according to our panel, thanks to its “considered, beautiful design”. Inspired by the field watches of the past, Baltic’s creation balances the tropes of classical watchmaking with a series of deftly chosen dial colourways.
In the words of one judge: “What better gateway to watch collecting than to start with something that more seasoned watch geeks will envy?”
Spirit of independence
When Maximillian Büsser won our Industry Hero award in 2020, he told us: “An art form is innovative and creative, and that cannot happen via panel discussion. It has to be created by strong-minded individuals who go, ‘You know what? I’m doing this because I love it. If you don’t like it, I don’t care’.” It’s this irreverence that has allowed MB&F to rise to the top of the list of independent brands since it was founded in 2005 – and why it’s taken home this year’s Spirit of Independence award.
Look at the HM11 Architect, a new model that separates complications into four ‘rooms’: it’s categorically insane. Yet, its mechanical mastery and clever composition is utterly charming.
“The big groups could learn something from MB&F,” our panel believes. As one judge said: “Above all, its pioneering spirit for collaboration needs to be celebrated.”
Grand Seiko ‘Tentagraph’ Hi-Beat Chronograph SLGC001G
The very nature of Grand Seiko’s existence relies on its founding ethos to remain “one step ahead” of its competition. It’s why the Spring Drive broke new ground when it created a hybridised mechanical movement, why the brand has the finest textured dials of any commercial-scale watchmaker, and why the new Tentagraph is not simply Grand Seiko’s very first mechanical chronograph but a world-first ten-beat chronograph with an industry-leading three-day power reserve.
The secret to its efficiency is a dual-impulse escapement, which twins indirect impulses from the pallet fork with the direct impulse from the escape wheel to create a movement that oscillates at ten beats per second and 36,000 times per hour.
This is easily one of the most impressive watches of 2023. And that’s without saying a word about its good looks.
Tudor Black Bay Burgundy
It’s been more than a decade since Tudor surged back into relevance with the launch of its first Black Bay reference, but its vast success shows no signs of slowing down – as evidenced by taking home the Readers’ Choice award, chosen by squaremile.com’s readers.
This edition shares all of the retro-chic hallmarks of the original Black Bay, but comes by way of Tudor’s cutting-edge watchmaking facility in Le Locle.
It’s arguably the best Black Bay ever, with a new MT5602-U movement offering METAS Master Chronometer certification and 70 hours of power reserve. The case has been further refined to be a little slimmer and more curvaceous, the screw-down crown gets a new look and the burgundy bezel has slightly wider teeth designed to be more comfortable to use for the wearer. It’s subtly brilliant; in other words, business as usual for Tudor.
Watch of the Year & Best sports watch
A Lange & Söhne Odysseus Chronograph
It says a lot about a brand’s confidence in a product that A Lange & Söhne arrived at Watches & Wonders 2023 with only one timepiece, but the Saxon icon knew what it had up its sleeve.
In a certain sense, the Odysseus Chronograph defies ordinary convention. It’s a sporty chronograph and, yet, it feels reductive to label this a sports watch, nor does it feel right to refer to its chronograph function as simply that. But those devilish details are what Lange gets so very right.
The self-winding chrono “pushes the boundaries” in watchmaking terms. For example, you can adjust the date or day of the week while the chronograph function is still running – an act that would send most watches straight to the repair shop.
In the words of one judge: “The Odysseus Chrono might well be a future curio rather than a watch that changed the direction of watchmaking, but if you wanted to buy a top-of-the-line chronograph in 2023,
it has few rivals.”
François-Henry Bennahmias, departing CEO, Audemars Piguet
At the end of 2023, Audemars Piguet’s François-Henry Bennahmias will step away from the watch brand after almost three decades with the company, including the past 11 as its charismatic leader. His tenure will be recognised as one of the most successful in the company’s history – a period signposted by growth, creativity, and the rise and rise of the iconic Royal Oak.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown at a famous watchmaker like AP. To instigate change is to step away from the cosetted collections made famous by your predecessors – it risks financial ruin and trampling on a fragile legacy, or at the very least the vocal displeasure of your most passionate collectors and enthusiasts. Yet, Bennahmias has marched undaunted into a new dawn.
He brought Arnold Schwarznegger, Jay-Z, and LeBron James into the AP family, he positioned the brand as a passionate advocate for sport and music, and even collaborated with Marvel to turn his watches into superheroes.
The divisive CODE 11.59, a watch collection that has already matured into a brand-new pillar for the brand, is symptomatic of his bravery. Yes, the Royal Oak is perhaps inside the three most coveted watches in the world, but the CODE has breathed fresh life and intrigue into a company nearly 150 years old. He was a visionary in a field of pragmatists. His successor, Ilaria Resta, has mighty big shoes to fill.