This year will go down in horological history as a year of disruption. Not only has it been a monumental time defined by bold breakthroughs in design, technology, and the way watches are marketed but a year laden with challenges from global conflicts, ongoing supply change issues, and international inflation. Still, watchmakers were not only able to survive through the turbulence but thrive. Brands experimented with more sustainable materials, technological breakthroughs, marketing campaigns borrowed from sneakerheads, and a diversity of case sizes, making our mission of recapping our favourite timepieces of 2022 an exceptional challenge. Fortunately, we were up to the task.
Below is our timeline for the most talked about watch launches of 2022 and a preview of what we might expect from brands heading into the new year.
The first month of the year is usually pretty sleepy when it comes to new releases but Grand Seiko wasn’t hibernating when they introduced the limited edition, US-only Soko Frost. Not the brand’s most important watch of 2022 (that would be the GPHG-winning, super complication the Grand Kodo), but its impeccable, artisanal dial is important because it signalled that the Japanese brand had rightfully earned a place in the luxury pantheon alongside Patek Phillipe, Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, and A Lange & Söhne.
Astronomical complications usually stick to a traditional presentation. We get it, with the moon phase, perpetual calendar, and GMT features, there’s a lot of information to get across in one wrist-friendly package. The Ulysee Nardin Blast Moonstruck managed to not only rationalize the display of its many features but also upped the user experience of wearing the watch by using materials not usually associated with Haute horology. We’re talking black ceramic and black DLC titanium instead of gold.
Watches & Wonders — the big international watch fair — takes place in March. Normally it would be impossible to choose just one watch from the deluge of releases. But the Omega x Swatch Moonswatch (a watch that wasn’t even presented in Geneva) stood out. The collaboration between the luxury Maison Omega and the lifestyle brand Swatch opened a gateway for a younger audience that could not usually afford a Speedmaster. Swatch also adopted “the drop” model of marketing. While not a limited edition, sales were exclusive to certain boutiques worldwide, creating headline-making lineups (and the occasional riot). Nine months later, collectors are still clamouring for these bio-ceramic Speedys.
We’re cheating a bit, as journalists first saw the Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222 at Watches & Wonders in March, but the buzz over this gorgeous timepiece filled our timelines well into April and beyond. A reinterpretation of a VC from 1979, the Historiques 222 signalled an aesthetic shift back to solid gold watches with one an integrated-bracelets. We would see more of this sporty style throughout the year but none were more elegantly executed than this.
With a nostalgic pull for Millennials whose first luxury watch was a TAG Heuer F1 and to fans who binge-watched season five of the Netflix series “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” this sporty automatic Chrono from TAG Heuer captured the zeitgeist for spring. Another nice touch: the bracelet’s split-link design (a defining characteristic of TAG Heuer’s ’80s and ’90s sports watches) is a nod to legendary driver Ayrton Senna’s personal TAG Heuer.
Some watches were so ahead of their time that they still feel innovative today. This is why the military minimalism of field watches proved to be appealing in 2022. Our favourite is the Tudor Ranger. Inspired by the 70th anniversary of the British North Greenland Expedition, the case is smaller and more streamlined than previous Rangers, making it feel much more modern. And while the demand and cost of luxury watches have skyrocketed, this Ranger remains a great value proposition (the movement has the same automatic 70-hour power reserve, a rate of 4 Hz, hacking and hand winding, and COSC certification as the Black Bay Fifty-Eight).
Bulova has been banking on reboots of classic timepieces from its rich history. And we’re here for it! After all, emotion is one of the biggest drivers when buying a watch, and Bulova was there during so many impactful moments in history. Originally released in 1973, the bullhead chronograph represents the seventies, when the status quo was shaken by the fights for women’s and LGBTQ+ equality. This model gets its nickname from its central blue-on-silver dual-time dial and small seconds that form the shape of a parking meter. Parking meters — another blast from the past.
One of the most talked about timepieces of the year, this 34mm Watch took the Royal Oak into a bold new direction. Jewellery designer Carolina Bucci rewrote the Royal Oak’s code by adding a black ceramic case with pink gold screws, a Titanium and glare-proofed sapphire case back, and a Rainbow-coloured sapphire dial with mirror polished effect, highlighting the laser-structure rendition of the brand’s iconic Tapisserie pattern.
For the last decade, Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo collection concentrated on breaking world records for thinness. This year, the brand focused its creative energy on an audacious collaboration with the Pritzker-winning Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima.
Almost every surface of this 40mm watch has a mirror-like polish. The sapphire crystal also features a subtle arrangement of incised metallic dots that seem to shift when the light hits. Even the presentation box for this limited edition is super shiny, making it a real reflection of time.
Except for Beyoncé, nobody does a drop like Rolex. Not only was the launch of the 50mm Deepsea Challenge a surprise, but the timepiece itself was also based on a watch that has travelled to the deepest part of the ocean—the Mariana Trench. But that’s not all! The 50mm sea monster is the first Rolex Diver to be crafted from the brand’s proprietary RLX titanium. An advanced helium escape valve and extra-thick sapphire crystal provide 11,000 metres of water resistance.
After nine months of surprises, it was a bit of a relief to relax with something nostalgic. For example, a renewed appreciation for pre-WWII chronographs was a mini-trend that emerged in 2022. More discrete than the racy panda dials of the Daytona the squared-off shape of the Monaco, the Longines Record Heritage best exemplifies this aesthetic because it combines the functions of a tool Watch with the formality of a dress watch. And because it isn’t a reissue, it still feels original.
November saw the highly anticipated launch of both NASA’s new Artemis Moon rocket and the Hakuto-R’s Series 1 lunar lander on SpaceX’s. The lure of lunar-themed watches is also at an all-time high. Citizen is celebrating the 35th anniversary of its Attesa collection with a limited edition forged from the super titanium used to make the legs of the Series 1 Lander used in Japan’s Hakuto-R exploration program. An attractive star-flecked dial also connects the watch to the skies.