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Feature: The best watches of 2023

We’ve seen some crazy watch releases in 2023. Rolex put emojis in a date window, H. Moser & Cie. made a dial so black that gazing into it was like being blindfolded in a mine shaft, and a handful of independent brands have put the big names to shame with some truly innovative timepieces. It was a tough call but here are our top 25 picks from the past year.

Rolex Day-Date puzzle

When this jigsaw-dial watch was unveiled at 2023’s Watches & Wonders there was a collective dropping of jaws not seen since Alexander McQueen launched his “bumster” trousers. For the traditionally conservative Rolex, this was a milestone moment, demonstrating that the brand does actually have a sense of fun. A Day-Date it may be, but its apertures display nothing more than seven inspirational words and 31 emojis.

Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto 40

There’s a tactile look to Laurent Ferrier’s Sport Auto family, thanks to its soft-edged cushion cases and easy-to-grip onion crowns. Unsurprisingly, this “40” model, inspired by the colours of a 1979 Porsche race-car that was driven competitively by the brand’s founder himself, has already sold out. Expect this stunning piece to be as in demand as any Royal Oak or Nautilus for many years to come.

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf ceramic

Rolex and Blancpain looked on with envy in 1953 when Zodiac launched a dive watch that had a higher water resistance than both the Submariner and the Fifty Fathoms. That breakthrough watch was the Sea Wolf, which continues to be what the brand is synonymous with. It now comes in various guises, including a new lightweight, glossy ceramic trio in rather fruity-looking colours. This version with green sun-ray dial looks good enough to eat.

H. Moser & Cie. Vanta Black Endeavour Tourbillon

Expect to be hypnotised each time you look into the dial of this sublime tourbillon from H. Moser & Cie. It’s made from vanta black, a material that absorbs almost all light and is said to be the darkest substance on earth. The only things to detract from the void of nothingness are the feuille hands—which are rose gold, like the case—and the intricate splendour of the tourbillon at 6 o’clock.

Oris ProPilot x Kermit Edition

This one put a smile on our faces and that’s exactly what Oris was hoping for with this bright and cheery piece. Made in collaboration with Disney’s The Muppets, this titanium ProPilot features a lime-green dial with a date window at 6 o’clock, in which a smiling Kermit the Frog appears every first day of the month. Oris has even affectionately named this occasion “Kermit Day”.

Hamilton Khaki Field Expedition

Looking for an affordable, military-style Swiss watch? Then you must check out Hamilton’s Khaki Field collection. Already a faultless family within the Hamilton range, it now boasts the addition of the Expedition version, a good budget alternative to a Rolex Explorer and equipped with a rugged bi-directional compass-bezel that could—but probably won’t—help you find your way out of the wilderness.

Greubel Forsey Cardan Tourbillon

Greubel Forsey has taken the tourbillon to new heights with this watch. A modern conventional tourbillon revolves every 60 seconds in its caged setting but this one revolves every 16 seconds—almost four times faster and therefore offering a higher average performance. Made in titanium and eschewing the assymetric case shapes found on many Greubel Forsey watches, this is one of its most wearable watches to date. Only 55 pieces will be made from now until 2027.

Mr Jones A Perfectly Useless Afternoon mechanical

Take one look at A Perfectly Useless Afternoon by Mr Jones and feel the warm summer breeze on your skin, thanks to its quirky pool-themed dial—no wonder it’s a bestseller. The relaxed character’s foot reads the hours whereas the rubber duck displays the minutes. A mechanical version is now available, meaning horological nerds can enjoy an uber-cool design with a Swiss movement.

IWC Ingenieur

IWC breathed new life into its Ingenieur range this year, giving it a textured grid-style dial while paying close attention to Gerald Genta’s reference 1832 from the late 1970s, when the great man was tasked with revamping an existing line (the original Ingenieur dates back to the 1950s). While we like the titanium version, this one in steel with a mesmerising green dial will grab the most attention.

Christopher Ward The Twelve

2023 will go down as a memorable year for Christopher Ward. Not only did its Bel Canto model scoop a prize at the prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) awards, it won universal praise for The Twelve, a titanium watch that looks like it costs the price of a small speedboat but doesn’t. All versions are slender, sporty and luxurious-looking, but we’re partial to the one with the Astral Blue dial.

Sinn 356 Pilot Classic AS E

Think of German watchmaking and you no doubt think of the luxury masterpieces coming out of the Saxony town of Glashutte. But head west to Frankfurt and you’ll find the super-tough tool watches of Sinn. Built like those solid 1990s Volkswagen Golfs that seemed to last forever, these are watches you can depend on. Its new 356 Pilot Classic chronograph has a bead-blasted 38.5mm case, gradient dial and syringe-style hands—modern watchmaking with irresistible vintage looks.

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 Titanium

The word was out back in 2021 that Rolex was venturing into titanium territory when British sailor Ben Ainslie was spotted wearing a prototype Yacht-Master in the lightweight material. Sure enough, two years later Rolex revealed its first titanium watch, a milestone moment for the brand. The question now, of course, is what model is next for the titanium treatment? The smart money is surely on the Submariner.

Cartier Tank Cintree

Cartier is now among the finest producers of haute horlogerie, yet it’s reassuring to know that it will always revisit its most simple and timeless creations. The Tank Cintree in platinum revives a 1920s classic, complete with a slim, manual-wind Jaeger-LeCoultre movement. The eggshell dial together with the ruby cabochon crown—an honour reserved for anniversary pieces—make this a very special watch, of which 150 will be made.

Grand Seiko Elegance SBGW295

Like a ninja in the night, Grand Seiko’s gradual ascent up the ranks of luxury watchmaking is being conducted almost imperceptibly. The brand eschews flashy marketing campaigns and is content to let its products speak for themselves, thanks to understated models like this, which is made from titanium and features a black ‘urushi’ lacquered dial that’s sprinkled with gold dust. The Grand Seiko logo and indices are also pure gold.

Bremont Supermarine GMT S302

Although Bremont’s most notable release of the year was its Supernova—and credit to the brand for trying something new—we’ve got a soft spot for its Supermarine GMT with green and blue bezel. Costing significantly less than a GMT-Master II, nicely sized at 40mm and offering 200 metres more water resistance than the aforementioned Rolex, it’s a solid proposition in the dual-time category.

Patek Philippe Aquanaut Luce “Rainbow” Minute Repeater

You’ll need your sunglasses to admire this dazzling rose-gold Aquanaut. This spectacular Haute Joaillerie ladies model is adorned with 130 baguette-cut diamonds on the dial and 779 multi-coloured baguette-cut sapphires on the bezel, case sides and bracelet using an "invisible setting" technique. It marks the first time Patek Philippe has added a minute repeater to its Aquanaut collection, making it a hugely significant release.

Kudoke 3

The industry needs more watchmakers like Stefan Kudoke—people who offer a playful take on telling the time. This model has three separate hour hands that pass in turn along one of three arcs at the top half of the dial. At the end of the arc, the hand recedes beneath the lower dial and another takes its place, while the large minute hand rotates as normal. Flip it over to see some intricate Glashutte-style engraving on the movement.

Studio Underd0g 02Series Steffany Blue

Studio Underd0g hopped on the blue-dial trend for its 02Series but it avoided your standard turquoise shade found on many models, and chose a sky-blue hue—“Steffany Blue”—instead. Inspired by 1940s military watches, the dial features Arabic numerals on an innovative “sandwich” dial comprised of several layers, giving it a chunky feel. The base dial has seven layers of Super-LumiNova pigment that glows in low-light conditions.

Bulova Oceanographer GMT

Founded by a Czech jeweller in New York and now owned by the Japanese Citizen group, Bulova is a global brand with an admirable heritage, having made the first watch powered by an electronic tuning fork and even joining Omega on the Apollo 11 moon mission. Its Oceanographer GMT watches feature 1970s-style cases, a cross-hair dial and offer 666 feet (around 200 metres) water resistance.

Rolex Daytona Platinum

Rolex gave its fans something to be excited about when it unveiled this platinum Daytona with an exhibition caseback—yes, you read that right—allowing wearers to admire for the first time ever the stunning calibre 4131 in all its glory, including the fancy gold rotor. Other highlights include the slick ice-blue dial, synonymous with Rolex’s platinum pieces, with chocolate-brown subdials and the classic tachymetric bezel.

Swatch x Blancpain Scuba Fifty Fathoms

After the success of the Swatch x Omega Moonswatches, we expected Swatch to create another high-profile collaborative piece; what we didn’t expect was a project with Blancpain. The result? Five bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms models in blue, green, yellow, beige and white, all named after different oceans. Impressively, they all run on a self-winding movement, Swatch’s SISTEM51—great news for traditional Blancpain fans.

Tudor Pelagos FXD Chrono

A product of the collaboration between Tudor and the Alinghi sailing team, the Pelagos FXD Chrono marks one of Tudor’s slickest chronographs in a while. Comprised of carbon composite and titanium, it uses the same materials as Alinghi’s AC75 yacht and flaunts the team’s nautical colours of navy-blue and red. Tudor’s manufacture calibre MT5813 powers this watch and boasts a “weekend-proof” 70-hour power reserve.

Panerai Radiomir California

This Radiomir oozes vintage charm with its graduated military-green California dial—combining Arabic and Roman numerals. This is the first time Panerai has downsized its California-dial model from 47mm to 45mm, making it an all-round crowd pleaser. The eSteel case is finished using Panerai’s new “Brunito” technique which adds to its rugged, weathered look.

Omega Seamaster Ploprof

The Ploprof was one of seven models Omega released to celebrate 75 years of the Seamaster. Renowned for its XXL proportions, it features a 48mm case with a protruding crown and button which locks and unlocks the bezel. The dial boasts a gradient “Summer Blue” hue that gets darker around the edges depicting the depths of the ocean that the Ploprof can safely reach, thanks to its 1,200m water resistance.

Zenith Pilot Automatic

Zenith didn’t just unveil a new model but a brand-new Pilot collection, including this smart time-only model which features everything you’d expect from a pilot watch, such as a modern take on an onion crown and large Arabic numerals on the black corrugated dial. Interestingly, Zenith is the only watchmaker with the rights to use the word “Pilot” on its dials. It runs on the automatic El Primero 3620 movement with a 60-hour power reserve.

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