Almost as soon as I started writing this article, I heard the news that Baselworld 2020 had been postponed to January 2021. This was followed by the announcement that all the major watch trade shows were being delayed due to the spread of COVID-19. As a result, watch brands are now planning to stage local events to present this year’s new releases. In anticipation of those introductions, we thought it’d be nice to revisit the most talked-about watches of 2019.
The Trends of 2019
Before we dive into the watches, let’s first take a look back at some of the trends that defined the industry in 2019.
1. Bronze watches: When they first came out, many thought that bronze watches were a fleeting trend. However, considering the large number of bronze watches introduced in the last 2–3 years, it’s safe to say that bronze is here to stay.
2. Retro watches: The watch industry is not immune to the pull of nostalgia. Recent years have seen an ever-growing number of timepieces with roots in the past. At times, it’s even felt like brands were digging deep into their archives so that they could have an excuse to re-release some obscure model. In fairness, 2019 saw some incredible remakes of true industry classics, and I’m sure we will see more in years to come.
3. Shrinking cases: While it’s highly unlikely that watches will return to the small sizes we saw in the 1970s and 80s, the trend toward larger timepieces has come to a halt after over a decade. We’re now seeing a return to more modest sizes of 40 mm and under.
That brings us to the five most talked-about watches of 2019. Let’s see how they’ve fared since their introductions.
1. Audemars Piguet Code 11.59
The introduction of the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 collection was, without a doubt, the most talked-about new release of 2019. Upon its debut at SIHH 2019, industry experts and watch enthusiasts on social media had a lot to say about the Swiss brand’s marketing strategy, as well as the Code 11.59’s design. While many were left unimpressed by the design, those who saw the watches “in the metal” agreed that you can only truly appreciate their craftsmanship in person.
Twelve months later, the storm has died down and we haven’t seen or heard much from the Code 11.59. Audemars Piguet originally planned to produce a total of 2,000 Code 11.59 watches in the first year. However, the big question is whether they’ve all sold. Seeing as the Code 11.59 is a boutique-only timepiece, it’s hard to judge its success with any certainty. Nevertheless, the word on the street is that you shouldn’t have any problem getting your hands on one if you do decide to purchase one. Whatever the case, it’s definitely a story worth following in the year ahead.
2. Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT
The Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT is the latest in a series of “world’s thinnest watches” released by Bvlgari in recent years. It premiered as the world’s thinnest automatic chronograph at Baselword 2019, and the reactions were incredibly positive. Not only had they produced one of the most complicated mechanical movements, but Bvlgari also received a lot of praise for their consistency in both the innovation and design of the Octo Finissimo line.
However, Bvlgari was far from done. They released two new Octo Finissimo models at the LMVH Dubai Watch Week back in January 2020. One is a rose gold edition of the incredible Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater, and the other is a steel Octo Finissimo with a black dial. While both received warm receptions, the latter was the event’s most highly lauded announcement. Bvlgari has no plans to abandon the Octo Finissimo’s incredible looks, with each new timepiece serving as further proof that this collection is a modern classic.
3. Breitling Navitimer 806 1959 Re-Edition
Another brand that has had people talking over the last twelve months is Breitling. With Georges Kern at the helm, the company has made incredible strides toward creating brand relevance thanks to a number of very well-received releases. Many watch enthusiasts were over the moon when Breitling announced the Navitimer806 1959 Re-Edition at Baselworld 2019. The best thing about this model is how faithful it is to the original; every single detail can be traced back to the iconic 1959 Navitimer.
Since then, the Navitimer 806 1959 Re-Edition has appeared on many “best-of” lists for 2019. Breitling has also put out two limited-edition 1959 Re-Edition models: one in platinum and the other in red gold. What’s more, Breitling recently announced another stunning re-release of a classic chronograph in the form of the AVI Ref. 765 1953 Re-Edition. The company is currently riding a wave of momentum, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
4. Rolex GMT-Master II “Batman”
Upon its debut at Baselworld 2019, there was never any doubt that the Rolex GMT-Master II “Batman” was going to be a big success. Its black and blue (hence “Batman”) color scheme became an instant icon. Rolex originally introduced this design in 2013 as the first GMT-Master with a ceramic bezel (ref. 116710BLNR). That model is no longer in production, having made way for the brand new GMT-Master II (126710BLNR). The GMT-Master II features the updated caliber 3285 and a Jubilee bracelet, while the previous model came with an Oyster bracelet.
Any small aesthetic changes have not hindered the Batman GMT-Master II’s incredible rise. Those who’ve had the pleasure of wearing this stunning timepiece praise it for its fantastic wrist presence. The only problem is getting your hands on one. As with all the steel Rolex sports watches, supply is much lower than demand, so you won’t find this timepiece at a Rolex boutique or an authorized dealer.
5. Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Moonshine Gold Limited Edition
There was no way we were going to finish our Best of 2019 list without the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Moonshine Gold Limited Edition. Omega announced this solid gold model in March 2019 alongside the steel Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Limited Edition. The gold version is a remake of the Speedmaster Professional Apollo XI Omega presented to president Nixon, vice president Spiro Agnew, and the Apollo astronauts in 1969 after the successful Moon landing.
In the year since, the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Moonshine Gold Limited Edition has seen the most success of any 2019 release. It’s appeared on many favorites lists, and many of the owners I’ve talked to think it’s even better than the original from 1969. It’s safe to say the Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Moonshine Gold Limited Edition is yet another highlight in the exceptional history of the Omega Speedmaster.
There you have it – a list of five of the biggest releases from 2019! Considering the cancellation of the year’s biggest watch events, it’s hard to say what 2020 has in store. However, one thing’s for sure: It will be hard to top 2019. In saying that, I know watch brands always have something up their sleeves, and I can’t wait to find out what that is.