We’re going to leave it up to you this time. You be the judge. To put the watch year 2023 to bed, we’re going to present you with a selection of watches that caught our attention last year. Some are surprising, some are baffling, and others are both. In any case, these are watches that kept haunting us and creations that we can’t quite put our fingers on. Are they brilliant or bogus? Strokes of genius or lucky hits? Flukes or flops? You decide.

On the first day of the new year, you probably don’t want to read a long story that analyzes a watch or a trend in timepieces. We get it. Therefore, we’ll present you with a very simple story looking at some of the most surprising and/or baffling watches of 2023. This carefully curated bunch features some of the most prominent names in watchmaking and watches that cause the brain to short-circuit or leave you puzzled. Some of them seem to be accidental heroes, while others are just very difficult to understand — the fruits of a misunderstood genius that’s ahead of its time, perhaps? Anyway, take a look at the following watches, and tell us if we’re looking at flukes or flops.

Baffling Watches Of 2023

The most surprising and/or baffling watches of 2023: Rolex Day-Date Emoji

For a while, we thought the Rolex Day-Date “Emoji” was an April Fools’ joke. We were wrong. But were we wrong to laugh so hard that we got tears in our eyes? In any case, Rolex created something special — and complicated too. The champlevé enameled dial is inspired by a jigsaw puzzle. According to Rolex, the vibrant colors represent the key moments in life. And there’s more. The 18K yellow (US$55,000), white, or Everose gold (US$57,900) watch doesn’t show the day of the week. Instead, the arc-shaped aperture at 12 displays an inspirational keyword in English — Happy, Eternity, Gratitude, Peace, Faith, Love, and Hope. And the window at 3 o’clock reveals 31 exclusive emojis instead of the date. Don’t get too emotional, but please give us your verdict in the comments.

The IWC Ingenieur and two glow-in-the-dark Aquatimer dive watches

When a new interpretation of a Genta classic is unleashed on the watch world, expectations are high. Did the four new iterations of the IWC Ingenieur — three in steel (€12,900 / US$11,700) and one in titanium (€16,100 / US$14,600) — blow you away or leave you cold? Did they do justice to Genta’s original, or did IWC fall short?

Watches Of 2023

The year was almost over, but in the penultimate week of 2023, IWC unveiled a real upset. The release of the superhero movie Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom was the reason that the brand from Schaffhausen launched a pair of 49 × 19.5mm Aquatimer Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Ceratanium models. These XXL watches are inspired by the red- and blue-glowing prop watches that IWC supplied for the movie. Two bad guys wear those watches, by the way, not Aquaman. The new Aquatimer models also come in both blue- and red-lumed versions. Limited to 25 pieces each, they’re water resistant to 100 meters, and if the striking red or blue Super-LumiNova isn’t enough, there’s a digital perpetual calendar and a chronograph to entertain you. At €62,000 / US$57,600, are these watches a hit or a disaster?


TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Glassbox “Golden Panda”

If you want to feel like a 1970s Formula 1 driver, TAG Heuer has you covered. The Carrera Chronograph Glassbox “Golden Panda” definitely has charisma. But is it a watch to grow sideburns for? Is this 39mm watch that celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Carrera worth its €21,750 / US$21,500 price and the additional cost of a pair of bell bottoms?

Baffling Watches Of 2023

Oris ProPilot X Kermit Edition

Oris is in the business of creating smiles — it’s quite literally part of the brand’s mission. Does humor belong in watches? That’s a personal question, but we need to ask you. Did Oris put a smile on your face with the ProPilot X Kermit Edition? The titanium watch with a price of €4,400 / US$4,600 only shows Kermit in the date window 12 times a year. One has to wait at least 28 days to get a glimpse of the most popular Muppet of them all, but then it’s “Kermit Day”! Are you ready to celebrate that day, or does it clash with your “watch religion”?

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph

Why is there a Jaeger-LeCoultre in a “flukes or flops” article, you ask? Well, because the new Polaris Chronograph (€15,800 / US$14,300) has a polarizing dial. There’s not much to dislike about the clear, crisp, and clean lines of the 42 × 13.39mm steel case nor the retro-modern box-type crystal, the brushed and polished surfaces, the large 1960s-inspired crown, and the robust pushers. This time, it’s all about that dial. Yes, it’s a complicated three-piece affair. But it’s also possibly too complicated for the eye. There’s just so much going on. The construction consists of a central disc, a middle ring, and an outer ring. The middle part of the dial features the applied hour markers, and the outer part of it shows a tachymeter scale. And on both the central disc and the hour ring, the color of the lacquer graduates from light to dark. Is it all a bit too much, or is this quite polarizing Polaris just right?

Watches Of 2023

Raymond Weil Millésime Automatic Small Seconds

Raymond Weil is a brand that doesn’t often appear on Fratello. But when the Millésime Automatic Small Seconds won the GPHG 2023 Challenge Watch Prize, we had to check it out for ourselves. The 39.5 × 10.25mm watch with a price of €1,950/US$1,895 didn’t disappoint. It did, however, raise a couple of questions. Was the Millésime Automatic Small Seconds a fluke? And will “RW” prove that it wasn’t by launching another award-winning watch, or will that prove a flop? Your thoughts, please.

Baffling Watches

Baume & Mercier Riviera Perpetual Calendar

Speaking of flukes, this year, Baume & Mercier celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Riviera. This watch has the nickname “Royal Baume,” and that moniker says a lot. Anyway, 50 is a respectable age and deserves a respectable watch to celebrate. Not the Riviera Azur 300m. No, one of the most surprising and/or baffling watches of 2023, the Riviera Perpetual Calendar 10742 (€19,500 / US$19,550) is the light of the party. The complicated Riviera, in its well-proportioned 40 × 11.8mm steel case, is limited to 50 pieces and comes with a classic salmon-gold dial that shows delicate vertical brushing, circular-grained sub-dials, a lacquered moonphase disc, and blued steel highlights. Is this QP a random hit from the brand that hasn’t been on a lot of watch fans’ radar for a while?

Watches Of 2023

The last of the most surprising and/or baffling watches of 2023 — Blancpain Fifty Fathoms times six

Last year was an eventful one for Blancpain. The Fifty Fathoms dive watch turned 70 in 2023, and that led to three limited editions. The one that got the most attention was the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3. This limited edition of 555 pieces mixes MIL-SPEC with luxury looks by using Bronze Gold, and that results in an equally luxurious price of €33,000 / US$32,000.

If that price is a little/lot too steep for you, Blancpain also introduced a quintet of more affordable Fifty Fathoms watches. The five different versions of the Blancpain × Swatch Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms (€390 / US$400) got even more attention than the three high-end anniversary watches, but the attention quickly faded. Unlike the long-lasting craze surrounding the Omega × Swatch MoonSwatches, the plastic “FF” disappeared into the dark deep very shortly after its hyped-up launch. Tell us your opinion. Did the mentioned Fifty Fathoms iterations belly flop into the water?