Twenty Twenty-one was a surprisingly good year for watch releases. From microbrands, independents, and mainstream brands alike.
Here are some of the Scottish Watches team favourites:
It’s Christopher Ward’s first skeletonized watch and a step forward for the brand, this takes on the high-end brands directly. The watch was made in partnership with Chronode (six hours of hand polishing), Armin Strom (CNC milling/machining and design) and Xenoprint for the orange lume triangle at noon. It has some easter eggs for CW fans, the lumed ring from the C7 Apex and the slots cut into the gears resembling the slots in the back to open the case.
It shows that haute horology can be democratized without losing brand identity and is a stunner on the wrist. When I opened the box, I let out an involuntary “Wow.” All those gears moving in steampunk synchronicity. With a 42mm case diameter this is a proper size but wears smaller due to the slim bezel. At 124g with the titanium bracelet (sized for me) it is very comfortable to wear and the Calibre SH21 is COSC certified and has a 120-hour power reserve.
This is a “living” mechanical marvel which shows just what modern design and engineering can do. Christopher Ward made 210 C60 Concept watches and they all sold within a month. This is a design and statement which preserves brand identity, looks great on wrist, and shows just how far Christopher Ward have come. Epic.
Let’s face it 2020 wasn’t a great year. 2021 wasn’t much better but at least the Olympics happened. There weren’t any spectators but there wasn’t an epidemiological disaster either. I’m not a fan of the Olympics but I do like a Seamaster. I had been talking about a blue bezel/white dial Seamaster with my local Omega boutique for ages and then one appeared. Arguably it is a parts bin special.
A blue bezel from here, blue hands from there, white dial from somewhere else. None of these matters because all these parts come together so well. Like the black bezel/white dial Seamaster this is a fun, outgoing watch. It’s a proper size at 42mm, has the skeleton hands and HEV from the rest of the Seamaster line and a great bracelet.
Of all the current Seamaster range, this is my favorite. It just makes you smile with its outgoing personality and is the colorway the Seamaster has been waiting for. Ganbare! Olympics. Ganbare! Seamaster 100 days to Tokyo.
My top pick for 2021 is the watch that, in my opinion, brought class back to Breitling. Breitling was one of the oversized and “bling-bling” brands of the early 2000’s and since then the brand’s image has suffered as tastes have changed from the early noughties.
Now the Kern era is in full swing and like JT he is bringing sexy back to Breitling with a classy and classically inspired complete calendar chronograph using Breitling’s own in-house vertical clutch column wheel design B25 movement.
While the Datora 42 is still a bigger watch at 42mm in diameter x 15.3mm in height x 50mm lug-to-lug, and I wish Breitling could trim all those measurements, it is still my favorite new release of 2021 because it really is a watch for the before times. The times when people worked in an office everyday with other people and wore suits and dress attire to the office, remember those times? No? Me either, but Breitling does, and I am grateful they are trying to remind us.
My second pick for best new release of 2021 is a (TRIGGER WARNING!) 40mm Panerai with only 100m of water resistance. I know that to some Paneristi this will not be a Panerai but to those of us who have wrists that Panerais will wear instead of wrists that can wear Panerais this watch is a dream come true.
This is a watch for the Panerai-curious of us out there that have been put off the brand by the size of entry because some of us just do not like big watches and I cannot lie, but if that’s your thing that’s cool too. One interesting feature of the watch is the Richemont quick-change strap system that was also introduced on the new IWC Pilot’s watches this year makes its debut in Panerai. This may be the watch for me come 2022.
My only negative is the price, at $7,100 retail, the price point seems unrealistic for a Panerai most won’t even consider a real Panerai.
If you were to read the comments section of introducing articles for the Pelagos FXD, you would conclude that this latest release from Tudor is a divisive watch. It isn’t a completely divisive watch the way the P01 was, but reactions were mixed, to say the least.
I must admit, at first glance, I had my doubts, especially since it had fixed lugs which meant no bracelet (which was the series’ biggest plus), a fully graduated bezel which might have made things cluttered, and it was still 42mm in size with an even longer lug-to-lug at 52mm. But then I read about how every one of its new features was designed specifically in collaboration with the Commando Hubert.
That made every complaint about its design moot in my opinion since this watch was fulfilling what a tool watch should do first and foremost i.e., be useful to its wearers. I also particularly liked the fact that it was not a run-of-the-mill collaboration where another logo was slapped on the dial/case, or an older design was re-released. However, as cool as the story behind it was, it was still too big for my tastes.
Then I tried the watch on, and I was hooked. While still 42mm, it wore so comfortably on both the fabric and rubber strap. The difference in wrist presence caused by its reduced thickness cannot be understated. Interestingly, on the supplied straps, the watch wears smaller than its predecessors which was a huge bonus in my book. In other words, this was an extremely well-wearing release from Tudor, with an actual functional collaboration that ties in with the brand’s illustrious history. What’s not to love?
Those who know me, know that my tastes in watches trend towards the smaller slimmer cases. That preference first started when I purchased the now discontinued 39mm 214270 Explorer back in 2019. That watch was so clean, fuss-free, and far more in line with what Rolex used to be, that I fell in love with it. However, over the following two years, I came to realize that my preference trended even smaller than that 39mm size. Never did I imagine that I would get the opportunity to buy a modern-day 36mm Rolex Explorer.
Then came April this year, when Rolex bucked its trend of maintaining or increasing the sizes of its sports watches and released a new 36mm Explorer. What was especially interesting was that the brand did not revisit the case design of the older Rolex Explorers in that size but opted instead to stick closer to the 214270 case proportions, but in a smaller profile. That was a design choice that worked, in my opinion, as the overall case flows more naturally and elegantly especially when paired with its aggressive tapering bracelet (19-15mm).
Add in the brand’s updated movement with a longer power reserve and more anti-magnetic properties and we have a modern iteration of one of Rolex’s most classic watches with a form factor that harks truer to its roots than anything else in its line-up. And while that may not seem like much when compared to some of the other technical marvels released this year, sometimes less is so much more.
This will come as no great surprise to anyone who’s listened to the podcast over the past couple of months, but my standout watch release of the year is the Horage Tourbillon 1.
Pinning down an exact date for this release can be tricky as I personally saw the first prototypes almost 2 years ago when Andi and Landon from Horage came across from Switzerland to Glasgow to meet with us, and watch enthusiasts from across Scotland. Back then they had great plans and ambitions of launching their 1st tourbillon with La Joux-Perret but again as listeners will know, they ran into a lot of trouble when LJP decided to pull the plug on their contract. Unperturbed, instead of throwing in the towel, the Horage team decided to play the David and Goliath game creating a brand-new tourbillon from scratch utilizing all the knowledge gained from producing and manufacturing the K-1 and soon to be announced K-2 movements.
Fast forward a year of development and pre-orders started to be taken, with the final pre-sales stopping on the 1st of August 2021. As with any watch release schedule there were delays along the way as you would expect, but I finally got my watch just before heading to last year’s Dubai Watch Week at the end of November and I decided it was going to be my one and only wrist wear for the entire duration of the trip. It worked impeccably, even after being dropped on the thankfully carpeted hotel room floor, and it appeared to be the only one at the entire event which when surrounded by Daytonas, Royal Oaks, Nautiluses and all kinds of super high end luxury time pieces gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling – which is exactly what a new watch should.
On returning home I’ve had to ignore the T-1 in my watch box because all the other watches were getting jealous, and a bit like all the toys in Toy Story when Andy leaves the room, I’m pretty sure they were all ganging up on the tourbie. That said I’m looking forward to many more adventures with its five-day power reserve, one second per day deviance of timekeeping, unique looks, aesthetics, and mesmerizing display characteristics – as I hopefully take it across the world in 2022.
For my second pick of my favorite releases of the year, it’s going to have to go to Rich at Studio Underdog for his incredible watermelon watch. Unlike the Horage, the watermelon watch is a timepiece that I do not actually own. Obviously not because I just like the watch but because it went out of stock so quickly and with so many other timepieces coming in and out of Scottish Watches towers I just knew it wouldn’t get the wrist time that it deserved, and being such a limited production run each time Rich places an order at the manufacturing facility, I’d rather that someone that could give it the wrist time got the opportunity to.
The watch itself instantly stood out against a backdrop of fairly humdrum releases this year, and being the first outing for Rich going it alone after working for one of the larger private label watch brands, he really did well. Every single part from the stunningly gorgeous but pocket-friendly price point movement in the rear which is completely viewable through the clear case back, to the completely unique watermelon color scheme, texturing, and accenting across the dial. The rest of the watch world seem to agree as his story was also picked up by other watch media and showcased across the globe which again meant that the next batch of watches that he managed to get into stock instantly sold out too. All the while this was going on Rich didn’t rest on his laurels and was busy designing another couple of watches which have also now been released with further iterations being sketched and planned for release over the next few months.
We even managed to secure an interview with him just a little while back which you can check out if you haven’t already heard it, as it’s a fantastic walk through the process of working for a brand, leaving them during the pandemic, and having the balls to go alone at a young age and start your own business in a very competitive marketplace.
As much as pilot watch reissues that look like they’ve been handed down through generations do appeal to me, the 21st-century feel of this Moser won me over completely. It takes inspiration from pre–World War Two pilot watches that were converted from pocket watches. That’s where it gets its wire lugs, crown style, and numeral font. Even with these vintage elements, the unaged, cool aesthetic distinguishes it from other reissues.
There aren’t that many red/burgundy dialled watches in the market, and this is one of the best. The beautiful fume effect of the dial helps the watch’s legibility since the numerals sit towards the dark edges of the dial. Not that they need too much help being legible. The minute track is printed white while the hour numerals are 3 dimensional, made of Globolight infused with Super-LumiNova. Ensuring that they will shine bright in the night sky.
The final design element that I really enjoy is the Moser branding. It’s so subtle that at a glance you might not notice it. This “transparent” logo, asides from keeping the dial clean, it speaks to the brands’ confidence in its designs.
Besides being a 2021 release, this watch also introduced me to Holthinrichs watches. Their production method is quite unique, marrying modern technology with hand finishing. The cases are 3D printed from steel, gold, platinum, and in this case bronze.
The case architecture is stunning! I haven’t seen anything close to it. In this piece, the hand polishing on the lugs creates a beautiful contrast between the rest of the matt finishing o the rest of the case. The pure copper dial is hand engraved with a sunburst pattern with copper embossed indices.
They’ve used copers’ natural features to give the dial its color by aging it to get a natural green color. The movement is an HW-S01A Peseux, that’s been skeletonized, plated with copper, and spends 100 hours being finished by hand. All of this results in a vibrant movement.
It was a big year for Tudor, finishing things off with the excellent and quirky Pelagos FXD, but it was this excellent and quirky release from earlier in the year that gets my vote. It’s a massive example of giving me the thing I never knew I always wanted: a functional dive watch, made of a material that is equal parts luxury and just plain weird.
Pair that with a taupe dial (another thing I had no idea I wanted) and that’s a homerun in my book.
My theme for 2021 picks seems to be oddball combinations and this one is the cream of the crop. A beautifully designed and executed sporty tool watch, from a brand usually known as one of the holy trinity of luxury watchmaking.
It’s a titanium-cased GMT with a date dial and am/pm indicator, complications you would more expect to see on a quartz watch from Citizen. Pair those very functional features with the level of workmanship and finishing we have come to expect from VC, and you have a watch that is in a class all its own.
We hope that everyone had a great start to the year and that brands will continually tempt our wallets with incredible releases throughout 2022.