Happy Chinese New Year to all who celebrate it. After a week’s break to enjoy the festivities, I’m back with the weekly roundup. These past two weeks have been really exciting with a flurry of watch releases spanning from unobtainium to more down to earth releases for consideration. We have gotten Audemars Piguet’s entire new Royal Oak Collection, new releases from Oris, Seiko’s new King Seiko models and limited editions from Ophion and Grand Seiko.. These are the top 7 things in the world of watches this week; let’s get into it.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo” 16202
Audemars Piguet has discontinued the Royal Oak “Jumbo” 15202, and in its placed released the new “Jumbo” 16202. Less than a year ago, shortly after Patek Philippe’s leaked discontinuation of its 5711 Nautilus, Audemars Piguet announced it would be following suit with its Royal Oak 15202. However, now it seems that it just meant the Royal Oak Jumbo 15202 would be replaced this year, which makes more sense since the brand has already virtually become a one model brand. The new releases are largely similar to the previous edition, but with more pronounced bevelling on the bezel and bracelet links, that creates an even more intricate play with light. They are also powered by the brand’s latest and greatest Caliber 7121 which was specially built for the Jumbo series. The biggest differences in the movement comprise of the inclusion of a quick set date mechanism (finally, an upgraded power reserve from 40 to 55 hours, a higher frequency at 4Hz for better accuracy and being marginally thicker by 1.2mm at 29.6mm. However, the watch itself remains unchanged in dimensions, retaining its 39mm case width and 8.1mm thickness. There are 4 versions of the watch, steel with a blue dial, rose gold with a smoked grey dial, yellow gold with a yellow/brown smoked dial and platinum with a smoked green dial that also does not feature the petite tapisserie pattern that the rest do. The standout to me, is the yellow gold version which I believe is a first for the series and carries a warm vintage charm that is perfectly suited for this heritage model. Prices ranges from US$33,200 to more than US$70,500 (the platinum version is price on request), though let’s face it, only a very small handful of us will ever get to see them, let alone buy them.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oaks
Along with the new Royal Oak “Jumbo” 16202, the Audemars Piguet also released a whole slew of Royal Oaks in its 37mm, 38mm chronograph & 41mm chronograph lines. Since I am a fan of smaller slimmer watches, I’ll focus on the 37mm series, the reference 15550. This was a line that was left to the last for any sort of update after the 41mm versions were updated a couple of years ago, but it was well worth the wait. The new models are extremely minimalist in nature, more so than even the flagship 16202, since they do not feature the applied AP logo at either the 12 o’clock position where it used to be, or at the 6 o’clock position as on the 16202. The only additional text on the dial is the applied “Audemars Piguet” at 12 o’clock which to me is the only accent piece the model requires. As with the 16202, the bezel and bracelet links also feature more pronounced bevelling, and the latter tapers all in each link (as opposed to having standard size links after a certain point). This new series comes in 8 variants; 4 dial options in steel – blue, opaline silver, grey, and ice blue, 2 dial options in rose gold – black and opaline silver, a steel and diamond bezel-ed ice blue variant and a two-tone steel & rose gold opaline silver option. The watches alsohave a matching coloured date wheel, which is rare. Ever since the brand released the ice blue version in its 38mm chronograph series, I have been a big fan of the colour combination because it brings out a certain level of sparkle that the other colours do not, which is perfect especially when paired with the latest case and bracelet design. And while my chances of getting one of these are only marginally better than getting the 16202 i.e. nil this latest series is in my opinion the best Royal Oak series that one can get (or hope to get) from the brand. Prices, range from US$24,100 to US$60,300.
Ophion, The Horophile & The Limited Edition Gilt Spectre
Another unattainable watch released these past two weeks is the latest Ophion collaboration, for completely different reasons. This collaboration is with The Horophile and The Limited Edition and is based off the latest series from the brand, the OPH 786 Velos. The independent watchmaking brand is relatively new, founded in 2015, but has already made its mark with an intricate level of watchmaking at a relatively affordable price. The OPH 786 Velos is a 39mm cased watch with short horn lugs that carries a lot of vintage charm. The case is manufactured by Voutilainen & Cattin SA which explains the similarity in shape and aesthetic. That vintage charm carries on to the vertically brush finished dial that carries classic applied Breguet numerals and a large lance-shaped hour hand. The brand name is also captured beautifully on a unique plaque like label that complements the design of the watch perfectly. To set this version apart, the case is forged from grade 5 titanium with a bead-blasted finish. The rose gold indices are also a first for the brand. The watch is powered by a hand wound movement manufactured by MHVJ & Soprod in Switzerland, and interesting relatively new watch movement manufacturer started in 2004. The movement has to be relatively affordable considering the GPB 3,250 price tag on this watch, but it certainly doesn’t look affordable, as with everything else on this release. Overall, this is a remarkable versatile piece that would be at home in most situations. Unfortunately, it is already sold out at this point given its small 40 piece limited run. Still, if the design appeals to you, do check the other offerings from Ophion.
Oris Aquis Sun Wukong Artist Edition
Starting off the for consideration releases, we have the latest release from Oris, Sun Wukong inspired model with a dial to match the dreamy magical novel written about this character in the 16th century. The dial is as intricately designed as anything from a Grand Seiko microstudio, employing a unique technique called cloisonné enamelling. This technique involves carefully laying the outline of the design with thin gold wires, that are then filled with enamel to form the artistic imagery featured on the watch, before baking to set the colours in place. The scene is abstract, and does not even feature the monkey king, or his weapon, but is a throwback to where the titular hero enters the dragon king’s underwater palace to obtain his famed staff. While this release is based off the 41.5mm Aquis, it stands out for no having any numerals whatsoever, both on the dial and bezel. It is a truly an artist edition. We only see the monkey king represented on the case back along with the number of the watch out of its limited 72 pieces. The watch is also powered by the brand’s latest movement the Caliber 400, modified from its Caliber 403 for this release. Pricing will be a significant barrier though, at US$27,500, though you are also getting far more than any Oris would ever offer you.
Oris Pointer Date Bronze
Oris releases this past two weeks did not stop at a quirky limited edition. The brand also furthered it bronze affinity with full bronze bracelets for its Pointer Date series. While there have been bronze Pointer Dates before, none have come on a bracelet, and the 7-link jubilee bracelet looks amazing, in pictures at least. This collection also forms the second full bronze release from the brand following on from the “Cotton Candy” Diver 65 releases last year. Unlike those releases though, the Pointer Date Bronze retains its original 40mm case size where the Diver 65 shrunk to 38mm. It also bucks its recent trend of smaller 38mm Pointer Dates which to me is the ideal size for this collection. Still, 40mm is rather versatile and the new bronze bracelets would certainly be an attractive proposition at €2,300. For those interested, the collection comes with four dial options, a light mocha brown, a rich forest green, burgundy and a deep navy blue.
Seiko King Seiko – new dials, new bracelets
About a year ago, Seiko launched a revival that was unexpected to say the least, a King Seiko revival. It was a beautiful release and felt apt at that point of time given the gap that Grand Seiko’s rising prices had left. Now, Seiko has launched a full collection of King Seikos to follow up, these time with bracelets. The case design is largely similar to the King Seiko reissue at the end of 2020, but a tad smaller at 37mm. As mentioned, they now come with a 7-link bracelet though given the brand’s track record with bracelets, it wouldn’t be an addition that I get all too excited about. There have already been jokes and memes made about how the press images endlinks do not flush perfectly with the case. There are 5 dials available, though essentially in just four colours, two of which with a similar silver/opaline dial to the original, a black, a brown and a burgundy. The difference in the silver dials appear to be a sun ray finish or a vertical brushed finish. The new models are powered by the more affordable 6R31 movement (as compared to the 6L35) which is a no date version of the 6R35. This also makes the watch thicker at 12.1mm vs 11.7mm, but far more affordable at €1,700. Overall, these are great releases that I look forward to checking out in person, particularly the brown dial variants.
Grand Seiko SLGH009 & SLGA013
Grand Seiko has continued with its frantic releases (which at this point averages out to more than one a week), with two new limited editions. The two releases are firsts for the brand in that they are the first to put the brand’s new Hi-Beat and Spring Drive movements in the more traditional 44GS cases, which is a mistake in my opinion, but I’ll get to that. The watches are also unique in their case material which is something that the brand dubs “Ever Brilliant Steel”. The name is a tad counterintuitive since it doesn’t actually remain perennially brilliant or shiny. Instead, this is Grand Seiko’s name for employing 904 steel which is the same grade of steel used in Rolex watches. Given Grand Seiko’s high standards of Zaratsu polishing and use of regular 316 steel as well as titanium, it would be interesting to compare the finishing across the different materials. The dials feature a design motif similar to the tree rings design on the platinum SLGH007 though the brand claims them to be inspired by “the elliptical orbit of the stars as they move across the heavens”.
For those interested, the watches are priced at €9,500 (SLGH009) and €10,500 (SLGA013). Personally, these are good looking watches and it is nice that the dial design used was not kept solely of the exorbitant SLGH007. However, I also feel that the brand missed an opportunity with its use of new movements and naming references. While its references and case designs have had as much structure as a melted butter, it seemed to be cleaning that up with its new movements, Evolution 9 case design and naming conventions. SLGA(XX) were reserved for the new 9RA2 movements while SLGH(XX) were reserved for the 9SA5 movements. With this new releases, that throws things right back into the randomness they had previously and only makes it more difficult for newer fans to keep track of what’s what from the brand which is a shame given how much progress Grand Seiko has made in marketing itself in the past few years.
So that is it for this week. As always, get in on all the action on the Scottish Watches website, YouTube Channels (Scottish Watches, Scottish Watches Live as well as Watches Unboxed) and of course, the podcasts on your podcaster of choice. Till next time, take care everyone.