Even before the destruction caused by the pandemic really settled in, 2020 was looking like a wobbly, transitional year for the watch industry. Baselworld was suffering from a seemingly endless drip-drip-drip of brands and groups dropping out, SIHH had rebranded as Watches & Wonders, and both moved their dates to within a week of each other in mid-April. There was so much shuffling, rescheduling, backing out, and ultimately, cancellations that things looked like a cluster before we really even learned how bad COVID-19 would be. Honestly, I lost track of it all, at a certain point. (Who else totally forgot that Rolex, Tudor, Patek Philippe, Chopard, and Chanel left Baselworld and were planning their own show with the FHH adjacent to Watches & Wonders?)
This recapping of the chaos is just to say that hopes for new watches released in 2020 were not particularly high. But as we all adapted and adjusted to a new reality, so did the watch brands and major groups. Watches & Wonders went digital, and there has been a steady stream of new releases from just about everyone making do with Zoom presentations and virtual events. It hasn’t been perfect, but the industry has proven to be resilient and flexible.
There has been a slew of new releases we’ve covered, and here, the aBlogtoWatch editorial team chooses their personal favorites from a wild year. –BILAL KHAN
The Parmigiani Hijri Perpetual Calendar is a work of horological art that debuts an astronomical complication that dares to alienate the entire Western market. Many brands create watches with designs and themes geared toward regional collectors from places like the Middle East or China, but so much of it just comes off as lackadaisical pandering.
While this release actually came very late in 2019, my feelings were too strong not to make an exception. Based on a clock that Michel Parmigiani created back in 2011, the Hijri Perpetual Calendar is peerless, as far as I know, in tracking the Islamic lunar calendar. Sadly, I still have not been able to hold this watch in the metal (that metal being platinum), but I feel comfortable making what was a pretty tough call for my pick of the top all-new watch of 2020. Having handled just about every watch Parmigiani produces at this point, I trust that the finishing and attention to detail will live up to the photos.
It’s the artists that the world falls back on for effective escapism during the hardest of times, not safely cushioned billion-dollar-revenue companies. One of the few new watches that genuinely made me wonder — as in fuel up my lockdown-suppressed imagination — was the Mars Conqueror by Konstantin Chaykin. Sure, Rolex was so bold as to apply colors (gasp!) to some of the dials on the restyled Oyster Perpetual, but as far as I’m concerned, Chaykin is in a class of his own when it comes to bringing creativity into quality watchmaking. And so, my choice for Top New Watch Of 2020 is the Mars Conqueror because it evoked, from me at least, a Jules Verne kind of wonder — and that’s exactly what I need when 2020 has been about working from home, and hardly anything else.
In a year that saw a pretty excellent complement of new releases from IWC, Breitling, TAG Heuer, and even Rolex and Tudor (the latter of whom swore they’d not be releasing anything in 2020 due to the pandemic disruptions), one brand made a noticeably smaller splash: Omega. Sure, the brand hit the ground running early in January with the new, long-awaited Caliber 321 redux, and followed it up with a complete revision of the Constellation line. But perhaps the days of 100+ SKUs launching in a single Baselworld week are now behind us, as the brand’s new releases were spread in a tidy smattering throughout the year, none of which really made their way to the top of my wishlist (perhaps my bias is one of specificity: I’m still waiting for a Seamaster 300 MC update, a Seamaster 300 GMT or Aqua Terra GMT using one of Omega’s modern calibers). There was a quite cool all-matte 42mm Seamaster No-Date that mysteriously appeared on Omega’s website before quickly disappearing – only to later be revealed that it was a very exclusive limited edition built for the Swiss armed forces. But then we got to October and all that changed with the Speedmaster Silver Snoopy Anniversary edition. In a crummy year that amounted to disappointment, heartbreak, and just downright boredom for the legions of us doing our part to stay home, the ultra-charming Silver Snoopy with its animated caseback was a genuine bright spot, a joy-creator and an absolute treat to photograph. It’ll certainly make its new owners happy, provided those who can get to the top of a growing global wish list.
Although 2020 saw a paradigm shift in the way new watches are brought to market, thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, looking back on 2020 as a whole, this was still a packed year for quality watch releases. After some initial jitters and schedule changes early in the year, nearly every major brand came out swinging with a slate of new models, but perhaps none more so than TAG Heuer. It’s been a relentless year of new releases for the sporty Swiss marque, and one release clearly stands out as its most influential and refreshing in years. The TAG Heuer Carrera Sport Chronograph 44mm Calibre Heuer 02 Automatic line is a dramatic rethinking of TAG’s keystone chronograph line, drastically raising the bar for the luxury-focused side of the line with the in-house Heuer 02 automatic chronograph movement and a streamlined new design.
The green dial reference CBN2A10.BA0643 is the clear standout to me. In a year dominated by green dial designs, the radially brushed green dial here is one of the richest and most striking of them all, elevated by an impressive amount of visual depth for the chronograph subdials. The brushed steel tachymeter bezel along with short lugs and clever case geometry help to hide some of this case’s 44mm bulk, leading to a bold wearing experience without being overwhelming. Of course, the biggest change this series brought to the Carrera line was the regular production introduction of the in-house Heuer 02 automatic chronograph movement, which stands as one of the finest in its class with aggressive finishing, a vertical clutch, a column wheel, and a massive 80-hour power reserve. While there may have been flashier or more hyped releases from TAG Heuer this year, this is the one that stands as a clear beacon for the brand moving forward, making the Carrera one of the strongest contenders in this hotly contested sports chronograph segment.
2020 wasn’t supposed to be as good for watches as it was. It took some courage for brands to release as many new models in 2020 as they did, and for that, we timepiece aficionados are lucky — but it is impossible for me to choose just one favorite.
So, what new watches stood out to me the most? First is the recently released TAG Heuer Aquaracer x Bamford that is not only a lovely-looking TAG but also the most competent tool watch George Bamford has ever been involved with. Next is the Breitling Chronomat B01 42 watch that is a modern version of a classic model with an updated rouleaux steel metal bracelet. Rolex delighted the community with a new highly desirable entry-level model in the Oyster Perpetual 41. Ulysse Nardin took the high road by making a luxurious albeit practical contemporary tourbillon with the Blast collection. Louis Erard helped celebrate the enduring power of the collaboration watch with multiple new limited editions, including the Alain Silverstein-designed Excellence Regulator. Finally, Casio released the capable G-Shock Move activity tracking watches that offer a satisfying combination of a smartwatch and traditional G-Shock wearing experience.