Crème de la Crème: 8 Luxury Watches Worth Your Time
Explore the watches that made waves in 2021 in this final edition of Tatler's luxury watches roundup
From the classic and the conscientious to the downright quirky: keep up with what's new and what's reinvented with Tatler's three-part roundup of highlights from the world of luxury watchmaking this year.
Omega has introduced a new material, Bronze Gold, which makes its debut this year in the Seamaster 300. The material is a gold-bronze hybrid alloy with 9-karat fineness and will acquire a patina over time, but without the characteristic green colouration of verdigris-oxidation that’s typical of “regular” bronze. It’s thus a nod to the marine environment that the Seamaster was conceived for, and also an elevated iteration of the brand’s original dive watches. This Seamaster 300 is a familiar classic, albeit one that’s been rendered in a new material with a much warmer hue.
Sustainability has become a major theme for Panerai. The brand is joining the conversation by applying the concept of the circular economy to the watchmaking industry, with two timepieces showing how things can be done. The Submersible eLab-ID concept watch offers a view of just what is possible with 98.6 per cent of its overall weight in recycled materials. The Luminor Marina eSteel timepiece, on the other hand, demonstrates what’s commercially viable today by using the eponymous eSteel—a steel alloy produced from recycled materials—in its case and dial. Developing these watches has required more work, of course, but this decision may prove to be prescient in due course.
3. Patek Philippe
Much ink has been spilled on Patek Philippe’s discontinuation of a certain steel sports watch. The Genevan manufacture has never been one to remain static though, as the novelties it released at the Rare Handcrafts 2021 exhibition in June proved. From dazzling bejewelled timepieces to stately, intricate works of metiers d’art, the manufacture’s mastery of artisanal crafts was on full display. Our top pick from the exhibition (and of the year) is Ref 5374G-001. This minute repeater perpetual calendar has been refreshed with a white gold case and blue Grand Feu enamel dial, which presents a lighter, younger and more modern aesthetic that balances its traditional styling.
In case you missed it: Phillips Offers Unique Patek Philippe Ref 3448 'The Blue Royale' in Hong Kong Auction
4. Richard Mille
Richard Mille’s latest material engineering feat is seen in the RM 21-01 Tourbillon Aerodyne, which also debuts a new case design. Here, Carbon TPT is used for the bezel, case back, and “pillars” that define the case middle. The overall result is an “exoskeleton” that protects the watch, with the rest of its case, which is rendered in red gold, being built around this structure. The robust design alludes to the field of aeronautics that inspired this watch, and this theme continues in the movement, which has a honeycombed baseplate rendered in Haynes 214, a nickel-chromium-aluminium-iron alloy primarily used in high temperature environments exceeding 955 degrees Celsius. A tourbillon is de rigueur here to counter the effects of gravity.
5. Roger Dubuis
In the light, the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Glow Me Up is a familiar take on the Excalibur line. Head into the dark, however, and the baguette-cut diamonds on the bezel now glow in different hues—seemingly from within—as parts of the movement and flange also light up in matching colours. It’s Super-Luminova, of course, but the difference lies in the material’s application. On the bezel, Super-Luminova sits in grooves cut underneath the diamonds; on the calibre itself, the material is applied to the movement components instead.
6. TAG Heuer
If the mushroom, pipe, and star that are on the bezel at three, six, and nine o’clock respectively haven’t given it away, this TAG Heuer Connected smartwatch features Nintendo’s Mario. The pop culture icon has been a mainstay in Nintendo’s games since 1985, and his appearance on this timepiece extends to customised details on the watch face, of course. What’s more, the watch face itself becomes more animated when the wearer racks up their daily activity levels, which gamifies the experience of owning the watch too. Unsurprisingly, the watch has been sold out. Fret not, however, because this watch is clearly going to be just the first of many collaborations.
The Black Bay is one of Tudor’s key pillars today, and easily its most recognisable. That’s no mean feat—the first Black Bay timepiece was introduced barely a decade ago in 2012. Tudor continues to push the boundaries with this line, with the new Black Bay Fifty-Eight 18K offering a luxurious twist on the icon. This is Tudor’s first dive watch in yellow gold, and its first dive watch with an open case back. With its matching green dial and bezel, the watch is a luxurious alternative to the traditional tool watch Tatler aesthetic, and proof of how versatile the Black Bay’s design is.
8. Vacheron Constantin
Vacheron Constantin’s mastery of both technical watchmaking and metiers d’art is arguably best seen this year in the Les Cabinotiers Regulator Perpetual Calendar— Moonlight Jewellery Sapphire watch. Here, the atypical regulator-style display is combined with the perpetual calendar and precision moon phase complications. This offers a well-balanced function of tracking both the time as well as the most common astronomical phenomena. The aesthetic front sees a combination of guillochage and gem-setting, which creates a complex assortment of patterns and surfaces that play with light. This timepiece is a pièce unique.