Ian’s Top 10 Watches Of 2021 Plus 2 Honorable Mentions (Spoiler Alert: No Rolexes, But A Couple Of Fun Watches)
by Ian Skellern
Never let it be said that there was a bandwagon I didn’t jump on. It looks like it’s the season for everyone to be sharing their favorite watches of 2021 so here are my horological highlights of the last 12 months in no particular order.
De Bethune Kind of Two Tourbillon
I love De Bethune’s eye-catching, space-age dials, but there are times when the occasion calls for something tamer and less obtrusive. Until now, that meant having two different watches. But the Kind of Two Tourbillon gives you two very different looking watches in one.
A five-day power reserve with a 30-second tourbillon is impressive, but even more so is its sub-ten-millimeter thickness. A 43 mm case would normally be on the big side for my small wrists, but I can attest to the fact that De Bethune’s wrist-wrapping floating lugs are an absolute dream to wear, even on smaller wrists.
The De Bethune DB Kind of Two Tourbillon was my runaway pick to win the 2021 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève Tourbillon category. And I’m pleased to say that it did!
The Urwerk UR-111C is everything that makes Urwerk great. It’s got wild roller displays featuring jumping hours and retrograde linear minutes, digital seconds, a pull-out lever in the case band to set the time, and looks like it’s come from space.
The 111C is pure Urwerk, a superbly engineered machine for the wrist and totally outside the normal realm of horology.
For more, see: Urwerk UR-111C: A New Titan Among Titans (Plus Video)
Greubel Forsey GMT Sport Limited Edition
The GMT Sport was launched in late 2019, making waves with a shape so unlike any Greubel Forsey before it. With its high-legibility indications, peerless hand-finishing, three-dimensional GMT globe, and 24-second inclined tourbillon, there’s a lot to like.
But the 2021 GMT Sport Limited Edition is even better thanks to its absolutely stunning metal bracelet.
Bernhard Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer
While this watch launched last year, I’m including the Bernhard Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer here because the 2020 model was really a prototype. And as good as that early version was, the updated version Lederer launched in 2021 was so much better. While the two round openings on the otherwise subdued dial offer a strong hint that something special lies within, the view of movement at the back of the watch is just sensational.
Our Joshua Munchow wrote a good review of the original watch questioning calling it a chronometer when it hadn’t been officially certified as such. But as Lederer revealed to us at Geneva Watch Days 2021, he first didn’t know that a chronometer should be certified to carry the moniker and then when he tried to have that done, learned that the timing machines (which work from the sound of the regulator) couldn’t handle the relative cacophony coming from the dual natural escapements. But that certification process is apparently ongoing.
For more, see Joshua’s post: Bernhard Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer*: A Superlative Watch But Is It Really A Chronometer?
Miki Eleta Svemir
How Miki Eleta’s Svemir didn’t take the prize for Mechanical Exception at the 2021 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève still has me shaking my head, but that doesn’t lessen the superlative nature of this incredible clock.
And seeing it in the flesh (metal?) at Dubai Watch Week 2021 just put me in awe.
Vianney Halter’s Deep Space Resonance
Age doesn’t seem to just improve great wines; in Vianney Halter’s case it improves great watchmakers as well. Halter’s triple-axis Deep Space Tourbillon was a real eye-opener in 2013.
He followed up the theme in 2021 with the incredible Deep Space Resonance featuring a triple tourbillon and dual balances, proving that this master hasn’t lost his touch. Independent watchmaking doesn’t get much better than this.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadryptique
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 was THE watch of 2021. With its 12 patents, 11 complications, including a few I’d never heard of (synodic, draconic, and anomalistic lunar cycles, anyone?), four display faces, flying tourbillon, and seamless minute repeater chimes, you can only be impressed.
But on top of all of that, it was the fact that this ultra-complication is so wearable that really blew me away.
Bulgari Gérald Genta Arena Retro Mickey Mouse
Jumping hours and retrograde minutes provide horological heft, but it’s the colorful Mickey Mouse with his arm and finger pointing to the minutes that adds the fun.
Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein La Semaine
The second watch that made me smile at Geneva Watch Days 2021 was the La Semaine Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein. And I wasn’t the only one: Quill & Pad’s editor-in-chief Elizabeth Doerr liked it so much she bought one!
MB&F x Bulgari Legacy Machine Flying T Allegra
The MB&F x Bulgari Legacy Machine Flying T Allegra is not a watch I’d ever wear, but I love it! Not only for the incredible horological and jewelry craft involved, but for what it says about the state of fine watchmaking today. This collaboration between MB&F and Bulgari is the first time a miniscule independent watch brand has partnered with a behemoth like Bulgari. Indies are niche no more!
The MB&F x Bulgari Legacy Machine Flying T Allegra both brings wide international recognition to MB&F and boosts Bulgari’s reputation as a boundary-pushing watch brand. And by all reports by both parties, the collaboration was an absolute pleasure.
For more information, please visit www.mbandf.com/en/machines/performance-art/lmflyingtallegra-mbandf-bulgari
Armin Strom Tribute 1
Perhaps the most difficult thing for any brand to pull off is making a new dress watch that offers something different that hasn’t already been done, and that’s even harder for a small brand with relatively limited resources.
So a tip of the hat to Armin Strom for its Tribute 1: it’s both a distinctive new style of dress watch and distinctively Armin Strom.
Louis Vuitton Tambour Street Diver
While I thought it a stretch that the Louis Vuitton Tambour Street Diver was nominated – and won! – the 2021 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève’s Diver’s Watch category, what I wrote about it then still stands true today.
The Louis Vuitton Tambour Street Diver Skyline Blue is a great-looking watch from above, but that small movement says to me that it is more about the looks (and price) than the mechanics. However, I tip my hat to Louis Vuitton for designing such a great new contemporary dive watch look.
Most dive watch designs are all variations on a (Submariner) theme, and I love this fresh take: it looks modern but sacrifices nothing in practicality. The indications are all highly legible and the rotating inner bezel is secure. I would have preferred a larger movement, but suspect buyers will appreciate the lower price the smaller movement allows. I don’t think it will win because of its possibly decisive (you like or you don’t) contemporary design, but I rate it highly.