We met with more than 50 of the top luxury watchmakers, as well as countless CEOs, designers, retailers and leading industry insiders throughout the year and at the two biggest watch fairs in Switzerland, the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie and Baselworld, to compile our list of the watches that are taking the art of timekeeping to its pinnacle. Overall, it was a year marked mostly by controlled perfectionism. Watchmakers kept men’s releases conservative, mostly tweaking existing models in new case materials or dial colors. Only Vacheron Constantin managed to push boundaries with an entirely new solution for the perpetual calendar in the Twin Beat. For women there were very few pieces equipped with serious complications and interesting designs, save for MB&F’s first women’s piece, which rethinks the female watch entirely. Still, a few brands managed to improve upon existing models or expertise with new complication combinations, interesting new materials, innovative design and extraordinary gem-setting.
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MEN’S TIMEPIECE OF THE YEAR:
Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar
Of all the timepieces that debuted this year, Vacheron Constantin’s Twin Beat was the only one that could boast a useful new technical invention. The perpetual calendar is one of the most functional complications in watchmaking, for its ability to give the wearer the day, month and year, all while accounting for the cycle of leap years. But unless you are constantly keeping it wound, resetting the components can take so long you may lose track of time altogether. The risk of damaging the complication while resetting it also forces many collectors to have to schedule a date with their watchmaker.
The Twin Beat solves this problem with a dual frequency, operated by two separate gear trains, controlled by a user-friendly single pusher. The wearer can switch between an active (5 Hz) and a standby (1.2 Hz) mode, allowing for a massive power reserve of 65 days. That means if the watch is kept in standby mode, you can leave it flat on the table or in your safe and pick it up two months later with the correct day, year, and month displayed. And if you wear the watch in active mode, you won’t need to wind it for four days.
It’s a lot of watchmaking innovation in 42 mm x 12.33 mm, meaning this watch won’t sit like a hubcap on your wrist. “A good comparison is with cars,” says Christian Selmoni, Vacheron Constantin’s heritage and style director. “If you want to extend the driving range of a traditional internal combustion automobile, you have a few ways to do it: Increase the size of the fuel tank, increase the efficiency of the engine and/or reduce the weight of the vehicle. With this watch, we use the dual frequency in order to extend the power.” ($199,000.)
Greubel Forsey GMT Quadruple Tourbillon
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Stephen Forsey and Robert Greubel as coworkers and 15 years since the development of their first caliber under their namesake brand. Their new GMT Quadruple Tourbillon, their 25th caliber, honors those milestones by combining two of its most accomplished complications—the GMT and the tourbillon. The watch displays two time zones on seperate dials as well as a universal time function. The 3-D globe gives a reading of the time around the world in one full rotation every 24 hours, following the movement of Earth. This rendering of our planet is flanked by four tourbillons constructed in two pairs, modeled after their first timepiece, the Double Tourbillon 30°. It’s a clever homage to the invention, created by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1801 to remedy the effects of Earth’s gravity on a timepiece—here the tourbillons gravitate around the earth. ($820,000, limited to 11 in white gold.)
A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon
The big news in A. Lange & Söhne’s update to one of its most complicated watches, the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon, which first debuted in 2016 in platinum, is its highly covetable new salmon dial encased in white gold. The watchmaker, however, is quick to distinguish that unlike other brands who use this dial hue, theirs is made of solid pink gold. But if you’re fishing for bragging rights, the immaculately constructed and hand-finished manufacture calibre L952.2 remains the real showpiece of this watch. No one does discreet luxury to the hilt quite like A. Lange & Söhne and in true austere German fashion, its tourbillon is visible only through its caseback. ($287,800, limited to 100.)
Hermès Arceau L’Heure de la lune
Leave it to a Parisian brand with an aesthetic and heritage developed outside traditional watchmaking to reinvent the moon phase in…