Now that 2019 is behind us, we can take a look back and see which watches were standouts. Some introduced new movements or innovations while others were just cool, but all made us pay attention.
I’m just as surprised as anyone, but kicking our list off is a 007 special edition Omega. But let’s set the Bond-branding aside for a moment and just look at it as a watch. This model is basically a special version of the new Seamaster Diver 300M with vintage accents as well as some discrete special edition writing on the back. Regardless, it looks fantastic, especially on that mesh bracelet. It’s a Bond watch for people who don’t especially care about Bond, or even people with an active aversion to Omega’s frequent LEs.
The next is dear to my own heart, the SBGK005. Along with a few other models, the SBGK005 introduced the wonderful new 9S63 manual-wind movement. GS fans have been all over the Japanese brand to bring us more hand-wound watches, and Grand Seiko responded in a big way, particularly with this avant-garde dial layout. With the new SBGK005 and similar models, GS has really expanded the diversity of watches available.
The next is the watch that I called, unequivocally, the best chronograph of 2019, a statement I still stand by. That watch is the new (or old, depending on how you look at it) A384 Revival. The A384 reminds us all of how to do a proper re-issue of a true legend, keeping its classic proportions, funky case, beautiful dial, and, of course, an El Primero movement.
It might not be as game-changing as that SBGK005 or A384, but I still think this lovely Club Sport Neomatik 42 Date (ref. 781) deserves a place on my list. For one thing, it combines the new DUW 6101 “Update” movement, with one of the best date complications in the business, but for another it’s available on Nomos’ cool new bracelet. Perhaps best of all, the Club Sport Neomatik 42 Date is arguably the spiritual successor to the old Club Dunkel, one of my all-time favorite Nomosess (and I know I’m not alone).
It was hard choosing a Blancpain for 2019–it was between this new Air Command and the Barakuda. The Air Command was ultimately the more interesting watch, however, owing to the model’s fascinating history, and to the fact that, as wonderful as the 50 Fathoms Barakuda is, the Air Command stands out more than the rest in Blancpain’s new-for-2019 lineup.
Another Grand Seiko, you say? Look, it’s not my fault Grand Seiko killed it in 2019. I knew I had to include a model that featured the incredible 9R31 spring drive movement, and that’s for a couple reasons. The first is that it’s hand-wound, making for yet another reasonably thin Grand Seiko, but the second is that it shows that GS is listening to fans and offering a power reserve complication on the movement instead of the dial. As per why I chose the SBGY003 as opposed to a few other great new GSes with hand-wound spring drives, it’s because it is, by far, the most accessible of the bunch, being steel. For a select few lucky Grand Seiko fans, they were able to get a watch with a movement really aimed at the high-end for very reasonable prices. Most importantly, the SBGY003 represents what we can expect in the next 2 or 3 years from GS, with more great spring drives sans-power reserve gradually moving into more affordable steel cases.
For IWC, we had a ton of great new Pilot’s Watches to choose from for 2019, but I went with two of the most affordable, the new Automatic Spitfire and the Automatic Top Gun (my preference is for the latter, but you’ll pay a premium for that ceramic case). The reason I’ve selected these watches isn’t their price, but rather, the 32110 movement inside of them. It might be based on the overall design of the 2892, but this lovely new automatic has a 72 hour power reserve and is actually very sophisticated. The addition of this movement really completes the package for these models that were formerly considered entry-level alternatives to legends like the Big Pilot’s Watch.
Omega surprised basically no one by introducing a new chronograph version of their tremendously well-received new Seamaster Diver 300M, but just because we all expected it doesn’t mean it isn’t a gorgeous watch. It features a cleaner bi-compax dial compared to the three subdials of its predecessor, as well as a current-generation 9900 Master Co-Axial movement with all the bells and whistles. As is always the case with Omega, you’ve got a wide variety of versions to choose from, but my favorite is this silver and blue accent model.
It may not be the most exotic or exciting watch of 2019, but Vacheron’s new Patrimony Manual-Winding in blue is unquestionably beautiful. As the name would suggest, the Patrimony is all about tradition, and in this instance, moderation. A very thin 40mm case, a blue dial with gold accents, perfect finishing, and not much else make for a very compelling dress watch.
Finally, we have the Grand Seiko Japan Seasons Collection. Get mad at the third inclusion of GS on this list if you want, but I doubt anyone can seriously dispute that the Seasons Collection has earned a spot on a Best of 2019 list through sheer beauty. I’m only showing two here, but all four belong on this list. Unlike our other two GSes today, these don’t introduce some new technical aspect to GS or change the direction of Grand Seiko in the future. No, they’re simply beautiful, and that’s enough.
It’s impossible to say what to expect for 2020, except that, being a nice, round number, I’m betting the brands in general want to step up their game. It’ll be interesting to see what happens as Baselworld continues to decline in importance and with several high-visibility brands now choosing to exercise more control over when and how new models are announced. We’ll probably be seeing models released throughout the year as opposed to the massive release we’re used to in March, although Baselworld still remains relevant in 2020, just decreasingly so.