The best new men's watches of 2022

Richard Brown

30 March 2022

As Rolex, Cartier and Patek Philippe prepare to pull back their curtains at Watches and Wonders 2022, these are the headlines stories from the horological year so far

The hottest timepieces of 2022 – as and when they drop

30 March 2022 | Richard Brown

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est new men's watch of 2022? We’ll have to wait and see. But we already know the most talked-about. Almost as soon as Swatch announced that it had collaborated with Omega on a low-cost, quartz version of the latter’s holy Speedmaster, the ‘Bioceramic MoonSwatch’ became the world's hottest, most-hyped, most-sought-after watch. And not just of this year. Perhaps – and we’re talking accessible, battery-powered watches here – ever.

It seems silly now, but when, seven years ago, Apple announced that it was bringing out a smartwatch a quiet clanging began ringing in the ears of traditional watch folk. The industry had managed to survive the quartz crisis of the 1970s and weather the leap of time from the wrist to the smartphone in the noughties. But Apple had a habit of turning traditional industries on their heads. Was that really the death knell of the mechanical watch sector that industry veterans could hear ringing between their ears?

There was a nervousness within the watch world, not that anyone would admit it. The official line, from the many CEOs I interviewed at the time, was that the Apple Watch was a good thing. It would get young people used to wearing watches. From smartwatches, to a natural appreciation of watches made of springs and gears, so the thinking went. But no one really knew for sure.  

The optimists were right. The first in line for the MoonSwatch (OK, not made of springs and gears) arrived with their sleeping bags. In London, they spent two nights on the cold, hard concrete of Carnaby Street. When the doors of the Swatch store opened on the morning of the 26th, staff were forced to shut them again after just half an hour. Police had to be called to control the crowds. The story – a story about watches, let's remember – even made the MailOnline.   

It was a scene repeated across the globe. From Melbourne to Taipei to Singapore to Dubai to Rome to Paris to Amsterdam to New York to Toronto. The queues stretched for streets. Security had to be employed to deal with the crush. What was pretty easy to predict as being the hottest watch drop of the year became the hottest watch drop of, well, ever. The MoonSwatch retails for £207. Three days after launch, bidding for a black dial version (the closest to Omega's original 'Moonwatch') had hit £7,900 on eBay.

Here are the top-line details of Swatch’s white-hot pow-wow with Omega, the latest from Watches & Wonders 2022, plus some other headline stories from the horologic year so far. Sleeping bags, for the most part, not required... 

 
 

Swatch x Omega Bioceramic MoonSwatch

So, that went well. Not in their wildest collective dreams could Swatch Group stablemates Swatch and Omega have predicted the pandemonium that would follow their first collaboration. What’s the story? Working together, the watchmakers created a budget version of Omega’s halo timepiece, the first watch to be worn on the moon, the Speedmaster (aka the Moonwatch). Housing a quartz movement in a ‘bioceramic’ case (a plastic-like material that’s two-thirds ceramic and one-third castor-oil-derivative) and attaching it to a Velcro strap, the new 'MoonSwatch' – see what they did there? – landed with a price tag of just £207, a fraction of Omega’s entry-level mechanical ‘Speedie’, which starts at £5,710. The watch dropped in 11 colourways, each dedicated to one of the planets in our solar system. What happened next? Watch brands – not just Swatch and Omega – gained a new appreciation for the immense, global power of social media, and niggling fears about the outlook of the traditional watch industry were, for the foreseeable future, dramatically put to bed.

£207, swatch.com

Omega Speedmaster Calibre 321 Canopus Gold

A reminder: Omega’s original Calibre 321 – a hand-wound column-wheel-controlled chronograph movement – powered the first Speedmasters, and all subsequent Speedies selected by NASA for the Apollo space missions. Three years ago, on the occasion of it being 50 years since the first lunar landings, Omega began re-manufacturing the Calibre 321, placing it in a 42mm Speedmaster in platinum.

To the latest chapter in the 321 story: this year’s Speedmaster Calibre 321 Canopus Gold, launched to mark the chronograph’s 65th birthday. What’s new? A black onyx dial, Grand Feu enamel-infilled numerals on the bezel, and a 38.6mm case (the original Ref. 2915 measured 38mm), which, along with the watch’s bracelet, bezel and hands, is constructed from Omega’s propriety white ‘Canopus Gold’.

£69,500, omegawatches.com

 
 

Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur 

If you’re struggling to identify the countries on top of which the dial of Hermès’ Arceau Le Temps Voyageur floats, you’ve not lost the plot. The map is a fantasy, imagined by Parisian graphic designer Jérôme Colliard for the French accessory outfit’s silk (and sold out) ‘Planisphère d’un monde équestre’ scarf. The place names that run around the dial are, however, real, and represent the world’s 24 time zones. The mesmerising timepiece, which has a date window at 12 o’clock, is available in platinum and titanium with a black dial, or in stainless steel with a blue dial.

POA, hermes.com

Breitling Navitimer BR01 Chronograph

Breitling rings in the 70th anniversary of its flagship chronograph with a contemporary refresh that focuses (mainly) on colour. The defining circular slide rule, triple chronograph counters and notched bezel have all been retained (naturally), but the 2022 Navitimer lands in attention-grabbing shades of blue, green and copper. A slimmer oscillating weight means you can see more of Breitling’s in-house Calibre 01 movement through an exhibition caseback. Choose between stainless steel or 18-karat red gold. Size-wise, it’s 46mm (too big), 43mm (yep) or 41mm (too cluttered). ‘Navitimer’, by the way, is an abbreviation of ‘navigation timer’ – the original watch designed to help pilots time flight calculations.  

POA, breitling.com

 
 

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon Skeleton

Not only is Vacheron Constantin’s new Overseas Tourbillon Skeleton the first openwork tourbillon within the sport-lux Overseas collection, it’s also available as the brand’s first all-titanium timepiece – with the material used for everything from the crown and bezel to the integrated bracelet and case. An exhibition caseback presents the brand’s reworked, self-winding Calibre 2160 movement, which is now 20 per cent lighter having been skeletonised. Most impressively, given that it contains a tourbillon, the case measures just 5.65mm thick. Not sure about the boutique-only, grey titanium model? Opt for the red gold version, instead.   

POA, vacheron-constantin.com

A Lange & Söhne Grande Lange 1

A Lange & Söhne’s Grand Lange 1 has always boasted drop-dead looks, but, for a dress watch, the 19-year-old timepiece was a chunky piece of kit. Not any longer. Reduced to a diameter of 41 millimetres and, more importantly, a depth of 8.2 millimetres, the slimmed-down Grand Lange 1 will now slip under the French cuff of your Marcella shirt with ease. The proportions of the brand’s defining oversized date windows remain the same, as does the exquisite hand-finishing on display through a sapphire-crystal case-back. Yours in white or pink gold. 

POA, alange-soehne.com

 
 

Panerai Submersible QuarantaQuattro eSteel

Last year, Panerai announced a concept watch that, if put into production, will be made of 98.6 per cent recycled materials (by weight). Consider the new Submersible QuarantaQuattro eSteel™ as a stepping stone towards achieving that ambition. More than 50 per cent of the total weight of the watch is comprised of recycled materials – the majority of that bulk accounted for by cases made from recently-developed sustainable-alloy eSteel, which, says the brand, benefits from the same physical structure (i.e. strength) and resistance to corrosion as normal stainless steel. The 44mm, date-equipped watch is available in blue, green and grey (our favourite), with dials deepening in colour from top to bottom.

POA, panerai.com

Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept

Most watches are made up of four layers: the bezel and crystal glass, the dial and hands, the movement, and the caseback. With its Altiplano Ultimate Concept, Piaget has removed this four-layer construction, fusing the bridges, dial, and hands on one side of the watch, and the caseback, movement, main plate and bezel on the other. The result is a watch that’s just 2mm thick. The dial of the latest, one-off AUC features stars illuminated with Super-LumiNova, replicating the sky above the brand's La Côte-aux-Fées HQ at the exact time the original concept watch rolled off the production line in 2017.

POA, piaget.com

 
 

Ulysse Nardin Freak S

In a car, the function of a differential is to allow the driving wheels to turn at different speeds when going around a corner (the wheels on the outside of the curve have to turn faster). In watchmaking, a differential is used to regulate two or more balance wheels so as to average out their oscillating rates – thus, a watch that keeps more accurate time. Think of the Freak S’s two, extra-large balance wheels as turboprops powering an engine that looks like a mini-spaceship, which tells the time (there are no hands, dials or crown, you'll notice) by rotating once around the case every 60 minutes. ‘But how do you set the time?’ you ask. By rotating the Freak S’s rose-gold bezel. Duh.

£114,040, ulysse-nardin.com

Bulgari Roma Blue Carillon Tourbillon

Bulgari’s Roma Blue Carillon Tourbillon features an open-worked titanium middle-case and hollowed-out case-back to maximise the clarity of its chiming function. Activate a side pusher and the skeletonised Roma’s three hammers will chime a C note for the hours, an E,D,C for the quarter-hours, and an E for the minutes. Melodic.  

Approx. £240,000, bulgari.com

 
 

Hublot Integral Time Only Yellow Gold  

In the beginning there was Carlo Crocco. Formerly of the Italian Binda Group (best known for its Breil sports watches), in 1980 Crocco created a timepiece of his own inspired by the porthole of a ship. Featuring a heavy-set bezel with exposed screws, the original ‘Hublot’ (French for ‘porthole’) borrowed from Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak – Gérald Genta’s octagonal masterpiece that had launched eight years earlier. Crocco’s timepiece differentiated itself by pairing an 18kt yellow gold case with a strap made of natural rubber – a first in the history of luxury watchmaking.

Now, in the year the company will act as official timing partner to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Hublot looks forward by looking back. The watchmaker utilised LVMH Watch Week to announce a collection of six timepieces that pay homage to the timepiece that started it all through the fusion of yellow-gold and rubber.

The Big Bang Integral Pavê and Big Bang Integral Joaillerie – caked in various degrees of diamonds – both feature rubber-protected crowns with 18kt yellow gold cases and bracelets. Elsewhere, the Big Bang Integral Time Only (seen here), Classic Fusion Chronograph, Spirit of Big Bang and Big Bang Unico all pair 18kt yellow-gold cases with black rubber straps. Look out for the watches later this year on the wrists of players and commentators at the Qatar World Cup.

£40,900, hublot.com

Hublot Big Bang Unico Sang Bleu II

Six years ago, Maxime Plescia-Buchi, the Swiss tattoo artist behind creative agency Sang Bleu, swapped his usual medium – human flesh – for something a little more resilient: Hublot’s propriety ceramic-gold alloy, Magic Gold. Since then, the tattooist has collaborated with the watchmaker on six geometrically-engraved timepieces. The seventh collaboration between the pair, the Big Bang Sang Bleu II, sees Plescia-Buchi work with the toughest three materials within Hublot’s arsenal; Magic Gold, Black Magic (that’s black ceramic, in Hublot speak) and Green Ceramic (which, for some reason, Hublot doesn’t call Green Magic).

£22,600, hublot.com

 
 

Zenith DEFY 21 Chroma

Executed in matte-finished white ceramic, with rainbow-coloured accents on its hour markers and 1/100th second scale, we’ll sure you’ll agree that Zenith’s new DEFY 21 Chroma is a pretty fresh looking piece of kit. Powered by the brand’s high-frequency El Primero 21 movement, the new DEFY is capable of recording passages of time to an accuracy of 1/100th of a second. What, exactly, you’d need to time to that level of accuracy we’re not quite sure, but that’s beside the point.

£12,000, zenith-watches.com

TAG Heuer Autavia 60th Anniversary Flyback Chronograph

TAG Heuer’s new Autavia 60th Anniversary Flyback Chronograph is available with either a silver dial and fine-brushed stainless-steel case, or a black dial and DLC-coated stainless-steel case. Given its stealthy styling and punchy green Super-LumiNova® hour indices, we’d plump for the latter. The brace of chronographs, with their extra-large crowns and quick-change leather straps, represent the first time an Autavia has been equipped with a flyback function – where a chronograph hand can be reset and restarted with a single push of a side button. Some watch history trivia: the word ‘Autavia’ was coined six decades ago as a portmanteau of ‘automobile’ and ‘aviation’, celebrating Heuer’s early history as a manufacturer of dashboard clocks for planes and cars.

£5,250, tagheuer.com

 
 

Girard-Perregaux Casquette 2.0

How cool is this? In 1976, Girard-Perregaux released the sci-fi-looking Reference 9931, a quirky, quartz-powered contraption that was subsequently nicknamed ‘the Casquette’. Only produced until 1978, just 8,200 units rolled off the production line – a pretty unique piece of horologic history if you can find an example on the pre-owned market. Half a century later, GP has released the retro-futuristic Casquette 2.0. Now in a ceramic case with Grade 5 titanium pushers – but still fresh as hell.

Approx. £3,500, girard-perregaux.com

ORIS Big Crown X Cervo Volante

Oris has partnered with sustainable Swiss accessories company Cervo Volante on three new Big Crown Pointer Date watches, each featuring a gradient dial inspired by colours of an Alpine forest. Cervo Volante was founded four years ago in order to make use of the by-products of Switzerland’s tightly-regulated annual red deer cull. The company turns previously-discarded deer skins into hard-wearing footwear and leather accessories – like the three, differently-finished straps available with the new Big Crown Pointer Dates.

£1,350, oris.ch

Read more: 2022's most dazzling high jewellery collections