2019’s been a good year. Obviously, I only mean that in the context of watchmaking but given what’s going on in the rest of the world that’s a lovely, blinkered place to be. Like any year, there have been a ton of new releases, a handful of notable ones each week and more than enough to make any retrospective almost impossible.
That said, there are some horological highlights that have stuck in my mind, despite the months and releases inexorably rolling on by. I’m not saying they’re the empirical best of the best, but they are my favourites, and as this is my section to write that’s all I need to justify them. So there. So, without further ado, here are my five favourite watches of 2019.
1. Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-thin, £68,800
This was one of the earliest releases of the year, all the way back at SIHH 2019. In essence, it’s just a change of colour palette, switching the silver dials of older Overseas models for a deep, lustrous blue. It’s a small change but one that, when combined with a rose-gold case makes for an incredibly handsome watch. It also defines for me sports elegance, pairing a cool notched bezel and rubber strap with precious metal and a full-on Perpetual Calendar. We had it in February, and I’ve wanted it back on my wrist ever since.
2. Bell & Ross BR 05, £3,990
In the current crop of sports luxe watches in the image of the original Royal Oak and Nautilus, I never expected that of Bell & Ross to be my favourite. Yet its flagship square shape works nicely with more rounded corners and it already has the requisite visible screws and integrated bracelet. It’s smaller and lighter than its competitors too, making it lovely on the wrist. My preference is for the silver dial for an industrial tone-on-tone look, though the blue is handsome too, and both are at a seriously good price point.
More details at Bell & Ross’ website.
3. Oris Big Crown Propilot X Calibre 115, £5,950
The first, in what looks to be a new generation of watches from Oris, that alone is enough to put the ProPilot X as a frontrunner for the best of 2019. It’s the brand’s first non-instrument timepiece – more aviation-inspired than a straight pilot’s watch. More importantly, it’s a seriously cool piece of horology. I’m not normally a fan of open dials but in this case, I can make a very big exception; paired with the rotor-like bezel, titanium case and one of the best bracelets in the business, I’m just waiting to see where it takes Oris.
More details at Oris’ website.
4. Tudor Black Bay Chrono S&G, £5,130
I love this watch partly because I shouldn’t. A diving watch with a chronograph is already off-kilter enough, but one in a mix of steel and gold? Come on. Yet after having it on for a week, I saw the appeal. It’s no coincidence it shares the bi-colour look with the latest Sea-Dweller, but in typical Tudor style, complete with its snowflake hand. It even made me appreciate why anyone would wear a bund strap. It was a confusing surprise and I love it.
5. Carl F. Bucherer Heritage Chrno Bicompax Annual, £8,000
Another early one, though this is from Baselworld back in March, this is the finest retro racing watch of the year, hands down. The elegant pushers, the two-tone steel and rose gold case, the vintage layout out the dial, everything is pitch-perfect. There’s really no downside I can say about it; even the CFB 1972 calibre movement is great, all for a price tag that seems pretty good value, considering the quality on display.