Eight new innovative watches for everyday wear
These timepieces are full of surprises, from topsy-turvy dials to reconfigured case shapes
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925
Named after the marque’s “Big Crown” model born in 1958, Tudor’s Black Bay Fifty-Eight is arguably the brand’s most recognisable tool watch. It’s had countless iterations but none so surprising as 2021’s release, the open back Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925. The clue’s in the name: 925 refers to the watch’s silver case, marking the first time that Tudor has used this material in a diver’s watch.
You may wonder why the brand has opted for this metal over the proven durability of stainless steel, but this isn’t any old silver. “The chosen alloy is a secret that the brand keeps close to its chest,” the company says.
What is clear is that this 925 alloy is much more scratch-resistant than regular silver and extremely lightweight. A satin finish also lends it a soft glow that is quite unlike the more reflective patina of steel. Aside from the warm taupe of the dial - well-chosen against the silver - the watch has all the cherished hallmarks of this much-loved model, including an enlarged triangle at 12 o’clock and “snowflake” hands first introduced in 1969. Powered by the in-house MT5400 calibre, the watch has a hefty power reserve of 70 hours.
A nice historical touch comes in the form of the fabric strap, supplied for more than a decade by Julien Faure, a 150-year-old family-owned business based in St-Etienne, France, specialising in textiles woven on ancient jacquard looms.
This is quite simply a great looking self-winding timepiece. Sporty, sleek, and ultra-modern, it’s got future classic written all over it. If you look closely, the watch face and bezel are formed by a shape within a shape within a shape: a circle contoured by a rounded square and octagon. In theory this should be bulky on the wrist but Hermès is famous for its clean lines that lend objects - everything from Birkin bags to handmade leather saddles - a smooth sculptural finish.
The H08 has a softly angled surface that is full of depth, adding to the luxury look of this 39mm model. It’s called H08 for two very different reasons. In visual terms, the abstract look of these tiny numbers on the dial reflect the shape of the case but they are also said to hold symbolic meaning: with the “O” representing emptiness and the 8 denoting infinity, as a kind of academic nod to the space/time conundrum. A lovely touch is the delicate seconds hand, finessed with a tip of signature orange which sweeps around a universe of black.
There are three variants of this design, two with black nickel dials and satin-brushed titanium cases, and this one, the most shadowy of all, boasting a black gold-coated dial set in a graphene-filled composite case with satin-brushed ceramic bezel, and dressed in a black rubber strap secured by a titanium butterfly clasp.
TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300
Watch lovers will be delighted to hear that this classic TAG, first released 40 years ago, is now more refined than ever. Its all-new framework relies heavily on clever light-refracting angles and highly defined edges that contribute to a more lightweight feel.
Look first at the bezel and you’ll see it now has 12 sides - a seemingly small change that actually called for the more challenging task of creating a matching ceramic insert and fluting each facet to facilitate the smooth rotation of this new dodecagon-shaped bezel. On the dial, deeply engraved horizontal lines create a lovely sense of depth and recall the deck planks of a ship. The hour markers are also more prominent: no longer circular but octagonal in form to echo the more compact shape of this timepiece, which is equipped with shorter lugs and sleekly chamfered case edges.
There are six new stainless steel models: three 43mm versions and three newly sized down to 36mm, marking a unique scaling down in diameter and one which will no doubt attract many new collectors. A new integrated metal bracelet allows for an expansion or retraction of up to 1.5cm, ideal for actual divers who wish to wear their watch over a wetsuit - and it’s water-resistant to an impressive 300m.
For those who just like the thought of exploration, the watch’s case back carries a symbolic engraving of a deep sea diver’s helmet. Available from June 2021.
A fresh addition to the Cartier Privé Collection, which resurrects classic vintage designs, is the Cloche or “Bell” timepiece. This indisputably idiosyncratic watch first appeared in diamond form in 1921, followed by a more masculine gold version the following year.
The Cloche has since had a fair few rebirths, including one in 2007 - a model decorated with Roman numerals and limited to 100 pieces. That was the last time any tribute was produced, but this year’s collection makes up for lost time with the widest selection to date, counting rose, yellow and platinum models as well as intricate skeletonised versions - one gold, one platinum and one platinum set with diamonds.
The shape is inspired by a traditional service bell - the idea is that you can rest the watch in a vertical position like a desk clock. Despite the classic look, it is equipped with brand new in-house mechanical movement capable of ticking over for 38 hours on its power reserves.
Numbers are limited: 100 pieces have been produced of the solid dial versions and 50 each of the platinum and gold skeletonised models. Only 20 diamond Cloches will be made.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921
Also reborn from the stylistically daring world of the 1920s is Vacheron Constantin’s Historiques American 1921 with slanted dial and top corner crown. While this special centenary edition – encompassing two white gold models, one with a 36.5mm dial the other with a 40mm dial – may lean towards the avant-garde, it remains resolutely chic, smart, and well rooted within the realms of distinguished dress watches.
The model’s cushion-shaped case acts as a wide open frame to a playful dial with clashing perspectives. The mechanics of this watch have been carefully adapted to match the timepiece’s twisted design: the manual-winding manufacture calibre 4400 AS is visible through the sapphire crystal caseback and is offset from its usual axis, adding even more visual intrigue to this unconventional re-release.
A third model called the American 1921 Collection Excellence Platine, is entirely sculpted in platinum and comes in a 100-piece individually numbered limited edition available exclusively in Vacheron Constantin boutiques.
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43
What makes one pilot’s watch stand out from the next? If you start with pedigree, IWC holds the advantage: in the 1930s, the Swiss watchmaker developed many of the technical and aesthetic features that were to define the genre. Today IWC remains a brand synonymous with impactful tool watches, and it continues to celebrate the aviation industry with tribute models: see its Spitfire and Blue Angels editions.
The IWC Big Pilot’s Watch - noted for its oversized crown and wide legible dial - is an absolute classic and it is now available in a new, smaller case size of 43mm for the first time, with a choice of black or blue dial. The watch’s automatic Pellaton winding system - a long-serving IWC invention that uses the rotor’s smallest movements in either direction to wind the mainspring - has now been reinforced with tiny ceramic parts which are more efficient and robust. The strap is a testament to IWC’s trailblazing spirit: the integrated “EasX-CHANGE” system allows you to switch it from leather to stainless steel at the touch of a button.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tadao Ando
When it comes to watches and artist collaborations, your first thought might be Hublot: in recent times the Swiss marque has partnered with American sculptor Richard Olinski (2019) and Japanese talent Takashi Murakami (2021) to produce Pop Art versions of its iconic Big Bang model.
Now Italian marque Bulgari, also part of the LVMH fold, has created its own artistic statement, one that syncs perfectly with the cool restraint of its ultra slim Octo Finissimo timepiece. It has been designed in partnership with self-taught Japanese architect Tadao Ando, a master of minimalism who creates majestic places of peace and tranquility from monolithic masses of concrete.
This mini sculpture for the wrist, hewn from black ceramic, presents time in its most concise form. A swirling blue lacquered dial is interrupted by just four elements: the hour and minute hands, a slither of golden moon at 5 o’clock and an independent seconds hand which creates an illusionary spiral as it turns against the textured background. Like all of Ando’s enigmatic structures, this limited edition timepiece is utterly compelling - a whirlpool of ideas in miniaturised form.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer
Any new Rolex release is big news. The watchmaker is known for stealthy design changes rather than grand modifications, so the new Explorer is quite a leap towards innovation.
Originally devised by Rolex for Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who wore their Explorers on Everest in 1953, this enduring classic, still achingly cool 70 years on, is back to its original size of 36mm. It’s safe to say that when Rolex makes a big statement like this, a trend begins, so keep your eyes peeled for smaller versions of iconic models appearing throughout the industry. The updates don’t stop there: this new-gen version comes in Rolesor (two-toned steel and 18ct yellow gold) for the first time, as well as classic Oystersteel.
Equipped with the new in-house calibre 3230, released last year, this is a robust heirloom piece with some striking good looks, particularly when the lights go down: its black lacquered dial has indexes and hands optimised by Chromalight lume, which glows bright blue (almost neon) in the dark.