Revolution Awards 2021: Celebrating the Best of The YearBy Revolution
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 past months 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 and people are celebrating for the 2021 Revolution Awards.
Best Watch Design: Furlan Marri “Havana Salmon”
Sometimes a watch just captures the collective watch-enthusiast community, in a similar way to which a country is galvanized when its national team reaches the final stages of the World Cup. So was the case when Furlan Marri announced its Kickstarter campaign to launch its 1940s-inspired steel chronograph. And what a hit it was! The initial orders were 10 times what the brand had expected, and the watches literally became social media sensations. And the greatest thing of the whole phenomenon was the price — 330 dollars!
The brand was conceived by Andrea Furlan and Hamad Al Marri during the lockdown of 2020, and the watch was remarkably conceptualized, designed, tested and produced in the space of one year. This is truly a watch for everyone. Heavily influenced by the Patek Philippe chronograph reference 1463, complete with “Tasti Tondi” pushers and case finishing well beyond its modest price tag, the watch was available in five iterations, including the “Tasti Tondi” ref. 1011-A and the winner of this award, the Havana Salmon ref. 1031-A. The salmon and chocolate two-tone dial of the latter is beautifully executed, including applied hours with Roman numerals at 12 and six o’clock.
Each watch came complete with vintage Patek- style box, certificates and two leather straps with quick release spring bars. But don’t let the Patek comparisons fool you, this watch is very much its own person and wise beyond its years. And we’re all waiting with bated breath to see what the latest bright young things come up with next!
Brand of the Year: Cartier
It ushered in a new era by introducing the luxury watch world’s first solar-powered movement, the SolarBeat. It reintroduced an icon — a truly genderless, accessibly priced watch named the Tank Must extrapolated in three stunning monochromatic dials — that has since become one of the world’s most sought after commodities, with versions of the watch trading at up to four times its original value on the secondary market. It celebrated the centennial anniversary of its iconic Tank Cintrée with a faithful homage to the original watch that was so successful that it sold out in a matter of minutes, despite being stealth launched with zero publicity. It extended the Pasha range with a stunning chronograph model that oozed ’80s retro cool, while still bringing modern innovation in the form of a luminous inner bezel flange to illuminate the dial. It reintroduced us to the ravishing Cloche model. Its every limited edition is sold out and being traded at massive premiums. But more importantly, it has reasserted its unique position in the watch world as the unrivaled master of elegance and style.
If Patek Philippe is the King of Complications and Rolex is the Ruler of the Sports Watch category, then Cartier has now irrefutably claimed its rightful throne as the Emperor of Élan, so unique and unassailable is its ownership of the shaped watch category. And this is all down to the man leading the maison, one Cyrille Vigneron. He explained to me earlier this year, “We got back on track once we understood that everything at Cartier including technical innovation must serve the needs of beauty. Once we are aligned in this understanding, once the Cartier was once again connected to this core philosophy, then everything worked again.”
Amazingly, Vigneron is the only CEO in the luxury watch world that is advocating for deconsumption. But that’s because he knows his timepieces are endowed with extraordinary “durability,” so timeless and perennial are their appeal. Vigneron is also a leader in advancing the ethics of the watch industry. Case in point is his launch of the aforementioned Tank Must SolarBeat, though he is quick to emphasize that the model has not lost an iota of its beauty by going green. He has also explained that Cartier watches today are entirely genderless; they are not a demonstration of gender but a sign of character. For all these reasons, Cartier is Revolution’s 2021 Brand of the Year.
Person of the Year: Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani
While the world was still in the throes of an obsession with designs stemming from the mid-1970s, in 2014 Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, along with Bvlgari and the great Jean- Christophe Babin, enacted a revolution which has become the single most important horological design innovation in the past decade — the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo. And while ostensibly you could say that it took some small inspiration from Genta’s Octo, the truth is it is a totally different and new concept. It is also a watch that can only be made by a brand willing to completely re-write the rules about how a watch is constructed.
Many people believed that thinness, as embodied by Bvlgari’s seven world records in the category, was the primary focus but that would be to misunderstand Buonamassa’s concept altogether. Instead, it is the revelation of a never-before-achieved dynamic contrast between aggressive, strong, immediately identifiable design codes, and an extraordinary elegance expressed by the thinness that creates the Octo Finissimo’s magic. Last year, the Octo Finissimo came full circle with the introduction of the “S” model that showed us what an all-steel, water resistant version of the watch would look like. The resulting timepiece is sold out everywhere. This year, Buonamassa added to his arsenal of extraordinary horological finery a double retrograde perpetual calendar model that is one of the most brilliantly and totally original watches featuring this complication.
At the same time, Buonamassa has demonstrated the Octo Finissimo’s potential as a platform for collaboration with individuals such as Mo Coppoletta, Tadao Ando and yours truly. You could say Buonamassa receives this award this year for consistently creating the best and most original sports elegance timepieces and for the creation of the last decade’s first truly iconic timepieces. It is wonderful to see a man of his ability playing to his strengths and working at the peak of his ability. Buonamassa likes to talk about the birth of Italian Modernism following the Second World War, and the incredible sense of innovation, optimism and possibility that swept the nation. His achievement with Bvlgari is — in horological terms — as significant, in that it ushered in an all-new type of timepiece that heretofore never existed.
Revolutionary Watch of the Year: M.A.D. Edition 1
Yes, that’s right the M.A.D. 1, because it embodies everything that is revolutionary and that we love. Firstly, it was created by the man that was genuinely the first person to shine a spotlight on independent watchmaking — the one and only Max Büsser. Secondly, it is a remarkable act of horological democratization. For once, one of the coolest watches around regardless of price is actually one of the most accessible watches around.
Yes, we saw the memes about Max creating an affordable watch which he only allocated to rich dudes. Which was hilarious and, yes, we laughed. But it was not totally accurate. For instance, this is the first watch that the vast majority of Max’s own team is able to wear and same for his collaborators and suppliers. It was created as a kind of thank you to them and, yes, to Max’s Tribe of collectors who were also allocated watches. But, no, the massive frustration and Internet breaking over subscription was not part of Max’s strategy with this watch. However, he has recognized there’s a whole hell of a lot of people out there that want one, and let’s just say he is figuring it out in the best way possible.
What I found remarkable about the M.A.D. 1 was, with it on my wrist during Geneva Watch Days, I felt like part of a community. There was no one you showed it to that didn’t smile because the watch was somehow tremendously uplifting and optimistic. It defined its own category of timepiece: part community symbol, part niche micro- brand, part mobile horological art and part totem. Perhaps more than anything, it is a symbol of love for horology, creativity, friendship and family — and that’s why it is so meaningful to all of us.
To cap it all off, we had fantastic news come in just as this issue was going to press. The M.A.D 1 Pink Dial Project, a pièce unique specially created for our inaugural charity auction to support breast cancer awareness, hammered for a whopping 172,000 US dollars, far transcending its price category and a sure testament to the M.A.D 1 as the Revolutionary Watch of the Year!
Most Fun Watch: Louis Erard × Alain Silberstein “Le Triptyque”
Collaborations between watchmakers and artists are not new. In recent history, it has been common to find timepieces where the know-how of a more traditional watchmaker has been combined with the artistic concept of a contemporary creator. The challenge is to give equal weight to both parties, so that the end result is a genuine and close collaboration and not mere branding exercise. What Louis Erard and Alain Silberstein have achieved in less than two years is simply amazing… and a lot of fun. There is nothing better than the great Le Triptyque collection to confirm that the LE×AS formula is the best association of art and watchmaking today.
Le Triptyque consolidates the young but cheerful and robust partnership between Louis Erard and French architect-turned-watch-designer Alain Silberstein. Their first great shared success, the 2019 Le Régulateur limited edition with 178 pieces per color, was sold out very quickly and became some of the most essential and enjoyable watches of 2019/2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alain Silberstein’s signature style is based on the most advanced stage of the Bauhaus culture of the first half of the 20th century, where minimalist, essential and functional forms were sporadically sprinkled with geometric shapes in yellow, blue and red. This definition of contours gave life and color to the much-loved and desired Alain Silberstein timepieces that the artist created in the 1990s and is the same one that he has given to the Louis Erard pieces that today share his signature. The success of the partnership between the brands was rooted in the absolute creative freedom Louis Erard granted Silberstein to “play” with the regulator-type watch. Silberstein had never designed a regulator-type watch; one with the hour, central minute and seconds indications separated into independent registers. That elementary starting point served as a launching pad to elevate Louis Erard’s status and remind the world of Silberstein’s genius.
The limited edition Triptyque series is composed of a regulator watch (Le Régulateur II), a monopusher chronograph (Le Chrono Monopoussoir), and a three-hand with date and day of the week (La Semaine) — each of these references is available in 178 pieces, of which there are 78 boxed sets that comprise all three watches. Collectors can be assured of serious watch cred because Le Chrono Monopoussoir is also a finalist in the Chronograph category of this year’s GPHG, while La Semaine is contending in the Men’s Watch category. The latter is quite a sight to behold, thanks to its unique presentation of the days of the week with cute, little faces, a feature that Silberstein debuted in his watches 30 years ago (long before the boom of emojis)! All three watches come in 40mm titanium cases, highlighted by sidebars that give the watch a tonneau profile and add an architectural touch. The case material is a combination of micro-blasted grade 2 titanium and polished grade 5 titanium. The dials combine the colorful and essential Silberstein shapes: the red triangle-shaped hour hand, the blue arrow minute hand and the adorable yellow squiggly seconds hand. All three timepieces are Sellita-powered with their respective calibers customized and fine-tuned by Louis Erard.
The LE×AS concept blends color, exclusivity, simple but differentiated watchmaking complications and unprecedented value. I am ecstatic that the editors of Revolution have agreed to give Le Triptyque by Louis Erard × Alain Silberstein the Revolution Award for the Most Fun Watch of the year. Because they are a truly beautiful riot indeed!
Best Concept: Cartier Tank Must “Solarbeat”
In the automotive realm, the concept car is typically an outlandish design, showcasing hypothetical or untested technology — a glittering showpiece aimed at garnering headlines before eventually being watered down into staid and safe innovations implemented into regular production pieces. If you use these criteria, Cartier’s Tank Must SolarBeat is not a concept watch.
What Cartier has done is take one of their most classic forms, the Tank Must — originally a 1970s interpretation of the iconic century-old design by Louis Cartier — and powered it with a next-generation engine, the SolarBeat movement. It’s a brilliant move. It’s also a move very much in keeping with Cartier’s relationship to technical innovation; it has to serve the overall design of the watch rather than be innovation for innovation’s sake.
Make no mistake; the SolarBeat is an innovative watch. It’s quartz, but not as you know it. Instead of relying on power cells that need changing every few years, this Tank takes its power from cunningly conceived photovoltaic cells, which take the form of the Roman numerals and railroad track. Now, this is a smart implementation of technology. The new movement and the cells give the SolarBeat at least 16 years of autonomy, which is quite remarkable. On top of that, the watch is presented with non-leather straps, which have been made using apple scraps and other materials. In this way, the Tank Must SolarBeat is a reframing of the luxury watch as a truly sustainable object. In many ways, it has always been thus, especially with a model like the Tank, which never really goes out of style.
It isn’t just the innovative use of solar power or the long-life caliber that has earned Cartier our award for the Best Concept, or even the non-leather straps (which feel great on, by the way). It’s the combination of all these things, presented in the form of one of the absolute icons of watchmaking, that serves as a timely reminder that watches, even ones incorporating 21st century technologies, are inherently sustainable. That is a concept worth celebrating.
Most Uplifting Watch: Oris Divers Sixty-Five “Cotton Candy”
Typically we evaluate watch releases across a few reliable metrics. We talk about the caliber, case dimensions and on-the-wrist factors. Recently, though, in response to a worldview that is increasingly grim, many have added another, less tangible quality into the mix: happiness. It might seem wishy-washy, but happiness is seen as an important tool in promoting well-being. Bhutan famously thinks that the national growth of smiles is more significant than the growth of the economy. And Bhutan isn’t alone; the United Nations has determined that happiness is a fundamental human goal. So, a watch that tells the time and is capable of putting a smile on your dial is one worth making.
Leave it to Oris not to release one smile-inducing watch, but a trio of them. Collectively called “Cotton Candy,” this delicious assortment is the soul-soothing saccharine hit many of us didn’t know we needed. I mean, honestly, what do you think the reaction to a full bronze retro diver with a lipstick pink dial would have been in 2018? Today, though, these divers aren’t just surviving; they’re thriving. The bronze case is bright and fun, the full bronze bracelet is a flex, and dials are, well, great. Whether you prefer sky blue, wild green or lipstick pink, the dials are incredible; not just the colors, which present a smooth, glossy expanse that would not look out of place in the window of a fine patisserie, but the clarity of the applied hour markers and how they synergize with the case, and how the whole ensemble appears under the domed sapphire crystal.
These cotton candies aren’t serious, professional- grade divers (though feel free to dive in them); they aren’t presented as the latest chapter in some grand narrative of watchmaking stretching back generations. Their premise is simpler, and all the more powerful for it. Oris made this watch to make people feel good. And that is a mission worthy of celebration.
Best Jewelry Watch: Rolex Day-Date 36 Ref. 128158 RBR
Even the most casual observer or follower of Rolex collecting could not have missed the incredible surge of interest in gem-set Rolex watches over the past few years. From the shadowy sidelines of collecting, jewel- encrusted Oysters have taken center stage and become some of the most desirable watches on the market. And it’s not just Rainbow Daytonas or SARU GMT-Masters that have set auction records in recent times; diamond bezels, diamond hours and pavé dials on pretty much all models have become hot property. There is one model, however, that has always been a jewel in Rolex’s crown — the Day-Date. Even in the early days, the Day-Date was destined to be the most luxurious member of the Rolex clan. In 1965, a GMT-Master on a steel bracelet cost CHF 2,910. The platinum Day-Date on bracelet with diamond hour markers had a list price of CHF 22,000. That was a lot of money in the mid-’60s and would have been the preserve of the ultra-high-net-worth buyer of the time.
This year’s Best Jewelry Watch award goes to the Rolex Day-Date 36 in yellow gold. The reference 128158 RBR is a true showcase for the pure brilliance of Rolex’s ability to go to town with embellishments, yet keeping it classy and almost discreet! So, just how much bling is on this thing? Let’s start with the case. The 36mm 18K yellow gold case is set with 254 brilliant-cut diamonds (approx. 2.52 carats) on the lugs, case sides and lug caps. Then there is the yellow gold bezel that is set with 52 brilliant-cut diamonds (approx. 1.36 carats).
The dial is fully paved with 450 diamonds and coral enamel filled hour markers. The full pavé dial is a Rolex classic. Who doesn’t love a full dial of sparkling stones? Interestingly, the full pavé dial’s maiden voyage was in the Day-Date. Rolex employs the very best artisans who can flawlessly carry out the work, and insists on the highest possible quality of stones for use on their watches. All the diamonds used, even the tiniest for full pavé dials, must include zero inclusions when checked at 10x magnification. Each stone is checked by eye and compared with master stones to ensure that only the finest examples make it onto the watches — Rolex even has its own proprietary tools to ensure that each stone is of uniform shape. The cut used for its pavé dials is known as the 8/8 cut, which has a total of 17 facets.
The strap is the finishing touch in coral alligator leather to match the hour markers with a folding clasp in 18K yellow gold that has been set with — you guessed it — 61 brilliant-cut diamonds (approx. 0.41 carats)! And, if yellow gold and coral aren’t your thing, consider the white gold and turquoise, or Everose and burgundy options, if you want to tone things down a little.
Best Limited Edition: Chopard L.U.C QF Jubilee
The limited edition or LE is a phrase often bandied around when it comes to watches and yet not all LEs are equal! This year’s award for Best Limited Edition goes to a delightful watch from Chopard L.U.C. Launched in 2021 in a run of 25 pieces, the Chopard L.U.C QF Jubilee is a first for the L.U.C brand, in that its 39mm case is in steel and not a precious metal. Created as part of Chopard manufacture’s L.U.C 25th anniversary, the watch has an almost Art Deco-style, silver toned, sunburst and satin-brushed sector dial paired with a blue chapter ring and grooved subdial. Its Chevron type, rhodium-plated hour markers have small lume dots, whilst at the quarters there are lume-filled pointed baton markers.
This is a seriously good-looking watch, and within it lies a beautiful movement. The 22-carat gold micro-rotor equipped L.U.C 96.09-L automatic movement, which is both COSC and Qualité Fleurier certified, is a mere 3.3mm thin with a 65-hour power reserve thanks to two barrels and is decorated with perlage, polished chamfers and Geneva stripes. All of this loveliness can be admired through the sapphire caseback which has the individual number engraved thereon.
At this point, it would be useful to fully understand what QF or Qualité Fleurier actually is. Qualité Fleurier is an independent foundation established by the quartet of Bovet, Chopard, Parmigiani and Vaucher in 2001. The certification covers five pillars of watchmaking that a piece must meet in order to be awarded the coveted QF stamp. The five points ensure that the watch is 100 percent made in Switzerland; meets a set of exacting finishing standards; is COSC certified; has passed the Chronofiable test, which benchmarks how the watch will wear over time; has passed a set of tests within the Fleuritest simulator, which puts the watch through 24 hours of scrutiny.
Only when all five points of the validation criteria have been met can a watch be bestowed with the “FQF, la Haute Horlogerie certifiée.”
This watch marks 25 years since Karl-Friedrich Scheufele introduced the beautiful micro-rotor equipped caliber 1.96 that led to the founding of the L.U.C series, which showcase Chopard’s very finest watchmaking. We love this watch because of how simply and beautifully it has been executed when one considers the technical prowess of the maison. This self-restraint should be applauded, and so we did!
Technical Breakthrough: Bernhard Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer
In 2020, German independent watchmaker Bernhard Lederer presented a prototype of his Central Impulse Chronometer which builds upon the independent double-wheel escapement invented by George Daniels, with improved geometries and the addition of a pair of remontoirs. This year, the watch was presented in its final form and represents the first in a series of watches dedicated to innovative escapements. Launched in two 25-piece editions, in either blue or silver, it features a pair of openworked seconds counters that reveal the twin escape wheels as well as the Wankel disk. The seconds hands rotate in opposite directions, offering a hint, at a glance, that it’s no ordinary time-only watch and a worthy recipient of this award.
A watchmaker of immense technical and mathematical talent, Lederer is a founding member of the AHCI (Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants) whose career, in many ways, represents a long examination into the heart of a mechanical watch, from the gravity escapement in his first timepiece — a table clock with a 1,000-year perpetual calendar, sidereal time and high- accuracy moonphase — to the innovative tourbillons produced under BLU (Bernhard Lederer Universe). Based in St. Blaise near Neuchâtel, his company MHM (Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie et Micromécanique) has been a go-to specialist for movement construction and parts production for many esteemed brands.
The Central Impulse Chronometer represents not just an obsessive exercise in chronometry, but also a direct connection to the work of two of the most remarkable figures in the history of precision timekeeping — namely George Daniels and Abraham-Louis Breguet. Prior to the Co-axial escapement, Daniels developed the independent double-wheel escapement, which solved the issue of play Breguet faced with his natural escapement by providing each escape wheel with its own gear train and mainspring. In contrast to the traditional Swiss lever, it delivers two direct impulses to the balance per cycle and operates virtually without friction. Lederer further refined the geometry of the escapement to eliminate recoil as well as to prevent the escape wheel from tripping at low amplitude. Additionally, each gear train is equipped with a remontoir – a mechanism that, while birthed to address the fundamental problem of unequal torque delivered to the balance as the mainspring unwinds, is particularly beneficial for an escapement that is reliant on the parity of two separate gear trains. And lastly, as the remontoir releases fixed, small doses of torque each time, the escapement is fashioned from titanium to ensure the lowest inertia.
With the exception of the dial, case, crystals and springs, all components of the watch were designed and manufactured in Lederer’s atelier in St. Blaise. The subtle under-the-radar aesthetic hides a horological masterpiece beneath. For the sheer brilliance of executing such an important development, we award the Technical Breakthrough award to this awesome watch!
Cheryl Chia & Ross Povey
Best Complication: De Bethune × Voutilainen “Kind of Magic”
The late Charles Meylan was a master watchmaker born in the Vallée de Joux who had quite the celebrated career in the Swiss watchmaking industry, having served as technical director of Favre- Leuba in Fleurier and then, Audemars Piguet. While he is no longer among us, we continue to be blessed by his legacy through the works of two of this generation’s most gifted watchmakers. These two watchmakers, masters in their own right today, were under the tutelage of Charles Meylan during the critical transition years after the end of the Quartz Crisis and before the revival of the mechanical watch.
We speak of the Finnish watchmaker, presently residing in Môtiers, Switzerland, Kari Voutilainen, and the French watchmaker, Denis Flageollet, presently residing in Sainte- Croix, Switzerland — Kari Voutilainen, of course, being the quiet confident mind behind his own horological vocabulary and adventure known as Voutilainen and Denis Flageollet, the mad scientist behind the mind-bending horological venture that is De Bethune.
This year, the two have come together not just to pay homage to their mentor, Charles Meylan, but also to give the world the horological gift that is the De Bethune × Voutilainen Kind Of Magic unique piece created for the 2021 Only Watch charity auction. Theirs is a timepiece that starts with the De Bethune Kind of Two as a platform, therein allowing each watchmaker a side of the watch to adorn with their own watchmaking language.
Starting with Kari’s side of the watch, we have his signature guillochage adorned dial with a deadbeat seconds time-only face. Twisting the watch over to its second face, we see Denis’ delta-shaped bridge and the complete De Bethune effect. All at once, the timepiece is just as much an expression of the two watchmakers’ signature approaches towards the art as it is a seamless masterpiece in its own right.
For all of these reasons and because it brings together two of our favorite living breathing master watchmakers, we could not think of a better timepiece to be awarded the title of 2021’s Best Complication.
Best Dress Watch: Patek Philippe Calatrava “Clous De Paris” Ref. 6119G
Of all the timepieces that Patek Philippe has launched this year, including the incredible end-of-series olive green dial 5711 and the 5236P In-Line Perpetual Calendar, it is the new 6119 Calatrava that might possibly have been the most challenging to design. Why? Because the manual wind Calatrava with small seconds represents the dream Patek Philippe to many people and, for many generations, this has been the pathway to enter the brand. So, this watch needs to live up to all the lofty expectations we have for it.
Well, the new reference 6119G and 6119R are proof positive that even when Patek makes a simple watch, it does so with acute sensitivity to detail, beauty in design and now an awesomeness in movement innovation that sets the brand in a class all to itself. These two new watches are named “Clous de Paris” as they both feature bezels with the famous engraved hobnail pattern, first seen in a Calatrava back in 1934 for the 96D (D for décor). From a design perspective, this new 39mm watch gets everything right. In particular, the white gold version with a slate gray dial and gold applied hour markers has to be one of the loveliest time-only watches in recent days that exemplifies sobriety.
But flip the watch over and revel in the new caliber 30-255 PS, which takes over from the caliber 215 PS. The previous manual wind movement was a diminutive 21.5mm in diameter and didn’t fill the case of a larger more modern watch. As such, Thierry Stern asked his team to create a larger movement but, importantly, one that was the same 2.55mm in thickness as the original movement to keep the watch wonderfully thin and elegant. The objective was 65 hours of power reserve.
Says Patek’s head of development Philip Barat, “Actually we were able to achieve this with a single barrel. We added the second barrel simply because there was so much space in the new movement. Then we decided not to have the barrels run in series to extend power reserve but to have them run in parallel to provide amazing torque throughout the 65 hours. We increased the moment of inertia for the balance from 5.5 to 10 mg/cm², which means this movement is an absolute tractor.” A tractor it might be, but this movement also features some of the most beautifully designed bridges. They are sweeping, modern and exciting and express all of Patek Philippe’s singular level of finish.
For anyone after timelessness and elegance in a watch, look no further. It is for this reason and much more that we have awarded the Patek Philippe Calatrava “Clous de Paris” ref. 6119G the title of 2021’s Best Dress Watch.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Alain Silberstein
There is a fan-made video on YouTube for a Miami Vice revival set in the present day, a full 40 years after the show first aired. In it, there is a scene of Don Johnson in his 60s, resplendent in a mane of white hair, suntanned and wearing his signature white suit and T-shirt. He pulls back the cloth covering his white Ferrari Testarossa. The clip cuts to him driving through Miami at night to the refrains of yes… Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” When I saw this, I leapt out of my chair and screamed “F**k Yeah!” Because the rush of nostalgia and the recognition that what was once cool will be forever cool swept powerfully through me.
This is the same way I felt when I saw Alain Silberstein’s HM2.2 collaboration with Max Büsser back in 2009, and it is the same way I felt when I saw Manuel Emch’s collaboration with Silberstein on the Louis Erard Le Régulateur last year, and again in 2021 on the limited edition trilogy of watches known as Le Triptyque. What I and the rest of the world realized is that Silberstein’s design language is one of the most significant voices in modern watchmaking history and that it feels as vibrant, relevant and cool as ever. Seated in the lobby of the Hotel Beau Rivage during Geneva Watch Days, I introduced Danny Govberg of Watchbox fame to Silberstein, and Govberg’s exact words were, “Wow, I’ve wanted to meet you for decades. I love your watches.”
At the same time, you have a whole new generation of young collectors that connect with the wonderful primal geometric design DNA of Silberstein, who seems to be gathering more momentum than ever. An architect by trade, in 1987, he rented a booth in Baselworld and changed the course of watchmaking history by injecting a freshness, modernity and relevance that the world had not yet experienced. These same qualities are vibrantly alive in everything that Silberstein touches today, from Louis Erard to his Utinam clock, the KB2! We couldn’t think of anyone that is a better personification of lifetime achievement than Alain Silberstein and, even better, we suspect his best work is yet to come.
Best Collaboration: Bamford × Girard-Perregaux “The Casquette”
It’s a striking indicator of just how far the world of watch design has moved that George Bamford — once the exiled enfant terrible of watch customization — has an officially endorsed seat at the table with a brand like Girard-Perregaux. And honestly, it makes perfect sense. Because everything Bamford does to a watch comes from a place of profound love and passion. His input into watch design is all about highlighting the existing elements of a watch design and making them more, making them better.
That’s certainly the case with the unique (literally) collaborative take on that avant-garde ’70s design, the Girard-Perregaux Casquette. Originally from an era when a digital watch costs more than a car, the Casquette featured a red LED display in a futuristic case that eschewed the conventions of watch design and placed the time in a screen-like readout. This year, Girard-Perregaux celebrates 230 years, and this oddball design, from a tumultuous and important era in watchmaking, is a great reminder that watchmaking history is more than marine chronometers and classic chronographs.
It’s also about innovative design and technology. This remix of the Casquette has been made for the 2021 Only Watch auction, a modern take on the Casquette that sees the shroud-like case made from forged carbon with titanium pushers. The dial is — as on the original — a tubular LED display. The genius of this particular collaboration is that it honors the past, but doesn’t imitate it. Other treatments might have come across as too retro, but the use of forged carbon takes the 50-year- old design and forces us to look at it through fresh eyes, seeing just how futuristic it was, and still is.
Best Ladies’ Watch: Chopard L.U.C Flying T Twin Ladies
The Chopard L.U.C Flying T Twin Ladies is a pair of timepieces that was launched at the 2021 Watches & Wonders. For us at Revolution, this was a significant launch because it was the first time we bore witness to the incredible L.U.C caliber 96.24-L in a case that superbly measures in at a diameter of 35mm. Why was this important? Not too long after, it was our privilege to launch, in partnership with Chopard, the L.U.C 1860 Flying T Special, which itself has a diameter of 36.5mm and is also powered by the L.U.C caliber 96.24-L.
The L.U.C caliber 96.24-L was initially launched in 2019. It features the Chopard Twin technology with two stacked barrels, micro-rotor and highly precise adjustments — particularly a 3.5Hz one-minute tourbillon with stop seconds function — and bears both the COSC certification and Poinçon de Genève. The caliber is a tour de force in the realms of chronometry and decoration, and even better, Chopard L.U.C has managed to pack all of this into a movement that measures a mere 27.4mm in diameter and 3.3mm in thickness.
This is why the maison is able to fit the movement into cases of more elegant proportions such as the aforementioned 35mm and 36.5mm instances. And while the 35mm L.U.C Flying T Twin Ladies is, as its name suggests, targeted more towards women who might appreciate the finer points of its technical excellence, the timepieces, given their size, also appeals to gentlemen with a penchant for wristwatches decorated with fine diamonds and mother-of-pearl dials. Particularly notable is the platinum version of the L.U.C Flying T Twin Ladies, with its 18K white gold dial entirely set with diamonds, as are the bezel, case middle, lugs and even the micro-rotor.
For its technical prowess and the fact that it is simply arresting to look at, we are compelled to name the Chopard L.U.C Flying T Twin Ladies as 2021’s Best Ladies’ Watch.
Best Sports Watch: Blancpain Air Command Flyback Chronograph
In 2019, Blancpain surprised us with the reissue of the Air Command, a limited edition, high frequency flyback chronograph. While I was impressed with the watch, there were a few things that were holding me back from declaring it as the perfect sports watch. The “old radium” Super-LumiNova, aka “fauxtina,” was my major issue with the watch. Also, the Air Command is a large watch at 42.5mm, and I felt that the comfort level was slightly diminished with the heft of a stainless steel case. Finally, the red gold winding rotor in the shape of a propeller was a bit gimmicky.
Enter the 2021 Air Command. It was as though Blancpain had listened to a recording of me complaining about the 2019 reissue to Alexa. The 2021 Air Command has natural colored Super-LumiNova. The comfort level is greatly enhanced with the satin-brushed grade 23 titanium case. The propeller rotor is out; instead, a well-thought- out, openworked oscillating weight in gold with snailed sunburst finishing is seen through the caseback. Throw in the striking sunburst blue dial and a matching bezel with blue ceramic insert, and we have a perfect sports watch. There is one minor wish for improvement — the current water resistance rating is 30 meters, which can be increased to 100 meters. To be fair, Audemars Piguet’s ref. 15200 (or 15500), the quintessential sports watch, is also only water resistant to 50 meters.
A variation of the 2021 Air Command is available in satin-brushed red gold case, for first-class fliers. Otherwise, the technical details remain the same as the 2019 version. It features the F388B high-frequency 5Hz automatic movement with 50 hours of power reserve. A vertical clutch provides the chronograph seconds hand with a smooth start, and the flyback function allows for instantaneous zero resetting and restarting.
Just as the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms makes for a worthy diver’s watch, the Air Command makes for a great everyday sports watch. Historically, it was issued to American military pilots, and it continues to retain the rugged semblance. The sunburst blue dial adds a touch of modern flair to keep it from being labeled as purely vintage inspired.
In the words of Don Draper of TV series Mad Men, “Make it simple, but significant.” That pretty much sums up why the Air Command deserves our Best Sports Watch award of 2021.