Joshua’s Top 10 Watches Of 2021: 5 Mechanical Marvels + 5 Daily Wearers
As we make our way into 2022 hoping that this year is much better than the last two, most WIS can at least agree that 2021 saw an awesome bevy of new watches at every price level. From entry-level luxury to astronomically expensive grail watches, there was definitely something for any collector to covet. As someone who examines and considers hundreds of watches a year (even during socially distanced pandemic years) I have a ton of favorites.
I also have the luxury of not being able to afford most of them so I can judge on passion without taking into consideration things like service difficulties or resale value. Those are more often than not issues at the front of a collector’s mind in considering spending what could be more than a year’s salary on a new timepiece. As a result, my top ten list from 2021 has a wide variety of styles that represent the breadth of my appreciation for fine horology.
I’ve separated my top 10 into two groups, the first being my top five mechanical marvels: watches showcasing incredible mechanics that get my creative juices flowing. The second group is my top five daily-wear watches: pieces so beautiful that I would have a hard time wanting to wear something else. Let’s dive in!
Joshua’s Top Five Favorite Mechanical Marvels of 2021
Urwerk UR-112 Aggregat
The Urwerk UR-112 Aggregat is a piece that is fresh in my mind yet was already a favorite when I saw the uncased movement during Geneva Watch Days 2021. It stood out to me as a mechanical accomplishment both for Urwerk and the industry as a whole. I have always been and will always be a massive fan of Urwerk and the brand’s ability to put atypical design and mechanics next to some of the best traditional brands.
The UR-112 Aggregat checks all the avant-garde boxes for me: unusual display, hidden features, straightforward functionality, wild case, and purposeful decoration and detailing. I love the way that Urwerk has combined a handful of ideas from its collection in entirely new ways, creating a unique timepiece that isn’t a simple redesign of a previous model. The cantilevered planetary gear display for hours and minutes is a work of mechanical art, and the case design with sapphire crystal tubes extending from the center is a fantastic detail.
The movement functions beautifully with a jump hour and smooth-running minutes. And placing a magnifying sapphire crystal over the seconds for easier readability shows how Urwerk takes everything into consideration. The UR-112 Aggregat won’t suit everyone’s taste, but fits mine to a T. It also keeps me excited for a future with Urwerk in it!
For more information, please visit Urwerk UR-112 Aggregat: Mechanical Compilation To The Extreme (Plus Video).
Quick Facts Urwerk UR-112 Aggregat
Case: 42 x 51 x 16 mm, titanium
Movement: manual wound Caliber UR-13.01, 48-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz
Functions: digital jumping hours, digital minutes, digital seconds, power reserve
Limitation: 25 pieces
Price: CHF 250,000
When MB&F marks an anniversary, it really marks an anniversary. LMX celebrates the tenth anniversary of the Legacy Machine’s introduction in 2011, making 2021 a very important year for the brand. Anyone who follows watches will know that the Legacy Machines from MB&F have been a smashing success over the years, and the LMX, the ninth LM model to date, is both a culmination and a pivot point for the aesthetic and mechanical direction.
The Legacy Machine concept focuses on what watches MB&F might have made had it been founded 150 years ago. But like any brand pushing boundaries (even hypothetical boundaries in an alternate reality two centuries ago), it started simple and then pushed into wild. The LMX is a bit of a crossover of the typical Horological Machines into the Legacy Machines, at least when it comes to mechanics.
The addition of an extremely wild power reserve display, dual tilted dials, towering arched balance bridge, and a more modern layout for the movement on the rear, highlights that if MB&F had indeed been designing the Legacy Machines in the 1800s, it would be evolving to change the style.
I have loved MB&F’s Legacy Machines from day one, and seeing LMX reminded me why I dig the foundation for the collection. It allows for such awesome combinations that I stay excited about the future of the collection and what is to come.
For more information, please visit MB&F Legacy Machines: 10th Anniversary Retrospective And LMX.
Quick Facts MB&F LMX
Case: 44 x 21.4 mm, red gold or grade 5 titanium
Movement: manual winding LMX caliber with three spring barrels, 168-hour (7 day) power reserve, 18,000 vph/2.5 Hz
Functions: hours, minutes, second time zone hours and minutes; hemispherical rotating vertical power reserve
Limitation: 18 pieces in red gold, 33 pieces in titanium
Price: $112,000/CHF 98,000/€92,000 (titanium); $128,000/CHF 112,000/€105,000 (red gold)
Konstantin Chaykin Martian Tourbillon Only Watch
Those who have been following Konstantin Chaykin over the past few years will know that he has become synonymous with the Wristmon Joker collection, a very playful line that has taken the watch world by storm. The variations have been extremely popular, but for me none of those could match the mechanical creativity of the Martian Tourbillon he created for Only Watch 2021.
It isn’t an official Joker watch, but Chaykin couldn’t abandon his favorite running theme: the Martian Tourbillon indicates Martian hours and minutes in two different subdials that make up the eyes of a face, with the retrograde Martian date forming a big smile. The entire dial is skeletonized, though, so you can see the details of the mechanics underneath, which track the hours and minutes in Martian time as well as the 28-day Martian month, all driven by a one-Martian-minute tourbillon visible on the rear of the watch.
Taking 61.65 earth seconds to make one revolution, the Martian Tourbillon is one of the most interesting tourbillons to come out in 2021. In addition, it was made for such a good cause – the Only Watch charity to support Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research – so loving its weirdness is bolstered by its impact on the world. The creativity of the mechanical layout combined with the ingenuity of the functionality makes this a standout piece for the year.
For more information, please visit www.chaykin.ru/en/historical-masterpieces/martian.
Quick Facts Konstantin Chaykin Martian Tourbillon Only Watch
Case: 40 x 13.4 mm, Bulat steel
Movement: manual winding Caliber K.22.0, one minute (Mars)/61.65 seconds (earth) tourbillon, 48-hour power reserve, 19,800 vph (Mars)/19,270 vph (earth) frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; date, weekday, day/night indication (Mars time)
Limitation: unique piece for Only Watch 2021
Auction estimate: 40,000 – 60,000 Swiss francs
Result: 290,000 Swiss francs
Louis Moinet Astronef
The Louis Moinet Astronef is a watch for people who love extremely bold watches favoring mechanical displays. And that describes me so well. I’ve always loved watch mechanics a bit more than watches, so a watch like this just makes me so excited. It’s built around the idea of two tourbillons orbiting the dial in opposite directions and at different speeds, providing a stunning ballet of mechanics.
The Astronef was preceded by the Space Revolution where the counterbalances for the tourbillons were shaped like familiar sci-fi spaceships, making the orbits thematically relevant. In the Astronef it is simply about the awesomeness of the movement. Without the sci-fi theme, the Astronef allows the design of the components to sing. It also allowed the designers at Louis Moinet to take some chances in new aesthetic directions.
This watch is unlike most watches from Louis Moinet even while it is the follow-up to a piece that is effectively the same. It could be signaling a shift for the brand overall, but regardless the Astronef is bound to keep people looking at your wrist. It was a watch that kept me very intrigued in 2021.
For more information, please visit Louis Moinet Astronef: It’s Space, Jim, But Not As We Know It.
Quick Facts Louis Moinet Astronef
Case: 43.5 x 18.3 mm, pink gold and sapphire crystal
Movement: manually wound Caliber LM105 with two orbiting 60-second tourbillons, 48-hour power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency, twin mainspring barrels
Functions: hours, minutes; crown function selector on back (winding and time setting)
Limitation: 8 pieces
Price: CHF 360,000
Arnold & Son Luna Magna
The Arnold & Son Luna Magna was one of my absolute favorite watches to come out of 2021 simply due to my obvious adoration of moon phase watches. The Luna Magna combines a simple layout and a spherical moon phase for an ultra-clean look, but it also makes a serious statement with that moon phase. Instead of a tiny little sphere, it boasts a massive 12 mm ball made of aventurine and white marble, making it the thickest part of Caliber A&S1021.
Because of that, the crystal over the top of the dial is a large box-shaped sapphire crystal, which allows the dial more three dimensionality. The dial itself is a deep aventurine to mimic the night sky, always a perfect choice for any astronomical watch. The simplicity on the front is contradicted on the rear, where we see a secondary moon phase indication to help the owner set the exact day of the moon’s phase, gearing and the balance, and the beautiful rear of the large moon.
The Luna Magna is high on my list of every moon phase watch I’ve ever seen, and high on my list for mechanical marvels. It also is an elegant watch to wear every day and one I would gladly rock for weeks at a time because that dial is so entrancing. The Luna Magna is solidly in my top five favorite mechanical marvels of 2021, but it also is a nice transition to my next top five: my favorite daily wear watches of 2021.
For more information, please visit Arnold & Son Luna Magna And Luna Magna Ultimate 1: Marbles, Moons, And Magnificence.
Quick Facts Arnold & Son Luna Magna
Case: 44 x 15.9 mm, red gold
Movement: manually wound Caliber A&S1021, 90-hour power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; moon phase
Limitation: 28 pieces
Price: CHF 43,900
Joshua’s Top Five Favorite Daily Wear Watches of 2021
Armin Strom Zeitgeist
Coming off the mechanical marvels list to discuss my favorite watches that I would want to wear every day, one might wonder why such a technically challenging piece as the Armin Strom Resonance Zeitgeist might be listed here. It is complicated and extremely technical from a mechanics standpoint, but it is also an incredible watch to wear every day.
The entire point of resonance is to provide long-lasting and consistent timekeeping that maintains a stable rate over weeks, meaning that to get the full benefit of it you have to wear it for a while. Sounds like a perfect reason to rock the Zeitgeist for a month or two. I love looking at its Resonance Clutch Spring in action – it is the reason to get a resonance watch after all – but the movement layout and lack of a dial allow an even better view of the mechanics within.
What’s more, the focus on simple finishing and a more subdued aesthetic means it can easily fly under the radar for people who don’t know what it is and will stand out to those more familiar with our WIS world. The proportions are, at least for my wrist, very comfortable, and the ability to reset and synchronize the dual running seconds for perfect alignment is a fun feature that only a long-time wearer can take advantage of.
The concept of the Zeitgeist – to relaunch the resonance technology that Armin Strom developed and provide a reset point for future mechanical and aesthetic directions – means that it’s a seminal piece for the brand and its future. I’ve always been a fan of Armin Strom and champion its perpetual success, so I look at the Armin Strom Zeitgeist as a piece that deserves a permanent place on anyone’s wrist. And it’s a highlight for me in 2021.
For more information, please visit Zeitgeist Unique Piece By Armin Strom: Pure Resonance, Sensational Synchronicity.
Quick Facts Armin Strom Zeitgeist
Case: 43 x 11.55 mm, platinum
Movement: manually wound Caliber ARF21 ZG, 80-hour power reserve, 25,200 vph/3.5 Hz frequency on dual balance wheels with Resonance Clutch Spring
Functions: hours, minutes, dual seconds with seconds reset
Limitation: unique piece
Price: CHF 160,000 / €150,000 / $170,000
De Bethune DB Kind of Two Tourbillon and De Bethune x Voutilainen Kind of Magic
De Bethune was, is, and will remain one of my favorite watch brands of all time. It has developed so many aesthetic and mechanical things that I absolutely love that it is hard for me not to fawn over new releases. But even I didn’t expect the awesomeness that came in 2021 when it released the DB Kind of Two Tourbillon with dual face and flippable case. It combines the best of both worlds for De Bethune fans.
Those who might want the more classic De Bethune styling (which is gorgeous) can choose the “simple” dial side with clean numerals and guilloche center. Those wanting the more avant-garde styling of De Bethune can flip the case (literally) and use the much more mechanical and futuristic dial that showcases the regulating organ. It is quite literally the watch for any De Bethune fan, and with the convertible case allows for two watches to be worn whenever you like. And that is a perfect recipe for a daily wear watch.
De Bethune went a step further for Only Watch 2021 and created a version named Kind Of Magic and, boy, is it ever magic. A collaboration with Kari Voutilainen (the reigning king of dials and independent watchmaking), Kind Of Magic inhabits an even more dramatic reveal: on one side is a dial and set of hands that is 100 percent Voutilainen, meaning that it is gorgeous and perfectly balanced with incredible guilloche, considered by many to be a modern classic.
On the opposite side of the reversible case, it features an even wilder De Bethune dial with fully skeletonized dial, bridges, and gear train showcasing the deadbeat seconds on the Voutilainen side while providing hours and minutes in a very atypical and De Bethune way. I didn’t think De Bethune could so easily make the Kind of Two better, but it turns out there is no end to the brand’s creativity and awesomeness. The only thing lacking for me on either of these pieces is the famous spherical moon phase of De Bethune, but I would still rock either one of these pieces every day if it found its way onto my wrist.
For more information, please visit De Bethune DB Kind Of Two Tourbillon: Two Dials Means Double The Pleasure (Plus Video).
Quick Facts De Bethune DB Kind of Two Tourbillon
Case: reversible in grade five titanium, 42.8 x 9.5 mm; floating lugs, crown at 6/12 o’clock
Movement: manually wound Caliber DB2579 with 30-second tourbillon with titanium balance wheel and white gold inserts, silicon escape wheel, self-regulating twin spring barrels, silicon escape wheel, 5 Hz/36,000 vph frequency, five-day power reserve
Functions: dual hours, minutes; seconds on one side
Limitation: 10 pieces
Price: $250,000 / 215,000 Swiss francs
Quick Facts De Bethune x Voutilainen Kind of Magic Only Watch 2021
Case: 43.3 mm, titanium, reversible
Movement: manually wound Caliber OW21 with titanium balance wheel with white gold inserts, self-regulating twin spring barrels, silicon escape wheel, 5 Hz/36,000 vph, four-day power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes on one side; hours, minutes, dead beat seconds on the other side
Limitation: unique piece
Auction estimate: 200,000 – 250,000 Swiss francs
Result: 1.3 million Swiss francs
Jaeger-LeCoultre Tribute Enamel Hidden Treasures – Portrait of a Lady Gustav Klimt
I was lucky to see this JLC Reverso Tribute Enamel Hidden Treasures on a visit to the JLC manufacture a few days after Geneva Watch Days 2021 and it was totally worth it. We were shown many amazing pieces, including some that my colleagues have chosen for their favorite picks of 2021, yet the Portrait of a Lady Gustav Klimt is the one that stood out as not only a watch I would desperately want to own, but also one that I would happily wear every day as the Reverso still is one of the most persistently classic watches ever made.
The time dial is a very classic baton hour marker style with beautiful barleycorn guilloche covered by a gentle pale turquoise oven-fired enamel, making it one of the more attractive dial options on a Reverso this year. But beyond that is what is on the reverse of this Reverso: a recreation in stunning miniature enamel of Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of a Lady from 1917. The ability to copy any painting is incredible, but to copy the style of Klimt and miniaturize it in enamel is out of this world.
The timepiece is part of a trio of watches created to capture masterful works of art that were previously thought lost: another showcases Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunset at Montmajour from 1888, and yet another deftly recreates Gustave Courbet’s View of Lake Léman from 1876. The stories behind each piece are so fascinating. The group, when viewed together, is a marvelous accomplishment of skill and artisanship, but the Klimt is still my favorite.
They are also very difficult to produce, with the enamel painting taking at least 80 hours to create. That is something I would definitely want on my wrist, and something I wouldn’t want to take off anytime soon. I feel it would need to be worn at least as long as it took to paint the little masterpiece to do it justice. It was surprising as I looked back over 2021’s introductions to realize that this one was very solidly in my top five, but months after I saw it the feeling is still with me.
For more information, please visit jaeger-lecoultre.com/jaeger-lecoultre-presents-reverso-tribute-enamel-hidden-treasures.
Quick Facts Reverso Tribute Enamel Hidden Treasures – Portrait of a Lady Gustav Klimt
Case: 45.6 x 27.4 x 9.73 mm, white gold
Movement: manually wound Caliber 822/2, 42-hour power reserve, 21,600 vph/3Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds
Limitation: 10 pieces
Krayon Anywhere Only Watch
Just like the Armin Strom Zeitgeist, the Krayon Anywhere is a true mechanical marvel. But just like the other watches in my daily wear list, it is a watch that is perfectly suited to being an everyday watch. The proportions and functionality are second to none, and the finishing is in the same vein as Philippe Dufour (literally: the master advised and shared techniques with Krayon founder Rémi Maillat). I can’t think of a reason you wouldn’t wear this watch every day, especially since the purpose of the complication is to show you sunrise and sunset for your exact location over the entire year, a very niche but useful tool that can be applied all the time.
The Krayon Anywhere Only Watch is the variation I chose for my top favorites of 2021 because of the absolutely fan-freaking-tastic dial. It is a reinterpretation of Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise painting done entirely in miniature cloisonné enamel via abstract segments. It provides the essence of the painting and the rising sun but keeps it distinctly abstract.
I have been enamored with every piece from Krayon since its founding so it wasn’t a surprise that I enjoyed this one as much. But the aesthetic direction combined with the mechanical wonder that is the Anywhere complication made this piece stand out even more. It also didn’t hurt that it was created for the Only Watch 2021 charity auction, meaning that Maillat is clearly happy to use his talent to help save lives.
At the end of the day, this Krayon Anywhere checks most boxes for me when it comes to a daily wear watch, and it also excites my watch nerd side as well. The stunning dial, magnificent movement, and clever mechanism make this watch a supremely top pick for my favorite watches of 2021.
For more information, please visit www.krayon.ch/anywhere.
Quick Facts Krayon Anywhere
Case: 39 x 9.5 mm, stainless steel
Movement: manually wound Caliber C030 with 432 components, 86-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; sunset and sunrise times, month, date, 24-hour indication
Limitation: unique piece
Auction estimate: 95,000 – 120,000 Swiss francs
Result: 320,000 Swiss francs
Hermès Arceau Toucan de Paradis
Hermès is a brand that most may not associate with my love of wild watchmaking and avant-garde mechanics. But I studied art extensively in college and have always had a strong connection with any form of visual art. Be it the craftsmanship, techniques, materials, or the pure aesthetics, I love many different styles of art. Hermès always considers the aesthetic for its pieces, especially those that it develops for its artistic craft pieces.
The Arceau Toucan de Paradis is a bright and fun exploration of materials (another thing Hermès is known for) and a truly breathtaking creation. It starts with a base dial with miniature enamel painting to represent some of the flowery plumage of the toucan, and then creates the vibrancy of feathers with delicate strands of thread.
Affixed to the dial in single strands one at a time, the toucan is formed from 20 different sections of thread in a dozen different colors. The thread is aligned in a variety of ways to create even more texture and give a sense of shape and depth. The dial is a unique work of art and something I would love to have on my wrist.
It isn’t an especially masculine watch, something that may also seem out of the norm considering my other picks, but I’d happily take this watch for my collection and wear it with pride. I may prefer a case without diamonds simply because I’m not as fond of diamonds as I am of other stones (this would be a great place to use turquoise, amethyst, or even aquamarine), but it definitely isn’t a dealbreaker.
Ultimately, the Arceau Toucan de Paradis is one of a dozen incredible watches from Hermès that demonstrate superb visual style and I would be elated if I had it as a daily wear masterpiece.
For more information, please visit Hermès Takes Flight With The Arceau Toucan De Paradis.
Quick Facts Quick Facts Hermès Arceau Toucan de Paradis
Case: 38 x 10.26 mm, white gold, bezel set with 82 colorless, brilliant-cut diamonds (0.63 ct)
Dial: enamel and silk thread on white gold base
Movement: automatic Caliber H1912, 4 Hz/28,800 frequency, 50-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 24 pieces
Price: $71,900 / 71,000 Swiss francs