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The best watches of 2019

Hundreds of new models landed this year, but which will we remember? And which are here to stay?


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By Dubai Watch Week

29 Dec, 2019

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The last year of this decade has been a watershed for the watch industry. Whichever way you look at it, 2019 is the end-of-season cliffhanger that will keep us tuning in for more into 2020 and beyond.

Too much? Perhaps, but consider the evidence.

This year saw the last ever Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie and, for now, the last Swiss watch fair in January. The FHH’s annual gathering becomes Watches & Wonders and moves to the end of April next year. Baselworld, under its brave but still beleaguered new management, moves to early May as the two fairs try and put on something resembling a united front. Audemars Piguet, Richard Mille, Breitling, Seiko and now Casio are among the brands who have decided that in 2020 they can manage without being at the fairs at all.

Meanwhile, the collector market has gone berserk, with record prices at auction thickening the year’s takings for the big houses. The $31m claimed by Patek Philippe’s Grandmaster Chime in steel at the Only Watch charity auction in November is the record of all records, and it may – or may not – be some time before it’s beaten.

And as this decade closes, it’s clear that a future in which the industry has to deal with questions of sustainability, flipping and the rapid growth of the pre-owned market is already here. New challenges for a new era.

But, thankfully, behind all that were the watches themselves, still the beating heart of the industry. There were some landmark launches this year, some of which will shape the market for the next decade and more, others that will remain a signpost of their time. Here, we’ve picked out 10 we think 2019 will be remembered by.

Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar

A huge technical breakthrough made Vacheron’s flagship launch the first watch with a power reserve that can last up to 65 days (albeit in standby mode), a particularly useful feature in a perpetual calendar. The extent of its influence is yet to be seen, but it had the air of a line-in-the-sand moment.

Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Moonshine Limited Edition

The solid ‘Moonshine Gold’ watch made for the 50th anniversary of the lunar landings was inspired by a model given to Apollo astronauts. Limited to 1,014 pieces, it was powered by Omega’s first Master Chronometer-certified hand-wound chronograph. A collector’s dream.

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Bulgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic

Bulgari’s Octo, launched in 2012, is one of the designs of the decade. It’s also been the base for a series of watches that broke records for thinness. This became the fifth in that sequence, the thinnest Chronograph GMT Automatic ever made, coming in at just 6.9mm thick. A decade ago, who would have thought Bulgari would become a horological pioneer?

Chopard Alpine Eagle

Sneaking in late in the year, Chopard’s latest rode the current fashion for stainless steel sports watches, but also revived the independent company’s 1980 St Moritz, a hitherto forgotten classic. Chopard will be hoping it becomes a collection staple going forward. No reason it shouldn’t.

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MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT

Max Büsser has admitted he never intended to make a women’s watch, which made the stunning FlyingT all the more extraordinary. The domed piece featured a stacked tourbillon movement and a sculpted sun rotor. MB&F’s spellbinding LM Thunderdome men’s watch, launched in December, followed in its footsteps, a sign of the FlyingT’s significance.

Panerai Submersible Mike Horn Edition

One of three pieces Panerai sold as a package that included a novel money-can’t-buy-style experience – in this case visiting the Arctic ice floes with explorer Mike Horn – this could be remembered as the watch that created an exclusive new category. It also had a case and strap made of recycled materials.

Bell & Ross BR 05

Another getting in on the booming steel sports watch market was Bell & Ross with its 1970s-inspired BR 05. No question the look was derivative, but it was also very Bell & Ross. Given the sky-high prices on similarly styled pieces by Patek and AP, some customers will have welcomed a more affordable alternative, too.

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Audemars Piguet Code 11.59

Love it or loathe it (or just be content to see how it matures), Audemars Piguet’s much-hyped Code 11.59 collection was the most talked about new watch of the year. Is it the next Royal Oak? That was unpopular at launch, too. It may not matter. AP is in rude health either way.

Zenith El Primero A386 Revival

Zenith and TAG Heuer both marked 50 years of their first automatic chronograph calibres this year. TAG’s contribution was a series of low-volume Monacos, but it could yet be Zenith’s A386 Revival that’s remembered most fondly of the anniversary pieces. It mimicked the first ever El Primero model of 1969, and was widely praised.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot X Calibre 115

Oris gets the last spot not because of what this watch is, but because of what it stands for. Staunchly independent, yet mainstream and affordable, Oris has had a decade to remember. This skeletonised, stealth-bomber-inspired piece was the sixth in-house developed movement watch Oris had made in as many years. Just the start of great things?

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The End


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