In so many ways, 2022 was a year of growth and experimentation for the luxury watch industry. With the worst days of the global COVID-19 pandemic largely behind us, brands across the spectrum took advantage of the return to “normal” around the world to deliver not only a rollicking return to large-scale in-person events and trade shows, but a new, more experimental strategy aimed at predicting the changing future of consumer trends. Naturally, this led to a slew of fascinating watches in 2022, and our team has collected its favorites from the last 12 months below. Feel free to add your own 2022 favorites in the comments, and we hope you enjoy this list as much as we’ve enjoyed this wild, optimistic year in watchmaking. – Sean Lorentzen
Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Pro Diver Titanium
The officially certified diver’s watch, suitable for serious underwater duty, is something the collector community really appreciates. It isn’t that anyone needs this, or that watches without certificates perform particularly poorer, but certifications go to the heart of why we like tool and instrument watches. With the Super Sea Wolf Pro Diver, Zodiac wanted to have a fully U.S.-certified diver’s watch. It is more durable and legible than the standard version, and in titanium, you can barely feel its 42mm-wide mass on the wrist. Watches like this are why enthusiasts keep coming around.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Silver Dial
currently produces the thinnest mechanical watches in several different categories, including the thinnest automatic chronograph. That incredibly thin Finissimo movement has recently been featured in the monochromatic all-silver-tone version of the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT. The steel case and bracelet are paired with a silver dial, with applied hour markers that are now painted with luminant. This execution of the Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT does a great job of showing off the distinctive case shape, not to mention how attractively thin it is. Also, compared to other integrated steel bracelet watches with thin movements on the market, Bulgari still offers one of the best values.
While we as enthusiasts are often guilty of massively hyping up new releases, a watch release almost never escapes our community to become a bona fide cultural phenomenon. I’ve never seen anything like this year’s release of the Omega
Bioceramic Speedmaster Moonswatch series. From the massive lines at retailers to the insane secondhand market at release to the continuing controversy surrounding online sales availability, this line of $260 quartz chronographs introduced sneakerhead-style hype culture to watch retail on a broad scale and improved sales across the board for both Omega and Swatch. There’s plenty to be said about the actual quality of the watches (the more one views this release as a stylish Swatch, and not a cheap Omega, the better), but there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle here. For better or worse, this is almost certainly the most important and influential watch release of 2022, and even after going through the whole spectrum of emotions surrounding the watches myself, I’m proud to have a “Mission to Jupiter” in my own collection.
It’s easy to get jaded as a watch enthusiast, especially after working in this field for nearly a decade. Every once in a while, however, a release comes along that reignites my sense of magic and wonder, and the Cartier
Masse Mystérieuse certainly achieves this. Combining a mystery dial with a truly one-of-a-kind movement packaged inside its own winding rotor, the sheer visual drama of the Masse Mystérieuse is second to none. The brand also pairs this spectacle with classic Cartier visual hallmarks like a chemin-de-fer
minutes track, engraved Roman numerals, and an ornate ruby cabochon crown, imbuing the design with a sense of timeless refinement that rarely appears in this sort of “shock and awe” watchmaking. There’s little doubt in my mind this will be an enthusiast conversation piece for years to come.
When it comes to my favorite watch releases of 2022, It’s hard for me not to shoot for the moon and pick something unapologetically expensive. While I have to give honorable mentions to some of the small-scale independent brands like Nodus and RZE for producing seriously value-driven timepieces for just several hundred dollars, if someone were to give me a blank check and say that I could have any new release from 2022, I’d definitely be going home with something that would firmly be within the aspirational category. Part of me would want to choose the Omega
Speedmaster Chrono Chime because Omega had to invent a new type of complication in order to create the watch. After getting a chance to handle the piece in person, it absolutely exudes a sense of exclusivity with its case, bracelet, and even the bridges of the movement all crafted from solid 18k Sedna gold.
Alternatively, there is a different part of me that deeply loves the Richard Mille RM 88 Smiley, and as long as we are talking about the hypothetical world where I can own any new release from the past year (regardless of whether or not it costs as much as a house), there’s a fairly good chance that I might actually choose the ever-controversial RM 88 Smiley. I personally think Richard Mille
is at its best as a brand when it produces fun and slightly irreverent timepieces, and if you’re going to spend seven figures on a watch, buying a box of emojis for your wrist might just be the ultimate IDGAF flex.
On a personal note, since this is a personal choice, I realized long ago that the combination of a 60-minute bezel and a chronograph is a weak spot of mine — as are fun watches. For a more general take, I’ll say that the Chaosmaster combines a fun take with a respectful approach to an established vintage design and adds a no-nonsense price tag on top — along with a rather strict limitation of just 33 pieces made from each of the three versions. Aside from the heavy-handed exclusivity, the Chaosmaster is my choice because its fun-vintage-affordable recipe is one I hope many others will follow in 2023.
Ultimates are fun, and luxury watches have for long been the perfect place to find them. In 2022, the best place for ultimates was the A. Lange & Söhne
booth at Watches & Wonders Geneva, where the Saxon manufacture debuted its first all-titanium watch with the Odysseus. The overall presence, quality feel, superb fit, and intricate finish have all added up to a whole that was even greater than one would likely have expected. The Odysseus in titanium is as much of a tank as it is highly engineered jewelry. Oh, and it makes the $20,000 less expensive steel version appear a sensible purchase for a brief, albeit glorious moment. Check out our hands-on
to learn more.
My selection is the Hermès
Arceau Le Temps Voyageur. A laser-engraved and lacquered map design sits slightly off-center on the dial, hinting at its unconventional personality. Look closer, however, and you’ll see that the map is borne of a completely imaginary geography. It’s a whimsical touch that gives you the feel of traversing an alternate world in centuries past. Press the button located on the left side of the case, and you’ll be treated to both a playful and impressively technical display wherein the satellite time-display subdial rotates around the face of the watch; each press advances both the time zone indication and the hour hand of the current time. It’s a fanciful take on a worldtimer that will likely inspire a travel-related daydream or two (or 24, as the case may be).
In an industry where vintage-inspired watches remain all the rage, it was a pleasant surprise when Citizen released a chunky, oddly-shaped diver with a weird dial that didn’t smack of the 1960s. It was even more of a surprise to find out that the watch was a reissue — of a 1300m Citizen diver from 1982. While the model comes in four different styles—blue or green camo, black and gold, and the special whale shark dial
—I tried the green camo dial on at a show this year and was blown away. Here was a 47mm watch that looked like a proximity mine the Ninja Turtles might have used, and it wore brilliantly. The Super Titanium case—Citizen’s proprietary titanium with a hardening coating—makes it exceptionally light and the dial and shape make it absurdly fun. Amidst high-complication haute horlogerie
, racing-inspired reissues, and a deluge of collaborations of widely varying merit, this Citizen—particularly the camo dials—stands out as a chunky and funky breath of fresh air.
My first selection for the best watch of 2022 is not exactly Haute Horology, but it was one that I spent my own money on. It’s the Casio GShock GA-B2100, a.k.a. the Solar/Bluetooth Casioak. I loved that it combines the durability of a G-Shock with stylish looks and slim dimensions, and ended up buying them in a few colors. I always found myself wishing for a solar version with atomic or Bluetooth timekeeping, however. Luckily this year, Casio released exactly that in resin (I went with a yellow one), and later in full metal! I can’t wait to see what the brand does with it next.
On the other end of the price spectrum, the watch release of 2022 that I would buy if I suddenly found myself in a very different financial situation is the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Starwheel. The 11.59 received negative comments when it was released, but I’ve always found its complex curved crystal and case construction intriguing. Bringing back the star wheel complication from AP’s back catalog only enhances its appeal, and I think it works especially well under the 11.59’s large crystal. While $57,900 USD is a huge amount of money to spend on a watch, the case is made from gold and ceramic. This, plus a novel complication, makes it seem like a bargain compared to what people were paying for a 3-hand steel Royal Oak in 2022.
Watch collectors and enthusiasts at all levels hem and haw at the mind-bending design, construction, and execution of high-end watches like MB&F, Greubel Forsey, H. Moser & Cie., and countless other Haute Horlogerie
brands. The opportunity to see one of these epic creations in the metal is another experience entirely and is not one most people ever have for themselves. Christopher Ward
changed the game this year with the release of the C1 Bel Canto, a dial-side hour chime that looks like nothing the brand has made before and is every bit high-horology inspired. It’s also priced mind-bogglingly low in comparison to the other watches in its category. The C1 Bel Canto is my top choice for “Watch of 2022” because it makes mechanical wearable art accessible in an elegant, intriguing, and joyful way, without having any of the branding for people to complain about.
Enthusiasts have been raving over the idea of a Seiko
SKX007 GMT for far longer than I have considered myself a watch nerd. Not only was the SKX007 one of the most recommended tool watches, but also one of the most modified, specifically with a 12 hour bezel insert to get a step closer to that perfect hypothetical world travel watch. When the SKX007 was eventually discontinued, it seemed that enthusiast prayers would never be answered, but its revival in the Seiko 5 Sports line brought back hope. Just a few short years later, we have the Seiko 5 Sports GMT — now reference SSK — with an automatic “caller” GMT movement that clocks in under $500 USD. This alone makes it one of the most affordable mechanical GMT watches on the market and puts it high on my list of best watches of 2022. I would be remiss not to mention that this is also excellent for the entire watch industry. It’s no secret that Seiko sells its movements to other watch companies. The 4R34 movement found in the Seiko 5 Sports GMT is already being packed into other watches as the Seiko TMI NH34 and quickly spicing up the affordable GMT competition. The double-whammy of providing the watch we have been asking for for decades, and opening the door for dozens of other affordable GMT watches, makes the Seiko 5 Sports GMT one of the best releases of the year.
H. Moser & Cie.
isn’t a brand to shy away from interesting materials, be it ox’s eye, aventurine, or cheese. Really, it was just a matter of time until it would play around with Vantablack, a carbon nanotube-based material that absorbs 99.965% of incoming light. First introduced as an April Fool’s joke in 2019, the material has been used in several models since, with the Streamliner receiving a full case/dial/bracelet Vantablack treatment in the Streamliner Chronograph Flyback Automatic “Blacker Than Black.” The result was as wild as it was impractical, as Vantablack is relatively fragile, and even transporting the watch to Watches & Wonders without disturbing the surface treatment was a feat by itself. But the promise for a Vantablack Streamliner was there, and this summer, we were treated to an all-new Streamliner with a 5N red-gold case and bracelet sporting a double-hairspring flying tourbillon. Given that darkness as deep as Vantablack simply doesn’t occur in nature, the depth of the dial is something that takes time to wrap your head around. When offset against the tourbillon, the gold hands, and indices, it’s like seeing a constellation set against the backdrop of a black hole (if we ignore physics for the moment). The price tag is unsurprisingly stratospheric at CHF 109,000, but the warm hues of the red gold case and the contrast of the tourbillon against the stygian black dial are truly something to behold.
couldn’t have picked a more appropriate name for the Evolution 9 series of watches. Just as the White Birch shows a clear pattern of descent with modification from its Snowflake forebear, the new GMT, chronograph, and diver’s watches within the Evolution 9 collection are clearly descended from others in the Grand Seiko lineup. However, each of these is unequivocally its own species… er, watch. Frankly, it was about time. Grand Seiko divers like the SBGA231 have always had their fans, but have remained something of a niche product. In part, this is because outside of the Spring Drive movement, there wasn’t enough to differentiate them from the bounty of other divers on the market. That’s all changed with the SLGA015 and its “Black Stream” dial. The titanium case and bezel are cleaner and more streamlined than those of its predecessors, which allows the deeply textured dial (named for the Kuroshio Current that flows past Japan towards the Arctic) to take center stage. Even the power reserve indicator is more subdued. No, it’s not a Submariner-killer, nor is it aiming to be. It’s Grand Seiko doing what Grand Seiko does best, and finally gives its dive line some much-needed attention. It’s not cheap at $11,600, but the SLGA015 offers something entirely different, compelling, and very much Grand Seiko.
Durable, good-looking, or affordable. Pick two. Such logic breaks down with the Ascentus GMT, one of several 2022 releases from Singapore-based RZE. From the all-titanium build to the fun-but-not-overly-daring dial colors, the Ascentus GMT combines the best of what we love about microbrands: pioneering looks and affordable prices. In the cut-throat world of independent watchmaking, RZE has learned a lesson that many small outfits never internalize: you can’t cut corners on specs. From the sapphire crystals across its entire collection to being one of the first to implement Seiko’s new NH34 movement, RZE has come out of the gate with one of what we are sure will be many creative uses of the new worldtiming caliber. And at 40mm with lume to spare, it’s a tidy affair, to boot.
Rarely does the magnetic polarity of watchmaking shift around, yet it did in 2022. Maximilian Busser of MB&F
fame surprised us all this year with the introduction of the M.A.D. 1 RED, a timepiece that compromises nothing in terms of quality yet somehow brings Swiss Haute Horology to a level that’s downright attainable. Priced at 2,900 CHF, it’s multiples less than any other watch of its ilk, making it an immediate standout. Building on the original M.A.D. 1, a special thank-you project developed by Busser, the RED (while still limited) offers aspects of innovation that have made MB&F timepieces famous – all while not technically being an MB&F timepiece at all. Part of MB&F’s direct-to-customer network called the M.A.D. Gallery, the RED moves time-telling to the exterior edge of the timepiece, using internal discs that rotate in a stacked configuration. This is powered by an inverted Miyota movement whose replaced rotor makes up the visual space where the dial ought to be. It’s probably wishful thinking, but we’re hopeful this bodes well for similar projects from other high-end manufacturers.