In this annual instalment, I would like to present the Watch Chronicler Awards — 2019. In this special feature, I would like to present awards for 10 categories ranging from the most bizarre release to the most spectacular and my personal favourites.
Most Technologically Interesting Watch: Citizen Eco-Drive Calibre 0100
The first watch in this piece, quite apart from being a stunning 37.5mm dress watch in white gold or hardened titanium, is simply the most accurate watch ever made. Housed within the stunning dial which features beautifully sharp hands and markers is a photovoltaic cell. This maintains the watch’s six-month battery life which continues even in total darkness.
Aside from the power reserve, this 17-jewel quartz movement uses an AT-cut quartz crystal (oscillating 256 times more quickly than a standard one at 8.39 MHz) to offer deviation of only one second per year. The result is a stunning watch with an unprecedented level of accuracy. Make no mistake, this demonstration of ingenuity is just as impressive as any mechanical watch. For this, it deserves its place in the Watch Chronicler Awards — 2019.
Most Historically Important Watch: Habring Perpetual Doppel
Founded in 2004 by Maria and Richard Habring, this is a brand with a very different approach to watchmaking. As the man who made the elegantly simple IWC rattrapante chronograph in the 1990s from the Valjoux 7750, Richard Habring has centred the brand around this movement. In this aim, the brand has now produced a manually-wound version which gives a moonphase, perpetual calendar and monopusher rattrapante chronograph for a price of 21,500 euros.
Considering that the movement is entirely made by Habring’s selected suppliers and that the equivalent made in the traditional way would cost 10 times the price, this is a remarkable piece. It is also beautifully designed and executed with the same skill as all other Habrings.
For these reasons, it could just change the way we look at complications.
Most Bizarre Product: Doxa Sub 200 T. Graph in 18K Gold
Many strange watches have been released over the past year, but the watch to take the biscuit in these Watch Chronicler Awards of 2019 is the Doxa Sub 200 T. Graph in 18K gold. Released as a limited edition of 13 pieces prior to the release of the steel model, this iconic dive watch firm released solid gold remakes of its historic chronograph.
Retaining a 200 metre water resistance and the characteristic bezel, this 43mm watch is extremely striking. This is, however, nothing when compared to the shock of its 70,000 dollar price. Even accepting that it uses a restored Valjoux 7734 from the mid-20th century (a rather pedestrian movement, at any rate), this price would be enough to buy a Rolex GMT-Master II and an Omega Seamaster 300 — both of which in gold.
For this reason, this Doxa deserves to be called a conundrum.
Best Vintage-Inspired Watch: Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary in 18K Moonshine Gold
Whilst also a gold chronograph, this Omega Speedmaster earns my praise as a wonderfully made redesign of a classic watch. The fact that Omega created a new, lighter type of gold for this watch reveals the lengths to which it aimed. Looking at the dial, we are shown beautiful black markers and a stunning brushed surface to match the case.
However, the watch which spawned the design is actually why the reiteration deserves the award. The original watch, made in just over 1,000 pieces, was offered to American politicians and astronauts to mark the moon landing. Whilst declined by many due to being an endorsement, this watch did mark the end of the Speedmaster as a pure tool.
This watch heralded a time when the watch would sell for its reputation: something which Omega has capitalised upon for the last 50 years. This new watch introduces the Co-Axial Master Chronometer version of the cal. 1861: the cal. 3861. With this comprehensively modern movement, Omega has the opportunity to look to the future with this watch and create a new legend.
Most Surprising Release: Tudor Black Bay P01
When released at Baselworld 2019, the Black Bay P01 surprised us all. Whilst Rolex released the steel and gold Sea-Dweller to once more reinforce its sales, Tudor had done something different.
With a vastly oversized Black Bay range, Tudor has released a piece which fits the name perfectly and which is based upon a prototype made for the US Navy in the late ’60s. Exuding a robust, technical feel, the 42mm case has sharp edges and a crown protected at 4 o’clock. Most striking are the endlinks which are needed for a strap and which protrude from the bulbous case.
Concealed within the upper lug is a system to lock and release the 12-hour bezel. The result is a beautifully designed and made sports watch with a 200 metre water resistance and more to talk about than a Rolex Submariner.
Most Eagerly Received Watch: Zodiac Aerospace GMT
Few brands understand colour like Zodiac. Their Super Sea Wolf line has gained immense attraction due to a brilliant design, outrageous colours and quality to match more expensive watches. However, nothing has hit the market as hard as the new Aerospace GMT with subtle grey and black or bright blue and orange colour schemes.
This play on one of Zodiac’s own designs from the early days of jetliners gives a case entirely redesigned since the Super Sea Wolf. The quality of finishing remains stunning and the bevelled edged and fine bezel catch the era perfectly. When released, this ETA 2893-2 powered watch sold out in its 182 examples per colour in days.
Of course, this is the result of making a lovely watch at a fair price. In any case, it deserves to secure this title in the Watch Chronicler Awards of 2019.
Best Value Watch: Formex Essence Leggera
Released relatively recently and by a brand which I respect totally is the Formex Essence Leggera. Conceived as an extreme version of the brand’s successful Essence, this watch retains the sprung inner-case to deaden shocks and bumps and to conform to the wrist. To this, it grows crown guards but also much more profound changes.
With a case weighing only 50 grams, the aim of this watch was lightness. The case achieves this by being made from carbon fibre, scratch-resistant zirconia ceramic and titanium. As strong as they are light, these materials enable the watch to be the perfect companion on the ski slope, in the pool or on almost any other activity to be dreamt up. Internally, it uses a chronometer-grade STP 1-11: a fundamentally enhanced version of the trusty ETA 2824-2.
Remarkably, Formex are able to offer this watch with price starting at £1,650. This may seem like a lot yet, for these features, I would have predicted a price of twice that.
Most Spectacular Watch: MB&F Legacy Machine Thunderdome
Released as a collaboration between the creator of the JLC Gyrotourbillon, Max Busser and Kari Voutilainen, this watch was always going to be spectacular. Housed within this immense 44mm by 22.2mm case, this watch houses a remarkable movement designed with all the skill of the world-famous watchmaker Kari Voutilainen.
However, it is the tourbillon which is nestled in a world of enamelled guilloche surfaces. Operating with three moving cages, this triple-axis tourbillon’s levels rotate once every 8, 12 and 20 seconds thus making it the fastest tourbillon ever conceived. Furthermore, the balance wheel is spherical to accommodate a cylindrical marine chronometer style of balance spring.
Ultimately, this is merely a toy, but one of splendid craftsmanship at which the mind boggles. In this way, it was made to reach a new level of pointless mechanisation. I am thoroughly glad that it was!
My Favourite Dress Watch: Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar
I love a watch with a long power reserve. I don’t mean an 8-day or even a 10-day power reserve. I mean watches like the absurd A. Lange & Söhne Lange 31 which achieved a month-long power reserve with 3.7 metres of spring. To this, Vacheron Constantin has presented a much more elegant solution.
Rather than increasing the power held by the spring, this watch renders the watch more efficient. Aside from the wonders of a perpetual calendar, these movements are a pain to reset. For this reason, the owner of this piece can toggle between an accurate high-beat 5Hz escapement and balance wheel or a lower accuracy one beating at only 1.2Hz. Achieved with an ultra-thin balance spring, this extends the power reserve to 65 days. In fact, some say that this is a conservative estimate.
For this reason — one rendered completely irrelevant by the automatic watch winder — I find this watch wonderful beyond any other dress watch released this year.
My Favourite Sport Watch: Zenith El Primero A384 Revival
Created as a remake of one of Zenith’s less popular El Primero models of the late 1960s this watch approaches the matter with seriousness. No liberties have been taken and the original watch is replicated in 1:1 scale. The dial printing has the same slightly quaint touches as the original and is conceived with superlative care.
The case matches perfectly with sunburst brushing and sharp bevels. Even the ladder bracelet has been replicated with obsessive care. However, the reason why I like this watch so much is not because it is a vintage remake but rather because it is different and conceived with a level of care rarely seen. In a world of long waiting lists for steel sports watches, this shows that Zenith has can offer world class detail for an appropriate price considering the El Primero 400 movement within it.
This is also a watch for every day which needs no justification nor branding. It is simply a beautiful chronograph. For this, it should definitely be amongst the winners of the Watch Chronicler Awards — 2019.