Dave’s Top Five Watches Of 2021 So Far: Moser, Urwerk, Czapek, Ulysse Nardin, And Longines
In case you’re not fortunate enough to own a perpetual or annual calendar, we’re now in September. The 9th month. So that’s three-quarters of the way through the year. We’ve seen plenty of new releases, but some were better than others. I appreciate that it’s hugely subjective, so I thought I’d do a roundup of my top five watches of 2021. I’ll also be providing some of the reasoning why these watches made the cut. And who knows, maybe by the end of the list you’ll find yourself adding something new and unexpected to your own!
I’ll be honest, this was a tough list to compile. I went back over the Fratello archives to recall some of the earlier releases from 2021, but I think I’ve pretty much nailed down all my favorite watches released this year. If you agree, be sure to let me know in the comments. If you disagree, then let me know too!
H. Moser & Cie Streamliner Perpetual Calendar
I simply HAD to include this watch. It was one of the first two which came to mind right away. It probably helps that it’s very fresh in my mind after seeing it released last week at Geneva Watch Days. Rob did a video with Moser CEO Ed Meylan that is worth watching if you’ve not already.
…anyone who has held one of these in their hand will know what I mean.
We were rather fortunate to have the Streamliner Perpetual Calendar at Fratello HQ earlier in August before it was released. I was a little bit in love then, and my feelings have not changed. If anything my heart has only grown fonder. We’ve all seen the Streamliner case/bracelet combination in images, but anyone who has held one of these in their hand will know what I mean. They are superb. The case is a beautifully organic silhouette. It’s quite unlike anything else out there, but the bracelet is next-level stuff. It’s one of my favorite bracelets in the biz. It’s supremely comfortable, and it molds around your wrist like some kind of crustacean carapace. That’s not the most flattering description, perhaps, but it just feels so natural and comfortable.
The versatile Streamliner
The Perpetual Calendar is proof that the Streamliner line is adaptable to pretty much anything Moser can throw at it. Three-hander? Check. Chronograph? Check. Now a perpetual calendar? Check once more. I fully expect to see more siblings added to the Streamliner family over the coming years, as it just works. Of the three existing models, the Perpetual calendar is my favorite. Why? Well, the design team has done a fantastic job at incorporating the perpetual calendar functions, along with a power reserve, yet keeping the dial clean and uncluttered. It’s kind of a Moser signature now.
If you’re struggling to find the month display, it’s very cleverly incorporated into the central pinion.
The hours, minutes, and central seconds are all nice and obvious. The large date aperture is neatly tucked into the dial periphery at four o’clock. If you’re struggling to find the month display, it’s very cleverly incorporated into the central pinion. If you look carefully, a tiny red hand uses the twelve-hour markers to indicate the twelve months. Next up, the power reserve indicator is symmetrically balanced with the date aperture and the crown on the other side of the dial at ten o’clock. Finally, the year indicator is on the back of the movement, visible through the sapphire case back.
It’s one of the best watches!
I like how the design assigns importance to the calendar functions and makes them more or less visible according to their potential frequency of use. You’ll rarely check the year, so it’s moved to the back. The date is essential, so it’s nice and big. Months are less critical but still visible on the dial side. Brilliant design. I love it.
Urwerk UR-220 Asimov
This wouldn’t be a “Dave list” without including my favorite brand, Urwerk, on here somewhere. But I hasten to add that this is not a nepotistic inclusion. No, this watch has fairly earned its place on my list. Usually, I’d probably have picked a UR-100 model as it’s my favorite of Urwerk’s models. That said, after getting to play with the UR-220 Asimov at Geneva Watch Days, I have to say I was impressed. It’s probably my single favorite launch of Urwerk’s this year. Don’t worry though, my heart will always belong to the UR-100.
The critical difference is the satellite hour blocks.
I covered the UR-220 Asimov when Urwerk first announced it earlier this year. On the surface, it’s a slight evolution from the original UR-220 Project Falcon. Little is changed from the initial launch. We see the same CTP carbon case with its concentric circle pattern, and the case profile is clearly also the same. As is the vulcanized rubber strap. The critical difference comes from the satellite hour blocks.
The underappreciated strap
Before I dig into that, I really have to talk about the strap. From getting hands-on with the UR-220 Asimov at Geneva Watch Days last week, I learned something about the strap that I simply have to share. The whole team was quite intrigued when it was explained to us by Urwerk’s Marketing Manager, Pierre Chapeau. The strap looks like a rubber strap with suede-like end pieces stitched on. Wrong. The strap is a one-piece vulcanized rubber, but the tail end and a small square on the 12 o’clock side have been “pricked” with a very fine needle. The result is a soft-touch surface akin to suede but the technical advantages of rubber. It’s genuinely superb and feels lush.
One of Urwerk’s best watches
So, back to the actual watch. On the UR-220 Project Falcon, the hour blocks were CNC machined, and then the numerals were infilled with lume. For the UR-220 Asimov, however, the hour blocks are hewn from solid Super-LumiNova. The visual effect is excellent and creates a very different character for the watch — even in broad daylight. It’s pretty apparent, though, that this watch comes into its own in the depths of darkness. It becomes a shining beacon of light.
…I stand by my adoration…
After finally getting hands-on with this incredible watch, I stand by my adoration from my previous hot take; I’m glad to report it didn’t fail to impress up close. It has well and truly earned its place on this list; there’s no doubt about it.
Czapek Antarctique Viridian Green Fratello Limited Edition
After a storming year, Czapek was a sure-fire thing to make the list of best watches of 2021. The question was, which model would it be? It’d have been all too easy to pick the incredible new Antarctique Rattrapante released last week at Geneva Watch Days, wouldn’t it? I mean, it stole the show and was, in my opinion, the watch of the week. However, in a slightly more sentimental way, the Fratello limited edition Antarctique in Viridian Green was the one for me. It’ll be hard for Czapek to top that watch. At least, that’s what I believe. Having seen Rob pour his blood, sweat, and tears into the project, it’s really something quite special. It does help that the final product is the epitome of gorgeousness, though.
…Czapek chose to show the Fratello limited edition rather than its new Rattrapante.
We sold out of this watch in 39 minutes — that’s all 50 pieces! It shows that the Fratelli clearly agree with our design sensibilities. The subtle tweaks to the dial and the specific shade of green we chose obviously spoke to more than just our team. It seems that Czapek is also very proud of the collaboration. In the main evening tent at Geneva Watch Days, where participating brands had some of their watches on display, Czapek chose to show the Fratello limited edition rather than its new Rattrapante. In my opinion, that speaks volumes!
Perfection? About as close as you can get…
Thankfully my experience with the watch was just as good on the wrist as it was on screen. The first time I saw the watch in person was with Rob in Manchester earlier this year. We met at a pub, and he slipped the watch off of his wrist, passing it to me, apologizing that it likely wouldn’t fit me due to his child-like wrists. Well, happy days! I, too, have child-like wrists, so it fit like a glove. We seem to share the exact same wrist size. Convenient, huh? The slimness of the Antarctique was just excellent, and the bracelet was the epitome of comfort. I’m not one of those who buys into the “luxury” tag that we seem so keen to put on everything, but man…this watch made me feel good.
Without a doubt, the Czapek Antartique is probably the best steel sports watch on the market right now, in my opinion. For me, it comfortably beats the likes of AP, Patek Philippe, et al. Don’t “@” me. There’s nothing anyone can do to change that opinion.
Ulysse Nardin Diver Lemon Shark
Well, I bet nobody saw this one coming, right? To be totally honest, neither did I. I covered the Ulysse Nardin Diver lemon Shark in a hot take earlier this year, and I thought it was great. However, I wasn’t totally in love with it. That all changed when I visited Fratello HQ at the start of August. We just so happened to have the watch in on loan from Ulysse Nardin, so I picked it up, put it on my wrist, and just wore it for a bit. It instantly felt very much at home.
I dig it.
I went out for a team dinner with RJ, Rob, Timo, and Nacho, and they all commented on how “me” the watch was. Black and yellow is a personal favorite color combination of mine. I dig it. Those two colors are an iconic duo, and they’re just meant to be: peanut butter and jelly or chili and garlic. The watch really grew on me more and more as the night went on.
When things just work
It’s hard to pinpoint any particular feature of the watch that makes it so special to me. I think it’s a case of being one of those watches that is more than a sum of its parts. Everything about it works harmoniously. I expect to see some people in the comments questioning the inclusion of the Diver Lemon Shark on this list, but let me ask you this. Have you ever picked up a watch and strapped it to your wrist and just connected with it right away? That’s how I felt with this watch. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not flashy or particularly technically advanced. There’s nothing innately special about it. Everything works together in a way that simply works for me.
Still, the main thing is, it worked for me!
The only potential negative is the strap. It is not well suited for the watch enthusiast with a larger-sized wrist. This strap is an example where having slightly smaller wrists works in my favor. The strap itself is excellent. It’s a velcro fastening canvas affair in black with yellow accents. Again, it’s just another design choice that is right up my alley. Thankfully the strap fitted my wrist perfectly, but if you need a little extra slack, then you’ll be folding the strap over the velcro point, and it just doesn’t sit as well. I don’t know if Ulysse Nardin offers a larger strap, though, so you may be in luck. I only know the one that came on the loaner unit was not that big. Still, the main thing is, it worked for me!
Longines Avigation BigEye Titanium
2021 has been a good year for Longines as far as I am concerned. The Swiss brand has released two watches I’d love to add to my collection. The first being the gorgeous Avigation BigEye in Titanium, and the other is the recently released Spirit Titanium. It’s the BigEye that really caught my eye earlier this year when Longines dropped it out of the blue. Recently, I’ve noticed a sizeable chronograph-shaped hole in my collection, and Longines Avigation BigEye Titanium has been top of my list to fill that position for a while now.
Sometimes the brands know best
Longines dropped the new BigEye back in March of this year. I immediately described it as “the watch we didn’t know we needed”. Why? Because as much as I liked the original black-dialed steel BigEye, I wasn’t clamoring for a follow-up. Thankfully Longines knew better and gave us this beauty. The brand didn’t mess with the underlying blueprint but got a little freaky with other design aspects.
Now in lightweight titanium
Firstly, the steel case makes way for a lightweight titanium hull. I’m still fuming that I’ve not had the chance to try this one on the wrist, but lately, I’ve been digging titanium as a case material. I’ve come to appreciate a lack of heft on the wrist, and I have added two titanium pieces to my collection this summer. I was not a man blessed with big, strong wrists, so a reprieve in the weight department is a welcome one.
…downright delicious update…
The dial is next up and possibly the most unexpected yet downright delicious update from the original BigEye. I mean, just take a look at it. It’s fantastic. I love two things on a good dial: color and texture, and the BigEye Titanium has both by the bucketload. The little sandblasted effect of the dial texture looks fantastic, and it really complements the petrol blue degradé finish. Either the dial texture or the color alone would have been excellent, but it’s the perfect combination that makes this such a special watch.
Even the best watches can be better
It’s not all lollipops and rainbows. No watch is ever quite perfect, right? I would prefer white lume rather than the beige color we see here. Beige lume is better for more classic designs with less color on display, in my opinion. The same goes for the strap. It’s not the color or material I’d have chosen for this watch, but thankfully strap changes are pretty straightforward. My choice? A good-quality technical sailcloth or Cordura style strap in black with blue stitching.
So here are my top releases from 2021 so far. This list could be subject to change depending on what else comes out this year, but I think it’s a pretty good list, no? What do you think? What’s on your list? Let me know in the comments!
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