This year has been a gold rush for watchmaking enthusiasts.
Mainstream brands are pushing standards forward with incredible watchmaking achievements. Independent watchmakers are pushing the envelope once more with new ideas. And the biggest brands have been releasing highly coveted watches that show how far the industry has evolved in the last two decades.
In rounding up this year, we’ve selected some of our favourite models for 2023. From neoclassic watches to avant-garde designs, here are our top 8 this year.
Technical Innovation – Patek Philippe
Certainly, one of the most prominent launches from Patek Philippe this year occurred at its biennial Watch Art Grand Exhibition event, which was held in June in Tokyo. The Ref. 5308P-010 Quadruple Complication Limited Edition Tokyo 2023 is restricted to Japan availability for now. But if Patek Philippe stays true to its process of introducing new innovative watches at the Grand Exhibition before releasing them in following years, the Ref. 5308 may become serialised in the future.
Patek Philippe often uses the Watch Art Grand Exhibitions to introduce radical new models and this one is no different. The watchmaker terms it a triple complication due to the combination of split-seconds chronograph, minute repeater, and perpetual calendar. Based on the power R 27 self-winding minute repeater movement, which was first created in 1989 under the guidance of Philippe Stern, it adds a rattrapante chronograph module and perpetual calendar as well for a new R CHR 27 PS QI movement, with a few improvements
There’s a new isolator for the chronograph that’s designed to be more durable, as well as an anti-backlash wheel. The addition of the split-seconds mechanism also requires another 80 components and a stronger mainspring to ensure there’s enough torque to drive the instantaneous jumping perpetual calendar and chronograph together. Since 2024 marks 35 years of the R 27 calibre, this is the perfect watch to celebrate that important milestone.
Sports Watch – Tudor
Yes, the Tudor Pelagos 39 is the best sports watch of this year, and this isn’t just our opinion. It’s also the opinion of the many jurors on this year’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève awards that was held in November. Tudor has won so many GPHG awards by now that it’s probably running out of space to keep them all.
The Pelagos has long been a favourite among dive watch enthusiasts for its tool watch design, strong rugged features, and iconic Tudor elements from the snowflake hour hand to its accessible price. The one main issue in the past was its size, which it has now adjusted down to a unisex 39mm titanium case.
Not only is it lightweight, it’s also relatively slim thanks to its in-house MT5400 calibre. Coupled with short lugs and a well-designed end-link that enhances flexibility of the bracelet or rubber strap, it’s a watch that will suit every lifestyle and is the perfect Christmas sock-topper gift for this season.
Artistic Design – Cartier
This has been a year where Cartier has really pushed the boundaries of jewellery in watchmaking and watchmaking in jewellery, confusing the two categories in a myriad of ways and making them so desirable to everyone. With multiple references and expressions of designs such as the La Panthère de Cartier, which uses clever goldsmithing with gemsetting, this is a bracelet watch we can see men opting into easily.In addition, the Clash [Un]limited is another example of a perfect complement between the jewellers and watchmakers of the brand, making the object a tactile high jewellery creation while experimenting with gold alloys, precious stones, and more. It’s certainly a unique take on watchmaking, and one that may look playful, but hides layers of complexity within its shaped links. And finally, there’s the Mini Baignoire, a must-have among watch enthusiasts. The bathtub-shaped watch, translated into a bangle watch, shows us just how hybrid jewellery-watches will be with a minimalist design that’s a purist’s dream.
Classic Watch – Chopard
Chopard is another independent watchmaker that has constantly embraced classic watchmaking and is now seeing that diligence pay off with hits such as the Alpine Eagle 41 XPS this year in a salmon dial. The watch is part of Chopard’s luxury sports watch collection and named for the bird of prey that it’s dedicated to preserving in the Alps. It’s not merely sporty and rugged but also slim, thanks to a L.U.C 96.40-L movement that’s just 3.30mm thick and still sports 65 hours of power. With that textured Monte Rosa pink dial, it’s truly an elegant wrist watch to sport.
However, that’s not the only classic model Chopard has released this year. The L.U.C 1860 is the brand’s classic watch line dedicated to its founder, and holding close to precepts of classic watchmaking. Now it’s combined sustainability with this line, with a rose-engine engraved, Fairmined gold dial sitting in a recycled Lucent steel case. Chopard’s use of different finishing techniques to highlight the different elements in the watch – circular graining on the seconds display, rose engine turning on the main dial, mirror-finished and faceted arrowhead markers for the hours – make this a watch to be admired endlessly.
Tourbillon Watch – Franck Muller
Franck Muller is not known as the Master of Tourbillons for no reason. From the fastest to the largest and the most complicated tourbillons, the watchmaker has set records for each segment and more. If there’s a tourbillon design you can think of, there’s a good chance they’ve developed it. The latest to emerge from Franck Muller is the Cintrée Curvex Retrograde Hour Tourbillon, housed in the iconic modern tonneau form that was all the range at the turn of the century.
A large tourbillon sits at the lower half of the watch, in a diamond-set aperture and cage with a bridge and seconds hand. The upper half of the dial features a 12-hour retrograde display with Crazy Colour indexes. What it means is, when the hour or minute hand strikes 6 or ‘30’, it jumps from the right back to the left of the watch, leaving the tourbillon completely unhindered by the display of time.
What is equally stunning is the mainplate of the hand-wound movement as well as the bridges that cover the back of the watch. Grooved lines and vertical finishes on the plates and bridges cross the curved cutouts with mirror-finished chamfers, giving this movement a thoroughly modern architectural style that contrasts with the almost whimsical dial.
Timeless Design – Parmigiani Fleurier
If there’s one watch design within Parmigiani Fleurier’s collection that truly translates its founder’s vision of watchmaking into 21st century design, it would be the Tonda PF collection. And this isn’t simply our opinion but also that of the GPHG, which awarded the Tonda PF Automatic 36MM in rose gold with diamond indexes the Women’s Watch prize last year (but we contend it could have won the Men’s Prize as well). Elegant, sophisticated, and understated, this watch exudes discreet luxury at a glance.
Whether you prefer the latest release of the Tonda PF in steel and rose gold, its first two-toned model and one that’s truly stunning in its execution, or the GMT Rattrapante which hides its dual time zone function and only reveals it when needed, the Tonda PF is a watch that will honestly look as desirable to watch collectors in the year 2100 as they would have to collectors in the year 1900.
Diving Watch – Omega
The success of the Seamaster today can be credited largely to a British spy, but the truth is, dive watch enthusiasts were already fans of the Seamaster five and six decades ago. Back then, in the start of diving as a sport, Omega made bold advances that helped to drive diving forward. The Ploprof was, and still remains, one of the world’s greatest diving watches around, both for its design and its style.
Today, Omega continues to challenge diving watch standards with its commercial interpretation of the Challenger Deep mission, when an Omega timepiece went down to 10,395 metres at the Mariana Trench to demonstrate its robust performance. The Seamaster Planet Ocean 6000M takes the brand’s standard 600-metre water resistance 10 times further, to 6,000 metres down. Yet it’s highly wearable, housed in its O-MEGASTEEL material and with a playful design on the dial that’s revealed only with ultraviolet light. But if the 6,000 metre model is too extreme for you, the Planet Ocean 600M offers plenty of designs to suit every dive watch lover.
Chronograph Watch – Singer Reimagined
If you don’t know Singer Reimagined, get ready to discover a radically new look at how timekeeping is shown. Designed by Marco Borracino, the brand envisions a completely different look at the chronograph, placing it in the centre of the dial rather than on tiny, barely legible registers. Powered by the Agengraphe movement that’s both a self-winding movement and also reveals the complete chronograph design through the caseback, this is a great timepiece chronograph lovers will covet.
The 1969 Chronograph is the latest from Singer, and it is Borracino’s ode to chronographs from that era. With a barrel-shaped case, integrated bracelet with uniquely faceted H-links, brushed and curved case design, and a large display in black and aged gold hues, it’s truly a beauty to look at and wear. On the dial, two rotating discs at 6 o’clock indicate the time, a clever way of distinguishing the time-telling functions of the watch from the chronograph functions that are on the main dial. And like the classic barrel-shaped chronograph, the pump pushers are on either side of the watch, to be used like a classic stopwatch.
If you’re interested in discovering more about these watches or brands, head to a Cortina Watch boutique near you to discover them. With such a breadth of watch design in 2023, you can be sure 2024 will be equally diverse in its offerings for all.