2020 will probably go down as the most dramatic year since the Quartz Revolution shook up the watch industry — from the calamity called Covid that shuttered manufactures for months on end, to the fiasco called Baselworld and more, it’s been quite a show. But obstacles aside, our favourite watchmakers have not stopped in their creativity and in their determination to bring us new timepieces that excite and drag us out of our gloom from time to time. Here are the seven watches that defined 2020 for us.
The question of the future of major Swiss watch fairs has already been a question on everyone’s minds for some time — many had already pulled out of Baselworld at this time, and the newly re-christened Watches and Wonders had also been pushed back to mid-year. Bulgari’s CEO Jean-Christophe Babin, with contrary views, decided to strike out on his own, along with Bulgari’s sister brands within the LVMH Group.
Bulgari kicked off the year with the launch of LVMH Watch Week in Dubai from January 13 to 15. The debut event offered up a variety of spectacular watches from Bulgari, TAG Here, Hublot and Zenith, and would also become the only watch fair to have gone on successfully before Covid hit full force.
In particular, the Serpenti Seduttori Tourbillon launched at this time was remarkable. Bulgari combined both their expertise in jewellery and watchmaking to bring us the world’s thinnest tourbillon movement in the beautiful, bejewelled Serpenti Seduttori timepiece. The new Calibre BVL150 is the smallest tourbillon in current production, with an overall dimension of 22mm x 18mm and only 3.65mm thick.
Since the 1960s, Piaget has been a leader in creating ultra-thin movements, with the creations of the automatic calibre 12P and the hand-wound calibre 9P. In 2018, Piaget broke all records by releasing the prototype Altiplano Ultimate Concept that was only 2mm thick. It was so thin, it was thinner than many watch movements on the market. It took two years to make the technical feat an actual production watch and Piaget finally did it this year.
The Altiplano Ultimate Concept is the world’s thinnest mechanical watch today in production today. Not only that, Piaget has made the watch fully customisable, with over 10,000 permutations that you could play around with online, from changing the colours of the bridges and wheels, to the colour of the bezel and straps.
In a heartwarming turn of events, two of the most well-beloved independent manufactures, MB&F and H. Moser & Cie, came together in a mutual display of respect and creativity to bring us two collaboration limited edition watches. From Moser, we have the H. Moser x MB&F Endeavour Cylindrical Tourbillon, inspired by the MB&F FlyingT. And from MB&F, we have the MB&F x H. Moser LM101, which puts Moser’s incredible fumé dials and hairspring innovation at the forefront.
Launched in June, the watches were offered in an array of stunning colour — the LM101 was available in 60 examples divided into 15 pieces each in funky blue, cosmic green, red and an exclusive aqua blue for retailer Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons. The Endeavour Cylindrical Tourbillon is offered in five versions, in funky blue, burgundy, cosmic green, off-white and ice blue, with each version available in 15 piece editions as well.
When Rolex, Patek Philippe and Tudor pulled out of Baselworld in April 2020, we didn’t know what to expect next. Could we still expect any of them to release anything this year? And if so, in what format? Tudor was the first to do so, with the release of the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue. Tudor only released one watch last year, but it was enough to sweep the internet off of its feet.
In the seven years since its launch, the Black Bay has planted itself firmly in the hearts of many. The Black Bay Fifty-Eight in particular, with a black dial and gilt accents, was an instant hit when it arrived on the market in 2018. The 2020 Navy Blue is a beautiful new addition to the collection, inspired by the “Blue Snowflake” Tudor Submariners from the mid-70s.
For the most part of the 2020, Omega had been mum about what they had been up to. But as we edged closer and closer to October, we knew they had something in store for us. The release of the Omega Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” 50th Anniversary coincided with the very anniversary date of the Silver Snoopy Award to Omega — on October 5, 1970 — following the Apollo 13 mission. The Silver Snoopy Award is a special honour awarded to NASA employees and contractors for their outstanding achievements related to flight safety and mission success.
There couldn’t have been a more uplifting watch than this latest Silver Snoopy timepiece. The Omega Snoopy watches have always been some of the most desirable Omega watches – a great juxtaposition between the playful comic and the recognition of Omega’s efforts during the space exploration years. The 2020 version is presented in the classic 42mm Speedmaster steel case, with a stark white dial and blue accents on the bezel, hands, hour markers, sub-dials and logo. There’s also a Snoopy illustration in the small seconds sub-dial.
The ultimate surprise however, lies in the back. On the back of the watch is an animation of the moon, the earth and Snoopy in a white Command and Service Module. When the chronograph is started, Snoopy in his command module will travel to the far side of the moon, hidden from view, and reappear on top of the earth at 14 seconds — an homage to the trip taken by the Apollo 13 crew.
This year has seen many brands return to basics — and Patek Philippe has also done the same. Kind of. If you could call a grand complication basic. There is of course, nothing basic about chiming watches, but Patek Philippe’s new ref. 6301P is what they call its “purest manifestation to date” of a grande and petite sonnerie. It’s almost unbelievable that this is the first timepiece Patek has created that has placed the focus singularly on its striking complications. Patek’s previous grande sonnerie was in the Grandmaster Chime launched in 2014 to celebrate Patek’s 175th anniversary. The ref. 5175 featured a second time zone display, a perpetual calendar, an alarm function that sounded the hours, quarters and minutes two minutes before the selected time, a striking date function in decimal format, a minute repeater and a grande and petite sonnerie on four hammers. That watch was also grandiose and almost baroque in its aesthetic execution.
Not the 6301P in comparison. It still comes with six complications (counting the dual power reserve indications, the minute repeater and jumping seconds at 6 o’clock), but its design is so sleek. The 44mm Calatrava-style platinum case, with its grand feu black enamel dial, white printed chemin-de-fer style minute track, Breguet applied numerals in white gold and luminescent leaf-shaped hands – it is all of Patek Philippe’s most revered design codes rolled into one. If there was an award for the most understated complication watch of all time, this would be it.
AP has continuously rolled out hits this year and it was clear that no pandemic was going to stop it in its tracks. Released in December, the Royal Oak Openworked Double Balance Wheel appears for the first time in a highly polished satin-brushed black ceramic case. The complication has been released in both 37mm and 41mm and various case materials, but this is the first time the watch has been dressed in black ceramic. The scratch-resistant material also perfectly frames the slate grey dial and the rose gold double balance.
In its usual 41mm case sizing, the open-worked timepiece allows you more than just a glimpse into the inner workings of the in-house self-winding calibre 3132 with the pink gold double balance wheel, a patented technology that improves the watch’s precision and stability. Audemars Piguet has had a pretty superb 2020 despite the circumstances, and we can’t wait to see what this year will bring them.
By Stephanie Ip
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