The most buzzed-about new men’s watch of last year didn’t fly off the production lines of Rolex, Patek Philippe or Audemars Piguet. The biggest watch story of 2022 belonged to little-old (ok, not so little) plastic-tastic Swatch. Admittedly, the watch in question, the Speedmatser-aping MoonSwatch, happened to be an expertly calculated (it turned out) collaboration with industry titan Omega. And, technically, the watch wasn’t made of plastic, but Bioceramic, a swanky-sounding composite made by fusing ceramic with oil extracted from castor beans. Still, few would have predicted a battery-powered number that would have set you back £228 (if you could get your hands on one (BIG if)) becoming the hottest watch of the year. Or of any year, for that matter.
Guess what? Swatch has only been up to it again. At the start of March, after posting a teaser video for something called ‘Mission to Moonshine Gold’, MoonSwatch mania was back. With little to go on, watch heads began speculating that an all-gold variant might be in the offing. Oooooo. That would be cool. Nothing quite so dramatic, it turned out.
Instead, a new MoonSwatch Mission to the Moon with, wait for it, drum roll please, a seconds hand in Omega’s trademarked alloy Moonshine Gold. That’s it. That was the big reveal. The rest of the watch remained the same.
It was only available to purchase in four cities – Zurich, London, Milan and Tokyo – for one day. It would next become available on the next full moon (clever, I like it). All of which was enough to prompt long queues in those four cities and models being flipped online for four times their RRP on the day of launch (the retail price had been upped by £43 to £250 – so, still an absolute steal).
The new Mission to Moonshine Gold might not have provoked quite the same hysteria as the original collection last year. But it did confirm Swatch as the watch industry’s ruling hype master. With 11 references to tap into, the potential for modification is enormous. Which makes you wonder, to where will the hype machine roll next?
Of course, there’ll be plenty of other watches vying to wrestle the headlines away from the MoonSwatch in 2023. Keep track of the standout timepieces of the year as and when they drop below…
Omega Speedmaster Super Racing
Let’s start with the MoonSwatch’s muse – and Omega’s first watch out of the gate in 2023 – a brand new Speedmaster. While neon yellow accents, a cool honeycomb dial and a yellow-and-black striped small-seconds hand do for a noteworthy watch make, when it comes to the Super Racing, it’s what’s inside that counts. Since 2015, Omega has guaranteed all of its mechanical watches with an accuracy of 0 to +5 seconds per day. That promise already placed the brand near the top of the industry in terms of precision with only a handful of watchmakers able to promise anything close to that.
Now, however, Omega has gone one further. Fine-tuning a hairspring device, the company has come up with something called the Spirate System. Watches equipped with the mechanism, such as the Super Racing, can now be guaranteed to an accuracy of between 0 and +2 seconds per day. Most significantly, perhaps, the feat provides Omega with bragging rights over market rival Rolex, which can only promise precision rates of between -2 and +2 seconds a day. Slackers.
Audemars Piguet 37mm Royal Oak Selfwinding
Turquoise dials, as you already know, have become a bona fide sensation. Patek Philippe started the aquamarine hullabaloo, when it co-signed a dial with Tiffany & Co. on the Nautilus 5711 1A-018 in 2021. Jay Z nabbed one. So did Lebron James, Mark Wahlberg and Leonardo DiCaprio. The mania sent prices of Rolex’s turquoise-dial Oyster Perpetual, launched in 2020, soaring. And the craze obviously wasn’t lost on Swatch, which chose a peacock-blue dial for its Mission to Uranus last year. Grand Seiko and Girard-Perregaux have also jumped on the bandwagon. Now, it’s the turn of Audemars Piguet, which has unveiled a new version of its 37mm Royal Oak Selfwinding model crafted in 18-carat yellow gold and illuminated by a natural turquoise dial. Coming to a celebrity-packed NBA courtside near you.
Patek Philippe 5968R Aquanaut Chronograph
Patek Philippe’s Aquanaut flyback chronograph has been available in steel, with a black dial, since 2018, and in white gold, with either a midnight blue or khaki green dial, since 2021. Now you can bag the world’s smartest smart-casual stopwatch in rose gold with a sunburst brown dial – which might just be the choicest colour combo yet. In the flesh, the case of the 5968R takes on a deep red tint, setting off the chocolate tone of the watch’s crisscrossed mesh face. Tilt your wrist and alternating polished and satin finishes on the case, bezel and pushers mean that the watch sparkles in the light. If the current Aquanaut chronograph looks larger than the current Nautilus chronograph, that’s because it is (it wasn’t, once upon a time). Only by 0.7mm – but, somehow, it shows.
Approx. £56,500, patek.com
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
The Daytona receives its most significant update since Rolex introduced ceramic to the collection’s tachymeter bezels in 2015 – though, admittedly, you’d be hard-pressed to identify the updates at first, or second, glance. The major modernisation occurs inside, where you’ll find Rolex’s halo Calibre 4131. The movement means that all new Daytonas will boast a 72-hour power reserve. What’s more, the calibre incorporates a skeletonised rotor with hand-decorated finishing.
Opt for the platinum model and, for the first time ever, you can observe the movement doing its thing through an exhibition caseback. On the outside, the most dedicated of Daytona devotees might just be able to identify a brawnier crown guard, marginally larger lugs and slightly smaller subdials. ‘Might’ being the operative word.
£12,700-£70,800, available from August, rolex.com
Zenith Pilot Automatic
There are many pilot's watches but, technically-speaking, only one ‘Pilot’ watch. Thanks to some shrewd foresightedness by company founder Georges Favre-Jacot, in 1888 Zenith filed a trademark for the French term ‘Pilote’, followed by the English translation, ‘Pilot’, in 1904 (the Wright brothers only (successfully) took to the skies in 1903). As a result, the Le Locle-based watchmaker is the only brand allowed to use the term ‘Pilot’ on its dials today. The collection that bears that name is Zenith’s longest-standing line and this year receives a ground-up overhaul. The pick of the range, for our money (and if you’ll wondering what justifies the £8,500 asking price, the watch is equipped with Zenith’s in-house, high-frequency El Primero movement), is the 40mm, three-hand Automatic in black ceramic. We’re especially into the horizontal grooves on the dial, intended to mimics the corrugated metal on the fuselage of vintage aircrafts.
Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42
Breitling bolsters its Premier collection, reintroduced in 2021, with six new references. The original Premier watches debuted in 1943 and represented the brand’s top-tier offering. Befittingly, 80 years on, the latest Premiers house the highest-ranking movement within Breitling’s arsenal, the watchmaker’s own in-house, self-winding Calibre 01. That guarantees an accuracy of -4 to +6 seconds per day, and a 70-hour power reserve. The 2023 models arrive with slightly slimmer profiles than their 2021 predecessors, although diameters have been upped from 40mm to 42mm. In the metal, the salmon dial option – black, blue, cream, green and white are also available – charms the most.
Tag Heuer Carrera Chronograph 39mm
The Carrera turns 60 this year. Meaning it clearly ain’t broken. So, what to do? Tweak it, of course. With a rounder sapphire crystal dome in the manner of models from the '70s. The effect is to magnify the tachymeter scale and create added depth to the watch. What else? More pronounced pushers, to make them easier to, err, push. Cool. There’s also a more efficient version of Tag Heuer’s in-house automatic Heuer 02 movement, with an oscillating weight that will now wind the watch in two directions, rather than one. Watch it do its thing through a crystal caseback. Smart.
Not that the Hermès H08 didn’t already catch the eye, but the Parisian maison has now rendered the sports watch in attention-commanding shades of yellow, green, blue and, our favourite, orange. Vibrant accents appear on the glass seal, the minutes track and the varnished seconds hand. Debuting in 2021, the H08 doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. Look at it! These new references might change that.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual
Just a handful of years ago it would have been difficult to imagine Rolex treating its hallowed Oyster Perpetual with anything but buttoned-up reverence. But then, in 2020, the brand of the five-pointed crown demonstrated that it does have a roguish side by unveiling five playful Perpetuals in a quintet of vibrant colours. And now this. Available in 31, 36 and 41mm, the latest Perpetual features a steel case and a turquoise dial fizzing with bubbles in the colours that were introduced three years ago. If the objective was to set watch corners of social media alight, then mission very much accomplished.
£4,750-£5,400, available from June, rolex.com
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date
Consider the Patrimony Retrograde Day-Date something of a Vacheron Constantin greatest hits compilation. The brand’s combination of platinum case and salmon-coloured dial dates back to the 1990s – in the ’40s it was Vacheron Constantin that became one of the early champions of salmon-pink dials – while for the double retrograde day-date display, the watchmaker sought inspiration from commissions it received in the ’20s and ’30s. Just a shame the typesetting of the days couldn’t be a little more uniform, but maybe that’s just us.
Bell & Ross BR 05 Green Gold
The Bell & Ross BR 05 Green Gold marries two of the biggest trends in the watch sector of recent years: integrated sports bracelets and green dials. In this case, an 18ct rose gold bracelet (and case) and a luminous green dial meant to mimic the colour of a fir tree (although we’ve never seen a spruce this luminous). The dial changes colour depending on the amount of light hitting it. Which means you’ll be titling your wrist constantly.
Piaget Polo QP Obsidian
Two Piaget epochs collide in the new Polo QP Obsidian. First, we have Piaget as manufacturer of chic, sporty, modern dress watches. See the Polo’s graceful curves and svelte silhouette. Second, is Piaget as flamboyant, ornamental jeweller, a throwback to the brand’s exuberant designs from the ’60s and ’80s. Demonstrated here in the form of a rare obsidian dial and sapphire bedazzled bezel. Only 18 pieces will be made.
Given the success of Tissot’s sporty '70s throwback, the PRX, which was rebooted in 2021 to what seemed like the universal approval of watch land, it’s of little surprise that the collection has been comprehensively extended. There is a range of dial colours, new rubber straps and a glow-in-the-dark dial option. It’s the few-thrills, quartz-powered black-on-black variant that most rocks it for us though.
A.Lange & Söhne Odysseus Chronograph
With its link bracelet, narrow bezel, athletic looks and – shock horror – use of steel, rather than precious metals, the Odysseus may have sent A. Lange & Söhne purists into a twist when it was released in 2019, but it seems the brand remains committed to exploring sportier avenues. Despite their apparent ubiquity today, propriety chronograph movements remain one of trickiest complications to master. Even among the big boys, many stopwatches continue to be powered by third-party calibres. Not this latest Odysseus. This latest Odysseus is powered by A. Lange & Söhne’s first self-winding chronograph, a feat even trickier to realise than its hound-wound counterpart.
Panerai Radiomir Otto Giorni
Panerai’s latest Radiomir references the very first Radiomir, which, quite incredibly, appeared all the way back in 1935 (at the behest of the Italian Navy). Whereas the original prototype measured 47mm – great for sliding over wetsuits, not so practical for fitting under the sleeve of a dinner suit – this 2023 model arrives at a slightly more slender 45mm (it’s still a whopper). As the case is made from Panerai’s hand-finished eSteel – a product of recycled steel scraps – each watch will be unique.
Ulysse Nardin Freak One
The original Freak landed in 2001; consider the latest Freak, ‘Freak One’, a greatest hits compilation of all the innovations that have been introduced to the collection since then. And so we get the notched bezel of the original Freak, an escapement applied with shock-resistant DIAMonSIL surfacing treatment (introduced in 2007), a silicon hairspring (2008), a ‘flying’ carrousel tourbillon (2010), an open gear train (2013), and an automatic winding system (2018). Like all Freaks before it, the Freak One features no dial, no hands and no crown. The time is displayed via the movement itself, which rotates around the dial. An anthology of Ulysse Nardin’s envelope-pushing breakthroughs, the Freak One becomes the brand’s flagship timepiece.
IWC INGENIEUR AUTOMATIC 40
The integrated steel sports watch returns to the IWC portfolio in the form of the rebooted Ingenieur. The lesser-celebrated of Gérald Genta’s holy trinity of legendary ’70s sports watch designs – before reconfiguring IWC’s athletic line in ’76, Genta had already conceived Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak in ’72 and the Patek Philippe Nautilus in ’75 – the new Ingenieur arrives in four references, three in stainless steel and one in titanium. All house IWC’s in-house 32111 movement, providing for a 120-hour power reserve, and five, fixed-positioned bezel screws (original Ingenieur models have screws in non-uniform places). Tapping into the Tiffany-blue dial trend (see the Audemars Piguet above), the aqua-dialled variant packs the most presence on the wrist.
Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGZ009
It might seem sacrilege to take a hammer and chisel to a platinum case that someone’s spent hours polishing to mirror-like perfection. But, in the case of Grand Seiko’s new, manually-wound Spring Drive, it’s all part of the process. The end result is a case that mimics the texture of white birch trees found in a forest near the Japanese’s watchmaker’s headquarters at the foot of the North Yatsugatake Mountains. Likewise, the dial, executed in silver, features the same hand-engraved grooves. As such, each of the 50 pieces being produced will have their own unique pattern. The metallic-wood texture created is mesmeric.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Small Seconds
Jaeger-LeCoultre may be over-egging it slightly when it says the pink-gold case of its Reverso Tribute has been ‘significantly revised’ for 2023 – the thickness of the case has been slimmed down by almost, but not quite, one whole millimetre, so it’s safe to say that no rulebooks where ripped up here – but a string of new colour combinations do catch the eye. Silver and black dials recall the earliest Reversos of the 1930s, while an opaline option is new for this year. It is the burgundy number, however, that sets the pink-gold case alight. Admittedly, it’ll be far harder to pair with the rest of your wardrobe. So upgrade the rest of your wardrobe.
Montblanc Unveiled Timekeeper Minerva
You’ve heard of white gold, red gold and rose gold – but Lime Gold? Us neither. Turns out, it’s a thing. Or at least it is over at Montblanc, which has created a proprietary alloy by mixing 18k gold, silver and iron. The result is a gold that's somehow more gold than normal gold. It’s incredibly gold. Textbook gold. But that’s not the story here. The story here is the pushers, or lack thereof. Montblanc has created a chronograph minus the push-buttons customarily placed at two and four o’clock. Instead, the stopwatch is started, stopped and reset by clicking the bezel to the right. It’s super smart stuff, requiring several patents to get right. But still, that gold.
Cartier Tank Louis Cartier
Just when you thought Cartier had riffed off its legendary Tank in every which way possible, along comes another play on the rectangular Art-Deco timepiece to prove you wrong. This year, by our calculations, the French jewellery house has extended its already far-reaching Tank family with the introduction of 19 new references. That’s a lot of Tanks. That’s a lot of firepower. Winning the arms race (wrist race?) is a yellow-gold-cased 'Normale' with a grid-iron dial latticed with tiny squares of alternating white, rose and yellow gold. The original Tank dates from 1919; this latest edition has serious ’70s appeal.