As we close the door on 2018, we remember all the great things it brought forth, including a range of truly spectacular men’s watches. Put simply, the year was chock full of stylish stunners. At Baselworld and SIHH, in particular, the best brands rolled out their latest and greatest horological triumphs to legions of enthusiasts and a handful of lucky collectors. Being timepiece junkies ourselves, we snagged as many proverbial front row seats as possible, slapping some serious quality around our respective wrists. What we encountered was a veritable bounty of eye-popping designs and groundbreaking mechanics from names like Rolex, Breitling, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and more. Like most things worth tracking down, many of these watches are limited in supply and high in cost. On the other hand, they’ll probably be twice as hard to find and twice as expensive in just a few years time. Here’s a round-up of our personal favourites from 2018. If you can afford one, get one.
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Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox
This year marked the 50th anniversary of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s classic 1968 Polaris, so it was only natural that the luxury brand unleashed a modern take. And what a take that was. What was once dubbed the “holy grail of alarm watches” has been resurrected to the tune of a mere 1000 units. Affixed to the robust 42mm case of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox are three redesigned crowns, which respectively control the alarm and date function, the bidirectional inner rotating bezel, and the time. Powering the watch is Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 956, a meticulously constructed movement that shares DNA with the brand’s own automatic alarm movement from the 1950s.
Rolex GMT – Master II Oystersteel
The Rolex GMT Master II carries a distinguished legacy into the modern era. Equipped with proprietary Oystersteel architecture, chronometer accuracy, GMT function, a 24-hour rotatable bezel, and mechanical self-winding movement, the travel watch is as iconic now as it ever was. Naturally, it was a big hit at this year’s Baselworld. The Jubilee-bracelet version is a personal favourite, as is the “Root Beer” variant.
A. Lange & Söhne Triple Split
For a mere 150,000 Euros, you can score yourself the world’s first triple rattrapante chronograph, better known as the A. Lange & Söhne Triple Split. Representing the logical evolution of the brand’s own Double Split, the 2018 watch features hands of rhodiumed gold and blued steel, solid-gold markers, and a solid silver case. Of course, what really distinguishes this piece from the pack is its advanced split-seconds chonograph, which allows the hour, minute, and seconds hands to perform some nifty acrobatics. The result is a thing of pure beauty and indisputable sophistication.
Montblanc 1858 Geosphere
At the forefront of Montblanc’s 1858 collection is the Geosphere, which combines a dual timezone display with two impressive worldtime displays. Also featured is a compass-like bi-directional rotating bezel, lending the watch a truly adventurous aesthetic. One look and you’ll feel like hopping on the next plane to travel the world or climb a tall mountain like so many explorers before you. Meanwhile, the collection pays tribute to Minerva, the first full-fledged maker of movements. In other words, this gorgeous piece is overflowing with heritage appeal.
Zenith Defy Classic Skeleton
To peer through the star-shaped dial on the Zenith Defy Classic Skeleton is to witness the watch’s Automatic Elite 670 SK movement in all its complex glory. Consisting of 187 components, the movement hosts a minimum power reserve of 50 hours, and a frequency of 28,800 VpH. Surrounding the open-worked dial is a sturdy 41mm case of brushed titanium. If you like watches that will invariably draw eyeballs from across the room, or cause your own eyes to lapse into a transfixed state, then this one’s for you.
IWC Tribute to Pallweber Edition “150 Years”
It was a long time ago that IWC introduced the Pallweber pocket watch, and now the legendary timepiece is back in wristwatch form. Touting a beautiful minimalist dial, the watch comes powered by new calibre 94200 manual-winding movement (manufactured by IWC, of course). Also featured is a 45mm case as well as sapphire glass with anti-reflective coating. The stainless steel variant with blue dial is limited to a mere 500 units.
Tudor Black Bay GMT
Don’t be fooled by that “Pepsi” bezel or other visual similarities–the Tudor Black Bay GMT is far more than just an affordable alternative to the GMT Master II from parent brand Rolex. Okay, maybe not far more, but there are differences nevertheless. Like its Black Bay brethren, this watch delivers a discernible amount of ruggedness and heft. That said, it’s still an ergonomic beauty and ideal travel companion.
TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 01 Chronograph
Combining TAG Heuer’s racecar heritage with its dedication to superior mechanics, the Carrera Calibre 01 Chronograph emanates with extreme utility and bold beauty in equal measure. For proof, look no further than the black skeleton dial and its seemingly endless myriad of details. Fortified by a robust 45mm dial and Swiss-made movement, this watch is a beast in every sense of the word.
Breitling Navitimer 8 Chronograph 43
Breitling’s new CEO George Kerns wasted little time in taking the Swiss brand to some new and exciting places in 2018, and nowhere was that more apparent than with the Navitimer 8 Collection. Drawing inspiration from old aviation instrument clocks, these pilot’s watches streamline the brand’s aesthetic to the point of radical departure (even the winged logo is gone). The result is a watch that goes back to the basics in terms of design and functionality alike. Powering the flagship model is in-house B01 calibre movement, which famously hosts a premium column wheel and 70-hour power reserve.
Vacheron Constantin FiftySix Self-Winding
Expanding upon its demographic, Vacheron Constantin introduced this relatively affordable “classic” to rapturous acclaim at SIHH 2018. Equipped with a 40mm case of stainless steel (a precious metal variant is also available at higher cost), the FiftySix Self-Winding represents a veritable entry point for all the passionate collectors out there whose pockets only go so deep. This is quintessential Swiss watchmaking at a semi-approachable price of $11,900 USD.
Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic
Just because most of us don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to drop on a quality dress watch, that doesn’t mean we can’t score something remarkable. Enter the Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic. Swiss-made and sophisticated, the slim dress watch blends a porcelain white dial, sapphire crystal glass, a steel case, and a polished-satin finish to sheer perfection. Meanwhile, thanks to new Baumatic BM12-1975A COSC movement, this baby delivers a whopping 120-hour power reserve. The model featured retails for $4,200AUD and the entry price for the Baumatic collection is $3,950AUD. No wonder we love this thing!
Oris Big Crown Pointer Date
Firing on all cylinders, the Big Crown Pointer Date from Oris combines vintage personality with modern dynamics to brilliant effect. This perennial favourite also achieves an exquisite balance between sportiness and sophistication. Expect a symphony of polished sides, brushed lugs, and legible dial markers. Hovering over the blue dial is shock-resistant sapphire glass. Sealing the deal is a handsome leather strap. Timeless is the operative word when it comes to this wildly popular aviation watch, which costs less than 2K.
Omega Speedmaster “Dark Side of The Moon” Apollo 8
One of Baselworld 2018’s biggest hits, the Omega Speedmaster “Dark Side of The Moon” Apollo 8 pays tribute to the historic 1968 moon mission. Separating this variant from its predecessors is a skeletonised dial, which puts the watch’s legendary Calibre 1861 movement on display. As if that weren’t enough, the movement has been laser-ablated to resemble the lunar surface. Consider it an ample preview of all the perks this avant-garde mindblower has in store.
Raymond Weil Calibre RW1212 Freelancer skeleton
Picking things up where last year’s Freelancer Collection left off is this horological stunner from Raymond Weil. Visible through the open-worked dial is mechanical self-winding Calibre RW1212 movement, developed in-house by the brand. Among the movement’s numerous features is a dial-side regulator, which sits above the main plate and flaunts some tourbillon-like complexity. Available in three variants, this 42mm watch is the stuff that sleek dreams are made of.
Longines Skin Diver
Capping off our list of 2018’s best watches is the Longines Skin Diver, which made a big splash at Baselworld. Water resistant to 30 bar, the watch includes a screw-in crown, unidirectional rotating bezel, luminous dial, and round case of PVD-coated stainless steel, among other things. Big, bold, and beautiful, this striking piece updates its own iconic lineage in superior style.