As a Managing Editor, I love to challenge the redaction team at MONOCHROME. So a few weeks ago, I gathered most of our editors and contributors and came with THE big question, one that seems simple at first, but in fact, isn’t. One short question: “choose your favourite watch of 2019”, with no other rule than that. No consideration of price, of availability, of manufacturer or of complication, just the watch that they would love to own. And the answers are pretty interesting. So here are the MONOCHROME’s team Top Watches of 2019.
Gandor Bronkhorst, contributor – Patek Philippe Chronograph 5172G
Sure, it’s a safe choice. But the Chronograph 5172G is a safe choice because it triumphs in what it was created for: the flagship watch of probably the most prestigious watchmaker in the world. What’s even more impressive: it replaces an icon (the 5170), and is actually, to me, better than its predecessor. I love the slightly more modern design, the stunning details and of course that incredible in-house hand-wound calibre CH 29-535. The size is perfect, and so is the overall appearance. If I had this watch, I’m afraid not many other watches would get any more airplay. Would I buy it, no matter the price? Definitely! If only the price wouldn’t matter…
Rebecca Doulton, Editor – MB&F Legacy Machine Flying T
Here, at long last, is a women’s watch that appeals emotionally and intellectually. Recognizably an MB&F creation, with its fanciful staging and UFO-style domed receptacle, I can’t think of another women’s watch that offers a more generous 3D view of a flying tourbillon. Set against an inky black background, the column construction of the tourbillon reaches up from the dial and performs its one-minute gyrations under your very eyes. And what about the unusual position of the hours and minutes counter leaning against the escapement? The touches of diamonds on the case and topping the tourbillon are feminine without being affected. MB&F’s Legacy Machine Flying T is a valuable lesson for watchmakers out there on how to make a fascinating women’s watch without falling into clichés. Thanks, Max and congratulations!
Frank Geelen, founder – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin
To my friends, it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of “sports elegant” watches and the Royal Oak is, to me, the pinnacle of this category of watches. When Audemars Piguet presented the RD#2 project at SIHH 2018, it was quite a shock – a positive shock I must say. How on Earth had they been able to reduce the thickness of the already super-slim, über-sports-watch, the Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’, and add a perpetual calendar? Looks, style, wearing comfort and heritage, and now also a healthy dose of technicalities, it simply doesn’t get better and therefore, the Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin is my favourite watch of 2019. Check out our in-depth video with Giulio Papi, Nicolas Raggi and Michael Friendman about this technical marvel for more details.
Frank Geelen, founder – Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Black Ceramic
I’m using my “I’m the boss power” to add a second choice for the MONOCHROME team favourites of the year; and I could do many more, as I think it’s been a very exciting year in terms of watches. Simply think of the thermo-compensating balance developed by Karsten Fräßdorf in the Spirograph Sport. Typically something that 90% of watch enthusiasts couldn’t care less for, and that’s all fine, but it is something that I find extremely exciting. However, the watch that I want to mention in this “Best of 2019” is the latest iteration of the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo, the black ceramic version. As said before, I’m a big fan of ‘sports elegant’ watches and the Octo Finissimo is such a magnificent newcomer in this category, as I sang praise to when comparing the titanium version to my old Royal Oak ref. 5402ST. The Octo Finissimo is already the ultimate MONOCHROME watch and with this newest edition, Bvlgari has come up with the best edition so far. I love this Full-Black Ceramic Octo Finissimo.
Brice Goulard, Managing Editor – Breguet Type 20 Revival “Only Watch”
I know, this is a unique piece, I know it has already been sold and I know (sadly) that I’m not the owner. But, if you know me, you’ll know that I’m a massive fan of pilot’s chronographs in general and of the Breguet Type XX – which I own. So when the brand turned up to the Only Watch charity auction this year with a one-to-one re-edition of the first generation Type 20 (a military piece so Type 20, not Type XX), with a patinated dial and a historically relevant hand-wound flyback movement, I was immediately in love. So, indeed, this watch is, to me, the best of 2019… Now I just have to hope that the brand will decide to launch it as a limited edition and to call my banker to apologize… Because I have to own it.
Xavier Markl, Technical Editor and Business – Vacheron Constantin Perpetual Calendar Twin Beat
The Vacheron Constantin Twin Beat was one of the first new watches I have seen in 2019… and it ticks all the boxes. First of all, it features a smart and user-friendly innovation. Perpetual calendars keep track of the date as long as they keep running. The Twin Beat features two modes – active when worn and stand-by when stored. A pusher allows switching from active mode – with a regulator ticking at 5hz and 40 hours of power reserve – to the “storage” stand-by more – with a second regulator ticking at 1.2hz, providing an impressive power reserve of 65 days! Besides that fascinating development, what a beautiful watch! It looks more modern and more technical than the majority of the brand’s watches, but it is still very Vacheron. As you would expect, the watch is perfectly crafted and finished. And at 42mm it is not too large despite the complex movement.
Tom Mulraney, contributor – MING 17.06 Copper
I’m sure many people will question my choice but by far one of the most interesting releases for me this year has been the MING 17.06 Copper. Not so much for the watch itself, although there is certainly a lot to like, but more because of what it represents. When I first got immersed into the world of mechanical watches over a decade ago, Ming Thein was one of the first members of this budding but passionate online community I had the pleasure of meeting. Having had the opportunity to chat with him frankly on several occasions since the launch of the eponymous MING Watch brand, I have been impressed by his energy, vision and dedication. Love them or hate them, you cannot argue with the attention to detail, the willingness to try new things and the drive to create value for watch lovers across the price spectrum. This was recognized earlier this year at the GPHG, with the MING 17.06 Copper being awarded the Horological Revelation Prize. An impressive feat for a Malaysian-based brand that is barely two years old. Not surprisingly, the 2019 production of all three versions of the MING 17.06 has already sold out.
Robin Nooij, Contributor – Hautlence HL Sphere 01
Even though many beautiful, impressive watches have been introduced this year, my choice goes to the Hautlence HL Sphere 01. Why? I’m dead certain it is the watch that put the biggest smile on my face this year. I love quirky, unusual time displays from brands like this. I love out-of-the-box watchmaking and, I admit, somewhat unnecessarily complex movements to achieve something different from two or three centrally mounted hands. The creativity and craftsmanship needed to come up with such a mechanism on such a small scale always impress me. Although hugely out of my price range, I would love to own such a provocative piece one day. The large TV-screen shaped case, the spherical display of the hours, the jumping of the complication on the full hour, the sapphire bulb on the front, the visible retrograde minute mechanism… there hasn’t really been something this year that equals or surpasses this for me.
Erik Slaven, contributor – H. Moser & Cie. Concept Minute Repeater Tourbillon
It’s been an amazing year for watch releases, but a particular one really stood out to me in a crowded field of greats. The H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Concept Minute Repeater Tourbillon takes two of my favourite complications, the flying tourbillon and minute repeater, and puts them front and centre on a stark black dial. The brand’s “Concept” aesthetic emphasizes minimalism and this piece is a triumph of simple sophistication. Silver and black play together with no logo or print of any kind, just a direct presentation of haute horology. I’m usually not a fan of busy dials and it’s rare for such a technical piece to show so much visual restraint. It’s beautiful, mysterious and distinctly H. Moser. Definitely my favourite of the year.
Santiago Tejedor, contributor – A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon Salmon
It’s Christmas so it is the time to dream! I don’t know if this is the best watch of the year, but it is certainly the best watch I could dream of having as a present in my stocking. It has it all: the best (and beautiful!) chronograph movement seasoned with an unobtrusive tourbillion (it does not invade the dial) and a perpetual calendar. Optimum legibility for such a complex amount of information presented on a jaw-dropping salmon dial. I know Lange doesn’t like it to be called “salmon”, but however you want to call it, it is just beautiful and the pink gold makes it less solemn. Also, the size (41.5mm x 14.6mm height) is not off the charts, and the round white gold case makes it look smaller than it actually is. So yes, for me this Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon “Salmon” is the best watch of 2019.