Sabine’s Top 5 Watches Of 2021: A. Lange & Söhne, Cartier, Breitling, Omega, And Tudor
We are in the final days of 2021 and whatever else we can say about this past year, it has been a terrific one in terms of watches. With only a few exceptions, it was however difficult to handle the new releases in person as the few shows that took place at all were held virtually or in other parts of the world. However, this has not stopped us from exploring the debutantes in depth and admiring their beauty and details, even if from afar.
It was not an easy task to narrow down my favorite list of new launches from the last 12 months to just five models. With the plethora of truly well done and surprising watches, it would have been no problem to choose ten times as many!
A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar: for the love of purity
When a manufacture capable of designing, manufacturing, and combining almost all grand complications introduces “just” a perpetual calendar, it must be for a reason. In the case of the A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar it seems like a manifest to harmony and balance. Arranging the many indications of a perpetual calendar – date, day of the week, month, leap year, and sometimes moon phase – in a neat and attractive manner within the limited space of the dial has always been a challenge. This is even more difficult when it involves such a well-known and instantly recognizable face as the off-center dial of the Lange 1, which is laudable for its ultra-balanced layout.
Needless to say, A. Lange & Söhne’s designers have successfully accomplished this task by placing the month indication on the periphery, circumventing the ensemble consisting of retrograde weekday, the characteristic Lange large date, moon phase, and leap year.
Conveniently, all of the indications can be advanced collectively or individually with the help of correctors. However, once properly set the mechanism is programmed to reliably indicate the change of each month until the year 2100. Moving the ring mechanism forward at the end of the month needs considerably more power than traditional approaches, so A. Lange & Söhne’s engineers replaced it with a 48-step cam.
The moon phase indication is likewise outstanding, both in appearance and technology. It consists of a tiny celestial disk crafted in gold (the moon) and featuring a color gradient (the sky) making one rotation in 24 hours. During the day it shines in a bright blue hue, which gradually changes into a dark blue covered with stars to indicate the night hours.
In front of this breathtaking scenery the moon completes its synodic orbital period of 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 3 seconds. Its travels are so precise that the display only needs to be corrected by one day after 122.6 years.
This long-term schedule is made possible by new automatic Caliber L021.3, which is the company’s sixty-seventh manufacture movement. Based on Caliber L021.1, it offers a power reserve of 50 hours and is equipped with a unidirectionally winding gold rotor boasting a heavy platinum oscillating weight.
The superb finishes, decorations, and hallmarks of fine Glashütte watchmaking, such as the plates and bridges crafted in untreated German silver and decorated with Glashütte ribbing and the hand-engraved balance cock, are revealed through the sapphire crystal case back.
For more information, please visit www.alange-soehne.com/en/timepieces/lange-1-perpetual-calendar.
Quick Facts A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar
Case: 41.9 x 12.1 mm, pink or white gold
Movement: automatic Caliber L021.3, 50 hours power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz with cam-poised balance
Functions: hours, minutes seconds; day/night indication, moon phase, perpetual calendar with date, day of the week, month, and leap year indication
Limitation: 150 pieces (white gold with pink gold dial); pink gold with grey dial is unlimited
Price: $104,500 (pink gold); $116,000 (white gold)
Breitling Premier B15 Duograph 42: chronograph complexity in 1940s sophistication
The Grenchen-based manufacture can look back on a particularly good year with many great new watches. The new generation of the Chronomat family – aptly called Super Chronomat – springs to mind as does the Super AVI collection, a series of five vintage-inspired pilot-style chronographs that were launched in November 2021.
My personal favorite is part of the newly introduced Premier family. Having debuted in spring 2021, it pays homage to the brand’s rich chronograph history spanning more than 100 years and the creative minds of the Breitling family who oversaw some of the trailblazing developments such as the second and third chronograph pushers. Among them is Willy Breitling who felt that the zeitgeist of the 1940s called for a notably elegant chronograph model tailored to style-conscious gentlemen.
Elegant chronographs are also sought after today, so the new Premier family was well received among enthusiasts of this type of wristwatch. The new Premier family is distinguished by moderate case sizes of 40 and 42 millimeters, neat Arabic numerals, vintage-style luminous hands, a tachymeter scale on the dial periphery, and semi-matte alligator leather straps with tone-on-tone stitching, reflecting the authenticity of the design down to the smallest detail.
The Premier B15 Duograph 42 is driven by manually wound Caliber B15, which is based on the automatic B03/B01. This Breitling manufacture movement equipped with an official C.O.S.C. chronometer certificate also offers the rare and complex split-seconds chronograph. Thanks to its two superimposed stopwatch hands, this complication allows the measurement of two elapsed times simultaneously. Watching them travel across the dial and stop two individual times is a real feast for the eyes.
The B15 Duograph 42 chronograph is offered in stainless steel with a blue dial and pink gold with a black one. I prefer the latter as the harmonious color combination looks very classy.
For more information, please visit www.breitling.com/de-de/watches/premier/premier-b15-duograph-42.
Quick Facts Breitling Premier B15 Duograph 42
Case: 42 x 15.3 mm, stainless steel or red gold
Movement: hand-wound Caliber Breitling B15, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 70-hour power reserve, officially C.O.S.C. chronometer certified
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds; split-seconds chronograph
Price: $10,250 (stainless steel); $22,850 (red gold)
Cartier Tank Louis Cartier: the essence of a style icon
In the worlds of both haute horlogerie and haute joaillerie, the Tank needs little introduction. Since its debut on the horological stage more than 100 years ago, it has literally written its own history book. A pioneering wristwatch and probably the first unisex timepiece, it has been a favorite of the jet set and worn by politicians like Jacques Chirac, designers like Yves Saint-Laurent, royals like Princess Diana, and actors like Catherine Deneuve. The bon mot of pop art Andy Warhol, who had a Tank “because it was the watch to wear,” summed up its status as a top-notch must-have accessory in certain circles.
One of the most amazing aspects of this rectangular Art Deco statement is that it not only looks back over a century of existence, but that it has barely changed over all of this time, still exuding contemporary charisma regardless of the era or decade. While there have been a multitude of variations – such as executions showcasing a skeletonized movement – the most sought-after models are the pure versions with only two sword-shaped hands, a rectangular minute track, Roman numerals, and – of course! – a blue sapphire cabochon on the crown.
Paying tribute to the creator of the Tank, Cartier launched a Large Model this year that looks like if it had been sent on a journey through time by Monsieur Louis Cartier himself. The sleek, Art Deco-inspired details stand out in an eye-catching burgundy (or blue) color scheme, and are paired with a bright yellow gold (pink gold for blue) case. A watch one might wear to a cabaret performance in Montmartre or the opening of an exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. It literally radiates style and sophistication.
With a height of just 6.6 millimeters, a display of hours and the minutes, a color-coordinated leather strap, and a hand-wound movement it effortlessly checks all the boxes for a textbook dress watch. Monsieur le patron would certainly have been pleased.
For more information, please visit www.cartier.com/en-us/watches/womens-watches/tank-louis-cartier-watch.
Quick Facts Cartier Tank Louis Cartier Large Model
Case: 33.7 x 25.5 x 6.6 mm, yellow gold
Movement: hand-wound Caliber 1917 MC, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, 38-hour power reserve
Functions: hours. minutes
Omega Seamaster 300 Bronze Gold: resilient and refined
Lighter, more resilient, and most attractive: new materials, coatings, alloys, and composites ignite progress and evolution. In almost all major economic fields – from the automotive industry to information technology and medicine – material research and development is the key to innovation.
This also applies to the world of watches: did you know that the first clockmakers were essentially metalsmiths and forgers? Their skills were initially based on the knowledge of materials and associated crafts. Clockmaking as a craft of its own evolved from this trade. The goal of producing key parts with enhanced mechanical properties to improve their precision has remained unchanged over the centuries.
Up to today, research into new materials has been ongoing in the field of watchmaking. However, it is only embraced by a handful of prestigious manufactories that have the necessary financial means.
With its own Sedna gold alloy, Omega certainly belongs to this elite circle. In 2021, the Swiss watch brand unveiled yet another alloy, this time called Bronze Gold. This in-house development consisting of 37.5 percent gold and a smaller amount of palladium and silver in addition to bronze boasts a subtle gold-reddish hue.
And not only the appearance is impressive: in addition to its radiance, Bronze Gold is highly resistant to corrosion and does not produce verdigris (patina) over time as is often the case with bronze. Therefore, it will age slowly and preserve its natural beauty over a long period of time.
The first model to benefit from the new alloy is the Seamaster 300, one of Omega’s most popular models. Launched in 1957 as the company’s first professional diver’s watch, it has since delighted generations of professional, recreational, and would-be divers with its signature design.
While the case combines the qualities of gold and bronze, the sandwich dial is made of solid bronze. A luminous disk in beige is placed underneath, which makes the hour indices, Arabic numerals, and hands glow a bluish hue in the dark. The diving scale on the slender ceramic bezel features the same color, making the overall appearance very harmonious.
Water-resistant to 300 meters, the diver’s watch beats to the rhythm of the automatic Co-Axial Master Chronometer Caliber 8912. Two serially operating barrels provide a power reserve of 60 hours. Much to the delight of watch lovers, the Seamaster 300 Bronze Gold is equipped with a sapphire crystal case back so that the high-quality finish of the movement is on full display.
For more information, please visit www.omegawatches.com/en-us/watch-omega-seamaster-300-co-axial-master-chronometer-41-mm.
Quick Facts Omega Seamaster 300 Bronze Gold
Case: 40 mm, Bronze Gold
Movement: automatic Co-Axial Master Chronometer Caliber 8912 with silicon balance spring, twin serially operating spring barrels, 3.5 Hz/25,200 vph frequency, 60-hour power reserve, Master Chronometer certification
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925: a tool watch case study in beauty
And here is another iconic diver’s watch in an even rarer and more surprising case material: Tudor’s Black Bay Fifty-Eight is clad in a silver alloy. This noble metal is not commonly used for watch cases because it is relatively soft and tarnishes easily. However, the alchemists at Tudor have developed an alloy that is more resistant than normal 925 sterling silver.
The matte-sheen exterior of the Fifty-Eight 925 works very well with the expressive taupe hue of the dial and the dark grey tone of the bezel. Presented in the collection’s standard 39-millimeter size and water resistant to 200 meters, this latest addition to the Black Bay family is a good example of a handsome tool watch that proves that beauty and resilience can go hand in hand.
This is echoed by the rear of the watch, which reveals Tudor’s automatic Caliber MT5400 through a pane of sapphire crystal. Offering a 70-hour power reserve and beating at a frequency of 28,800 vph (4 Hz), it is regulated by a variable inertia oscillator with silicon balance spring that is held in place by a bridge, guaranteeing robustness and reliability.
For more information, please visit www.tudorwatch.com/en/watches/black-bay-fifty-eight.
Quick Facts Black Bay Tudor Fifty-Eight 925
Case: 39 x 12.7 mm, silver 925
Movement: automatic Caliber MT5400 with silicon balance spring, 4 Hz/28,000 vph frequency, 70-hour power reserve, officially certified C.O.S.C. chronometer
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: $4,300 / CHF 4,100
All things considered, 2021 was a great year for sophisticated watches and certainly whets the appetite for that which is bound to come in 2022. Excitement is the purest form of joy!