It’s been an odd year for watches. Sure, we’ve all been glancing at our own wrists more than usual — watching time tick us slowly through a self-isolated summer. But, when it comes to exciting launches and big reveals, we’ve not enjoyed the usual theatre from the established watch brands. Baselworld was cancelled, the first new Watches & Wonders was unceremoniously shunted online and boutiques were forced to shut up shop for months.
So you’ve probably missed a few bits of watch news. We know we had. But, upon winding back through 2020’s new releases, we uncovered a couple of gems that deserve more widespread recognition. So here they are; 13 top timepieces overlooked during the unluckiest year on record…
Breitling Top Time Limited Edition
When was it released: Back in late March, when we were distracted by something else. We forget what.
What makes it special: Whether you call it a ‘Zorro’ or a ‘Bow Tie’ dial, isn’t this design just the essence of retro cool? Of course, that’s because Breitling’s new 41mm stainless steel chronograph — with a 30-minute chronograph register at three o’clock and a small seconds display at nine o’clock — takes its inspiration from Top Times of the past. If you missed it and want one, act fast — only 2,000 will be made.
Cartier Santos Dumont XL
When was it released: During the inaugural (online) Watches & Wonders, in mid-April.
What makes it special: The size, clearly. It really does do what it says on the 18-karat pink-gold and steel case. The XL is a similar design to the refined, re-established Santos-Dumont Cartier launched last year, but on a bigger scale — bulking up by 3mm to a healthy 46.6mm. Everyone was distracted by the French brand’s new Tank Asymetrique during Watches & Wonders — and we ended up missing a treat.
TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver Edition
When was it released: Waaaay back in January, to mark 160 years since the company’s founding.
What makes it special: Because it really is a slice of history. A re-creation of the brand’s first production-run model, this monochrome silver-dialled watch features three azurage counters, a starburst silver-coloured dial — and is itself bursting with history. Okay, so this new stainless-steel chronograph may be a slightly different shape, and it may replace the original Valjoux calibre with TAG’s in-house Heuer 02 movement, but these changes show just how far the Swiss brand has come.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Memovox
When was it released: In mid-June, alongside a considerably more-heralded blue-hued Memovox.
What makes it special: It chimes! Thanks to Jaeger’s ‘The Sound Maker’ mechanism, this Master Control Memovox rings out an iconic school bell sound when its alarm goes off. It sounds like a gimmick; a novelty. But it’s not. Many of the most historic watchmakers, from Blancpain to Breguet, still produce such audible alarm functions — and to own this latest from Jaeger is to not let a piece of horological history die.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36
When was it released: At the end of March — another watch overlooked during early-pandemic panic.
What makes it special: The Day-Date is worthy of celebration any day of the week. Why? Because it’s available in an incredible 26 different languages around the globe. But this latest smaller model, in 18k yellow gold with a green ombré dial, ramps up the retro 70s styling. That’s not to stay it’s stuck in the past — a Chronergy escapement, Parachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock absorbers keep it ticking along with even the most up-to-date timepieces.
Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Selfwinding Chronograph
When was it released: Early July, one year after the high-profile launch of Audemar Piguet’s Code 11:59 collection.
What makes it special: Just look at it. The 18-carat pink gold case. The lacquered black dial and counters. The hand-stitched alligator leather strap. It’s got a fairly classic, traditional layout and design — no garish colours or wild off-centre styling — but it just works so incredibly, irresistibly well. Maybe it’s the monochrome. Maybe it’s the softer glint of gold. We don’t know. But we want one.
Patek Philippe 5212A-001 Calatrava Weekly Calendar
When was it released: Mid-March. (Ironically, around the time we all began measuring our lives in weeks…)
What makes it special: So many things. Firstly, that stainless steel case — a rarity for Patek, and even more so for the brand’s Calatravas. Also the size; 40mm may not sound too big, but complicated dress watches have been getting smaller the last few years — and this mid-sized model bucks that trend. But the main draw? How the Weekly Calendar manages to stuff so much information onto its dial and still not look messy. Bravo Calatrava.
Chopard Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro Chrono
When was it released: Late April, two weeks before the (delayed) 2020 Mille Miglia was due to start in Brescia.
What makes it special: When the Chrono launched alongside its brother — the similarly limited-edition Mille Miglia GTS Azzurro Power Control — everyone was distracted by the Power Control’s fun ‘fuel-gauge’ power reserve indicator. But we preferred the straighter approach of the Chrono; functionally identical to the standard black dial Mille Miglia GTS Chrono, but rendered in the dazzling cobalt hue of ‘Azzurro Blue’.
Omega Speedmaster Caliber 321 'Ed White' In Stainless Steel
When was it released: Mere days into 2020, in early, early January.
What makes it special: That, despite bearing all the hallmarks of one, this isn’t a limited edition. It’s the real deal. The real steel deal. With sapphire crystals front and back and a ceramic bezel, this 321 is inspired by the same third generation Speedmaster worn during America’s first spacewalk in 1965. The man in the suit was Ed White — and the watch on his wrist looked almost identical to this one.
Bell & Ross BRV2-94 Aéronavale Bronze
When was it released: In mid-February, alongside two other new military-style wristwatches.
What makes it special: The case. Made from the mouthful that is ‘CuAl7Si2 bronze’, Bell & Ross’ signature alloy blends silicon with copper and aluminium — and promises to slow down the process of oxidisation. That means, while your watch will develop a patina over time, it’ll take some years for the metal to match the Aéronavale’s vintage military dial design. Practicality, meet style.
Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique 5367
When was it released: In February, just before the Breguet boutiques shut up shop for the summer.
What makes it special: The grand feu enamel. That’s the unique grain and deep Breguet blue colour of the dial. Your garden-variety Classique 5367 has hands in this neoclassical colour, but this platinum-cased variation inverts the blue hue — while keeping the 41mm case, small seconds on the tourbillon axis and sweeping dial calligraphy once drawn by Abraham-Louis Breguet himself.
Price: £126,500 — and it’s only available in selected Breguet boutiques.
Vacheron Constantin Grand Complication Split-Seconds Chronograph ‘Tempo’
When was it released: Towards the end of April.
What makes it special: It’s literally a double-sided watch. It’s incredible. One-of-a-kind, it’s powered by an entirely new calibre with a staggering 24 horological complications. Ready? A musical minute repeater function, timekeeping and calendar indications, a split-second chronograph, both day and date and month and leap year indications, a second time zone, 30-minute counter, moon-phase display, solar time, equation of time, sunrise and sunset, and day and night duration. And that’s not even all of them…
Price: We don’t even want to know.
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue
When was it released: Early July — and it was available to buy the same day it was launched.
What makes it special: That it’s a suave, sophisticated and thoroughly fresh take on an already-in-demand timepiece. Tudor’s original black BB58 lends this new take its COSC-certified in-house movement and 70-hour power reserve — but the fabric strap and navy colour (a references to the Tudor Submariners once worn by France’s Marine Nationale) stand it apart.
Price: A thoroughly reasonable £2,520.
That Rolex catch your eye? Here are the best new novelties from the iconic watchmaker…
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