Revo Awards 2023: Full Prize List
The results are in, and we are delighted to announce the 22 winners of the 2023 Revolution Awards.
Each year, Revolution presents the annual Revo Awards which recognizes the industry’s most outstanding timepieces, watchmakers, brands, and business leaders. Our goal is to spotlight the best achievements in high watchmaking and celebrate the most remarkable accomplishments that all come together to further the interests of the luxury watchmaking industry as a whole.
Rising Star: Simon Brette
The most beautiful time-only watch to emerge this year is the Chronomètre Artisans from Simon Brette, a 35-year-old designer and engineer. The watch is an example of what can be achieved by rallying the best people across the industry with the goal of creating the best watch.
We gushed all about the Chronomètre Artisans, which you can read all about here, but let it be known that the timepiece is an outstanding accomplishment in pushing finishing as far as it can go, and it’s genuinely exciting to know that it represents the efforts of some of the finest artisans and specialists in watchmaking.
Technical Achievement: Furlan Marri Secular Perpetual Calendar
The Furlan Marri Secular Perpetual Calendar is the most astonishing technical breakthrough not just within the general scope of calendar complications, but also within its own specific niche of secular perpetual calendar wristwatches. It not only encodes a 400-year cycle in its gear train, taking into account both centurial years that are common years and the leap year in the fourth century, but also achieves this with an extraordinary level of simplicity.
Conceived by Dominique Renaud, renowned as the co- founder of Renaud & Papi, and Julien Tixier, a 30-year old independent watchmaker, the Secular Perpetual Calendar module is made up of merely 25 parts – 20 dedicated to the perpetual calendar and five to the secular module. Revolution‘s resident technical expert, Cheryl Chia, breaks down the mechanics that you can read about here.
It’s a display of sheer ingenuity. Moreover, Andrea Furlan and Hamad Al Marri are working towards developing a production version for the public, albeit in a smaller production and higher price.
But worry not. A perpetual calendar will supersede that release, and will be at a more accessible price.
Best Design: Cartier Tank Normale
The very first Cartier Tank of 1917, a watch so completely original and unusual for its time, and so quintessentially Cartier, its true destiny was to pave the way towards one of the most iconic timepieces of all time.
Subsequently, when the Tank Louis Cartier was created in 1922, this watch was renamed the Tank Normale and it is distinguished from other Tank variants by the angular brancards and brushed satin case with a faceted sapphire crystal.
As it returns this year to join the maison’s glorious Cartier Privé collection, the new Tank Normale is a worthy tribute to its predecessor and specifically, the model in platinum turns our attention to a specific reference made in 1934 for the Prince of Nepal. This is the one that comes with a beautiful satin brushed brick-link bracelet and here, Cartier has retained its gloriously understated luxury aesthetic while tightening its silhouette for a more compact and elegant profile.
Cartier’s impeccable flair for design proves that truly great design changes precious little over time and yet remains ever relevant, fresh and timeless. The Tank Normale may have been designed over a hundred years ago, but it looks just as contemporary as if it were designed yesterday, and will continue to appeal to collectors for generations to come.
Best Tourbillon: Jacob & Co. Astronomia Revolution 4th Dimension
The most mechanically and visually impressive tourbillon this year is indisputably the Jacob & Co. Astronomia Revolution 4th Dimension. It represents the first quadruple axis tourbillon in watchmaking, with its cage rotating at blistering speeds along each axis.
Jacob & Co.’s Astronomia collection has its fair share of developing the most astounding tourbillons, so much so that we’ve actually got a complilation of them here.
The tourbillon cage in the Astronomia Revolution 4th Dimension completes a rotation on its own axis in 15 seconds and on the oblique axis in 18 seconds while the entire assembly revolves around the axis of the carrier arm in 60 seconds. The central carrier itself represents the fourth axis and rotates around the dial in 60 seconds.
As such, it is the most visually dynamic Astronomia to date. Additionally, with its one-minute revolution, the entire movement also doubles as a seconds hand, which is an astounding feat in itself.
Due to the significant energy needed to drive the entire movement at a high speed, it was necessary to incorporate a remontoir to ensure that the force transmitted to the escapement and balance wheel remains consistent regardless of the mainspring’s state of wind.
Most astonishingly, the remontoir stores and releases energy at every semi-oscillation of the balance wheel. The balance has a frequency of 3Hz, hence energy is released six times per second. This ensures that each impulse delivered from the lever escapement to the balance wheel is unvarying. The remontoir mechanism is located beneath the fixed wheel on a separate axis.
Part of the solution to achieve this speed is that the stop wheel and locking mechanism had to be redesigned so that energy is released at a greater frequency. While all of this would have been enough to dazzle the senses, the watch also struts 35 gemstones in a riot of colours, including topaz, sapphires, citrines, tsavorites, and garnets set into the dial.
Best Chronograph: Petermann Bédat Reference 2941
The most impressive chronograph this year is none other than the Petermann Bedat Reference 2941, a single-pusher split-seconds chronograph with an instantaneous jumping minutes counter that has been finished to a marvellous degree. In fact, the watch represents the only chronograph from an independent watchmaker that was evidently designed to demonstrate the highest level of craft.
While the movement has a traditional design with a horizontal clutch and features many classically appealing elements, it has an unusual construction in that the split seconds mechanism is located under the dial to enable the beautifully finished components on the back to be more easily visible and appreciated. In fact, the top plate is dense as it is, thanks to the slender and sinuous steel levers and springs.
Above all, the watch demonstrates a tremendous level of attention paid to the aesthetics of every minute detail as well as the visual harmony between the components.
The coupling lever, for instance, is particularly beautiful; it has a C-shaped tail that ends in sharp inward and outward angles and to the right, there are two slender and sinuous levers that intertwine around the barrel’s massive jewel bearing. The movement features wide, mirror-polished countersinks hosting the jewels and screws on both sides, the anglage on the chronograph bridges are pronounced while the steelwork, including the narrowest detent jumpers, represent a significant amount of black-polishing.
Again, get schooled in the article here, but for the way it was designed with a singleness of purpose in perfecting craft, the Reference 2941 stands alone.
Best Sports Chic Watch: Louis Vuitton Tambour
The real reason why this watch is the winner of our Best Sports Chic award is because it’s been made to be worn. Certainly, the Tambour has the power of the Louis Vuitton name behind it, but it stands on its own as a strong, contemporary and relevant take on an integrated bracelet watch, a category that is the epitome of sports chic in 2023.
The avant-garde shapes that defined the original Tambour case have been toned down, and in some ways, simplified, creating a smooth, clean and rounded case design with fulsome flanks, a dial that walks the right line between uncluttered and detailed. The bracelet seamlessly joins the case, with nary a lug to be seen.
Louis Vuitton’s own watchmaking history obviously looms large, but there’s also a late 90s/early 00s futurist aesthetic. This style has been updated for the present day.
Some of the bolder features softened and matured into a visual language that evokes — much like contemporary examples of other iconic sports chic watches — the time in which it was born, but in a manner that is relevant to a contemporary audience.
On top of this matured design, we get a new calibre, the Le Cercle de Horlogers Caliber LFT023, a 4Hz chronometre with a gold micro rotor, a movement which offers utility and style in equal measure.
Best Concept: Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Marble
Only such a stylish manufacture as Bulgari could have designed the Octo Finissimo. And only such an audacious manufacture as Bulgari could have come up with the idea to adorn this watch with marble.
Bulgari has created a watch that is one, a perfect representation of its modern identity; two, an effortless showcase of its watchmaking savoir-faire; three, an achievement at the highest level of luxury haute horlogerie; and four, a harmonious marriage of its Swiss-Italian heritage as well as its watch- and jewelry-making expertise.
Moreover, it’s not just any regular type of marble, but a specific variety known as Verdi di Alpi green marble, which is extracted from the province of Aosta in Northern Italy, a place that shares a border with Switzerland, making the Swiss-Italian connection all the more significant.
Covering every minuscule surface on the front of the watch with wafer-thin shards of this ravishing green stone along with nuances of its exquisite white veining, Bulgari shows off some truly incredible stone-cutting chops here, as you can see that all 110 of the Octo Finissimo’s complex case — both from and back — have been covered in marble, barring four holes permitting the black DLC titanium screws to peek through.
The bracelet as well is exceedingly well crafted. Each slice of marble would have had to be individually cut, shaped and polished to reveal exactly zero gaps in between. Indeed, the underlying material is DLC treated titanium, which is apt, as to have produced the entire watch out of marble while truly a mind-blowing thought would render it too heavy to be worn.
On the plus side, you can literally see how thin the marble plates are against the titanium, and how the two materials are so perfectly melded together that you wouldn’t suspect it was made of anything thing else. By coming up with such a concept and then bringing it to life with utmost finesse, Bulgari definitely deserves the Best Concept Prize in this year’s Revolution Awards.
Best Collaboration: H. Moser & Cie x MB&F Streamliner Pandamonium
No one can deny the might of independent watchmaking on the modern landscape, powered by creativity and exclusivity. H. Moser & MB&F are known for superior technical engineering and out-of-the-box thinking.
Friends, then CEOs of both brands, Edouard Meylan and Maximilian Büsser are well known industry figures due to their youthful spirited personalities and the desire to push the boundaries for something new.
Collaborating for a second time indicates that the first one was a great success, the limited editions series launched in 2020 were one of that year’s biggest hits. The industry was mesmerised by the beauty of those creations as it captured “best of both worlds”.
Everybody admires the H. Moser fumé dials no matter what the color is, and the way MB&F constructs their double balance-spring in it’s signature shape that set the bar for the semi-skeletonized modern face of watchmaking.
The H. Moser x MB&F Streamliner Pandamonium is a unique timepiece designed for Only Watch 2023. The steel case, which measures 42.3mm in diameter with 17mm height, gives room for MB&F’s three-dimensional hanging balance wheel on Moser’s aquamarine fumé dial with sunburst pattern; simplicity meets complexity.
The presence of a modern miniature panda DJ with all its charm and modern equipment-facing chimes and hammers of the classic minute repeater essential parts, bridges a gap between past and future. This creation keeps me always wondering, what is coming next?
Lifetime Achievement: F. P. Journe
François-Paul Journe once said to me, “If someone composes music, then he cannot ignore Mozart. He can’t ignore Beethoven. He can’t ignore the history of music. But every once in a while, there will be a rare genius like Stravinsky that arrives and changes everything.
In watchmaking, we haven’t witnessed the birth of a Stravinsky for 200 years. The last one was Abraham-Louis Breguet.” Yet despite what he has said, what is clear to me, and to the discerning collectors and journalists the world over, is that our era of contemporary horology has been defined by our own Stravinksy — a genius watchmaker, a man of profound brilliance and, though he often tries to hide it, of immeasurable compassion. And that is François- Paul Journe himself.
Journe’s palmary achievements are the stuff of legend: The first wristwatch tourbillon with remontoir d’egalité; the first wristwatch tourbillon with a dead seconds mechanism driven by a constant force device; the first wristwatch successfully implementing the phenomenon of resonance; an extraordinary chronometric automatic caliber integrating a vast variety of complications, including a chronograph in a mere one millimeter height of spare space; the world’s first grande et petite sonnerie incorporating safety systems, making it immune to bad owners and using an all-new pair of flat gongs mounted beneath the dial; the world’s thinnest minute repeater wristwatch (at the time) using the same single banana shaped gong; a chronograph with a 1/100th of a second hand capable of decoupling from the pinion driving it the moment the chronograph brake is activated; a chronometer with constant force mechanism and the Escapement Bi-axial Haute Performance (EBHP) inspired by Breguet’s natural escapement; the Astronomic, a watch displaying sidereal hours and minutes next to civil time, indicating sunrise and sunset, equation of time and driven by an annual calendar and a hidden tourbillon.
His game-changing quartz watch, the Élégante, or even his wildly expressionistic outlier, the Vagabondage, has advanced the story of watchmaking in a real way. The list is endless and each act alone should by right engrave his name forever into the canon of watchmaking’s greatest achievements.
Taken together, they form a tapestry of horological riches the likes of which the world had not seen for over 200 years — something that was made abundantly clear this year when Journe became the first living watchmaker to have a single thematic auction dedicated to him: Christie’s The Art of F.P. Journe. With the addition of Le Boîtiers and Le Cadraniers, he now has a fully verticalized company, along with the opening of Journe restaurant and his London boutique to complete his universe.
What I love best about François-Paul Journe is that he is not motivated by wealth of material possessions. He lives in a normal apartment in Geneva’s Old Town and, every day, he cooks and brings lunch to his mother who lives upstairs from him.
He is the same today as the young man that built a tourbillon with remontoir for the collector Dr. Eugen Gschwind so that he could do battle with George Daniels in a game of horological one-upmanship. He is the same today as the young man who after meeting Cecil “Sam” Clutton and feeling an electric bolt of inspiration at the sight of the two tourbillon watches the famous collector wore, set out to create his own tourbillon, armed with nothing more than the brilliance of his mind, the skill of his hands and a copy of George Daniels’ book.
Indeed, my only hesitation at bestowing him with Revolution’s 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award is that I know he has much more to achieve, including an escapement of his very own design so that he will join his mentor, the great British watchmaker George Daniels, as one of the very small handful of individuals who has accomplished this feat.
On Daniels’ birthday in 2010, celebrated with an homage dinner organized by Journe and his partners in London, William and John Asprey, Journe declared, “You have opened the main door of contemporary horology and showed us the path back to authentic watchmaking with innovation sense, in the respect of the grand horological tradition of our great watch masters. He opened the main door; I could only follow in opening others.”
On that night, Journe presented Daniels with a gift, a Chronomètre Souverain. As he passed him the watch, he said to Daniels, “Thank you, George, for being the best.”
Daniels said to Journe and all the other horological luminaries arrayed around them, “I’m not the best anymore, François-Paul. You are.” And when it comes to the world of independent watchmaking, this is the irrefutable truth. François-Paul Journe is our generation’s Abraham-Louis Breguet. He is, unequivocally, the best.
CEO of the Year: Antonio Calce, Greubel Forsey
Yes, Greubel Forsey watches were always some of the most impressive timepieces in the world from a technical perspective. Yes, the finishing was otherworldly and very likely the best in the world or, at least, among all watches made in series.
And, yes, the two co-founders of the brand, Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey, pursued the improvement of basic chronometry in some of the most daring and innovative ways conceivable, resulting in them even winning a tourbillon prize at the Concours International de Chronométrie in 2011. But before Antonio Calce joined the brand, the watches were also massive, heavy, unbalanced on the wrist and visually bombastic, lacking in any cohesive signature design language.
All of that changed when Calce took the helm in December 2020. What was once ponderous on the wrist became effortless to wear, thanks to a vast improvement made in the ergonomics of the watches. Calce rapidly diminished the sizes of the watches to much more wearable proportions. He focused on lightweight performance materials, such as titanium, ceramic and carbon fiber. He uncluttered and refocused the dials to create powerful identifiable visual richness to each timepiece. And he worked on the elliptical case with its parabolic shaped bezel to create a distinct visual identity.
Once he got the new Greubel Forsey on track, even while retaining and strengthening the brand’s core pillar of hand finishing, Calce pushed boldly forward with Greubel Forsey’s innovation side in a way that was far more ambitious than anyone else.
He even set himself the massive challenge of totally discontinuing all of its movements every five years, forcing himself to totally reinvent Greubel Forsey twice a decade. We knew he was good before he joined Greubel Forsey, but now we are unwavering in the fact that he is great as a leader.
He understands the type of watches the modern customer wants to wear, and he has transformed Greubel Forsey into exactly that type of brand while protecting its message of authenticity. On top of all that, he is always connected to the commercial perspective of the company. For these remarkable feats, he is Revolution’s CEO of the Year.
Revolutionary of the Year: Jean Arnault
To be honest, we tried to think of every reason not to give this award to Jean Arnault. Because I understood the potential backlash of someone who is only 24 years old, and who has entered the watch industry relatively recently, receiving accolades like “Person of the Year” even from a title as humble as ours.
However, try as we might, we couldn’t find any way to avoid that based purely on the merit of his multiple endeavors, each of which is worthy of making him a contender for the year’s top achievers. When taken collectively, the conclusion is irrefutable: Jean Arnault is our 2023 Person of the Year. Now let’s talk about why.
First up is his creation of one of the freshest, most dynamic, best designed, most ergonomic, and most original new integrated bracelet, sports chic watches on the market — the new Louis Vuitton Tambour, which is an undeniably great watch.
Don’t just take it from me. Mike Shanlikian, otherwise known as @shani.watch, is a legend in the collector community, a guiding light in independent watch culture, and the successful winner of the last F.P. Journe jade dial Tourbillon Souverain at Christie’s 2023 thematic auction, The Art of F.P. Journe.
The last time we met up, he was rocking a platinum Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain I on one wrist and a gray dial Tambour on the other wrist. He explained, “The new Tambour is absolutely phenomenal.
“It’s completely original in that it’s the only integrated bracelet sports watch on the market that has no lugs and no bezel, yet it looks amazing on the wrist and feels even better.”
But the fact that Arnault’s new Tambour pays subtle homage to the very original 21-year-old icon wonderfully demonstrates his ability to pay tribute to Louis Vuitton’s past even while blazing a brave new path into the future. The significance of the Tambour is enhanced by the fact that Arnault has decided to simultaneously stop all quartz watches as he didn’t want a “disconnect” between Louis Vuitton’s positioning in other sectors versus its position in the watch sector.
But successfully reinventing the Tambour was just the first act in Arnault’s year. On top of that, he has now positioned Louis Vuitton as the successor to Harry Winston and its Opus watches, and as the champion of independent watchmaking — though in this case with Louis Vuitton, Arnault is giving the indies an even bigger stage, shining an ever more incandescent spotlight on them.
Louis Vuitton has embarked on a series of rockstar collaborations with indie brands, and kicking things off was the hottest young watchmaker on the planet, Rexhep Rexhepi. The resulting Tambour Tourbillon Chronograph à Sonnerie is one hell of a technical achievement.
But wait, that’s not all. Because Arnault has inaugurated the LV Watch Prize, and positioned Louis Vuitton as the champion of emerging independent watchmaking talent.
If you take all three of these acts together, it’s irrefutable that Arnault has, within the span of 12 months, completely changed the perception of Louis Vuitton into a highly watch-centric brand, and even one for serious connoisseurs. And that alone would have been worthy of the Person of the Year award.
But on top of this, Arnault also oversaw the relaunch of Daniel Roth with the re-creation of the watchmaker’s signature Tourbillon. He also relaunched Gérald Genta with a watch specially made for the Only Watch auction that featured jump hours, retrograde minutes and a minute repeater, offering a sneak peek at what is undoubtedly the horological finery to come.
Best Sports Watch: Tudor Black Bay 54
It has been more than a decade since the Tudor Black Bay was first introduced and during the time, it has seen numerous incarnations that have consistently positioned it as dive watch that is hard to beat within its price bracket. The Black Bay 54, however, is the purest incarnation to date.
While the design of the Black Bay wasn’t derived from any one reference but several references, the Black Bay 54 strongly recalls the original Tudor Submariner ref. 7922 launched in 1954. The ref. 7922 marked Tudor’s entry into dive watches and set the stage for subsequent developments, along with its ties to the French Navy, Marine Nationale (MN), the US Navy and other miliary organisations.
Tudor expert Ross Povey wrote a story about the genesis of the Black Bay 54 which you can read about here. Throughout its evolution, we’re now rewarded with its diameter of 37mm (and shared the exact same size as the 7922, along with other features), which begs the question: Are small dive watches the next big thing?
The bezel itself has also been subtly reworked from a serrated edge to a more refined coin edge that is faithful to the early Tudor Submariners. Appreciably, the watch’s depth rating is maintained at 200m even though the 7922 was water resistant to just 100 meters.
Within it is the in-house COSC-certified caliber MT5400, which represents one of the most advanced movements in its price range.
Best Reinvention: TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph “Glassbox”
Before we talk about why this year’s TAG Heuer Carrera Glassbox is the worthy winner of our Best Reinvention prize, we need to discuss the original watch it’s reinventing.
In 1963, Heuer unleashed the Carrera into the world. In the years then, the watch has become one of the great sports chronographs, built on the basis of legibility and performance.
Over time, the Carrera has become seamlessly integrated into the world of motorsports, worn by legendary racers and with a back catalogue full of cult classic references. The fact that the Carrera is such a staple in TAG Heuer’s collection makes the fact that the brand has taken its 60th anniversary to reinvent it so dramatically is truly something to applaud.
The New Carrera Glassbox, as it’s being called, has captured the heart of the Carrera — the clean lines, peerless legibility — and amplified them. The core collection model debuted in a fan-pleasing 39mm case, and the combination of highly domed ‘Glassbox’ sapphire crystal, with minimal bezel and edge-to-edge flow, offers a truly unimpeded view of the dial, with a chronograph scale on the outer flange that’s still exceptionally easy to read.
The watch is powered by the TH20-00, an evolution of the Heuer 02, and the most impressive commercial-scale automatic chronograph TAG Heuer has ever made. It looks good and works well. Combine that with the brand’s bravura attitude to sensitively reimagining the classic chronograph, and you have an achievement worth celebrating.
Best Men’s Watch: Chopard L.U.C 1860 Lucent Steel
Perfection doesn’t happen often. But somehow in 1997, the cosmic forces were in alignment when Karl-Friedrich Scheufele created the simply sublime Chopard 1860 to represent his first watch with an in-house movement.
And what a movement it was — a micro-rotor driven, bidirectional winding caliber, which was both COSC certified as a chronometer and the recipient of the Geneva Seal for its level of finishing. But the watch it was cased in was a masterpiece of restrained, harmonious Zen-like minimalistic design with just a soupçon of Latin exuberance expressed by its Metalem manufactured guilloché â main dial.
Amusingly, at 36.5mm in diameter, the watch now resonates with modern buyers more than ever as the younger generation has become enamored with classic sized timepieces, a by-product of their fascination with all things vintage. Accordingly, the Chopard 1860 feels more relevant today than ever.
Add to that the fact that this is the very first 1860 made in steel, and you’ve got something very special if you are lucky enough to strap one of these watches to your wrist. The material of the case is Lucent steel, which is 80 percent recycled and is a symbol of Chopard’s commitment to being a leader in ethics in the luxury world. This is a watch that is not only one of the most beautiful to behold, but also one that makes you feel better when you wear it.
Best Women’s Watch: Richard Mille RM 07-04 Automatic Sport
There aren’t many creators of technical watches that have managed to forge as strong a connection with the feminine audience as Richard Mille has. Indeed, in the vast realm of women’s watches, a staggering majority stays close to the conventional definition of femininity, featuring dainty cases with smooth soft curves, flowery accents, fashionable colors, the occasional métiers d’art touches, and of course diamonds all around.
Admittedly this is already a big improvement from the early 2000s when all brands did was to reinterpret an existing design in a smaller case, quartz movement, mother-of-pearl dial and diamond bezel. Oh and don’t forget a pink strap.
But beyond all of that, what Richard Mille has done in the women’s watch category is something else altogether and the RM 07-04 Automatic Sport is proof positive that the manufacture’s nonconformist approach to watchmaking applies to all its watches.
Cased in either Quartz TPT or Carbon TPT, the RM 07-04 is ultra-light yet ultra-strong, capable of withstanding shock or impact of up to 5,000gs. The CRMA8 caliber is the smallest automatic movement made by Richard Mille thus far, offering hours, minutes and its ever-present function selector.
Its openworked design is redolent of the classic Richard Mille aesthetic, as is the tonneau shaped case with exposed spline screws, rubber coated pushers and crown, along with fabric strap with Velcro fastener. In other words, it is a quintessential Richard Mille watch.
At the same time, its proportions are adapted to the feminine wrist and exuberant colors underscore its sporty spirit making it super fun to wear. It is a watch designed not just for women, but modern accomplished women who wield complete power over their lives.
That’s why go-getting modern power women such as racing drivers Aurora Straus and Margot Laffite, golfer Nelly Korda, athletes like Nafi Thiam, Yuliya Levchenko and Ester Ledecká, and of course the indefatigable Michelle Yeoh, all wear a Richard Mille — and that’s why we’ve chosen the RM 07-04 Automatic Sport as the 2023 Revolution Awards Best Women’s Watch of the year.
Best Jewelry Watch: Bulgari Monete Catene Dual Time
This year, for us, the Bulgari Monete Catene Dual Time High Jewelry Secret Watch stands out, and for multiple reasons. First of all, this is one of the few appearances of Bulgari’s Monete aesthetic in its timepieces.
Jewelry aficionados are well aware of how rare the Monete is, given the cultural significance of these authentic ancient coins. Bulgari has certainly introduced Monete watches before this one, such as in the Octo Roma with a coin cover and a skeletonized movement as well as a high jewelry secret pendant watch.
But with the Monete Catene Dual Time it features not one but two ancient coins. In addition, these coins evoke the reign of a fabled couple, that of Septimius Severus – emperor from 193 to 211 AD – and his empress, Julia Domna, who was venerated as a goddess. Like his and hers dials on a jewelry timepiece, if you will.
Next, while the coins are very much stars of the show here, and they sit on a fabulous diamond snow-set gold case, they only form the jewelry part of this two-part magnificent act. Open the lid and beneath the coins sit two dials operating independently of each other while providing two different time zones and here is where Bulgari’s immense journey as a watchmaker comes into the light.
Each dial is powered by the manufacture’s exclusive Piccolissimo caliber BVL 100, the smallest mechanical movement made in the 21st century, and definitely one of the smallest mechanical movements of all time.
Third, the watch is worn on an amazing six-chain catene cuff bracelet studded full of diamonds that’s designed to blow everybody else out of the water. Similar to the gourmette chain for French jewelry, the catene chain is practically synonymous with Italian jewelry design known for sumptuous volumes and expressive motifs.
The Bulgari Monete Catene Dual Time emphasizes its Bulgari’s Roman roots while remaining highly contemporary. And probably the only subtle feature here is the tri-colore aesthetic of white, rose and yellow gold — a nod to classics such as the Bulgari Tubogas, which is a reference only the truest of Bulgari aficionados will notice.
Best Grand Complication: Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Ultra Complication Universelle RD#4
Not only is the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Ultra Complication Universelle (RD#4) one of the best-looking and most intuitive-to-read grand complications ever created, but it is also the very first watch of its kind to focus on the needs of the grand complication owner.
OK, picture this. Who’s going to buy this kind of watch? Someone for whom its 1.45 million Swiss franc price tag is not going to put much of a dent in his net worth.
Following that line of logic, I’m going to guess his net worth is somewhere around 1.45 billion. He probably drives a Bugatti to pick up groceries and a Koenigsegg to fetch his kid from school.
And one thing I can extrapolate about billionaires is that they are relatively time poor and easily bored. Ask yourself the following: Have you ever met billionaires that like to read instruction manuals? Nope, me neither.
With the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Ultra Complication Universelle (named after AP’s most complicated pocket watch), once he straps it to his wrist, he never really needs to consult the manual.
Says Giulio Papi, AP’s technical guru, “The point is he can play with his watch and within a minute understand how to manipulate and set it correctly; it is that easy, intuitive and foolproof.” Add to that how good-looking the watch is.
Sure, when AP first launched the Code 11.59, it faced some controversy over the model’s look, which was due largely to the rather bland-looking dials for the time-only and chronograph watches. But since then, AP has put in a Herculean effort to improve the design of the dials and the overall watch, and this has paid off in full.
The new Code 11.59 watches with their stunning fumé and guilloché dials are genuinely great-looking. But it is this grand complication watch that is the masterpiece in the model range.
It also caters to its clients’ needs in another major way, in that it is the only grande sonnerie I can think off that can actually be worn on any occasion, including while playing recreational sports. At 42mm in diameter and 15mm in thickness, it is incredibly wearable and comfortable on the wrist.
Its technical palmarès include supersonnerie technology to ensure that it is one of the loudest and best-sounding striking watches on the planet, and its perpetual calendar needs an adjustment only once every 400 years.
Best Dive Watch: Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3
The historic moment represented by the incredible Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 is massive. Because it represents the first time in the 70-year history of the model and 20-year history of the modern Fifty Fathoms that you have the meeting between two totally different eras of the iconic dive watch, and the result is spectacular.
What you need to understand about the contemporary Fifty Fathoms is that it was created by President and CEO Marc A. Hayek, specifically to suit his love for diving. In the context of 2003, it was the world’s most innovative dive watch, replete with a fully luminous bezel enshrouded by a cutting-edge sapphire crystal element.
This watch was spiritually connected to the original Fifty Fathoms, but in terms of design language, it was not directly connected to the original watch from 1953 and never intended to be. Sure, there were the occasional limited editions with the no-radiation symbol or the moisture indicator, but these were all placed within the modern watch’s platform.
All that changed this year with the launch of the sublime Act 3 in honor of the Fifty Fathoms’ 70th birthday celebrations.
For those of us that love the history of the Fifty Fathoms, the launch of Act 3 was a powerfully emotional moment. Here is a watch where two eras have collided wonderfully.
Because, for the first time, Hayek has used the exact design language of the very original watch — the thin, lithe faceted lugs, the oversized bezel and the domed sapphire — to create a faithful homage to the watch born 70 years ago. But even cooler than that, Hayek didn’t just create a tribute to a historical model.
He also decided to focus on the most sought after vintage Fifty Fathoms, the non-magnetic Mil-Spec, which is believed to have been made in 30 pieces of non-ferrous German silver to minimize the watch’s magnetic signature for the U.S. Navy. Because these watches would patina over time to a stunning bronze color, Blancpain decided to riff on that by using 9K bronze gold as its case material of choice.
The faithfulness of the tribute to its past, combined with the use of contemporary materials like bronze gold and ceramic for the bezel insert, has created a watch that is to me filled with wonderful historical significance even while being a thoroughly modern high performance machine, much like a Singer Porsche.
Best World Timer: Patek Philippe 5330G-010
In any discussion about world timers, the conversation is never over until Patek Philippe enters the chat. And this is not about who first invented the complication — everyone knows Louis Cottier did, and that Patek Philippe swiftly picked up on its innate brilliance in the early 1930s.
This is about how much the manufacture had done to grow and evolve the complication throughout all this time, creating ever more ingenious and elegant versions that it has now become practically synonymous with Patek Philippe. In fact, if you had the chance to look at all the Patek Philippe world timers ever made at a glance, what immediately becomes apparent is the gradual and steady transition of one generation to the next, with each new version bringing technological improvement to the series and contributing in some way, large or small, to advancing the collection as a whole.
Thus when Ref. 5330G-010 entered the fray, the entire Patek Philippe world timer collection took yet another big step forward as it incorporates for the first time a date display. Ordinarily, the addition of a date function isn’t something you’d write home about but this being Patek Philippe it is never done in a simplistic way.
Ref. 5330G-010 offers a patented date display synchronized with local time and hence adjusts automatically backwards and forwards as the wearer navigates the different time zones. Prior to this new model, synchronizing the world time with another function was achieved only in the Ref. 5531 world time minute repeater.
As always, Patek Philippe emphasizes real functional innovation, and so the date indicator made of glass — another first for the manufacture — obscures nothing as it traverses the dial. Patek Philippe called upon two existing patents to realize this feature, the first of which enables it to apply red lacquer onto glass, and the second involves a brazing technique allowing the manufacture to attach the pipe of the hour wheel to the glass hand.
And finally, that breath-taking plum purple dial? It’s just pure icing on the cake.
Best Astronomical Complication: Konstantin Chaykin Stargazer
While the Joker watch, known today as the “Wristmon”, marked his original claim to fame, Konstantin Chaykin has demonstrated a capacity for creating significantly more complex timepieces, as evidenced by his extraordinary astronomical clocks. He is a mathematical genius who has amassed a total of 94 patents under his name, most notably a method for determining the date of Orthodox Easter and the varying distance between the Earth and Mars throughout the year.
Now, both sides of his horological expertise have finally been reconciled in the Stargazer. Boasting a total of 16 complications including a tourbillon and 11 astronomical complications, the one-of-a-kind Stargazer is the most complicated wristwatch he has ever made.
But more than that, it is enormously appealing both aesthetically and intellectually as it serves as something of an encyclopedia of astronomical complications, divided between the front and back of the watch. Chaykin tells us that crafting a Wristmon complication watch poses greater challenges compared to designing a classical grand complication, primarily because the complications must harmoniously integrate with the watch face, unlike a classical piece where complications can be built freely to be displayed on the dial.
In addition to the hours, minutes and retrograde day-of-the-week indicator serving as the facial features of the wristmon, it displays the length of day and night of a specific location, sidereal time, Equation of Time, celestial chart and houses of the zodiac on the front.
And on the back, there is a tourbillon at six o’clock, a continuous moon phase, and notably a patent-pending discreet, moonphase indicator at 12 o’clock. Possibly the smallest moon phase indicator in the world, it depicts the eight phases of the moon, effectively distinguishing between full moon and new moon and switches between phases instantaneously.
Additionally, there is a solar activity display showing the number of observed sunspots on the Sun’s surface and most remarkably, for the first time in a wristwatch, the azimuth angle at sunset and sunrise for a fixed location, for which a patent has been filed. More complicated than the complexity these complications represent is the process of designing and integrating them to form the facial characteristics of the wristmon, making the Stargazer the most distinctive and captivating astronomical watch this year and in any given year.
Brand of the Year: Rolex
No matter if you love artisanal independent watchmaking, or you’re a fan of the loftiest high complications, you have to agree with the following irrefutable truth: The entire Swiss watch industry owes its existence to Rolex. Bold statement? Perhaps.
But one that rings with the clear and distinct peal of unwavering truth. Because without Rolex to connect the world’s population with a passion for luxury watches, there would be no Swiss watch industry at all.
Most certainly, there would not be the critical mass to make it an actual industry worth 25 billion Swiss francs each year. In 2023, Rolex demonstrates that not only is it the most important watch brand on the planet, but it is also the most brilliantly led.
First, there is the acquisition of Bucherer, the Lucerne-based retailer with shops in Europe and the United States that is estimated to represent six to nine percent of Rolex’s turnover in retail sales. Sure, on one level Rolex buying Bucherer would protect it from falling into the hands of venture capitalists or private equity firms, which have been expressing increasing interest in the watch sector.
Magnanimously, Rolex’s purchase gives this halcyon retailer an assurance of a proper and secure future. But on another level, Rolex’s first entry into retail also opens up so many new and exciting worlds for the mighty juggernaut.
For one, there is now the first proper interface with the end customer. Rolex will also use Bucherer as a platform to grow its own Certified Pre-Owned program to take greater control of its own secondary market, which, importantly, gives Rolex the ability to take control over its own full narrative. Because while Rolex makes the best and most desired watches on the planet, in the past few hype-driven years where Rolex watches became the object of vast speculation, there was one gap in Rolex’s narrative: Customers would walk into their AD’s only to be told there was nothing they could buy. But they would turn around and find every single new Rolex model available on secondary platforms. By entering into the retail space, Rolex is now also putting all other retailers on notice.
Second, Rolex has clearly articulated that while its roots are in sports and tool watches, it has evolved to become the most important brand in the pure luxury sector. A decade ago, Rolex occupied a special niche in between a high-end tool watch and a luxury timepiece. Without losing its core identity, Rolex has shifted away from the first category and decidedly into the second. Part of this has been manifested in an increased focus on precious metal and gem-set watches.
But to me the best articulation of this is the new Rolex Daytona, a watch of remarkable refinement expressed by sharper lines for the case, thinner, more elegant markers and, in the case of the platinum version, the Daytona’s very first sapphire caseback showcasing exemplary movement finish. Meanwhile, the Day-Date 36 “Jigsaw” transformed the renowned pragmatism of Rolex’s legendary Day-Date into a watch that is a shimmering beacon of optimism and joy articulated by emojis in place of the date, and words such as “Peace,”, “Love,” “Faith” and “Hope” — a watch that in the turbulent times today is incredibly poignant and relevant.
Third, not content to simply relinquish the luxury tool watch market, Rolex has perfectly transitioned its sister brand Tudor to occupy this niche. If you are looking for a high-end, extraordinarily well-executed, high performance watch using all of the contemporary materials of today, including steel, titanium, ceramic and carbon fiber, and presented with an unbeatable value proposition — a watch that you can actually dive, hike, surf and ride your bike with — you need look no further than Tudor.
For all these brilliantly interconnected achievements, for the creation of the world’s best sports watches, and for supporting the watch industry in a way no other brand can, Rolex is our 2023 Brand of the Year.
Watch of the Year: Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Antimagnétique
Nine circles radiating outward like the perfectly symmetrical wave patterns caused by a stone creating ripples on the surface of a lake. That’s the secret to the way your eye is inexplicably drawn into the subtle tranquil vortex of perfect geometric harmony that is Rexhep Rexhepi’s masterpiece of design, the Chronomètre Antimagnétique.
These comprise the case profile, followed by the two steps of the bezel, then the opening of the bezel where it meets the crystal, then the two rings of the chemin de fer minute and seconds track, before arriving at the three sinuously interlocking circles that comprise the sector track — the dial’s central motif. Taken together, the result is one of the most mesmerizing achievements in modern watch design ever created.
Add to this the stainless steel body handmade by the Stradivarius of watch cases, Jean-Pierre Hagmann, and the dial rendered in grand feu enamel, and this timepiece only grows in its ethereal splendor. Further add to that the flat oversized crown and those lithe attenuated supermodel leg lugs, a double stepped removable back case that unlocks with the perfect audible click, as well as an all-new center seconds movement with zero-reset mechanism, and this watch has assured its own place in the halls of horology’s Valhalla.
Although there was some debate as to whether Only Watch timepieces should be considered for our best of 2023, in the end, it was a unanimous decision that they should because they represent the very best efforts of the brands and watchmakers that made them. And as it happens, I also know that Rexhepi is working on a series of these watches even as he contemplates discontinuing Akrivia.
As he puts it, “I don’t want to just repeat the same thing my whole life. I have so many ideas, and I want to keep evolving and hopefully improving my watchmaking.”
I know that many years from now, we will look back at Rexhepi’s extraordinary life and consider this antimagnetic watch one of his greatest achievements. In the end, when we applied the criterion of “if you could have just one watch made in 2023…” to all our finalists, it was Rexhepi’s timepiece that unanimously stole our hearts and won.
|Movement||Self-winding caliber SW200-1b; 41-hour power reserve|
|Functions||Hours, minutes and seconds|
|Case||41.5mm; 316 steel with Cerulean blue stonewashed Cerakote coating, matte vintage navy aluminium bezel insert; water resistant to 300m|
|Dial||Matte vintage navy; hour markers outlined in Super-LumiNova|
|Strap||Vintage navy TPU-coated nylon; additional vintage navy nylon with fabric keepers|
|Limited Edition||Limited Edition of 200 pieces|