A strong show of luxury sport watches among 2022’s new releases confirmed that the love affair with vintage is waning. Divers dominated these new sports models. From their original function as tool watches, developed as of the 1950s, they have rapidly conquered the heart of today’s urban adventurers. As the only timepiece that must comply with an international standard (ISO 6425), dive watches are fully paid-up members of the sports watch segment. All that remained was to make them city slick, à la Louis Vuitton Tambour Street Diver or the TAG Heuer Aquaracer 200, while retaining a common core of a robust steel case, succinct functions (usually time-only) and a clearly legible dial with luminescence. A high standard of finish, particularly on the integrated bracelet links, adds refinement.
At the opposite end of the spectrum from skeleton watches, another key trend, these rugged timepieces were out in force in 2022 with overt references to the early steel watches with integrated bracelets of the 1970s. Sport-luxe models continue to soar in popularity among enthusiasts who want a sturdy yet stylish watch they can confidently wear whatever the occasion.
This fast-growing segment is one that few brands (if any) can ignore, leading to a huge diversity of styles from classic (Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto) to all-black (Chanel J12 Black Star), transparent (Hublot Big Bang Integral Time Only) to light-as-air (A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus in titanium), aviation (Rolex Air King) to aquatic (Montblanc Iced Sea), retro (Vacheron Constantin 222) to feminine (Chopard Happy Sport Chrono). Even the likes of Greubel Forsey is giving its watches a more contemporary design, with convex cases, and has introduced the “sport” label to its collections.
There is a distinct sense of measure to the watches released in 2022 with fewer grand complication models, although the two astronomical timepieces from Jaeger-LeCoultre (Calibre 945 and 948) warrant attention. The emphasis has instead been on individual complications, with some splendid examples of striking watches, calendars, world timers and chronographs. Standout releases include the wonderful Grönefeld 1941 Grönograaf Tantalum (chronograph), the original H. Moser Streamliner Vantablack® (tourbillon), the complex Hublot Big Bang Integral Ceramic (minute repeater), the ingenious Bovet Orbis Mundi (world time), the novel HYT Moon Runner SuperNova Blue (astronomical) and the classic Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Travel Time ref. 5326G (GMT). Special mention goes to Chopard’s trilogy of L.U.C chiming watches, composed of the Full Strike Sapphire, Full Strike Tourbillon and Strike One.
No year would be complete without its “unidentified horological objects” to remind us that watchmakers know how to venture off the beaten track, provided they possess the mechanical expertise to do so. Among the UHOs to have landed in 2022 are the Ulysse Nardin Freak S, which resembles a rocket with twin turboprops, TAG Heuer Carrera Plasma Tourbillon Nanograph with carbon balance spring and lab-grown diamonds set on the case and dial, Cartier Masse Mystérieuse that transforms its movement into a rotor, and the double chronograph of the MB&F Legacy Machine Sequential EVO.
Brands also had women watch enthusiasts firmly in their sights. Every one of the (many) collections that were given a refresh in 2022 features sizes designed for female wrists. Examples include new additions to the Breitling SuperOcean range, the 2022 Portofino models from IWC and a 36mm iteration of Blancpain’s vintage-inspired Air Command chrono in gold. In fact diameters in general are moving towards the smaller sizes of a classic design language, with the result that many of the year’s releases came in at under 40mm and are gender-neutral.
None of this prevented brands from enriching collections aimed specifically at their female clientele. Louis Vuitton had fun with its Tambour Slim Vivienne Jumping Hours. Breguet proposed a Classique Dame 8086 with interchangeable straps while Baume & Mercier gave its Classima a fresh look. As is often the case, the métiers d’art are particularly eloquent in this category and 2022 brought its share of remarkable creations.
Any reference to these crafts must include the four watches that make up Vacheron Constantin’s Métiers d’Art – Tribute to Great Civilisations. These remarkable pieces arose from the brand’s collaboration with the Louvre and represent four cultural artefacts in the museum’s care on a dial whose ornamentation is inspired by the decorative arts of that period. The chosen civilisations are the Assyrian Empire, Ancient Egypt, the Hellenistic period of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. Fast forward through time and we arrive at Jaquet Droz’s The Rolling Stones Automaton. The brand’s artisans have recreated the legendary group’s stage set, complete with drum kit, guitars, amps and mike. A rotating disk reproduces some of the band’s best-known album covers. As it turns, the Stones’ tongue and lips logo moves in rhythm. Carrying on the record theme, power reserve is shown by a tonearm.
Watchmaking springs to life with the extra soul these crafts instil: also in evidence at Chanel (Mademoiselle Privé), Hermès (Slim Minuit au Faubourg), Chopard (Happy Sport Métiers d’Art Hummingbird) and Cartier (Ronde Louis Cartier Eclats de Panthère Marqueterie). The new releases for 2022 made it an exciting year across the board.