2020 Top picks: Six of the best watches launched this year

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It has been a wild year. No shows. But we did manage to experience many watches first hand, as they were sent to Singapore, and some directly to us for handling, examining, and photography. Of the many novelties this year, here is our pick of the top 6 watches of 2020.

Yes, we know, the year is not over yet. But it is nearly over, and 2020 being the year it is, we are in a hurry for 2021 to come by as quickly as possible. As far as we know, there are a few more novelties which will be announced in these next weeks, but our feel is that these announcements will probably not be something substantial. And of course, as soon as we say that, we will get pie on our faces, and there is yet another major announcement coming.

Six of the best for 2020

Incredibly, even though this has been a tough year, the watch industry continues to amaze us with exceptional watches. Some brands even stuck their necks out and introduced major watches. Of note, the big ticket watches like the Ferdinand Berthoud FB2 and the Patek Philippe Grand et Petite Sonnerie. Even Seiko decided to break the norm with their exceptional T0 Constant Force Tourbillon, though only a concept movement and yet to be a watch. Exceptional high end pieces targeted at the top end of the market. Bravo for these manufacturers to release these in a difficult year.

And among the new releases, here are our top picks. Some may be controversial. Some may be expected. And others will be a surprise. Here are the watches…in no particular order.

Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 6007A-001

Right off the bat, this is the controversial one. Patek Phillippe. Steel case. Calatrava design. Limited Edition of 1000 pieces. And priced at a relatively affordable S$ 37,400. A wet dream for many collectors.

The controversy is in the dial. The magnificent pattern, a design first seen on the Ref. 5208T-010 which sold for CHF 6.2 million at Only Watch 2017. But toned down…some say dumbed down. Instead of a hand guilloché lattice pattern, the 6007’s Carbon” motif on the dial is stamped.

But no matter. This was a very beautiful watch the first we set eyes on it. The watch is sober, very discreet, and shines at many levels. The beautiful dial layout, the patterning and the colour is at one level. The almost perfect proportions of the 40mm case is another. And the magnificent C. 324 S C. As is the overall superb finishing. But truth be told, perhaps the biggest draw is that this is a Patek Philippe dress watch in stainless steel. And will stand as a good investment to rival any.

H. Moser Streamliner Flyback Chronograph Automatic

We first saw this watch in December 2019 in Dubai, where Edouard Meylan handed me the watch for the afternoon. And what a mesmerizing afternoon. This is a sublime piece of work, and perhaps one of the most beautiful yet from the house of H. Moser & Cie.

The Streamliner is a sculpture of modern horological art. From the case to the bracelet, to the way the fumé dial with the striations of the griffé texture. To the ultimate layout simplicity of the flyback chronograph in its bull head button layout. Every bit is well thought out and beautifully crafted. It feels new and fresh, yet has the familiarity of the old. An interesting counterpoint.

The Agenhor sourced chronograph movement is also a strong attraction. A brilliant design which admittedly looks a bit messy. But designed to fit the entire chronograph works into an opening in the middle of the movement which surrounds it like a donut. A stroke of genius by Jean-Marc Wiederrect (yea, he has many such moments of brillance), to allow the base movement to handle other complications designed to slot into the middle. At S$60,000, its par for the course in the world of elite chronographs.

Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Tourbillon Chronograph

This was a watch we have been waiting for VC to introduce ever since we first saw the movement – the C.3200 in Harmony Tourbillon Chronograph in celebration of the Manufacture’s 260th anniversary. Such a magnificently beautiful movement, trapped (yes, harsh, but that’s life) in the Harmony’s unique but awkward cushion shaped case. We were yearning for it to be released in a standard round case. So much more sensible.

The watch is a model of elegance that the maison is well known for and which very few others can even aspire to. Proportions are perfect. The dial layout simple. Clean. Only the essentials. The tourbillon cage with its bridge peeking out from the aperture at 12 o’clock is divine. Magnificent.

With our meagre budets, the S$315,000 is out of bounds. But for those who can afford this level of luxury, we can only be envious and recommend that you hand over the money to your Vacheron Constantin boutique in exchange for one of these masterpieces.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Kingsman Knife

This has gotta be the most intriguing watch by JLC for a long time. Drawing from the maison’s historic mastery of ultra thin calibres, this new timepiece is directly inspired by the 1907 ‘Couteau’ (couteau is French for knife) pocket watch. This is made more special as it an adaptation for the movie The King’s Man.

The case certainly is reminiscent of a knife edge. Being quite thin to begin with, it tapers to almost a sharp edge, creating this unusual aesthetic. But one which totally works, especially with the crown at 12, a la the traditional Lépine pocket watch layout. The triangular bow protecting it is an affectation, but enhances the visual impact. This is a beautiful watch. And at S$44,200 in rose gold, limited to 100 pieces, it has proven to a sartorial equivalence of the Savile Row suits worn in the movie.

Piaget Altiplano Concept Ultimate

Perhaps not a real surprise that Piaget makes claim to the ultra thin title yet again, and takes the crown by a huge margin. At only 2mm thick, the Altiplano Concept Ultimate is a watch that needs to be seen to be believed. It is so thin, it actually looks like a piece of card made of metal – aluminum comes to mind, but I don’t know why it does. Of course the case is not in aluminum, but in a special cobalt allow to ensure that it rigid. And when you pick it up, and it feels solid. Sturdy. Put it on, and it looks like a magnificent tattoo on the wrist. So thin, it is almost part of your skin.

The price that Piaget is asking for this true masterpiece is equally eye watering as well. S$ 650,000 is the princely sum. For that money, you could buy a minute repeater, yes even from a master maison like Vacheron Constantin, or Patek Philippe. Or you can get the boasting rights and the pleasure of wearing the thinnest wristwatch in the world. A title it holds for now, though likely for a while.

Audemars Piguet [Re]Master 01

Possibly the best AP to launch in recent years. This sorta, kinda vintage inspired release hits the spot in so many places, perhaps like an itch which needed to be scratched. At least as far as AP is concerned. Its refreshing in the sea of Royal Oaks and Offshores. And a classic departure from the much maligned Code 11.59.

The [Re]master 01 is a tribute to the AP Ref. 1533 of old. Comparing to photographs of the Ref. 1533, we find the resemblance to be almost spot on. The teardrop lugs are drop dead gorgeous. The gold and steel case is charming. And the champagne dial is an absolute darling. At S$74,400 it is certainly not inexpensive, but in the same competitive ballpark as its peers in the upper echelon of the chronograph world.

Concluding thoughts

So there you have it. Our picks for the top 6 watches for 2020. As we promised when we began, some are controversial and others expected. What are your top picks for 2020. What watches did you buy or planning to buy from this year’s novelties?

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