The conventional wisdom among timepiece collectors is that the best has already come. Elegantly mechanical answers to organic questions —like, say, how best to measure distance over time— are a relic of the last century. There’s an app for that.
But while the mechanical timepiece is no longer a necessity, from time-to-time a modern watch manufacturer still gets things perfectly right. Here is our list of the best new watches from the year 2013:
The Omega Speedmaster is arguably the most famous and most decorated wristwatch of the 20th century. All other achievements assisted by mechanical timepieces simply pale in comparison to the role the Speedmaster played in the American space program, culminating in the Apollo 11 moon landing. A pop-culture icon in its own right, when collectors heard Omega had decided to mess with its most legendary tool watch, the uproar was deafening. And then we saw it…The Dark Side of the Moon. Sized at 44.25mm and cased in a single block of matte ceramic, this self-winding Speedmaster is the absolute pinnacle. Not only is the case ceramic but, for the first time, so is the crown, the pushers, the buckle, and even the dial.
The big black watch trend may be long gone, but the ceramic Speedmaster, like its steel predecessor, is the stuff of legend. $12,000.
The time-only, manually wound dress watch is the purest expression of a mechanical watch, and the minutiae found in this category are studied more closely than any other. Vacheron Constantin’s 38mm Patrimony Traditionnelle has long been lauded as one of the finest dress watches a man can own, and now, for the first time, it is available in the noblest of all metals—pure white platinum. The platinum Patrimony is absolutely striking against the slate gray dial, and the perfectly finished caliber 1400 is one of most beautiful movements
in watchmaking. This is the first watch in platinum from Vacheron’s elegant Patrimony line to come without a major complication, and that’s what makes it so special. $34,000.
The Reverso from Jaeger-LeCoultre was originally conceived for polo players in colonial India and is consistently ranked among the best designs of the 20th century. It also has a strong following among American hip-hop royalty—Jay-Z wore the ultra-thin Reverso during his celebrated performance at Carnegie Hall. This year, JLC revealed a beautiful and technically impressive dual-sided Reverso thatessentially uses two ultra-thin, manually wound movements mounted atop each other. This allows the wearer to keep the time in two separate time zones at once, and also gives the owner the option of wearing it with one of two different colored faces. Think of the Reverso Ultra Thin Duoface as the chicest travel watch on earth. $10,400. 1967 saw the birth of one of watchmaking’s great aesthetic dynasties, and it didn’t come from the valley outside Geneva. The Grand Seiko 44GS is the Japanese watchmaker’s most heralded case shapes, and the original design can still be seen in almost all of today’s products. 2013 happens to be the centenary of Seiko watch, and what better tribute could be paid then to revive the 44GS in a completely faithful tribute?
This limited edition watch features an upgraded manually wound Grand Seiko–manufactured movement and one of the most impressive cases seen in years, with a myriad of different finishing styles. It will be made in just 700 pieces, in steel, and 70 in each of rose, yellow, and white gold colors. $6,000 steel, $24,000 gold. Ralph Lauren is known for his rustic, purely American style the world over, and recently the enigmatic designer has taken up wristwatch design. Ralph himself is a noted vintage watch collector, so it should come as no surprise that his latest introduction—entirely made in Switzerland with the help of the Richemont Group—harkens to utilitarian style and an aged aesthetic. The result is awesome safari style with an aged gunmetal case and canvas strap. The watch offers a casual look that is completely classic, understated, and unabashedly Ralph. $3,250. 2013 marked a breakout year for the 19-year-old German manufacturer A. Lange & S.hne. Not only did it release a beautiful split-seconds perpetual calendar, it also unveiled a $2,000,000 grand complication that is already being touted as one of the finest watches ever produced, despite its enormous 50mm diameter. But the biggest or boldest doesn’t necessarily mean the finest, and Lange’s understated 1815 Up/Down stole the show when it was displayed at January’s SIHH tradeshow. The stepped gold case with manually wound German silver movement, complete with over 240 individual parts, is available only at a perfect 39mm. The silver argent dial shows both running seconds and a power reserve display—thus “Up/Down”, giving it perfect symmetry. While A. Lange & S.hne is fast becoming known for its complications, the Up/Down is fast becoming known as the purist’s watch du jour. $28,600.
Before the Submariner, there was the Fifty Fathoms. Blancpain’s all but iconic dive watch has gone through countless updates, upgrades, and upsizes. But at this year’s Basel World, we saw a retro-style dive watch that reminded us of why the Fifty Fathoms, and in this case the Bathyscaphe, has long been considered the original dive watch. Now available in 43mm, the new diver features a Liquidmetal bezel, but with a small lume pip at 12 o’clock that harkens back to the original. What’s more is that the new, smaller Bathyscaphe is available on a NATO-style strap, just as British MOD divers originally wore it in the 1960s. Finally, the Fifty Fathoms of today lives up to its legacy. $10,500. The Portuguese Chronograph is one of IWC’s most successful and critically acclaimed wristwatches of recent years. But for the connoisseur, it always lacked the technical prowess of an in-house manufacture movement—until the launch of the Chronograph Classic in May of this year. Featuring the upscale IWC caliber 9300-based chronograph with 68 hour power reserve, a re-engineered and upgraded case, dial, and pushers, this is the watch that so many have been waiting for, and it ushers in an entirely new era for IWC collectors and for the Schaffhausen manufacturer. $13,000.