2020 Luxury Watch Guide
By Roberta Naas
With the unprecedented health and economic stresses put upon us this year by COVID-19, the concept of time has become monumental. Some of us have too much time on our hands and no place to go to spend that time. Others are busier than ever as we juggle work-from-home zoom calls and social-distance meetings. However, almost all of us are highly aware of time and are planning what we want to do when we can go back into the real (albeit different) world.
Most of the time, a wristwatch accompanies us on our journeys. For some that watch is sporty, for others it’s classic. Yet others want a connected watch to track our moves, and the true lovers of horology and all things mechanical are most likely making that wrist companion a complicated watch — maybe even one with three-dimensional movement architecture.
The thing is, the wristwatch industry – even despite being closed down for several months earlier this year due to the pandemic – is a multi-billion-dollar business that believes in delivering exactly what the customer wants. Variety is the spice of life and watch brands are complying with demands that run the gamut from retro-inspired to racing-inspired and everything in between. Additionally, the new watches making their way (finally) to stores this fall are available in all price ranges, from the affordable below $1,000 realm to the million dollar sky’s-the-limit realm. So, how do you decide which watch (or watches if you’re building a collection) is right for you? There are some good rules of thumb when considering a watch for your adventures – even if that adventure is simply an elegant dinner out at a nice restaurant.
KNOW YOUR MECHANICAL LIKES
Just like when you are buying a car, you know if you like something just by the looks of it. However, you can’t always judge by looks alone. Most likely you have a wish list of what you want under the hood, of the performance you’re looking for and the details inside. The same is true of a watch – looks will draw you in, but make sure the entire package is there. Do you want a self-winding mechanical watch (also called an automatic), or do you want a movement that is manually wound – meaning you have to physically turn the crown to power it up Some people love the ease of the watch winding itself as you wear it; others love the power of breathing life into the watch each time it is wound. Some people don’t care, as long as the watch is mechanical. Think about if this matters to you before you start shopping.
BE TRUE TO YOURSELF
Another important consideration is your interests and hobbies. If you are a car enthusiast, you may want to look at racing-inspired watches from brands that partner with vintage rallies, contemporary super-speed races or even racecar drivers. If you’re a lover of all things vintage, you may want to look at the recreations of yesteryear that many brands are unveiling today to pay homage to their roots. Similarly, if you are into diving or aviation, there are entire genres of watches that go the distance with you and also speak volumes on your wrist about who you are and what you enjoy. For those who love the idea of a smart watch, Apple is not the only option. Today so many of the traditional watch brands are creating top-notch hybrid connected watches that offer dynamite dials and still perform the functions you want.
DON’T BUY BLINDLY
One of the most important things to know before you shop is your budget. You have no idea how fast the prices can jump when it comes to watchmaking.This is because – just like a car – some watches are hand-made with exacting attention to detail and in one-off or limited editions. Others have a certain amount of hand craftsmanship involved, but also utilize today’s top production processes and are more readily available.
DON’T DISCOUNT THE LITTLE GUY
In addition to the big-brand names we all know off the tops of our heads, there is an entire category of smaller, independent watchmaker brands that have a lot to offer when it comes to horology. Many of these brands create smaller numbers of watches that offer think-outside-of-the-box designs and features.
LOOK FOR NEWNESS
There are also a host of great watch brands on the market that are either names you may not have heard of because they are either relatively new to the U.S. market, or relatively new to the watch market as a whole. Just because you never heard of the brand, don’t shy away from it. Ask questions and be open-minded to newness in ideas and brand names.
In the end, though, these four words should be your governing theme: Buy what you like.
An incredible work of architecture, color, mechanics and geometrics, the new Ulysse Nardin Blue Blast takes you on a mesmerizing journey into its soul. A simple tour around the three-dimensional skeletonized movement – the UN 172 automatic caliber – and you won’t take your eyes off your wrist. The watch boasts a silicium flying tourbillon inside an X-shaped cage and surrounded by a multitude of finishes. The barrel of the watch – located at 12:00 on the non-existent dial – is highly visible and evokes a sense of power and authority. This version is crafted in titanium with a PVD/DLC coating and ceramic upper middle case and bezel. The Ulysse Nardin Blast was 18 months in the making and features some exceptionally ingenious technology and mechanics.
The movement was incredibly well thought-out and boasts alluring features such as the tripletoothed round bezel and the double X clamp that joins the movement in a sandwich style. There is even a patented three-blade system on the self-deploying strap buckle that snaps open with a single clasp. There are four versions available, including this Blue Blast, the Rose Gold Blast seen on the cover, a Black Blast and a White Blast. The Blue Blast, with titanium middle case, blue titanium bezel, blue brass rectangular bridge, blue tourbillon cage and the double X pattern is both blue and grey.
Arnold & Son
Ultrathin Tourbillon Koi
Utilizing one of its most sophisticated movements for this elegant lotus and koi fish adorned watch, Arnold & Son brings technical prowess and artistic mastery to the forefront. This 42mm 18-karat 5N rose gold watch is equipped with the manually wound A&S8200 one-minute flying tourbillon (an escapement that compensates for errors in timekeeping due to the effects of gravity when the watch is in certain positions on the wrist). The tourbillon escapement, which constantly rotates, is located in an aperture at 6:00, opposite the smaller dial that indicates the hours and the minutes. The rest of the dial is freed up for the miniature painting of lotus flowers and koi fish – all on a black mother-of-pearl dial. The watch highlights Arnold & Son’s tradition of bespoke excellence.
Nebula 38 Steel
Aptly named Nebula because its architectural three-dimensional open-worked movement recalls an inverted star, this watch is a favorite among collectors. Here, Swiss brand Arnold & Son reflects on its British history to create a highly technical caliber inside a clean and sophisticated case. The A&S5101 hand-wound mechanical movement showcases its gears, wheels and balance on the dial side, where the dial has been reduced to a black lacquer flange. The symmetry of the seven bridges that span the four axes is like a dream to lovers of mechanical wonders. The 38mm case features a sapphire crystal case back for unobstructed views of the machine inside. It is offered for the first time in stainless steel.
Scafograf 300 MCMLIX
This bold re-edition of the original Scafograf 300 dive watch that burst onto the scene in the 1960’s is a perfect rendition of a vintage-inspired tool watch. Eberhard was a leader in dive watches – releasing the first Scafograf (water resistant to 100 meters) in 1959 and then moving on to greater water resistance in the ensuing years, moving from 100, to 200, 300 and even, eventually 1000 meters. The 43mm stainless steel automatic winding dive watch – the MCMLIX version – recalls the Roman numerals of the year the Scafograf collection was born. It is built according to the strictest codes and boasts a unidirectional rotating black ceramic bezel, curved sapphire glass and a helium escape valve at 9:00. The black dial features hands and markers with vintage-style luminescence. The case back features a starfish engraved on it.
Nuvolari Legend “The Brown Helmet”
Easily one of the most important European racing legends of yesteryear, Tazio Nuvolari holds a special place in the watch line-up of Eberhard 1887. The brand has an entire collection dedicated to this master and it is one of the most sought-after by car lovers around the world. The newest, “The Brown Helmet” watch, is a vintage-inspired chronograph that takes its color way of warm brown dial from the soft leather driving helmet (as well as the vest and the gloves) of the famed racer. Hence the name, “The Brown Helmet.” The 43mm stainless steel Nuvolari Legend is inspired by the pocket chronograph from the 20th century that Nuvolari carried, but it boasts a thoroughly modern mechanical movement with automatic winding and two counters. The watch features a tachymeter spiral scale in hours and kilometers and the case back offers a checkerboard motif recalling the starting flag in racing.
Big Bang MP-11 Red Magic
There is no color as powerful as red, and when Hublot tackles it – creating it in high-tech ceramic – very little can rival it. This Big Bang MP-11 watch deftly combines horological prowess with state-ofthe-art technology. The three-dimensional Caliber HUB9011 manual-wind movement, made in-house, offers an incredible 14 days of power reserve thanks to the seven barrels on the lower portion of the dial. A portion of the 270 parts of the movement, including gears and wheels, is visible on the top half of the watch. The magnificent case is made of the brand’s exclusive high-tech ceramic that was developed in its Research and Development laboratory and is protected by three patents for the machining and components. Just 100 pieces will be made.
Big Bang e
Hublot has been creating connected watches in the traditional watchmaking realm since 2018, but this new iteration of the brand’s Big Bang offers cutting-edge updated design. The 42mm Big Bang e is crafted of light-weight titanium. The numerals and markers on the bezel are placed beneath the sapphire crystal, which is covered with an AMOLED high-definition touch screen. Like a traditional mechanical Big Bang, the crown controls the electronic functions thanks to its integrated pusher. The new functions include digital interpretations of traditional watch complications, such as the perpetual calendar (shown here) with precise moon phase indication. New dials will be unveiled, as well. The connected portion of the watch is powered with Wear OS by Google™. Even with its digital technology, the watch is water resistant to 30 meters.
Avanti 6 Macassar
Have a half a dozen watches or more that you want to keep wound? The Avanti 6 Macassar winder offers modular appeal and is Orbita’s most popular winder. Designed to wind six watches, it also has two storage drawers for other timepieces. Each watch has its own power switch, allowing stations not in use to be switched off. The Avanti 6 is sold with either the Orbita Programmable technology or with Orbita’s patented Rotorwind technology. The case is covered in exotic Macassar veneer on the sides and features a carbon fiber front and trim – adding a cutting-edge, impressive appeal. There is also a key lock on the tempered glass front.
Voyager Travel Winder
While you may be still quarantining, and not traveling as much, you might be taking some road trips and Orbita’s Voyager Travel Winder is ready to go with you. The Voyager comes in a cylindrical carrier that features a mounting system similar to its Futura winders, so it sets up in a snap to keep your watch perfectly wound. Simply take the winder base and mount out of the cylinder case and set it on the desk, press a button and watch the magic happen. The winder is powered by four AAA batteries, or by the supplied AC/DC adapter. The base, the mount and even the mounted watch fit securely in a suedelined leather carry case. It measures a scant 4” H x 6” W x 4” L.
Vortic Watch Company
Military Edition-Second Edition
American-based Vortic is known for its unique work taking original pocket watch movements and transforming them into incredible wristwatches. Each year on Veterans Day (November 11), the brand introduces a 50-piece Military Edition timepiece. Last year’s watches sold out in just under eight hours. For this year’s 2020 edition, the brand releases the Second Edition Military piece that is built using the movement, dial and hands of a pocket watch originally made for the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. That watch, the Master Navigational Watch, was used by navigators on American bomber planes. The movements have been meticulously restored by Vortic.
Chicago Railroad 039
The unique watch brand Vortic is known for salvaging and restoring antique pocket watches – preserving their original integrity – and transforming them into unique wristwatches. There is no serial production here. There is no mass marketing. Instead, the watchmakers and engineers at Vortic create one-of-a-kind conversation pieces that recall American history. This Chicago Railroad 039 watch is the first pocket watch to be completely made in the USA since the 1960s. It was the first pocket watch the brand made and it was sold within a half an hour. The case was cut at Vortic’s Colorado manufacturing facility from a block of bronze and a vintage chain was sourced to match the patina. The movement, hands and dial are all original from a Railroad Grade Elgin pocket watch that was made in 1922. This example of the work Vortic executes sold for
Churchill British Racing Green
For those who love watch collecting as much as car collecting, having the perfect safe is critical. WOLF has you covered with its bespoke safe series – made to order exactly as you wish. A fine example is this handmade British Racing Green Churchill Safe that brings the vintage 1920s international motor racing color to the forefront. Forged in steel, it features a distinctive three-dimensional angled panel across the front of the safe, with fine detailing such as goldcolored hardwood and pebbled leather. Top-grain leathers, rare woods or paneling can also be custom ordered. The Bluetooth-controlled watch winders precisely count the turns per day using WOLF’s patented technology. The interior of each safe can also be tailored by adding drawers or additional winders.
WOLF’s bespoke safes retail starting at $95,995.00
British Racing Green Triple Watch Winder
If a large safe is just too much for your current collection, take a look at the WOLF Triple Watch Winder, shown here in British Racing Green leather. The lush, vegan-friendly, pebble-grained leather features a quad-angled, three-dimensional lid, a glass front to view the watches as they wind and gold foil accents and hardware. The cushion-close hinges make for easy opening and closing and there is storage at the top of the winder box for five additional watches. Only a WOLF winder counts the exact number of rotations with a patented innovation and rotation options can be set between 300 and 1,200 turns per day. It also features winding clockwise, counter-clockwise and bi-directionally.