Now Reading
Swisswatches 24 Days of Christmas: Top Watches of 2023

Swisswatches 24 Days of Christmas: Top Watches of 2023

It’s been another extraordinary year for us all, and the watch world is no exception. That is why the Swisswatches team sat down once more to comprise a list of our top watches of 2023. From anniversary models to world firsts, we are presenting you 24 special highlights to emerge from the ever-surprising Swiss watch industry in 2023. Here’s to yet another year of innovation and beauty in watchmaking – and a very Merry Christmas from all of us at Swisswatches.

Patek Philippe Aquanaut ‘Luce’ Ref. 5261R-001

At the beginning of the year, Patek Philippe presented a new Aquanaut that celebrates a premiere. The Aquanaut Luce reference 5261R is the first Aquanaut with an annual calendar, making it the most complicated Aquanaut of all time (apart from the Advanced Research Ref. 5650G). With its case size of 39.9 mm, it is ideal for ladies who appreciate slightly larger watches, yet equally suitable for men who prefer smaller watches. The 18-carat case, with its warm rose-gold tone (which almost shimmers into yellow gold when viewed live), harmonises beautifully with the blue-grey dial and the matching grey-blue rubber strap. It could well be a trend-setting model from the watchmaker for the future, marking the reintroduction of smaller sports models for men in yellow gold.

Tudor Black Bay 54 (37 mm)

Many vintage watch fans were eagerly awaiting this model. At this year’s Watches & Wonders, Tudor presented the Black Bay 54, a tribute to the Submariner reference 7922 from 1954, and simultaneously a fairly faithful interpretation of the original. Just like the original 1954 model, which was powered by an automatic calibre 390 developed by Fleurier, the case has a 37 mm diameter. The new Black Bay, though, is powered by Tudor’s own manufacture calibre MT5400 with silicon balance spring, 70-hour power reserve and a remarkably fair price of 3,820 euros (with stainless steel bracelet).

Longines Pilot Majetek

Longines surprised us this year with a huge new watch that we didn’t see coming, but which we think is all the cooler for it. The latest Pilot Majetek pilot’s watch is not only rather big in terms of its size (43 mm), but also technically. The L893.6 calibre, which was developed exclusively for Longines by Swatch Group subsidiary ETA, delivers a 72-hour power reserve. With its silicon hairspring, the mainspring can withstand magnetic fields of up to 600 gauss. The Pilot Majetek pays homage to the historic reference 3582, which Longines developed for the Czechoslovakian Air Force in 1935. Longines optimised the design and technology before adjusting the case size from 40 mm to 43 mm. Nevertheless, the cushion-shaped case by no means looks too bulky or opulent on the wrist.

Richard Mille RM 30-01 Automatic

Richard Mille is known for technical finesse that goes far beyond the norm. This year saw the addition of another highlight that further emphasises the watchmaker’s savoir-faire: the RM 30-01 has a disengageable rotor. This means that as soon as the mainspring is fully tense, the winding stops automatically and prevents the mainspring from being over-tensioned, which can have a negative impact on precision. However, as soon as the power reserve falls below 40 hours, the rotor switches back on. The special thing about this is that the wearer does not have to keep a constant eye on the power reserve and adjust it manually at the right time – the movement does this fully automatically. Incidentally, the RM 35-03 Automatic Rafael Nadal has a similar mechanism – the rotor can be split in the middle when the power reserve is full, which reduces the torque. However, the wearer has to activate the function themselves, using a pusher.

Carillon Tourbillon Biver

Probably the most discussed watch in 2023 was certainly the first watch from the grandmaster of the Swiss watch industry, Jean-Claude Biver, and his lesser-known son Pierre. No sooner had it been presented than it was criticised. Above all, we saw criticism of the decision to present a watch for just over half a million euros when the brand had never sold a single watch before. But it’s not just any brand: the brand is the programme. Jean-Claude Biver, probably one of the most respected watch personalities of the last 50 years, launched his own brand Biver together with his son, kicking off with plans to deliver 35 highly complex and elaborately finished Carillon Tourbillon watches to their customers over the next two years. For his first venture as a watchmaker, Biver developed his own seal of quality called JCB, which even exceeds the requirements of the Hallmark of Geneva. The minute repeater for the Carillon was a real headache for Biver and his team. Biver absolutely wanted a minute repeater that was water-resistant to 50 metres – the first ever. To date, only A. Lange & Söhne has managed to develop a repeater watch with a water resistance of 30 metres. Another highlight: the Biver Carillon Tourbillon has a sodalite stone dial, the likes of which are very rarely seen in the industry these days.

IWC Ingenieur

This year, IWC celebrated the return of a long-awaited icon that, like Patek Philippe’s Nautilus and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak, was designed (or re-created) by design genius Gerald Genta. That was in 1976, and since then, it has gradually disappeared from the Schaffhausen-based company’s range. In 2023, the Ingenieur returned in four different iterations, with its typical screw-on bezel with five indentations, a chessboard-patterned dial, and an integrated bracelet with H-links. In addition to the steel versions, IWC also presented an Ingenieur made of titanium with a light grey dial, making it around 40 percent lighter than its siblings.

Breguet Classique 7637 Répétition Minutes

The Breguet Classique 7637 Répétition Minutes is a timepiece available in two versions with many appealing qualities. The purist, elegant appearance conceals fine, handcrafted details and a major complication. Grand Feu enamel, which is created in a long and complex firing process, provides the deep colour for the black or midnight blue dial. The sophisticated movement can be viewed through the sapphire crystal caseback of the fluted 18-carat rose gold or white gold case. The calibre 567.2 can not only be experienced visually through its ornamental details, but can also be heard thanks to Breguet’s 1783 invention, the minute repeater. A latch on the left-hand side of the case centre at 9 o’clock allows the wearer to activate the minute repeater, which tells the time with the help of hand-decorated hammers and gongs. The latter are attached to the case centrepiece instead of a plate for harmonious and rich sound transmission and quality, for which Breguet has also applied for a patent. In addition, the melody was specially selected by an acoustician and each of the handcrafted pieces has its own unique acoustics due to natural, minimal variations.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph

At this year’s Watches & Wonders, Jaeger-LeCoultre presented one of its most understated innovations: the Reverso Tribute Chronograph. But simple does not necessarily mean monotonous. Rather, this timepiece, with its rectangular golden case, black dial and two narrow pushers is a wonderful example of a harmonious interplay of form, colour and function. This Reverso thus picks up on the principle of JLC’s current ‘Golden Ratio’ campaign and shows how skilfully it can be implemented in watchmaking. Turning the chronograph over reveals the calibre 860 with an open dial, retrograde 30-minute scale and accents in gold, black and blue. Two interchangeable straps, of which the leather one is a result of the long-standing design collaboration with the Argentinian label Casa Falagnio, complete the look.

Porsche Design Chronograph 1 – GP 2023 Edition with Mankei strap

The bracelet of a timepiece is rarely the centre of attention – not so at Porsche. For the Porsche Design Chronograph 1 – GP 2023 Edition, a new textile leather strap, the ‘Mankei strap’, was developed specially for the Mankei Hut opening in May this year. This is a khaki-coloured soft strap that combines two materials, with the underside of the strap made of calfskin. This way, Porsche creates a clear link between the timepiece and its cars, in which calfskin is used to cover the sports car interior. The strap also features the ‘PD’ lettering in an old-school aesthetic. In contrast to the underside, the top of the strap is made of robust polyester with a textile structure. The strap is equipped with specially developed metal end pieces for quick strap changes and has a black-coated pin buckle with the historic Porsche Design icon for adjusting the strap length. The timepiece is limited to 50 pieces.

Girard-Perregaux Neo Constant Escapement

With the Neo Constant Escapement, Girard-Perregaux combines 13 patents in one timepiece, demonstrating that innovation in watchmaking is flourishing. The brand’s inventiveness is not hidden behind a closed dial, but is emphasised even more by the skeletonised dial. The neat and symmetrical bridges inspired by 19th century designs, the neo bridges, the two barrels and the silicon escapement spring can all be admired. The latter was produced using photolithography, which, unlike other processes, makes it possible to produce artistically moulded components.

Rolex Perpetual 1908

Of course, it was the year of the Daytona for Rolex. But for us, another innovation from the watchmaker has made it onto the list of the most exciting new products of 2023. This year, Rolex added a new product line to its watchmaking history: the Perpetual collection. The series was launched with the Perpetual 1908 in four different versions with a yellow or white gold case, which will make the hearts of fans of Cellini timepieces beat faster. The new timepiece has similarities to the Cellini, including its cambered and finely fluted bezel. With a white or black dial, Arabic numerals at 3, 9 and 12 o’clock, faceted indices and a small seconds dial at 6 o’clock, the timepiece is classically simple and suitable for all styles. At the heart of the 1908 is the ultra-modern calibre 7140, which is equipped with an open-worked oscillating weight in 18-carat yellow gold and a Syloxi silicon balance-spring with patented geometry manufactured by Rolex.

Breitling Top Time Thunderbird

Since 2021, the increasingly popular watch manufacture Breitling has been conveying the feeling of freedom that was celebrated in the 1960s with its Top Time Classic Cars Capsule collection, with car models that are now considered classics. Inspired by cars such as the Shelby Cobra or the Chervrolet Corvette, a series of colourful timepieces have been launched as part of the popular collection. This year saw the launch of the Top Time Thunderbird, a chronograph inspired by the Ford Thunderbird. It takes up the striking colours for which the Ford Thunderbird, which first appeared in 1954, is known – red and ‘petrol’. The timepiece immediately catches the eye with its red calfskin strap. To offset this, the dial has a more subtle design with red and petrol-coloured accents and the Ford Thunderbird logo. A nostalgic moment is created by the rounded, rectangular sub-dials, which allude to the displays on the dashboards of classic automobiles. This collection is also the first to feature the Manufacture Calibre 01 with automatic winding in both directions, which was introduced in 2009 and can be admired through the open case back.

Louis Vuitton x Akrivia LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie

In what could easily be titled the most progressive and stimulating collaboration of the year, Louis Vuitton’s Fabrique du Temps and Rexhep Rexhepi’s Akrivia atelier came together to launch the LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie. Combining technical finesse in the form of a unique combination of complications (chronograph, sonnerie and tourbillon) with numerous aesthetic talking points, this is truly a watch of contrasts. On the one hand, the double-faced watch features a skeletonised dial that uses darkly tinted sapphire crystal to cast a shadow over the stunning, esoteric movement within. Meanwhile, the second white grand feu enamel dial conceals the calibre completely, alternatively taking inspiration from gentlemen’s watches from the mid-1900s, as well as Louis Vuitton’s increasingly coveted Monterey watches. 

Daniel Roth Tourbillon Souscription

Just as Time named Taylor Swift the most-influential person of the year, perhaps we can crown Daniel Roth the most-discussed watchmaker – largely thanks to his namesake’s takeover by the formidable Fabrique du Temps. While Daniel Roth quietly retired to the mountains in recent years, he was once revered for his watchmaking abilities, from creating Breguet’s first brand-defining tourbillon watch to innovating on behalf of Audemars Piguet. It was in his own name, however, that he garnered attention amongst collectors for his Reference 2187/C187 with tourbillon in 1988 – and it is this model that inspired the new Daniel Roth Tourbillon Souscription. A modern-day masterpiece of traditional watchmaking, the timepiece features a distinctive yellow-gold case, a solid gold dial showcasing stunning Clous de Paris guilloche decoration, and, of course, a tourbillon. The latter is part of the in-house calibre DR001, conceived by none other than Fabrique du Temps master watchmakers Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini, who collectively brought Louis Vuitton its watchmaking fame. Both men will personally oversee the production of any future Daniel Roth timepieces, thus keeping the name of a legend alive for years to come.

Cartier Skeletonised Santos-Dumont

In another phenomenally successful year for maison Cartier following on from last year’s ground-breaking Masse Mystérieuse, the manufacture honed in on its Santos collection – producing a particularly charming skeletonised Santos-Dumont. A brand well-known for being at the forefront of horological design as well as innovation, the new Cartier watch is a celebration of revered aviator Santos-Dumont by integrating a miniaturised oscillating weight replicating a Demoiselle – a trailblazing plane designed by Santos-Dumont, who designed around 22 ‘flying machines’ during his lifetime – flying across the globe. This special rotor is a key component in the specially developed automatic skeletonised calibre 9629 MC, likewise introduced this year, and taking the horology house at La-Chaux-de-Fonds almost two years to develop. This brilliantly quirky calibre has a frequency of 3.5 Hz and provides a power reserve of 44 hours.

Chopard Alpine Eagle 41 XPS

Chopard’s Alpine Eagle took the watch world by storm following its launch back in 2019 – and it caused another stir earlier this year when Chopard introduced the ultra-thin Alpine Eagle 41 XPS. Featuring a ‘Monte Rosa Pink’ (though quickly dubbed ‘salmon’) dial that is inevitably popular with collectors, this model takes the luxury sports watch to a new level of refinement, housed in a 41 mm case with a height of only 8 mm. This feat owes itself to the movement ticking away inside – the calibre L.U.C 96.40-L, adopted from the Only Watch L.U.C – which only measures 3.30mm high. Thanks to the inclusion of two stacked barrels and an off-centre gold micro-rotor, the coveted watch offers a solid 65 hours of power reserve.

Vacheron Constantin: Traditionnelle Tourbillon Retrograde Date Display Openface

The Traditionnelle Tourbillon Retrograde Date Display Openface follows in the footsteps of Reference 47247, the watch that made the retrograde date and partially skeletonised dial design a trademark at Vacheron Constantin way back in 2002. Now equipped with a tourbillon as well as retrograde date thanks to the Hallmark of Geneva-stamped calibre 2161 R31, the technical timepiece opens a new chapter of open-faced watches at Vacheron. Industrial in its appearance and exemplary in terms of its traditional watchmaking decoration, this slate-grey watch flawlessly bridges the gap between haute horlogerie and contemporary design. Vacheron Constantin is certainly a watch manufacture that never fails to astonish us.

Louis Vuitton Tambour 2023

The launch of the third-generation Louis Vuitton Tambour is living proof that La Fabrique du Temps and its director, Jean Arnault, are not here to play: the Tambour is here to stay. The brand’s iconic watch underwent a facelift in July, as it celebrated its 21st birthday. This was a particularly important moment for LV’s watchmaking department, not least because the new Tambour models are destined to replace no less than 80 percent of the brand’s current entry level watches, indicating their vital role in the years to come. What we are seeing in the 2023 Tambour is a new, sleeker version of its predecessors, from a refined dial with well-executed finishing and open-worked hands, to a much-improved bracelet with curved links that puts wearability at the heart of its architecture. Perhaps most significantly, the Tambour has a new movement, the LFT023. The calibre is de facto the first self-developed three-hand automatic movement at LV, completely developed and designed around the team of Michael Navas and Enrico Barbasini. The shining star of the calibre is the decorated micro-rotor, glowing in 22-carat gold and stylised with a repeating ‘LV’ motif. The perlage of the bridges as well as the polissage and finish of the edges are wonderful examples of a deep understanding of watch history, and a clear recognition of what matters to collectors. 

De Bethune DBD Evergreen

The unspoken winner of this year’s Dubai Watch Week, the DBD Evergreen wowed with its unusual green dial with Côtes de Genève finishing and a case that is somewhere between a table clock with conical feet and a pocket watch. Every design principle seems to have been honoured on the dial. Together, the Art Deco-style displays, the three gemstones and the plaque with the brand name create an elegant, almost futuristic look. In addition to the day, date and month, these five displays also show the jumping hour and the running minutes.

Felipe Pikullik Mondphase 1

Berlin-based Felipe Pikullik, and in particular his Mondphase 1, perfectly embody the growing trend of independent watchmakers: labour time is of the essence, and the manufacturing processes, such as the production of gears, rivets and bridges are made exclusively using traditional watchmaking techniques and are therefore more labour-intensive. However, independence also means greater freedom in design; by combining the expertise of the past with the technologies of the present, timepieces are often created that combine classic details with contemporary design. The Mondphase 1, which is Felipe’s first watch with a handmade complication and the first step towards a movement developed entirely in-house, showcases this freedom in its partially skeletonised dial, decorated with hand engravings and bevelled edges.

Simon Brette Chronomètre Artisans

Over the past ten years, the time-honoured watchmaking industry has seen the rise of independent watchmakers who have embraced and redeveloped traditional craftsmanship. One of them is Simon Brette and his team of twelve watchmakers and artisans, who presented their first timepiece in April 2023: the Chronomètre Artisans. This timepiece embodies the interplay of tradition and modernity. While the movement was designed according to the principle of symmetry, the dial follows a completely unique idea. Asymmetrical yet harmonious, the dial has two different openings that allow a view of the movement’s processes. The real eye-catcher, however, is the solid red-gold dial, which has been decorated using a special dial decoration technique. This three-dimensional mosaic structure is known as ‘dragon scales’.

MB&F: HM9 ‘Sapphire’

This year, MB&F presented the HM9 ‘Sapphire’, a ‘horological machine’ in which almost every detail appears out of the ordinary. MB&F uses a total of five anti-reflective sapphire crystals for the watch, three of which are for the main components of the case, and the manufacture calibre inside has two independent balance wheels. Between them, the planetary differential is responsible for determining the time measurement emanating from the two balances of the HM9 engine. As the ‘gear’ of the movement, it is responsible for the time display, which can be found on the vertical dial. However, the real speciality of this timepiece lies in its transparent construction: the eye can follow the interaction of the components from the barrel to the balance wheel and from the differential to the dial.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4

Among the many new products that Audemars Piguet presented to us this year, one in particular stood out: the Code 11.59 Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4, the manufacture’s very first ultra-complex self-winding wristwatch. This timepiece combines the brand’s watchmaking expertise in a single movement, the self-winding calibre 1000, which consists of over 1,100 components. The impressive thing about it is that the mechanism has 40 functions, including 23 complications: a Grande Sonnerie Supersonnerie, a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar, a flyback chronograph and a flying tourbillon.

However, this impressive number of complications, housed in the modern case of the Code 11.59 collection, not only made an impression on our editorial team. The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève also honoured the watch by awarding it the Aiguille d’Or, the prize for the most impressive watch presented this year.

A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar In White Gold

This year, A. Lange & Söhne celebrated the tenth anniversary of the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar and presented a limited edition in 18-carat white gold with a pink-coloured dial to mark the occasion. Although this is ‘only’ a supposedly subtle variant of the dial, in combination with the case it brings such variety to the classic design that the result is an anniversary model that lives up to its name.