As the year comes to a close, we look back at the industry’s greatest and most underrated hits.
QR code-bearing dials, a watch almost as thin as a credit card, and a series of FOMO-inducing Swatch tickers — it’s been an entertaining year for fans of horology and a boundary-pushing one for the watchmakers themselves. Still, there have been a number of quieter releases in 2022 that deserve the same attention for their technical ingenuity, historical significance, or the simple joy they bring to those who know why they matter.
ROLEX GMT-MASTER II
A brand as big as Rolex can release nothing but cosmetic line extensions for its sports models and still count on rabid demand for them. But the newest version of the GMT-Master II, despite having the same in-house Calibre 3285 from 2018, came as a big surprise because of its left-sided crown. Rolex has never released a non-limited “destro” (Italian for “right”) watch before, and neither has it ever appeared in the GMT-Master II line. Still, corresponding with this fresh take is a new black and green combination for the watch’s Cerachrom bezel with a matching green GMT hand. The steel watch will be available with an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet.
PATEK PHILIPPE REF. 5373P-001
That Patek Philippe has also launched a left-handed complication shortly after Rolex did isn’t really the most significant point of the Ref. 5372P-001. While it’s true that the brand hasn’t released a southpaw watch since 1925 (and that was a custom order in a more elegant, dressy style), what’s more important is that this model will soon be the only Patek Philippe to house a split-seconds chronograph with a perpetual calendar. Its predecessors — the pink-faced Ref. 5372P-010 and the blue-dialled Ref. 5372P-001 — have been discontinued, so collectors take note.
GRAND SEIKO KODO
Grand Seiko made its debut appearance at Watches and Wonders this year determined to make an impression, and boy did it ever. The Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon SLGT003 is not only its first complicated watch in its 62-year history, but it is also the world’s first example of a tourbillon combined with a constant force escapement on the same axis. Though a similar concept movement was unveiled two years prior, it had to be almost completely overhauled in favour of slimmer, and thus more wearable, dimensions. “Kodo” is Japanese for “heartbeat”, and the semi-quaver beat of the escapement is just as much an aural treat as it is a visual one.
FERDINAND BERTHOUD CHRONOMETRE FB3 SPC
Having one of the key figures of Chopard as CEO of Ferdinand Berthoud should assure you of the quality of Ferdinand Berthoud watches, but the comparatively small number of releases also means that the brand often flies under the radar. It shouldn’t. Under Karl-Friedrich Schefele’s direction, chronometers end up frequent winners at the Grand Prix d’Horologie de Geneve (GPHG), and in fact recently clinched the Mechanical Exception Watch Prize for the FB 2RSM.2-1 tourbillon regulator this year. But the one we’re highlighting today is its latest and most accessible release. Inspired by a pocket watch from the late 18th century, the FB3 SPC uses a cylindrical hairspring that took two years to develop.
A.LANGE & SOHNE ZEITWERK
It’s been 13 years since the Zeitwerk shocked A. Lange & Sohne traditionalists with its digital display, and while there have been complicated successors to the original, it has only now released a proper sequel. True to the brand’s culture of keeping aesthetic alterations to a bare minimum, the second-generation Zeitwerk looks nearly identical to the first — but it has important and welcome updates. A brand-new manually wound calibre L043.6 offers a doubled-up power reserve of 72 hours, an additional pusher at 4 o’clock for adjusting the jumping hours, and a slightly slimmer case thickness of 12.2mm. Other subtle improvements include a bigger seconds hand sub-dial and a red highlighted portion in the power reserve indicator.
TAG HEUER FORMULA 1 X MARIO KART CHRONOGRAPH TOURBILLON
Thanks to a collaboration with Nintendo, the world’s most famous video game mascot first showed up on a limited edition version of the TAG Heuer Connected X smartwatch in 2021. This year, the moustachioed plumber finds himself racing in a go-kart between two more franchise icons (Bullet Bill and Spiny Shell) on the watch’s tourbillon cage. Even with Mario’s “M” symbol on the crown, the Mario Kart logo on the ceramic bezel, and the turtle shell-patterned calfskin strap, the Formula 1 timepiece still looks like it means serious horological business.
GIRARD-PERREGAUX COSMOS UNIQUE PIECES
It’s the end of a fairly short era for Girard-Perregaux’s planetarium-like Cosmos. First unveiled in 2019, the Cosmos was so named for its pair of three-dimensional, hand-painted globes. One shows the world map while the other displays the constellations, with both flanking a stunning tourbillon with Girard-Perregaux’s signature “Neo Bridge” located at 6 o’clock. Three unique versions in aventurine, obsidian and onyx, and aventurine and spectrolite (a rare form of labradorite) will be the last ever models of the Cosmos.
GREUBEL FORSEY DOUBLE BALANCIER SHH EDITION
Now that Sincere Fine Watches has unveiled Sincere Haute Horlogerie with a shiny new home in Marina Bay Sands housing a plethora of independent watch brands, you can expect to see more boutique exclusives like this six-piece limited edition Greubel Forsey Double Balancier Convexe in a fashionable shade of deep purple — a colour the brand has never used before. Like the original that was launched earlier this year in March, this SHH edition is cased in titanium, but has a purple titanium mainplate, purple-tipped hands, and a matching purple rubber strap to make those delightful inclined balance wheels pop more.
RICHARD MILLE RM 88 AUTOMATIC TOURBILLON SMILEY
Once in a while, Richard Mille takes a break from making watches dripping with an excess of testosterone and/or diamonds to create something a little more light-hearted. Much like 2019’s candy-inspired Bonbon collection, the RM 88 shows off the brand’s sweeter side. The design celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Smiley, with the cheery ideogram surrounded by gold sculptures that include a pineapple, a flamingo and a cactus. The emoji explosion is enough to distract from the new in-house automatic calibre CRMT7, but probably not from the CHF 1.1 million (S$1.6 million) price tag.
OMEGA CHRONO CHIME
Omega has taken two distinct chapters in its history to create something never before seen in watchmaking. In 1892, it developed its first minute repeater wristwatch and in 1932, Omega became the official timekeeper of the Olympics. The year 2022 will now be known as the year it created its most complicated timepiece — the Chrono Chime. The Calibre 1932 took six years and the aid of Swatch Group sibling Blancpain to develop, boasting 17 patents, 575 parts and a 5Hz frequency. All that time and effort went into making a mono-pusher chronograph with a repeater. The twist is that this repeater doesn’t chime the hours and minutes, but the elapsed time of the chronograph using three tones that will sound out the minutes, tenth of the seconds, and single-digit seconds.
There are two variations that house the Calibre 1932. The first is the Olympic 1932 Chrono Chime, which is clearly styled as an ode to its past with its white Grand Feu enamel dial, Arabic numerals and brown alligator strap. The other comes in the form of a full metal Speedmaster with an innovative dial that combines aventurine glass powder with Grand Feu enamel. Both are in Omega’s rosy 18k Sedna Gold, and are Master Chronometer-certified.