This article was commissioned and published in Japanese by Chronos Japan No.95, July 2021 Edition. This year, Chronos Japan requested for two columns – one on our take for the top 10 watches and the other on major trends for 2021. Reproduced here is the original submission in English.
It has become customary for Chronos Japan to include us in the poll for their top watches for the year. In some previous years, we have appeared in video interviews, like this one in 2017 as well as article submissions. For example, for 2020, we submitted this article on Top 5 new releases for the July Issue. We are grateful to Masayuki Hirota, the Editor-in-Chief of Chronos Japan for his commission.
Our picks appeared in page 74, duly translated to Japanese.
Here is our original submission in English.
Top 10 watches for 2021
In alphabetical order of brand name.
A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Rose Gold dial
When Lange introduced their innovative Perpetual Calendar in the Lange 1 family in 2012, it came with a tourbillon. For 2021, they removed the tourbillon, and allowed the perpetual calendar module over the Daymatic base movement to shine on its own.
The dial layout is clean, clear and very legible. The essential display of the month indication is carried by a ring around the peripheral of the dial, with a small aperture open to indicate the leap year. The movement finishing on the caliber L.021.3 is absolutely stunning. A norm for Lange. My pick is the limited edition white gold cased version with a solid rose gold dial.
Breitling Premier Heritage Datora B25 Chronograph
A nice addition to the Premier family with a range of new chronographs by Breitling. The B09 and B15 are hand wound variants of the base B01 in-house movement.
My pick is the Datora B25 Chronograph with day, date, and moonphase – the classical triple calendar display. Coupled with the copper coloured dial, this is a stunning watch is equipped with the B25 automatic column wheel chronograph movement. Detailed review soon on Deployant!
Chopard L.U.C L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25
The first jumping hour mechanism for Chopard, and built over the Quarttro movement with 4 barrels to provide the power for the instantaneously jumping hour mechanism. The dial is an in-house manufactured grand feu enamel in pure white.
I love the design of the jumping hour aperture at 6 o’clock, with most of the dial left empty in classical negative space. With the Poinçon de Genève, the movement is superbly finished. Cased in 18k rose gold case which is elegant in an near perfect 40mm size.
Citizen Series 8 Model 830
I am particularly excited with this new entry by Citizen. In addition to The Citizen Mechanical (Cal. 0200), this new Series 8 collection marks Citizen’s entry into the haute horlogerie levels, following the footsteps of Grand Seiko a decade earlier. The Series 8 is perhaps even more interesting, as it comes in at a much more accessible price point.
My pick is the Model 830 with the beautiful mother of pearl dial which is viewed through a metal lattice over it. The attention to detail on the case, dial and hands are very impressive. The movement is a rather standard mechanical movement within a closed back, and features little cosmetic embellishment, which is par for the course at this price level. And I rather see Citizen make an entry at this price class. For the higher priced level, they have The Citizen Mechanical C.0200 which features higher levels of finishing.
Greubel Forsey GMT Sport with bracelet
The Greubel Forsey GMT Sport is now available in a cleaner look case design (they removed the engravings on the bezel from the 2020 launch model), and created a magnificent new titanium bracelet.
This is the first Greubel Forsey to have a bracelet. The sporty intentions is announced by the uniquely shaped complex ovoid case, perhaps best described as a twisted potato chip, and the stunning GMT movement within. The movement is the same GMT movement as in previous incarnations, but now accented in a beautiful blue. And continue to feature a second timezone, world time and Greubel Forsey’s third invention – the inclined tourbillon.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Green Dial
The classic of classics. Every collector worth his salt should own at least one JLC Reverso.
And my pick from this year’s crop is the new Reverso Tribute in the Green Dial. A fashionable statement hailing from the 1920’s Art Deco styling. The Reverso is versatile as it dresses up or down and is appropriate for almost any situation.
Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 5236P Inline Perpetual Calendar
Patek Philippe have had a big year for 2021. Not only they announced the final green dialed edition to the super popular Nautilus 5711/1A, they also refreshed the base Calatrava with the Ref. 6119, featuring a larger case, and new movement. But the star has to be the new Inline Perpetual Calendar, showing the day, date and month in a single line display – the first for any wrist watch.
The Ref. 5236P display manage to keep a clean, clear and legible look. One which is not common in the standard perpetual calendar display which tends to be very busy on the dial. The inline display is inspired by Patek’s own Ref. 725/4 pocket watch.
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925
Tudor has been banking on their Black Bay series for the longest time. But this year, they pulled yet another rabbit out of the box with a fresh novelty using silver as the case material. Silver is not commonly used in watch cases as it is relatively soft and prone to tarnishing. But Tudor claims they have concocted a silver alloy which is more resistant than the normal 925 Stirling Silver.
Remains to be seen, but when I handled the watch, the hue is immediately attractive – a brilliant white which is not as warm as white gold but also not as clinical as steel. In combination to the taupe grey dial, it is rather handsome.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921
One hundred years old. That’s the vintage of the original VC American 1921 is. To mark this 100th anniversary, two new models are introduced in white gold.
Identical in almost every aspect, they come as a choice of either a 40mm case size, or a daintier 36mm case. The twisted dial on the squarish cushion shaped case is now an icon on its own right. Coupled with the tried and tested caliber 4400 AS, which is offset from its traditional axis and estended by a crown at 1:30. The model is now available in white gold, pink gold and platinum, in two sizes.
Zenith Defy 21 Filipe Pantone
The Defy 21 line gets collaborations with artists, and this new version gets a splash of multi colours with the Filipe Pantone Edition.
The multi colour splashes is not only limited to the dial, but also visible from the case back. This100 piece limited edition watch is based on the technically interesting and Zenith’s most technical chronograph – the Defy 21 capable of resolving to 1/100th of a second, via two trains. And it also shows off Zenith’s ability to merge the worlds of contemporary art with traditional watchmaking to produce a watch which is as much a high precision instrument as it is a piece of kinetic, wearable art.
Watch Trends for 2021
Several trends have emerged this year, seeming as if the maisons were collaborating with each other. On the most obvious front is the appearance of the green dial. Though the Pantone colour of the year is grey, green seemed pre-eminent. Many brands debuted green dials, among them, the new Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A in a dark olive green dial, the light pistachio green of the new Breitling Heritage Premier B09 Chronograph, the deep green of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute, the palm green of the Rolex Datejust 36 with animations of leaves, the MB&F LMX with a green dial and plate, the Grand Seiko SBGJ251 GMT “Shunbun”, Moser Pioneer Mega Cool with their fumé green dial, Jaquet Droz Skelet-One in a grey ceramic case with olive green highlights on the hands and strap.
Renewable or recycled materials
Another emerging trend is the use of renewable or recycled materials. Brands like Breitling, Chopard, Panerai have all introduced novelties which use materials which are made from recycled material. Chopard perhaps leads with their early adoption and intent to be 100% use of ethical and recycled gold and stainless steel (Lucent A223). Two further examples are Breitling’s efforts with ocean conservation and collaboration with Outerknown for recycled straps, and Panerai’s latest Submersible eLab-ID, constructed from EcoTitanium and claimed to be the watch with the highest percentage of recycled-based material ever made.
40mm case size
Also observed is the trend to settle on 40mm as the Goldilocks “not too big, not too small, but just right” case size. Almost all manufacturers have adjusted their case sizes to approximately this dimension. Even brands which are traditionally have very large cases, like Panerai, Breitling, Audemars Piguet have introduced 2021 models with cases measuring about 40mm.
Highly legible perpetual calendar dials
The other, perhaps not a strong trend yet, and certainly one which has taken a long time in the making, but we observed two of the leading maisons – Patek Philippe and A. Lange & Sőhne. This alone makes it deserving of mention. And it is the introduction of perpetual calendar watches with clean, uncluttered dials. Patek’s release is also a world premier for an inline perpetual calendar display in their Calatrava Ref. 5236P, and the new Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar, though a followup model of the first introduced in 2012 is now without the tourbillon. This trend began a while ago with the Ulysse Nardin Perpetual Ludwig in 1996, and with the Moser Perpetual Calendar in 2005.