Seiko’s Big Year: Two New Dive Watches and How they Reshaped the Watch Landscape in 2020

Seiko’s Big Year: Two New Dive Watches and How they Reshaped the Watch Landscape in 2020

The reasons why are subtle and hard to pin down, but it has something to do with the surprisingly intricate finishing on each watch, and the refinement of the wearing experience. The Captain Willard, for example, has the outward appearance of something slightly avant-garde, with a pronounced crown guard extending from the lower half of the case. But on the wrist, the watch feels normal, comfortable, and light, thanks to the shorter-than-you’d-think lug to lug span of 46.6mm. Despite the brutish appearance, this watch is compact, and has altogether classic proportions.

The SPB149 is special because it feels like a new centerpiece of Seiko’s collection. The 149 is a limited edition variant for collectors and enthusiasts, but the standard 143, 145, and 147 are permanent additions to the collection, and represent something that Seiko has been building toward for years: a contemporary expression of the legendary 62MAS, the dive watch that essentially created a design language for the brand. After a great many limited editions and watches that could be seen as an attempt to capture the spirit of that diver, Seiko has crafted a wearable, affordable, and thoroughly modern version of the 62MAS that doesn’t scream “reissue!” but does the tricky work of standing on its own while clearly being an echo of the past. I don’t think it’s too much to equate the 62MAS, and these new versions of it, to a watch like the Rolex Submariner, or the Cartier Tank. They all have a deeply important role in the history of their brands, and serve as jumping off points for so many other watches made by those same firms. This is Seiko’s iconic design object, repurposed for 2020 and way, way beyond – and it’s about $1,000. To me, that makes it a little bit special, and worth saving for if you had your eye on a Turtle or a gently used SKX.

Spending time with both of these watches was, of course, a treat. Seeing them sitting on my desk for a few weeks served as a regular reminder of the importance of Seiko not just in the business of watches, but in the community that this hobby has created for myself and so many others. As a collector I often find myself looking for the things that are hard to find – rare variants, watches long out of production, and so forth. But there’s something comforting about the ubiquity of watches like these. Again, they connect us. When we share them at watch meetups (which we’ll do again next year, I’m sure of it) they inspire us to think differently about the hobby, send us on wild tangents (and goose chases), and get newcomers excited about horology. In an enthusiast space, it’s easy to dismiss something that’s popular because we all want to be unique, and develop the most blistering take on whatever has captured our attention at the moment, but there’s value in sharing the things that we all love, too. 

Both of these watches are wonderful to wear, and I’d recommend either or both without any reservations, but for me it’s the SPB149 that really sings (although, if I had to buy one with my own cash, I’d probably be gunning for the gray dialed SPB143). I was a little surprised by this, and I think those who know my taste might be too, as I tend to be drawn to unusual case designs, love a green dial, and count Apocalypse Now among my favorite films. In the end, I was won over by the ingenious way Seiko has reimagined the 62MAS, and given this watch a series of small, premium touches that really add up (the polished bevel, the sunburst dial, and the fine radial finishing on the bezel are all highlights). This watch feels foundational to me.

Is $1,000 an entry level price for a watch? It honestly feels a little gross to the frugal side of my brain to even entertain the idea. Trust me, $1,000 was far from my own entry point into the hobby, and I still get a lot of enjoyment from watches that cost far less. That same part of me recoils at the idea of telling someone who has perhaps never purchased a mechanical watch that a solid grand is where you have to start when there are perfectly fine watches to be had for half the price. It’s a difficult mental state to put yourself in, even for some enthusiasts who have been at this happily for years. But I think what makes these watches worthy of that go-to “first watch” recommended status is that for $1,000 you’re getting something that’s actually exceptional, from an important brand, and can take you wherever you want or need to go, whether that’s down the collecting rabbit hole, or just along for the ride on your adventures for the rest of your days. Another way to put it: it’s only an entry level watch if you intend to move on to whatever comes after. These Seikos, I think, are deeply rewarding, and equally so for the seasoned enthusiast, newcomer to the scene, and the completely normal person who just wants something great on his wrist. 

2020, The Watch Year in Review: 7 Scintillating Skeleton Watches

2020, The Watch Year in Review: 7 Scintillating Skeleton Watches

It goes without saying: 2020 was far from an ideal year for most of us. Looking back, however, it was also a year that brought many noteworthy watch launches despite the huge obstacles posed by the pandemic and its effects on the world economy. As we look ahead hopefully to 2021, it’s time for our annual look back at some of those timepieces, in various popular categories. Today, we showcase the most head-turning skeleton watches that launched in 2020.

Angelus traces its origins to 1891 but its most recent revival began in 2015, after a long post-Quartz Crisis hiatus. Its U23 models — eight unique pieces, with openworked flying tourbillon calibers housed in high-tech carbon-titanium cases and featuring colorways inspired by classic cocktails — will make you want to raise a toast. They’re equipped with the skeletonized Caliber A-250, noted for its prominent flying tourbillon and mainplate made from a composite material called Carbon Thin Ply (CTP), and feature skeletonized, PVD-treated titanium bridges, each in colorful executions intended to evoke a popular cocktail (pictured is the “Tequila Sunrise” edition). The 42-mm cases combine a case middle and back made of CTP with lugs made of titanium. The movement holds a 90-hour power reserve in its openworked barrel, placed unconventionally at 12 o’clock, while the flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock, sans an upper bridge, appears to float freely in its large window. Discover all eight of the Angelus Cocktail Watches here.

Angelus U23

AS its lengthy name implies, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Skeleton Tourbillon Chronograph is lots more than just a skeleton watch. It is, however, the thinnest timepiece combining all the following features: a skeletonized, self-winding movement, a single-push chronograph, and a tourbillon. Its 42-mm sandblasted titanium case, in the now-famous eight-sided Octo configuration, measures only 7.4 mm in total thickness. Inside the wafer-thin case is an accordingly slender movement, Caliber BVL 388, which rises just 3.5 mm in height despite its array of functions. Visible from the back as well as the front of the watch, it uses a peripheral rotor for automatic winding, amassing a power reserve of 52 hours, and uses both a column wheel and a horizontal clutch to drive its integrated chronograph function. Click here for more photos of Bulgari’s sixth record-setting watch.

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton

Cartier refreshed and re-released its Pasha collection — born in 1932 as the jeweler’s first waterproof watch and redesigned in 1985 — at Watches & Wonders 2020. The new models revive the highlights of the model’s ’80s design and adds some contemporary flair, along with modern in-house movements. The series includes the first skeletonized version, the Pasha de Cartier Skeleton. Like its predecessors, its unconventional design features a round case and dial offset by a square minute track. The chained, screwed crowns, a hallmark of the original Pasha, have been updated with the blue sapphires and spinels that are now common on modern Cartier crowns. Underneath the hinged crown cover is a hidden area in which the owner can personalize his or her watch with engraved initials — a subtle personalization visible only when the crown is disengaged. The openworked version of Cartier’s in-house Caliber 1847 MC has the hour numerals cleverly formed from its bridges. Click here to discover the rest of the Cartier Pasha collection.

Cartier Pasha de Cartier Skeleton

Hermès’s Arceau model is perhaps the watch that best expresses the brand’s historical roots as a saddle maker: its asymmetrical lugs are shaped like stirrups and the sloping font of it hour numerals evoke the silhouettes of galloping horses The Arceau Squelette, introduced this year, houses a new skeletonized movement inside a 40-mm steel case. The smoked sapphire dial through which the mechanism is glimpsed is deep black on its outer edges, gradating to a transparent center, and features a beaded minute circle and silvered, openworked numerals in the signature Arceau style. Visible beneath the lance-shaped hands are the movement’s bridges, anthracite-treated wheels, and openworked oscillating weight. For more info and photos, click here.

Hermes Arceau Squelette - soldier
Hermes Arceau Squelette

Hublot celebrated 15 years of its flagship Big Bang model with the introduction of the first-ever Big Bang with an integrated metal bracelet, the Big Bang Unico Integral. The watch represents an extension to the existing Big Bang Unico 42 series, but also notably features an updated case design whose first link is fused with the new bracelet and whose chronograph pushers recall those of the very first Big Bang released in 2005. Fully visible behind the sapphire dial is the in-house, skeletonized Unico HUB1280 caliber, equipped with a chronograph function driven by a column wheel and a horizontal double-clutch mechanism. The self-winding movement, which comprises 354 components, boasts a flat automatic winding system and stores a power reserve of 72 hours, or three days, in its mainspring barrel. Its column wheel is visible from the front, behind the applied indices and subdials at 3 o’clock for elapsed minutes and 9 o’clock for running seconds. Check out all models of the Big Bang Integral here.

Hublot Big Bang Integral Titanium - reclining
Hublot Big Bang Integral Titanium

The latest iteration of the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One introduces a high-tech, plasma ceramic case to the recently introduced series, the first from Jaquet Droz to incorporate its familiar figure-eight dial design into an openworked movement. The material for the 41-mm case is made by treating white ceramic with gas heated to 20,000°C, which imparts to its surface an anthracite-gray metallic sheen, without adding any metal fragments to the process, making it as hard, lightweight and scratch-resistant as other high-tech ceramics used in watchmaking. The case’s gray tones are echoed in the finishing on the bridges of the stripped down caliber as well as in the sleek textile strap. Hours and minutes occupy the subdial at 12 o’clock, and the “Grande” seconds, the larger subdial at 6 o’clock. Underpinning this time display, and also visible from the rear side, is Jaquet Droz’s skeletonized Caliber 2663 SQ, with a 68-hour power reserve in two barrels. More details here.

Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One

Rado was innovating with high-tech ceramics before much of the rest of the watchmaking world, and the design-oriented brand continues to push boundaries in the use of that material — the latest example being the True Thinline Anima, a limited edition that features a ceramic case in matte olive green. “Anima” is a Latin word meaning “air,” “breath,” or “soul,” and refers to the openness of the watch’s extensively skeletonized movement, an ETA A31.L02, which has also been customized with bridges made from black anodized aluminum, an additional weight-reducing feature that is characteristic of Rado. The window at 6 o’clock showcases the current date on the fully exposed, skeletonized calendar disk. The monobloc case is lightweight, scratch-resistant material and ultra-thin, measuring 40 x 44.8 mm in diameter and 10.8 mm in thickness. Click here for more detail.

Rado True Thinline Anima - reclining
Rado True Thinline Anima
Nodus Finishes 2020 on a High Note with Two New Additions to their Sector Collection

Nodus Finishes 2020 on a High Note with Two New Additions to their Sector Collection

Like the Pilot, the Sector Sport launches in three variants: Rift (black), Peak (white), and Glacial (baby blue). These watches have a traditional 3-6-9 dial layout, which certainly recalls Rolex’s Explorer, but has become shorthand through the decades as a tried and true sports watch, nothing more, nothing less. It seems like that would be a simple enough design brief, but there are so many examples of watches like this that don’t quite work – it speaks to the fickle nature of these things, and the importance of small details. 

Nodus once again uses their sector format to great effect on the Sport, dividing the dial into distinct sections and giving it just the right amount of texture. Hour markers and numerals are applied and lume filled, and the circular date window at 4:30 is small enough that you might not notice it on a first pass. Once again, a Seiko movement is used here (this one is the NH35A), and the dimensions are equal to that of the Pilot.

Both the Sector Pilot and Sector Sport are priced at $425, and are expected to ship in mid January. Nodus

2020, The Watch Year in Review: 5 Superlative Perpetual Calendars

2020, The Watch Year in Review: 5 Superlative Perpetual Calendars

It goes without saying: 2020 was far from an ideal year for most of us. Looking back, however, it was also a year that brought many noteworthy watch launches despite the huge obstacles posed by the pandemic and its effects on the world economy. As we look ahead hopefully to 2021, it’s time for our annual look back at some of those timepieces, in various popular categories. Today, we showcase the standout perpetual calendar watches that debuted this year.

Chopard’s L.U.C Perpetual T combines two of high horology’s most complex mechanisms — a tourbillon and a perpetual calendar — into a 43-mm case made of ethically sourced 18k white gold, a material that Chopard has been introducing steadily into both its watches and jewelry. Its copper-colored dial is also made of solid gold and decorated with a hand-engraved guilloché pattern that radiates not from the dial’s center but from the large date display at 12 o’clock. In addition to that big date, the dial features the month and leap year display at 3 o’clock; the tourbillon, with a polished steel bridge and small seconds hand, at 6 o’clock; and the day-of-the-week and day-night display, at 9 o’clock. The timepiece’s sophisticated engine, sophisticated engine, Chopard’s L.U.C Caliber 02.15-L, stores an astounding nine-day power reserve in four barrels thanks to Chopard’s patented Quattro technology; the the indicator for the power reserve is on the back of the movement so as not to overload the dial. Click here for more details.

Chopard L.U C Perpetual T

Frederique Constant’s biggest news of 2020 was the re-release of its Highlife collection, which originally debuted in 2000. For the most complex timepiece in that revamped series, the brand installed its first in-house perpetual calendar movement, Caliber FC-775, into the 41-mm barrel-shaped Highlife case. The calendar functions of the Highlife Perpetual Calendar Manufacture are set and adjusted via inset buttons on the case: The button near 5 o’clock advances the moon-phase display (at 6 o’clock on the dial), while another near 8 o’clock is used to set the date of the week. A button at 10 o’clock advances the day and date (indicated on subdials at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock, respectively) simultaneously. Finally, the button near 11 o’clock adjusts the month and the leap year (elegantly arranged on the subdial at 12 o’clock) at the same time. The movement measures just 6.7 mm thick, beats at 28,800 vph, holds a power reserve of 38 hours, and consists of 191 parts, including 26 jewels. To explore the entire Highlife collection, click here.

Frederique Constant Highlife Perpetual Calendar Manufacture

Greubel Forsey’s seventh “Invention Piece,” the QP à Équation, debuted in a new version with an 18k rose gold case and chocolate-colored gold dial. The watch is driven by a movement equipped with an ingenious mechanism that Greubel Forsey calls a “mechanical computer” — a sub-assembly within the 624-part caliber partly inspired by the systems used in large astronomical clocks since the end of the 15th century. Its mechanical “brain” consists mainly of rotating, co-axial coded elements in an arrangement complemented by a system of programmed movable sections. Depending on its geometry and speed of rotation, each element generates its own indication in a cyclical, pre-programmed way. In this manner, the mechanical computer can display all the indications of the perpetual calendar, each generated by its own co-axial coded element — date, day, month and four-digit year — along with seasons, equinoxes, solstices, and the equation of time. Despite its immense complexity, the watch is surprisingly simple to operate, with all its indications controlled by a single selector set into the movement’s winding crown. For a more detailed look at the watch’s functions, click here.

Greubel Forsey QP à Equation

The MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual EVO, which ushered zirconium into watchmaking for the first time, may well be the toughest and sportiest MB&F watch to emerge from founder Max Büsser and his team of watchmaking “Friends.” Zirconium is a silvery gray metal that is lighter than steel and more durable than titanium, and its aforementioned combustibility makes it very dangerous to machine. The watch’s 44-mm case is made of this material, which is prized in biomedical circles for its hypoallergenic and anti-microbial properties, and imparts a water resistance of 80 meters, a first for an MB&F watch. Another new element in this evolution of the LM Perpetual calendar is the “FlexRing” annular dampener, fitted between the case and the movement, which offers exceptional shock resistance along the vertical and lateral axes. The movement itself, designed and developed in cooperation with Irish independent watchmaker Stephen McDonnell, is built entirely from the ground up — no base caliber, no module — and designed with many of its most visually stunning elements on the dial side, including its large suspended balance. Click here to delve deeper into the LM Perpetual EVO and its innovative movement.

MB&F LM Perpetual EVO Orange - Profile
MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual EVO

Combining perpetual calendars with chronographs is a Patek Philippe specialty — few other watchmakers even venture into that high-horology territory — and one of the standouts is the Ref. 5270, housed in a yellow-gold case for the first time in 2020. Its silver opaline dial, with gold leaf hands, hosts day and month in windows below 12 o’clock, subdials at 3 and 9 o’clock for elapsed minutes and running seconds, and a combined analog date display/moon-phase at 6 o’clock, flanked by day-night and leap-year indications. A tachymeter scale occupies the dial’s outer edge. The manufacture movement inside, Caliber CH 29-535 PS Q, combines a complex split-seconds chronograph device, with six patented innovations, with an ultra-thin calendar mechanism — just 1.65 mm thick, yet made up of 182 parts. Check out all of Patek Philippe’s high complications for 2020 by clicking here.

Patek Philippe Ref. 5270 Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
Military Watches of the World: Israel Pt. I

Military Watches of the World: Israel Pt. I

Also issued in the late 1960s were at least two variants of the Eterna Kon-Tiki Super in non-cushion cases. The references 130PTX-3 and 130FDP are both known, though their issue details are again scarce. The 130PTX-3, manufactured in 1965 and featuring a 40mm stainless steel case, black dial with date, sword hands with tritium lume and aluminum dive bezel, features non-sterile case back marking, likely indicating issue to a Shayetet other than S13. Given the watch’s production date, it’s possible that it saw service during the Six Day War of 1967.

Credit: Bachmann & Scher

The ref. 130FDP is perhaps more interesting, and more historically significant: Featuring a 40mm case not all too dissimilar to that of the contemporary Omega Seamaster 300, this particular example bears a case back marking that differentiates it from its brethren: it reads “B’hukrah Shayetet 7” and features an “M” plus a 3-digit serial. B’hukrah means roughly “in appreciation of,” and often adorns gear donated to soldiers in a particular unit by an organization outside the army. (For example, there’s an organization that exists to support soldiers of the Paratrooper Brigade, and will often donate a large order of workout gear to every soldier within a particular draft to that brigade, though it doesn’t exist within the formal framework of the army. This gear will often bear the word B’hukrah.) 

Credit: Bachmann & Scher

IDF-issued watches were largely only issued to members of special units whose operatives underwent a long maslul — commandos, submariners, pilots, etc. There is some speculation as to whether these watches were given to these men, or merely issued and expected to be returned. (The fact that veteran operators in their 60s and 70s can still be seen in Israel with their old watches on their wrists means that many of them simply kept the watches, in any case.) The aforementioned Eterna watch may provide something of a clue:

Conceivably, these Eterna watches might have been purchased by an organization outside the confines of the IDF and gifted to these soldiers in appreciation of their service upon finishing their maslul. However, the watch in question also features the “sterile” M-plus-serial-number configuration. In this case, these watches may in fact have been purchased for the unit, “in appreciation,” but then stamped with serial numbers for easy tracking and expected to be returned upon a soldier’s discharge. (Alternatively, these watches may have been gifted to individual soldiers, and the serial numbers were merely used as an additional piece of identification — even issued personal kit that is not expected to be returned is often adorned with serial numbers.) 

Credit: IDF

So why was a watch adorned with marks clearly identifying it as Israeli equipment also given a “sterile” number? There may be a very simple explanation: the “B’hukrah Shayetet 7” inscription takes up the top half of the case back, leaving little room for the full, “non-sterile” inscription system to be used.