Fratello Favorites: The Best Watches Of 2023 — Jorg’s Picks From Rolex, AnOrdain, Audemars Piguet, And More
It’s that time of the year again! With the end of 2023 drawing ever nearer, it’s time to kick off our series on the Fratello editors’ favorite watches of the past year. It has been another year with an abundance of great releases. But we have asked our editors to narrow it down to a concise list of personal picks. And as Fratello’s resident list maker, it only makes sense that I kick off the series!
Whenever I get asked to create a list, I am usually pretty quick to come up with several options. I’m the type of person who always creates lists, even if they are not necessary. I can’t begin to tell you how many lists of different watches and music are on my phone. Keeping track of my favorite watches, songs, and albums has become second nature to me. But a year-end list is a different beast. It’s not just a list; it’s the list. Stress kicks in because some difficult choices need to be made. I am only kidding, of course. The one challenge with a list like this is not forgetting some of your favorites. But I think I’ve managed to recall all of mine and sort through them pretty well. So, without further ado, these are my favorites of 2023.
Rolex Yacht-Master 42 Titanium
It’s not often that a Rolex watch ends up on my list of best picks of the year. That’s usually due to the evolutionary character of their designs. But this year, I was super impressed by two Rolex models. The first is the new two-tone GMT-Master II that we’ll probably see on one or more of my colleagues’ lists. But the absolute standout for me was the Rolex Yacht-Master 42 in RLX Titanium. While it is not the first titanium Rolex model, it is the first that is worth seriously considering as a daily watch.
This Yacht-Master could very well be just that with its lightweight titanium construction, 42mm diameter, 11.6mm thickness, and 50.3mm lug-to-lug. Add the Rolex caliber 3235 with a 70-hour power reserve as a trusted movement, and you’re good to go. But that’s not necessarily what sets it apart from its peers.
So, what impressed me so much about it? It’s all about presence. I love how this new Yacht-Master is a step away from the shiny sports watches that dominate Rolex’s collection nowadays. Not only is titanium a lightweight material that is comfortable to wear, but it also looks really good. On this Yacht-Master, the fully brushed aesthetic of the case and bracelet in the darker titanium tone looks phenomenal.
Combine that with a matte black bezel and dial, and the new Yacht-Master 42 is a winner. Furthermore, the dial design feels modern and balanced. Finally, the Yacht-Master is the watch that I always wanted it to be. And Lex put that into words perfectly, explaining why the €14,000 “Super Sub” finally fulfilled its potential. It was an immediate first pick for the best watches of 2023.
anOrdain Model 3 Limited Edition for Hodinkee
Another immediate standout this year was the anOrdain Model 3 Limited Edition for Hodinkee. Just one glance at that unique dial will let you know that this is a special watch. On top of that, it was the first long-awaited Model 3 release from the Scottish brand. Upon seeing it for the first time, I was immediately mesmerized. And while anOrdain is already known for its dials, this handmade sunburst dial is just something else!
It starts as a solid silver disc cut out in the anOrdain workshop. After defining the center, the sunburst pattern is engraved by hand with roughly 1,120 minuscule scores. After the pattern is finished, the dial gets a layer of colored enamel for its final desired effect. The result is a simply stunning dark gray dial.
It is paired with the new Model 3 case’s beautiful long lugs. The case measures 39mm in diameter and 10.5mm thick with a 20mm lug spacing. The size and proportions make for a super elegant form with plenty of character despite its simple round shape. Adding even more character are the Art Deco-style hour numerals especially created for this dial.
They are pad printed in white atop the enamel, giving the illusion that they are floating above the dial. Inside the case, anOrdain equipped its 25-piece limited edition with a Sellita SW300-1, providing a 42-hour power reserve. Completing the look is a gray suede strap that works very well with this sold-out US$6,000 timepiece. In my opinion, this is easily one of this year’s best.
Code 11.59 By Audemars Piguet Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4
I cannot fit all the words I would love to spend on my next pick in a couple of paragraphs. Before François-Henry Bennahmias made his exit from Audemars Piguet this year, he extended his legacy with the brand’s most complicated watch. And no, it’s not a Royal Oak but a Code 11.59! Not only does the Code 11.59 By Audemars Piguet Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4 have a whopping 40 functions, of which 23 are complications, but it’s also a modest 42mm in diameter and 15.55mm in thickness.
Giulio Papi, the technical director at the Audemars Piguet manufacture in Le Locle, is responsible for this grand statement of Haute Horlogerie. After seeing the straightforward usability of the iPhone 6, he felt inspired to create a complicated watch that does not need an instruction manual.
The journey to develop this impressive piece started in 2016. At the time, the development team only knew it needed a watch with a round dial and case shape. With the Code 11.59 also in development at the same time, the two projects merged at a later stage, resulting in what you see here. The AP 1000 caliber is an ultra-complicated self-winding movement consisting of over 1,100 pieces.
Among the technical highlights are a Grande Sonnerie Supersonnerie, a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar, a split-second flyback chronograph, and a flying tourbillon. Surprisingly, my favorite version, which features an opaline beige PVD gold dial with black chronograph counters, is easy to read. Additionally, the development team created ergonomic correctors and crown pushers, allowing users to activate the watch’s multiple functions easily. I could go on for a bit, but the result is a watch costing CHF 1.6 million that gave the Code 11.59 a relevance we didn’t see coming. This immediately became one of the best watches of 2023 for me.
Christopher Ward C65 Dune GMT
The Christopher Ward C65 Dune GMT is a favorite from left field. As I explained multiple times this year, I did not expect to fall in love with a watch from Christopher Ward the way I did with the C65 Dune GMT. I liked some of the brand’s releases quite a bit in the past but never enough to fall in love with them. But this limited edition of 200 pieces turned out to be something completely different.
After wearing the watch for an extended period, I can honestly say that not even the logo or the handset bothered me. Those are elements that I have always been very skeptical of in the past and would usually keep me from buying a watch immediately. But that wasn’t the case with this one.
What makes this watch so special is very personal, and that’s what I like even more. Most Fratello editors do not share my love for this piece. Listening to their comments on why they are not fans, I can rationally agree with them. But my heart says something different. As I stated in my review, I want this watch. The C65 Dune GMT has a 38mm case measuring 11.9mm thick and 43.7mm from lug to lug. It houses the Sellita SW330-2 caliber.
But it’s not about those specs, even if they do help make this an awesome release. Rather, it’s about the combination of looks and unmatched quality at its €1,610 price point. The downside is that I missed the release date and was late securing my piece. Luckily, Christopher Ward is releasing a new version of the same C65 Dune GMT in the first quarter of 2024, and I hope to get my hands on that version. The hunt for this one is also still on!
Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200M Summer Blue
The watch world always needs a stainless steel Omega Ploprof. That’s why I was disappointed when Omega retired the brilliant previous stainless steel edition of the Ploprof 1200M in 2019. Luckily for Ploprof fans, Omega introduced the Seamaster Ploprof 1200M Summer Blue as part of the 75th Anniversary series of Seamaster watches.
This cult-classic Omega dive watch returned in style with a slightly smaller case and a nice blue dial and bezel. I say “smaller,” but it’s still a behemoth of a watch with a 55mm × 45mm × 15.5mm O-Megasteel monobloc case. But the 45mm lug-to-lug is pivotal in making this watch more wearable than its predecessor.
As most of you will know, the blue gradient dial has a dark shade of blue to represent the 1,200m water resistance of the Ploprof. It’s a beautiful dial that starts as a blue-tinged white in the middle and gradually gets darker towards the periphery. The dive bezel is an extension of the dial, and it creates a nice and homogeneous presence. Finishing off the Summer Blue colors is the brilliant blue rubber strap that gives the watch even more character.
Inside the case, Omega uses its in-house caliber 8912. The Master Chronometer-certified movement has a 60-hour power reserve. It is hidden behind the back of the monobloc case, which bears a depiction of Poseidon, reminding us that this is the classic beast of the deep. The glorious return of the stainless steel Ploprof at €15,800 rounds out my top five watches of 2023.
Honorable mentions for the best watches of 2023
Besides the five watches I picked, there are also many honorable mentions. I’ll go over a few of them quickly. One that stood out immediately was the two-tone Sinn T50. Who would have guessed that Sinn would make a two-tone watch? The mix of bead-blasted titanium and bronze makes it exciting, and it’s also a functional combination of materials for a dive watch. On a silicon strap, the T50 GDBR was a pleasant surprise.
Another surprising favorite for me was the new Louis Vuitton Tambour. It looks gorgeous, especially in the monochromatic gray colorway. With the beautiful case shape, an integrated bracelet, a standout dial design with great modern numerals and small seconds at 6 o’clock, and the in-house micro-rotor caliber LFT023, this is the full package.
This year’s most fun watch collaboration in my book was the Seiko 5 Sports × Rowing Blazers SRPJ71. It sold out in minutes and has been selling for a hefty premium ever since, and I understand why. My favorite affordable dive watch came in the form of the Unimatic Modello Uno U1S-PD5 ProDiver. It is a standout piece that keeps the Italian brand’s minimalist design approach but combines it with all the specs to be a serious tool watch.
A final honorable mention for the best watches of 2023
The final watch I want to mention is the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante. Even though I had to go up against the Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante last weekend in our Sunday Morning Showdown, I love the Tonda PF line. We had the pleasure of trying out the new models in the office, and seeing them in real life shows the impressive eye for design and the technical brilliance of all these pieces.
The consistency reminds me of Bvlgari’s Octo Finissimo line, and I adore that. The Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante has a stunning dial color, which is beautifully contrasted by the rose gold rattrapante hand and pusher in the crown. While this watch may be less surprising than some of the earlier models, this is my favorite in terms of looks and, therefore, the perfect way to close out this list of my picks for the best watches of 2023.
But I’d like to pass the question over to you. What are your favorite watches that came out this year? Let us know your picks in the comments section.