For anyone reading this in April 2020, you’ll agree that it’s a strange time to be alive. Somehow, we have already seen three months of 2020, a point that has felt both incredibly fast and agonisingly slow to pass. As the interconnected health and economic crises continue to unfold around the world, the news cycle is dominated by Coronavirus as its impact is felt everywhere. Including the watch industry, with perhaps the peak announcement this last week that yet more pivotal brands would desert Baselworld after a farcical fallout from the first COVID-related cancellation.
While some brands have halted production, and even halted the release of new watches in 2020, we have still seen evidence of the show going on, especially over the last few business days, when we actually had some releases. This new crop has certainly been thin, but it’s not without its genuinely exciting highlights. I wanted to wrap up my five favourites from the handful of watches that have been released so far, in what will hopefully be the beginning of an interesting (if quiet) year of watch releases.
Grand Seiko SBGW258 in yellow gold (or SBGW257 in platinum)
I know this isn’t one watch, but, give me a break, I’m still torn between which is my favourite metal colour (I’m leaning toward yellow gold). Based on the first-ever Grand Seiko in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the brand, each of these 38mm manual winding wristwatches could easily be a one-watch collection. They’re perfectly proportioned, and just ooze that Grand Seiko refinement that has been present since the beginning.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic in steel
This is the watch that no one knew they wanted until they saw it. Then they couldn’t believe they hadn’t pined for it since the first Octo Finissimo release in 2017. While much has been said about the market for stainless steel sports watches with integrated bracelets, I contest this offers something genuinely different. The same Bulgari design language that we are used to, but this time polished rather than sandblasted, and steel instead of titanium. There’s a more traditional heft on the wrist, as well as a little more bling thanks to the polished case facets. Bravo Bulgari, bravo.
As Luke very eloquently put it in his article on the Hamilton PSR, in a time like this, you just need something a little enjoyable and unexpected. That’s exactly what you get with the Hamilton PSR, based on the LED display gold watch from 1970. It’s pretty faithful to the original, but significantly cheaper (when first released, the Hamilton was more expensive than a gold Rolex), making it a much-needed nostalgic gateway watch.
Audemars Piguet [Re]master01 Selfwinding Chronograph in pink gold and steel
There are two obvious reasons to love this watch. First up, it is a very attractive watch, drawing clear inspiration from the Audemars Piguet archive, while enjoying a few modern liberties such as the movement. Second is the name of the watch. The [Re]master01 suggests this will not be the last reimagining of a watch from the Le Brassus-based manufacturer.
H. Moser & Cie Venturer Vantablack Black Hands
On the best of days we could use some more light-heartedness in our lives, but recently we have needed it more than ever. This latest release from Moser is the exact blend of serious watchmaking approached from a fun-poking angle that we needed. Born from a 2019 April Fools’ joke, the brand went ahead in building a watch that has a Vantablack painted dial, as well as hands. It’s almost impossible to read, but getting stuck on time-telling completely misses the point of this wonderful watch.