As we look to the end of the year, it has become tradition for us to celebrate by sorting through the wide array of watches launched over the course of the year and bestowing awards among the best of the best. It’s not an easy task to begin with, and in a year such as this one, almost an impossible one. Despite the many challenges we’ve faced, on a whole, so many maisons have turned out gorgeous timepieces and made significant breakthroughs; it was tough having to vote any of them out. But we’ve done it again, contended with ourselves over the virtues of each nominee, argued vehemently for our favourites, and here it is. Here are the watches we picked for the 2020 Revolution Awards.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic
This should actually be an award for most revolutionary brand of the last decade. Because in just six years, Bulgari has achieved six groundbreaking records, including in 2014 the world’s thinnest tourbillon, in 2016 the thinnest minute repeater, in 2017 the thinnest automatic watch, in 2018 the thinnest automatic tourbillon, in 2019 the thinnest automatic chronograph and now thinnest tourbillon chronograph. But far beyond giving a whole new relevance to the ultra-thin watch, Bulgari offered the first serious competition to the entrenched kings of the sports chic category, the Nautilus and the Royal Oak, and did it with a head-turning, thoroughly modern design all their own. One key part of their aesthetic strategy was to push the boundaries of the dynamic tension between a larger muscular case diameter contrasted by an ultra-sleek profile, which was exactly what Gérald Genta did when he created the other two watches. But if Genta invented flight, then Bulgari took it supersonic! By uniting in-house case making, dial making (ain’t no supplier gonna make you a 0.2mm-thick titanium dial), movement making and bracelet making, they created the coolest sports chic icon of the modern age, the Octo Finissimo. This year’s magnificent skeletonised monopusher tourbillon chronograph automatic gives a new relevance to the dusty term “grand complication”, bringing an urgent sexiness and an ultra-cool matte titanium monochrome aesthetic. In addition, the movement of this watch has to be one of the most intelligently and beautifully designed. Want proof? Check out that skeletonised boomerang-shaped bridge connecting the column wheel to the oscillating pinion that feeds the energy from the tourbillon cage directly to the chronograph seconds wheel. Amazing!!!
Most Uplifting Watch of 2020: Omega Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” 50th Anniversary
I have to say, amid the inclemency of 2020, the Swiss watch industry has done a remarkable job of lifting our spirits. But there is one watch, which launched on 6 October, that has brought the hugest collective smile to the faces of collectors around the world — and that is the Omega Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” 50th Anniversary.
The Silver Snoopy Award is bestowed by NASA upon external suppliers that have provided extraordinary service on their missions. And there was no one more deserving of this than Omega. Onboard the ill-fated Apollo 13, the Speedmaster was used to time a crucial 14-second engine burn to ensure the crippled craft adopted the precise flight path that would allow them to neither burn up on re-entry, nor bounce off the Earth’s atmosphere, but return safely to Earth.
Omega has big shoes to fill for this watch, as the two previous “Snoopies” have already become the object of cult collectibility. The 2003 Blue Snoopy is highly coveted, while the 2015 Silver Snoopy, named as such for the presence of a stunning silver Snoopy medallion on an aventurine sky on the caseback, is considered a modern Grail and sells for almost four times its original price.
However, to me, the 2020 50th Anniversary watch ascends to the all-time-greatest throne of the special-edition Speedmasters simply for the pure exhilaration and joy that it expresses. The watch features the iconic 42mm steel Speedmaster lyre-lugs case, but the dial is solid silver and laser engraved with incredible detail, featuring a dancing Snoopy in astronaut regalia against a bed of stars at nine o’clock. This is the exact iconography of the Silver Snoopy pin awarded by NASA. Now, this would already be quite a charming homage, but turn the watch around and your jaw will simply drop. Because, on the caseback, you’ll find Snoopy again — this time, sitting inside his command and service module. He is connected via what Omega calls a “magic hand”, to the Master Chronometer-certified calibre 3861 featuring a Co-Axial escapement and silicon hairspring. When you start the chronograph, Snoopy and his spacecraft will start to fly against the backdrop of space. The Earth, which is represented by a photorealistic disc, is connected to the continuous seconds hand and spins, completing a full revolution each minute. I cannot think of a more joyful animation to celebrate the partnership between Omega and NASA, and more importantly, the courage and resilience that they both represent and that we can take inspiration from this year.
Bravo, Omega! This watch is wonderful and well deserving of the Revolution Award for Most Uplifting Watch of 2020, a category that is perhaps the most important of all.
Read more about Omega Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” 50th Anniversary
Best Collaboration: MB&F and H. Moser & Cie
It takes, as the saying goes, two to tango. And rarely has a dance been as beautiful, passionate and — dare we say it — sensual as the fruits of the union between MB&F and H. Moser & Cie, two of the Swiss industry’s most creative companies who brought us the Endeavour Cylindrical Tourbillon and the LM101. These two collaborative creations work so harmoniously together that at first glance it isn’t immediately apparent where the MB&F starts and the Moser ends. The dials of both watches are Moser’s famous fumé, in a range of colours. The LM101 is more classically MB&F, given that it’s based on an existing Legacy Machine model, with the 40mm Legacy Machine case and distinctive suspended balance wheel setup. But the novel movement architecture shines even brighter thanks to the vibrant backdrop provided by Moser’s dial. The Endeavour Cylindrical Tourbillon is something else entirely, a perfectly harmonious fusion of MB&F and Moser codes to create something entirely new. The dramatic open tourbillon and inclined sapphire dial is taken straight from the FlyingT but placed against the backdrop of a Moser dial and housed under that bubble-like crystal in Moser’s 42mm Endeavour case. These watches work because both parties involved in their creation carry equal weight. Not only are these watches successful in their own right, but they serve as a reminder that, as in all things, we can be better together.
Best Complication: Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 2RE
Our Best Complicated Watch award for 2020 goes, uncontested, to the Ferdinand Berthoud Chronometre FB 2RE because of this simple fact: with the FB 2RE, the maison has managed to create a timepiece that is seemingly a simple, time-only watch, brought to life by an exceedingly complicated movement with high chronometric ambitions, ever so elegantly executed.
Turning the watch over is where the true genius is revealed. First and foremost, we start with the expanse of the hand-frosted remontoir bridge. The bridge keeps focus on a fusée-and-chain mechanism as well as an escapement assembly, hiding the remainder of the gear train.
But the escapement assembly, too, is no average implementation. What you have is a one-second remontoir d’égalité with its remontoir spring, the escapement wheel with a triangular ruby cam — crafted by hand — and a three-arm stop wheel co-axially mounted. The three-arm stop wheel is directly what provides for the dead seconds display on the front of the watch.
Next to the escapement assembly is an anchor and locking fork, which works in conjunction with the three-arm stop wheel and ruby cam, respectively, to regulate the dissipation of energy from the fusée-and-chain mainspring assembly to the escapement wheel, which works with the escapement fork to provide impulse to the balance spring.
The impressive movement is not just for the sake of the wow factor. Ferdinand Berthoud’s chronometric pursuit has resulted in the watch also being officially chronometer-certified by the COSC.
Best Sports Watch: Richard Mille RM 72-01
I love Richard Mille. When you think of the testicular fortitude it takes to bid adieu to his best-selling, wait-list-creating 11-03 in its current form, when he could have made that exact same watch for another decade, you have to bow with respect to the man. But at the same time, he demonstrated what the future has in store for his eponymous brand with the absolutely stunning RM 72-01 Lifestyle Chronograph. Which is a watch with all the incredible technical value he’s established over the past 19 years but that is slim and elegant on the wrist, thanks to his first in-house chronograph movement that measures 29mm × 6.4mm. And moreover, the CRMC1 integrated automatic column-wheel-activated movement is a masterpiece of intelligent design combined with drop-dead gorgeous aesthetics. In a normal chrono, the coupling system, as well as the click that drives the minute counter, is highly parasitical. Meaning leaving it on will affect the amplitude of your balance wheel big time. Mille got over this by using two oscillating pinions, one driven by the seconds wheel to drive the chronograph seconds and one driven by a de-multiplying wheel to drive the minute counter. The barrel directly drives the hour counter. This eliminates the parasitical effect. Meaning you can leave it on with impunity. This, combined with the RM 72-01’s ravishing looks and enhanced wearability, has it easily winning our sports watch category.
Ultimate Value: Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 ‘Vibrant Dials’
Look at it from this perspective. 2020 has been a year of unremitting bleakness, with the only bright spots for me being, after several Negronis, binge-watching Rage Against the Machine reaction videos. So when Rolex decided to launch its new watches on September 1st, I welcomed the distraction, only to discover that they were absolutely fantastic. The new 40.53mm Submariner (vs the 40.2mm “Maxi” case) is the perfect evolution to the iconic family, enhancing sleekness and wearability with an all-new case profile complemented by a wider 21mm bracelet. Then I set eyes on the Oyster Perpetual “Vibrant Dials” collection and I felt instantly uplifted. Because here were modern interpretations of Rolex’s famous layered enamel “Stella” dials, characterised by stunning uplifting colours but placed inside one of Rolex’s most accessibly priced models. These were Stellas for the people at a hair over five thousand US dollars, democratised in price if not availability. It would have been impossible for Rolex to know the state of the world today when it started creating these watches, but the end result is that Rolex has launched the watches we love the most at a time when we need them more than ever.
Best Dress Watch: Cartier Tank Asymétrique
The Tank was dreamt up by Louis Cartier in 1917, inspired and designed after the Renault FT-17 French tanks that were used during the First World War. It was a radical design for its time, but more importantly, it was a design that was so perfect, it remained virtually unchanged for 100 years. Of course, the Tank went through a number of incarnations that gave us the Tank Française, the Tank Américaine, to name a few. But the one that is deserving of the Best Dress Watch this year is the Tank Asymétrique. First launched by Cartier in 1936, the parallelogram-shaped Asymétrique had a dial that was shifted 30 degrees to the right so that the 12 o’clock mark was at the top right corner of the watch — a unique design statement then, as it is now. So why is this watch our pick for Best Dressed? First of all, we can think of no other watch that is more classical than the Tank. And the fact that Cartier has relaunched the model this year as part of the Cartier Privé collection speaks volumes about how significant this watch is. The design of the Asymétrique is classical — you’d be hard-pressed to find a Cartier design that isn’t — but it holds just the right balance of playfulness in its lines. It’s dressy, but not sombre; it means business, but knows how to play. The watch comes in three versions, platinum, pink gold or yellow gold, as well as skeletonised versions in platinum or pink gold. The one we have picked is the platinum non-openworked version, its monochromatic dial looking particularly contemporary and striking against the grey alligator strap and a ruby cabochon adorning the crown.
Sports Chic: Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton
Over the past decade, we’ve watched dress codes evolve from suits to sweats, casual Fridays spilling over the weekend and back into Monday, amplified now by a world working from home. As such, the voracious appetite for stylish sports watches remains, and it’s unquestionably here to stay. Ours is an informal world where versatility is key. The industry reflects our changing tastes, as waiting lists for luxury sports watches grow by the day. It’s further proof that sports watches reflect our current state, with Vacheron Constantin’s Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton being a standout example. Why do we love it so?
It must be the eye-burning glamour of the Vacheron’s 18K pink-gold case, or the perpetual calendar’s vast information expressed so clearly and beautifully. Maybe it’s the performance of the self-winding calibre 1120 QPSQ, now entirely openworked, revealing exceptional hand finishing beneath the sapphire crystal. It might be that complex movement’s dashing slimness, a mere 8.1mm thick. Or even the Overseas’ interchangeable strap/bracelet system — the distinctive Maltese cross bracelet, croc strap, or rubber strap — providing surprising versatility for a watch of this stature. These elements combine to form a luxurious, go-anywhere, do-anything, sports watch. An incongruous combination of sporty practicality with mechanical complexity might be the ultimate expression of modernity, and that’s precisely why this Vacheron Constantin might be one of the few “price-upon-request” sports watches to aspire to, a dream watch in every sense of the word.
Technical Breakthrough: Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept
The war for maximum thinness has been an ongoing affair that with each new milestone brings us closer to the point where, supposedly, no one can go any thinner. It’s like an extreme game of limbo, only that bragging rights for the winner are of epic proportions. And today, it can be said that the escalation has reached a close-to-insurmountable limit, thanks to the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept.
Piaget has unveiled the “final” (for now) execution in horologic thinness. At just 2mm in height, this Piaget is the slimmest mechanical watch ever. It is only appropriate that it is Piaget who achieves this feat, given that from 1957, the maison has built a name for its slender movements, starting with the historic 2mm-thick calibre 9P.
After several years of fine-tuning, the fully developed and tested Altiplano is ready. Enclosed in a cobalt alloy case — that also works as the caseback and mainplate — the 900P-UC movement properly fuses the movement with the case that houses it. A total of 167 components — some of which measure an insane 0.12mm in thickness, with the sapphire glass set at 0.2mm — make the extreme thinness possible. A 4Hz balance wheel has enough space to dance and gives the watch a respectable precision rate, along with 40 hours of power reserve. The off-centred dial plays along the gorgeous movement architecture.
There will be other battles for thinness in the world of complications — over which Bvlgari rules supreme — but for now, where slim watchmaking is concerned, we can look up to Piaget as its champion.
Best Ladies’ Watch: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Frosted Gold Flying Tourbillon
Today’s feminine watch collectors are not the same as they used to be; as the industry has evolved, so have their tastes and knowledge. It was easy for brands before to simply release a diamond-set watch to target women without having to worry about complications or movements. Now, women collectors are refined and educated when it comes to horology, and they want something that will shine on their wrists but that is also complicated and showcases certain levels of craftsmanship. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Frosted Gold Flying Tourbillon is the perfect example of that ethos and the reason why we at Revolution have decided to name this timepiece the “Best Ladies’ Watch” of 2020. The timepiece pursues the collection’s interweaving of refined feminine aesthetics and complicated micro-mechanics. The case is for the first time adorned with Frosted Gold, an ancient Florentine jewellery technique revisited by designer Carolina Bucci that delivers a veil of shimmer produced by a surface treatment where the gold material is hammered with a diamond-tipped tool to make tiny indentations which, as a result, create this sparkle effect. The second highlight is the multi-layered dial composed of four juxtaposed circles of increasing size and graded hues of blue emanating from the flying tourbillon cage at six o’clock. The graded nuances and sunburst motif further accentuate the dial’s depth and refinement. The technicality of the movement resides in the flying tourbillon, considered as one of the greatest expressions of watchmaking art. Paying attention to every single detail, AP has paired the piece with a hand-stitched blue alligator strap with hammered 18-carat pink gold AP folding clasp, bringing the watch full circle back to where it is supposed to be; a highly technical but very feminine timepiece, perfect for a discerning female collector.
Best Jewelry Watch: Roger Dubuis Excalibur Superbia
When we think about the brands that make crazy-sexy-cool timepieces, Roger Dubuis definitely pops up on the top of the list. This year, Roger Dubuis again brings another stunning timepiece to the Excalibur line, a unique work of art named Superbia that is covered in over 600 diamonds and blue sapphires. The precious stonework makes its way throughout the dial, highlighting the aspects of the skeleton display.
The focus of the watch is on the incredible complexity required to choose, cut, and set the many geometrically shaped precious stones. Not only that, the diamonds are mystery-set on the dial and movement of the watch, in addition to the case and strap.
In addition to the time required to making the underlying Excalibur Double Tourbillon watch, an additional 900 hours of work went into the gem-setting efforts required to give the Excalibur Superbia its superbly elaborate looks, which are said to be inspired by the design work of Kaz Shirane.
A final detail on the watch is a discreet memento mori message written on the watch. Roughly translated into “remember, you will die”, the traditional purpose of the memento mori was to impress upon people the need to live their lives to the fullest, or else regret missed opportunities. Moving forward, Roger Dubuis claims that each of its piéce unique “hyper-watches” will have memento mori also inscribed on its movements. Extravagant? Yes. Excessive? Yes. The best jewellery watch this year? Decidedly so.
Best Design: Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chronograph
Even before we get to the design of Chopard’s 2020 release and extension of their Alpine Eagle range, inspired by the St. Moritz integrated-bracelet sports-chic watch created by company co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele in 1980, there is plenty to admire about the watch. It is the only watch in the luxury watch industry made from Lucent Steel A223, which features up to 70-percent recycled steel. Because it is twice forged, it has a higher Vickers hardness than the ubiquitous 316L steel used by almost everyone else. In the two-tone version of the chronograph, the watch features elements in Fairmined gold, the first guaranteed ethically sourced gold used in the luxury watch industry and an expression of the Scheufeles’ insistence on the underlying ethics of their brand. The watch uses a movement derived from the single most impressive automatic chronograph movement on the planet, the Chopard L.U.C 11CF — the first chronograph with a zero-reset function for the small seconds. While the Alpine Eagle doesn’t have this function, it still boasts an astounding number of features, including a 4Hz vibrational speed, a free-sprung balance, a column wheel, a vertical clutch, a flyback function and, get this, the only precise jumping minute counter in an automatic chronograph.
OK, now that its credibility is well established, let’s talk about the design of the Alpine Eagle XL Chronograph, which is not only devastatingly stunning and totally unique, but also features the best visibility around. Every counter, hour marker, and decoration found on the dial was the result of the slavish devotion and attention to detail of Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. He explains, “One of the reasons our chronograph is so easy to read, is that when we designed the movement, we placed the subdials higher — above the horizontal line of the crown — to create more balance on the dial and to allow us to make them much larger.” These two counters for hours and minutes dominate the visual impact of the dial. Both of these counters, and that for the small sub seconds, create a sense of dynamic energy with the use of bold radial indices. In the two chronograph counters, these are combined with “vintage inspired” markers, which are reminiscent of the famous square markers with tails synonymous with the legendary “Paul Newman” Daytona. But the real stroke of genius here is how these aggressively functional subdials are dynamically contrasted by the diaphanous, swirling pattern that evokes an eagle’s iris. More details abound: look at the way the applied Roman indices curve sensually around the subdials, and notice how the tachymeter found on the dial’s flange actually features tiny hash marks — I’m offering a prize to anyone who can tell me how many of these there are — to aid the precise reading of average speed. The date aperture is immense and offers incredible legibility, while the judicious use of red for just the tip of the chronograph seconds hand, the hands in the hours-and-minutes counter, and selected markers on the tachymeter, adds the perfect burst of colour. The 44mm case does the perfect job of framing all this visual brilliance with a design that is made more aggressive with the chronograph pushers that seem to extend from the crown guards like the flared neck of a bull.
Best Concept: Grand Seiko T0
For years, we have been waxing poetic prose about the magnificence of Grand Seiko. Its level of watchmaking must be seen and recognised as an equal to the Swiss powerhouses from Geneva and Bienne.
But just when we thought that natured-based artistry and inspiration were pretty much the main talking points that accompanied Grand Seiko and its respected Spring Drive technology, the year 2020 has granted us a new reason to be excited about Grand Seiko: the T0, a constant-force tourbillon movement.
As a way to battle the uneven performance and torque delivery from the mainspring to the regulating organ, Grand Seiko developed the T0, which uses a twin-barrel system that feeds energy to the constant-force device known as a remontoir. The remontoir is a subsidiary power source that helps the balance wheel beat at a steady frequency for longer periods by means of even-strength pulses. The T0’s remontoir stores torque from a gear coaxially arranged with the carriage; the energy of its spring drives the tourbillon cage and its balance wheel. According to the brand, the T0 reduces the gravity’s impact on the movement by one-tenth, while a high accuracy rate was confirmed for 50 hours out of the nominal 72-hour power reserve.
Each T0 movement takes three months to be finished and, of course, it is fully embellished. So, let’s wait a bit for the T0 to go mainstream and be ready for a new watchmaking revolution from the land of the rising sun.
Most Awesome Watch: Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight ‘Navy Blue’
There is literally nothing not to love about the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue. Fans of modern, well-sized, perfectly priced and pitched sports watches have been blown away by the quality and price point of the latest addition to the Black Bay family. Lovers of vintage Tudor have been equally delighted by the watch that is seemingly the perfect celebration and amalgamation of Tudor’s early “Big Crown” dive watches and the blue watches from the ’70s, with the house signature of “snowflake” hands. Size also matters and “BB58” is a watch that is on-the-money in terms of the trend for gents watches to be smaller, and at 39mm, it’s the perfect fit for both modern and vintage aficionados. Tudor has a right to be immensely proud of its heritage, especially in terms of its dive watches that were issued to some of the world’s most prominent navies. The Black Bay has taken that heritage and given Tudor the ability to reimagine it in contemporary watches that, whilst acknowledging the past, are resolutely forward-looking and offering watches that today’s consumers are devouring. And much like its elder sibling, Tudor’s latest BB58 is near-impossible to acquire through authorised dealerships and is selling at a significant premium. In a year that has been marred by a number of significant global events and issues, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue has been a high point and a welcome distraction. But above all else, the watch is just simply awesome!
Best Quartz Watch: Hamilton PSR
As the industry’s first mass-produced digital watch, it’s hard to overstate just how important the Pulsar P2 was to the world of horology, and in the PSR, Hamilton has penned a truly fitting love letter to this groundbreaking timepiece. From its delightfully retro case design to its novel dual OLED/LCD display, the PSR is nothing less than a master class in how to pay homage to the past while keeping an eye on the future. And what was the P2, if not a wild swing towards the future? Indeed, it was so forward-thinking that it wasn’t even referred to as anything so pedestrian as a wristwatch. Rather, it was a “time computer”, which may sound quaint when compared to the smartwatches of today, but in 1972, when the P2 made its debut, the ruby red flash of its trademark LED display signified a better tomorrow filled with flying cars and cities on the moon.
Okay, so we didn’t get our flying cars or moon vacations, but for those who wish to indulge themselves in the optimistic sentiments of the past, the Hamilton PSR is the ideal weapon of choice. A press of a button still summons the same “digit dot” display of the original — this time rendered in thoroughly modern emissive OLEDs — but thanks to its in-house-designed quartz movement, the time is always visible in daylight by means of a reflective LCD display. Another press summons the seconds display, and that’s that, same as the P2. What’s also the same is the solid stainless-steel case and solid-link bracelet, which are dead ringers for the original, though the mineralite crystal has been replaced with sapphire, which helps account for the 100 metres of water resistance.
The world may not have turned out quite the way the past envisioned it, but with the PSR, you can still wear a piece of that better tomorrow on your wrist.
Most Fun Watch: Bamford × Casio G-Shock GW-M5610
One thing that makes me happy about the last few years is the incredible creativity coming from every brand under the sun in the sub-one-thousand-dollar category. Brands like Baltic with its HMS and Bicompax, Undone with its Basecamp Cali and Type XX, Bamford with its Mayfair and GMT, have all demonstrated that you can have an absolutely amazing watch at a price that is incredibly affordable. This is super important because I’ve heard all kinds of theories about how it’s vital to get iPhone watches on kids so that they get used to wearing something on their wrists and will eventually become watch fans. I have an alternative proposal, which is why don’t we just get dope-ass watches that make them and us smile like crazy on their wrists to begin with? These can be analogue watches or digital watches. I don’t care as long as they are awesome to look at. Well, it is precisely within this category of “Fun” watches that the amazing Bamford × Casio G-Shock collaboration falls. Distinguished by its signature Bamford black and baby blue livery and complemented by a blacked-out display, the watch, which was massively oversubscribed upon its announcement, made us smile in a year when there was perhaps not so much to smile about. And as such, the “Fun” watch is maybe the most important category of them all.
Person of the Year: Cyrille Vigneron
Cartier is the perfect example of a brand that is making exactly the watch that customers want. Now you might think that this is a simple thing to achieve, but it’s not, and it is actually remarkably rare. It is as if the creative team from Cartier is able to reach into our collective subconsciousness and extract from it exactly the timepieces we dream about when we sleep. Want proof? When I asked Eric Ku — the Singer Porsche-driving, Coche-Dury-drinking legendary watch collector, owner of the Vintage Rolex Forum and one of the world’s greatest vintage watch experts — which modern watches he buys most consistently, the answer is, “Cartier, without fail, they just get it right over and over again.” Case In point: the Tank Asymétrique and the Tank Asymétrique skeleton version he purchased this year. This year has been an amazing one for Cartier, with the brand unveiling the drop-dead gorgeous and Revolution Award-winning Tank Asymétrique, the perfect reinterpretation of the Pasha and one of my favourites, the mechanical version of the sleek and elegant Panthère. The reason for Cartier’s impressive track record is its CEO Cyrille Vigneron who has led Cartier to new levels of success during his five-year tenure at the helm of the brand. It’s funny because people think of the giants and entrenched players in the watch world as being Rolex and Patek Philippe. But you could also add, occupying a different genre of shaped elegant dress watches, Cartier.
Brand of the Year: Rolex
There is something comforting and reassuring about familiarity. Sure, it’s nice to sometimes try something new or experience a pleasant surprise, but nothing beats the familiar. And this is exactly why we love Rolex so, so much; it’s all about evolution, not revolution, and this is the genius of the brand. I often say that the Oyster case, and by extension, the Submariner, is one of the most iconic designs of the 20th century, akin to the Fender Stratocaster and Porsche 911. This year, we saw again that Rolex’s perfectionist streak is always at the forefront as they tweaked the aquatic king of their sports watch line, the Submariner, with a new movement, case profile and colour variations to draw the Sub ever closer to dive watch utopia. These weren’t sweeping changes, but rather small edits…the little big things. But then we got a treat and a pleasant surprise in the shape of the Oyster Perpetual line with a range of new eye-catching hues that bear more than a passing resemblance to the incredible so-called Stella dials from Rolex’s vast back catalogue. And that’s why Rolex is our brand of the year — just when you feel that everything is safe and familiar, just as we like it, they hit you right between the eyes with a knock blow. Bravo!
Lifetime Achievement Award: Jean-Christophe Babin
While this is an award for his remarkable achievement over the 20 years of his career in the Swiss watch industry, Jean-Christophe Babin would actually be deserving of this award simply for all he’s done this year alone. Babin is at his core an innovator, and he has already innovated in every conceivable way. First he came up with the idea and oversaw the execution of the LVMH Watch Week in Dubai in January, which turned out to be not only the only major watch fair to take place in 2020 as a result of the COVID pandemic, but also was a masterstroke of positioning for LVMH and its individual brands. Ensconced in the Bvlgari Hotel, speaking to the CEO Babin and the creative director of Bvlgari (the brilliant Fabrizio Buonamassa), looking at Bvlgari watches, the message was not lost. Bvlgari does not simply make exceptional products; it has coalesced a seamless lifestyle universe of unparalleled chic. Something that no other brand in the world has achieved. Then, when the pandemic broke out, Babin innovated on an ethical level, donating a state-of-the-art 3D microscope to Lazzaro Spallanzani Hospital in Rome to help study the virus at the cellular level, changing a scent factory into a producer of much-needed sanitiser, and amazingly enough, creating a virus eradication fund which has helped to fund the Oxford vaccine (and others) and also provided scholarships for medical researchers. If all that wasn’t enough, he then went on to create two of the best watches of 2020. The first is the steel 5.25mm-thick Octo Finissimo with screw-down crown and 100-metre water resistance, which from all accounts, is sold out everywhere you look. The second is the stunning grand complication Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic that is our Watch of the Year. In six years, the Octo Finissimo line has become iconic, which has everything to do with the man who created it, himself an icon in our industry.