The time of year is upon us once again. Yes, it’s time to pick the best watches of 2023 — or, at least, my favorites. It seems like only yesterday that I was putting my 2022 list together. But another 365 days have passed, and many more watches have been released. Narrowing it down is never easy, especially with so many memorable introductions. These days, we truly are spoiled for choice. Regardless of personal preference when it comes to new watches, there are bound to be a handful of releases that’ll suit just about anyone’s taste. I find that I can’t shake the appeal of watches that meet two specific criteria. The first (and a rather subjective one) is that they range in price from relatively affordable to realistically aspirational. The second is that they must be watches with purpose — tool watches — or, at the very least, luxury watches with tool DNA, not too far gone on the luxury side of things.

After looking back at my picks from 2021 and 2022, it seems my taste did not change much. This time, all of my picks came in under €5,000, instead of last year’s €3K limit. But only one pick even gets close at €4,150. As I did last year, I’ll also include some honorable mentions before the end of the article. These are watches that I found interesting or impressive enough to get on the list but not ones that necessarily had me plotting and scheming ways of getting them into my collection. So, with the premise out of the way, let’s get to my picks for the best watches of 2023.

Tudor Pelagos FXD USN

The best watches of 2023 — Nacho’s first pick: the Tudor Pelagos FXD “USN”

My first (and top) pick was always going to be a dive watch. This list will even show that four out of five of my picks are, in fact, divers. I’ve opted to start with the priciest watch on my list. At €4,150, the Tudor FXD takes that title. A successor to the original Marine Nationale model and the carbon-cased Red Bull Alinghi Racing released this summer, the “USN” model was introduced in September of this year. You can read my hands-on review of the watch that I put together right after its introduction. The first reason why I thoroughly enjoy this watch is that it has a bit more of a “boring” colorway. I found the blue model to be a bit too bright and “out there” for me.

The second reason is that despite its more classic colorway, it is still as interesting as the OG FXD and even more functional. Not only does it tie into Tudor’s history of providing timekeeping equipment to the US Navy divers (the reason behind the “USN” nickname), but it also still provides an unapologetically “toolish” take on the dive watch. Would it be nice to have spring bars and a bracelet? Sure. But in practice, nothing is going to keep a watch on your wrist more consistently than fixed bars and a single-pass strap. Finally, in terms of function, the unidirectional bezel is something I wholeheartedly approve of. I know that I’ll come to own my first Tudor watch someday; it’s inevitable. The thought of it being the FXD “USN” simply never fails to put a smile on my face.

best watches of 2023 Arken Alterum

Arken Alterum

We have arrived at the fixed-bezel segment of this list. Arken is a UK-based brand specializing in affordable, well-specced titanium tool watches. Everything started in September 2021, when Kenneth Lam, the brand’s creator, brought his vision of a sub-£500 titanium dive watch to life. The Arken Instrumentum was a hit, selling out instantly. The trickiest part of having a successful first go at making a watch is when the time comes for a sequel. The Arken Alterum, however, proved that Lam was right on the money with his sophomore release, and it’s the only watch released in 2023 that I bought for myself. This unique £599 take on a dual-time-zone watch struck a perfect chord between interest, specs, and price.

The watch has a 40mm titanium case with a sapphire crystal and an integrated canvas strap. It has a 200m water resistance rating, solid lume markers, and a subtly textured dial. Importantly, it also displays two time zones thanks to a custom-made movement module. If you want to learn more about it, I’d recommend reading my introduction piece for the watch. As of writing this article, I have not yet seen it in person. Deliveries are estimated to begin near the end of January. However, the project alone deserves recognition and (I feel) a spot on this list. You can expect a full hands-on review once mine arrives and I can put it through its paces. I have the feeling it won’t be leaving my wrist for a long time after that.

Aquastar Model 60 6

Aquastar Model 60

Now, back to watches with rotating bezels. And we make a strong start with a watch that charmed me without having ever laid eyes on it. Reading Mike’s piece on the Aquastar Model 60 was enough to have me thoroughly lusting after it. It’s a perfect example of “less is more.” The watch is a faithful reissue of a skin diver produced by the brand in 1957. With its glossy black dial, stainless steel bezel, and 37mm case, it looks like a new-old-stock version of the original. This one, however, has the added benefit of a modern movement, sapphire crystal, and a beads-of-rice bracelet that I’m willing to bet is far more solid than anything made in the 1950s. It’s also slim (11mm), attractive, and fairly priced.

For just under €1,200 (roughly the same price as a Seiko SPB143), you get a Swiss-made dive watch that — judging by every modern Aquastar watch I’ve had in my hands and on my wrist — is as solid and expertly finished as it is easy on the eyes.

best watches of 2023 Zodiac Sea-Chron

Zodiac Sea-Chron

Speaking of vintage comebacks, we move on to my next pick, the Zodiac Sea-Chron. When it was first announced, I was slightly skeptical of its dimensions, but that skepticism quickly faded as soon as I got the watch on my wrist. Sure, it’s a chunky watch, but certain watches simply make sense with slightly larger proportions, and a dive chronograph is one of them. Plus, the numbers on paper seem sizable, but on my wrist, the Sea-Chron is certainly not unwieldy. On the contrary, it proved to be rather wearable and even the perfect companion for my brief summer trip to the Costa Brava.

Overall, Zodiac continues to impress. The brand seems to know no bounds when it comes to staying creative and innovating with materials and designs while covering the bases of its heritage at the same time. The brand is certainly worth keeping an eye on because it feels like things are just getting started. In the meantime, if you’re in the market for a classically styled dive chronograph, I can recommend you check out the Zodiac Sea-Chron. At US$2,495, it’s one of the more charming options out there.

Sinn T50 best watches of 2023

Sinn T50

Ah, the Sinn T50. If you asked me today, I’d be happy to say that, in a vacuum, this is my favorite watch released in 2023. From its specs and materials to its looks and price, for me, this watch is perfect. It’s truly hard to fault. It is a proudly modern take on a dive watch from a company that lives and breathes tool watches. Don’t believe me? You can ask any of my colleagues here at Fratello. I’ve gone on record saying that if the Sinn T50 had been released before I picked up my Seamaster 2254, I would have been hard-pressed to decide between them. Knowing that they’re not too far off price-wise, and as I’ve been looking for a modern palette cleanser for my mostly neo-vintage collection, it would have been more than a serious contender.

For €3,340, you get a watch made of hardened titanium on a matching bracelet with one of the best AR-coated crystals and an incredibly legible dial and handset. A locking and fully graduated titanium bezel with a wonderfully disproportionate lume pip is the glowing cherry on top. Is the 500m water resistance rating a bit overkill? Not likely, especially if you wear this watch as it’s intended to be worn. I didn’t get a chance to write as much about this one as I could have, but it’s certainly making just about any list I find myself putting together this year. The Sinn T50 is a seriously impressive watch and one I won’t stop thinking about for a long time.

Rapid-fire honorable mentions

Now, before I wrap it up, here are some watches that I couldn’t leave off of a list of the best watches of 2023. They range from the technically fascinating to those that break the mold and reinvent the wheel. There won’t be too many words, only names, but you can rest assured these are seriously impressive pieces with prices to match. The first one, as you can see above, is a little something from Omega.

best watches of 2023 Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean GMT Dark Grey

1. The Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Dark Grey GMT

2. The Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms Tech Gombessa

3. The Girard-Perregaux Laureato Absolute Chronograph 8Tech

4. The Montblanc × Collective Horology 1858 Minerva Monopusher Chronograph “Blue Arrow” P.05

best watches of 2023 Rolex Yacht-Master 42 RLX titanium

5. The Rolex Yacht-Master 42 in titanium

Tudor Pelagos FXD USN best watches of 2023

Final thoughts

That’s it from me, folks. Unless there’s a very exciting and appealing last-minute release between now and the end of the year that I don’t know about, I’m happy to lock in my answers. It’s been another great year when it comes to new watches. Yes, we’ve seen brands changing strategies as the market softens somewhat, but if we focus purely on new watches, it’s safe to say that we truly are spoiled for choice. Stay tuned to find out what 2024 has in store for us. And in the meantime, let me know what you make of my picks in the comments. Do they speak to you in the same way, or do they leave you wanting more? And finally, what are your 2023 favorites? Feel free to share those as well.