The five best time-only watches of 2022Luke Benedictus
It’s just the beginning of the new year, but many of us are already feeling a little befuddled. That’s what modern life can do to you if you drop your guard. Between the non-stop notifications and messages that we have to process 24/7, it can all start to feel slightly overwhelming. The truth is you need to build some space into your life to stop and breathe. And I’d argue you can find it in the open savannahs of negative space on a time-only watch. Think of these five picks as like the wrist-bound equivalent of a quiet log cabin in the woods.
AkriviA Chronomètre Contemporain II
There’s no shortage of acclaim for Rexhep Rexhepi – The Financial Times last year dubbed the independent watchmaker as the “Mozart of the mechanical movement”, while watch dealer Eric Ku described him to me as “the second coming of Philippe Dufour”. What makes this mastery all the more astounding is that Rexhepi is just 35-years-old – practically a toddler in watchmaker years. The Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain was named the Men’s Watch winner at the 2018 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, and last year’s follow-up, the Chronomètre Contemporain II (RRCC02) won the same prize once again. The latest watch inherits the elevated style of its predecessor, but what makes it special is that Rexhepi essentially built an entirely new movement, introducing a secondary gear train and mainspring barrel to drive the jumping seconds system. As he said to me last year: “I don’t see anybody in the market with this kind of movement.” The GPHG Awards are invariably contentious, but with this watch they got it bang on. They only problem with this watch is availability – AkriviA’s total output is just 40 watches per year. “If we could do more, we would,” Rexhepi said. “But we want to do everything beautifully and be proud of our product, so today that is our limit.”
Cartier Collection Privé Tank Chinoise
Cartier unleashed some formidable releases last year. There was that Santos Dumont with that beige lacquer bezel that Zach snaffled up and the wildly innovative Masse Mystérieuse. But the watches I found myself swooning over were some of the Tank Chinoise models from the Cartier Privé collection. In the same way that a Kit-Kat delivers just the right amount of chocolate around the wafer, here I was enamoured by the thickness of the branchards on the sides of the rectangular case. They’re available in platinum, rose gold and yellow gold, but I’m struggling to pick between the first two options that come perched on grey alligator-leather straps.
The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Automatic Steel Silver Sand
As Borna pointed out here, Parmigiani Fleurier killed it last year under the leadership of Guido Terreni, the ex-managing director of Bulgari, and one of the people responsible for the success of the Octo Finissimo line. One of their more under-the-radar pieces was the Tonda PF Automatic Steel Silver Sand, a 36mm watch with only two hands and a dial sporting grain d’orge guilloché engraved by a rose engine. Available in stainless steel with a knurled platinum bezel, it’s so impeccably understated that you might not realise its true magnificence until you strap it onto your wrist. For me, it was the most refined sports watch of the year.
Grand Seiko SBGW293 Tsuji
Grand Seiko is the brand that never sleeps. In fact, by the time you read that sentence they’ve probably pumped out another new release or two. Last year, they had a few contenders for this category, including the Grand Seiko SBGY023 and the SBGW283 “Kishun”. But I’ve got a soft spot for the SBGW293 Tsuji that continued the prolonged celebration of the 55th anniversary of the brand’s 44GS case. Mercifully, there’s no convoluted claim of natural inspiration taken from some Japanese mountain / lake / orchard that you’ve never even nearly heard of. Instead, there’s just a chocolate-brown sunburst dial that offers a backdrop to the beautifully faceted indices and undersized handset. The case size meanwhile is a pitch-perfect 36.5mm.
Laurent Ferrier Classic Origin Blue
This sportier and more casual take on the dress watch now comes with a fresh blue dial that shifts in tone from a lighter hue at the centre to a deeper shade around the edge to delineate the minute track. It’s housed in a Grade 5 titanium case whose soft contours are complemented by the curvature of the pocketwatch-style crown. Eschewing the formality of leather, the watch comes on a midnight-blue Nubuck strap to make it eminently wearable at work or play.