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A year in review: My top 5 releases of 2020...

Rolex Oyster Perpetual ‘36’

Yes, I know. It seems far too easy to give a top 5 spot to a watch from 'the brand'. However, hear me out. Rolex, as some of you will know, are famously the most conservative brand in the watch industry. The most extravagant release from Rolex in the past few years has been a Submariner with a green dial and bezel, not exactly earth shattering is it! But, if we turn back the clocks, Rolex has a history of doing some pretty wacky stuff with dial colours and materials. The most notable and collectable being the Famous 'Stella' dial Day-Dates. Following the release of the Day-Date at Baselworld (RIP) in 1956, Rolex decided to get radical in the 70's and 80's. They decided to introduce brightly coloured enamel dials into this model line. As you can see from the photo below, pretty funky and 'un-Rolex'. After this brief hiatus from traditional and conservative design, Rolex quickly fell back into their old ways, until this year.

Just a few examples of the Stella Dials used by Rolex back in the day, collectible and stunning

One of the most versatile watches in the Rolex arsenal is the Oyster Perpetual. Coming in four sizes; 28mm, 32mm, 36mm and now 41mm; which replaced the 39mm, there is a size and colour now for everyone. Outside of the playful colours that they have introduced below, there is also the staple colours of silver, white and black and blue.

The new collection of OP's! With dials that clearly harken back to the Stella's of the 70s!

This watch is a home run in my opinion. It shows a side of Rolex which has been rarely seen in its entire history. It is priced at a point which makes it one of the more accessible models that the brand carries, and above all, some of the dial colours are stunning. Personally for me it would either be the Light Blue or the Candy Pink although all the other colours seem to be getting similar traction! Well done Rolex, well done...

Lange 1815 rattrapante honey gold

Any watch from the great German manufacturer that is produced in their proprietary Honey Gold is a home run for me. Something about the rich hue of the gold, coupled with the always exemplary watchmaking always makes for a jaw-dropping combination. And this release from Lange, the 1815 rattrapante honey gold, is no exception.

I mean... Just wow...

I was shocked to discover when researching this piece, that this is the first watch from Lange with the rattrapante being the sole complication. Whilst the split-second chronograph function is featured on pieces such as the Tourbograph Pour Le Merite and the Grand Complication, this is the first time that it has been the sole feature on a piece from A Lange & Sohne. This piece is a commemorative release to celebrate 175 years of watchmaking in Glashutte, and this is more than a fitting tribute to one of the powerhouses of watchmaking.

It comes in at a well proportioned; but slightly too big for me, 41.2mm and a thickness of just 12.6mm. As I have mentioned previously, it has been made in Lange’s proprietary material, Honey Gold. This is a special blend made by Lange, the make-up of which no one knows about. However, Lange do claim that is is more hard wearing than Platinum, and for me it is certainly more eye catching.

The way the light plays with the Honey Gold case is beautiful...

The rattrapante, which loosely translates to “catch-up” in French, is one of three complications considered ‘high’ complications alongside the Perpetual Calendar and the Minute Repeater. Fundamentally, the Rattrapante is simply a fancy chronograph, wits an additional seconds hand on top of the existing chronograph hand with an additional pusher to start it. When you engage the chronograph, both hands will move round in sync. When the additional pusher is pressed, the additional second hand will stop, leaving the other second hand to carry on rotating. When the pusher is pressed again, that second hand will stop. This allows the user to record multiple time intervals that start at the same time, for example timing different lap times in a running race.

Typically gorgeous movement architecture from Lange...

Outside of the technical prowess of the movement at the heart of this watch, the quintessential Lange design of the dial and case make this completely mesmerising. Whilst this model does feature an unusual sub-dial layout, with a 30 minute totaliser at 12 and a running seconds at 6. Whilst this is a more unusual configuration than the typical 3 and 9, I think this does wonders for the symmetry of the dial. Whilst this is a watch that I would be tempted to wear movement side up, it is hard to argue with just how stunning this watch is. Definitely a worthy winner of a place in my top 5.

Longines Heritage Tuxedo

Taking a break from the dizzying heights of A Lange and Sohne, let is take a look at possibly a contender for best watch brand of the year. In a period in the watch industry where vintage re-issues and reimagining are 10 to a penny, no one has done this better than Longines. They have been absolutely killing it, releasing some of the best watches in 2020 by a country mile. Whilst the examples below are equally superb, I have been completely smitten with one of their more simple releases, the Heritage Tuxedo.

Longines... brand of the year? I am struggling to think of a more worthy winner!

Longines are one of the few brands that seem to have an vast and incredibly archive from which to draw on. And the five releases above, alongside the Tuxedo, are a testiment to that. Why other brands who have equally brilliant archives; Rolex, Omega and the like, do not follow suit, whilst instead releasing Limited Editions to commemorate every autumn leaf that falls off a tree, or releasing a new model that is 1mm different to the previous iteration is beyond me. But in actual fact, I am glad that other brands are not smashing re-issues in the same way as Longines, as it would take away from the amazing designs they have come out with. This watch is based on the stunner below, a simple time only Longines from the 40’s. Whilst I do not think that the dial of the original started as Salmon, god that would be cool. That aside, despite the size being increased to a more wearable size for the masses, this is one spectacularly faithful re-issue.

The original Longines Tuxedo from the 1940’s...

This particular piece was actually released as part of a pair of releases, with a Tuxedo Chronograph making up the pair. However, this is the piece that steals the show for me, so whilst the Chronograph gets an honourable mention, the Tuxedo time only is my pick of the bunch.

Coming in at a upsized but still infinitely wearable 38.5mm, this watch is a home run in terms of wearability. Whilst I am personally someone who wears anything from a vintage 34mm Enicar to a 42mm Christopher Ward, I know there are some people who think 36mm is ridiculously small for a man. However this watch fits in the sweet spot of sizes, being large enough for the 42mm wearers, but not prohibitively big that the people who are used to 34 & 36mm don't find it too large. Very good start Longines...

The dial features a two tone, sector style dial, with a silver opaline dial at the centre, bordered by a black ring housing the minute track and large, lume filled numerals. A favourite feature of mine, not just on this watch I may add, is the sub seconds dial at 6. Its minimal text, and the sailing round the outer edge to give depth, perfectly compliments the rest of the dial. To add a cherry on the cake for this gorgeous manual wind offering from Longines, it comes with drilled lugs. For anyone in the know, this is an absolute masterstroke, this thing would look superb on so many different straps, and the drilled lugs make changing the straps a doddle. I can completely see this on a forstner JB-Champion style strap! Longines may be my contender for best brand of the year... and this is certainly a worthy top 5 entry.

VC Overseas Perp Cal ultra-thin blue

At SIHH 2019, one of the holy trinity, Vacheron Constantin, gave us some pretty heavy hitters. They released a blue dial version of their Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin, as well as a version on a pink gold bracelet, but with a silver dial. For those of you like me who were dying for a combination of the two; blue dial on pink gold bracelet, our prayers have been answered. At Watches & Wonders 2020, Vacheron released the Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Blue on a Gold Bracelet. So, instead of dropping £160,000+ to make this perfect combination, you can spend half of this and get one of the most attractive watches I have ever seen in my entire life. Furthermore, it is a chance to own one of the most revered and technically advanced movements ever made, the perpetual calendar.

How this watches manages to be full gold but not blingy is beyond me... stunning

To put a cherry on the cake, this watch comes with not one, but too additional straps. A supple blue rubber and a slightly more formal deep blue alligator. The ingenious quick-release system they use on this piece also make changing straps easy as you can imagine. If you have not picked up on the theme here, I like watches where strap changing is easy!

Cartier Prive Collection Tank Asymmetrique Skeleton

For me, skeletonised watches get very mixed reviews in this day and age. The rise of cheap watch brands that use open-worked balance wheels to evoke a sense of luxury has lead to brands being very careful with their application of it. However one brand in particular that seems to be able to pull it off in a way that only they could, is Cartier.

The Prive Collection from Cartier started in 1998, and since its resurgence in 2015, it has seen them come up with some phenomenal re-editions. The Crash, Tonneau and Cintree have all been featured as Limited Editions, and now, it is the turn of the Tank Asymetrique. This piece was released as part of a trio of skeletonise models coming in Platinum, Platinum with Diamonds and my personal favourite, the Pink Gold. All of which were sadly released as 100 piece runs, and I am sure they are all gone by now!

Cartier really do know how to do a reissue... I want them all!

When researching this piece, I stumbled across an article by the chaps at HODINKEE. And they had a really good quote which antithesises why this watch is so particular but so brilliant in the same breath! They said that ”it was a niche watch version of a niche watch, in that non-round watches are already badly outnumbered by their round counterparts. I suppose on that view, you could say the Asymétrique Skeleton is a niche of a niche of a niche.” Jack Forster HODINKEE. This for me perfectly sums up the Asymetrique. Whilst it is not for everyone, and even small details like the third central lug are enough to put people off, I feel like this watch bridges the gap perfectly between a very classic dress watch, and an example of playful expression. It is the perfect blend of the two, and the pink gold version in particular, is just drop dead stunning.

Stunning in all three executions... however i still maintain that the pink gold is my favourite...

I know it is a faux-pas to wear a watch of any persuasion with a dinner jacket, but if exceptions are to be made, I feel like this would be a perfect contender...

And there we have it! My top 5 watches of 2020. Whilst there were many, many other contenders for my top 5, I wanted to look at watches which have not been in the public eye as much, or have not been as ‘hyped’ as others. It would be brilliant to hear what you all think of my choices, and what you may have chosen instead! No doubt I will get hate for not featuring the BB58... but that is a prime example of a watch I love but just did not deem worthy!

Merry Christmas ya filthy animals...

Felix Arnold

Editor & Co-Founder

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