Fratello Favorites: The Best Watches Released In 2022 — Balazs’s Picks From Doxa, Tudor, Laurent Ferrier, And More!
What a year 2022 has been. After waking up from the two-year hibernation that COVID put us into, we kicked back into gear this year. And by “we,” I don’t only mean me or us at Fratello but the industry in general. There were Watches and Wonders, Geneva Watch Days, and many events hosted by brands to showcase their latest releases. I’ve picked my five most memorable timepieces from 2022. These are not the only ones that I particularly wanted to own, but rather pieces with which have a personal connection to share with you.
My “collection” is eclectic and spans from super affordable to, well, not so affordable. But this is not why I picked them. It was so much fun to look back and relive some memories that I share with these watches. So, without further ado, let’s see my Top Five.
Tudor Pelagos 39
It was the last day of the scorching summer of 2022 when a few Fratelli, including me, visited Tudor in Geneva for a special little meeting. We were in town for Geneva Watch Days, and while I stayed for a day longer, the rest of the crew was already packed and ready to hit the airport. But not before we checked in at the Tudor mothership on the outskirts of Geneva to see the latest from the brand, the Tudor Pelagos 39. I’ve never been a huge Tudor fan, but I like and appreciate the brand. During Dubai Watch Week last year, I spent a few days with a Pelagos 42mm courtesy of Lukasz Doskocz, a fellow watch journalist from Poland. That experience completely changed my view of the Pelagos and the brand.
Hence, it’s an understatement to say that I was excited about this visit to Tudor HQ. The new Pelagos 39 did not cease to amaze me. It was such an excellent watch, so well executed, and highly comfortable. It felt a tad too small for my 7.5″ wrist, but that did not take away from the watch’s charm. On the bracelet or rubber strap, the Pelagos 39 just worked well on the wrist. As I’m a fan of Tudor’s big brother (sister?), it was no surprise that I found it so great. The only negative feature I could mention is that the watch felt incredibly light thanks to its titanium case, even with the bracelet. Yet, this is a very subjective thing; I’m just nitpicking here. My Top Five has no specific order, but the Tudor Pelagos 39 is definitely on it.
Doxa Army, bronze bezel
My love for Doxa is very well documented, and I’ve reviewed many of the brand’s previous releases. I wrote about my vintage Sharkhunter and even dissected the legendary Expandro bracelet a few years back. Still, it would not be enough for me to put one of Doxa’s watches in my Top Five if it wasn’t worth it. Fortunately, it is, though, and there’s no way you will change my mind about it. Yes, there’s another brand with a very similar model, which I own. I also know that some question the authenticity of the story connected to the Doxa Army’s vintage counterpart. However, these do not bother me at all. I think the Army is a great watch and a worthy 2022 release to be highlighted. That’s all.
I saw the prototype last year during Geneva Watch Days, and I was taken aback by how different it looked compared to the other SUBs. The case has the same core Doxa DNA, but the dial and bezel were fresh for a brand with a distinct overall design. I’m a fan of the steel case/bronze bezel version for its playfulness. That military-green bezel insert is fantastic, especially with the matching rubber strap. Pay €40 more, and you’ll have it on a beads-of-rice bracelet. And even with that, you won’t even break €2,300. What the Doxa Army has to offer is incredible for this money. I cannot wait to see what the brand will release in 2023. All I can say is that if it’s going to be as exciting as the Army was, we will not be disappointed.
Omega × Swatch Speedmaster MoonSwatch
Whether you love or hate the MoonSwatch, you cannot deny one thing: that little €250 plastic watch stirred up the already murky waters of the watch industry quite a bit in 2022. I was in Paris on vacation the day it was released and experienced first-hand the insanity surrounding it. Call me naïve, but never in a million years would I have thought that the MoonSwatch would have such an impact. The line went down the block from the Swatch boutique, around the building, and back to the entrance. It was like a snake biting its tail. And this was only one of four or five Swatch boutiques in Paris to stock it. A week later, during Watches and Wonders, the MoonSwatch was still the talk of the town. It is fun, affordable (for the most part), and represents a historic partnership that was the first of its kind.
Months later, when I was driving through Switzerland, I turned that work trip into a MoonSwatch hunting project, and I was successful. Since then, I have visited several big cities with a Swatch store, and I have always taken the opportunity to check if the hype was still there. Lately, just at the end of November, I was in Tokyo, and there was still a line in front of the Nicolas G. Hayek Center in Ginza as well as the Swatch boutique in Shibuya. I have a few MoonSwatches in my collection, and I wear them occasionally. However, this is more of an example of great marketing that — admit it — seems to work well (for now).
Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Big Eye with Valjoux 23
Nivada Grenchen is another brand that I have followed closely since its re-entry to the watch market a few years ago. I’m a vintage-chrono guy, so seeing the re-edition of an iconic timepiece hits home, especially when brands chose to stay mostly accurate to the historical model in size and looks. Virtually every new Nivada model has been through my hands at some point. I understand that this is not the case for many journalists, so in this sense, I guess I’m lucky.
The reason I’m telling you this is not to brag. On the contrary, I’d like to show you that I’m speaking from experience when I say that what Nivada did was outstanding. I’m talking about the NOS Valjoux 23 caliber releases.
The brand’s latest model with such a caliber, the Chronomaster Big Eye, came out in 2022, so technically, it qualifies for this list. However, I’m talking in general, as I genuinely appreciate these projects. I’m still unsure if these timepieces fall under the “re-edition” designation, but I’ll leave that up to you. From a pure watch fan’s point of view, however, without labeling the product, we can all agree that it is a fascinating idea. As you know, New Old Stock vintage chronograph movements don’t grow on trees, so I’m unsure how many more similar projects we will see. Until we find out, if you see a Nivada with a Valjoux 23 at a local get-together, check it out.
Laurent Ferrier Classic Origin Blue
While many praised the Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222 or the new green/black Rolex GMT-Master II, my focus shifted to other pieces at Watches and Wonders 2022. I’m a fan of Haute Horlogerie and everything that comes with it. The quirky shapes, the mind-boggling complications, and the materials create a world that I adore. A few brands stand out from this colorful array of ateliers, but this year, there’s only one to take the crown — Laurent Ferrier. To begin with, I find Mr. Ferrier’s life inspiring to say the least. I need to find touchpoints through which I can relate to a contemporary person whose name is on my watch (or one I’d love to wear). That, however, is not enough if the watch design does not speak to me. Well, Laurent Ferrier’s does indeed.
Blue is among my favorite colors, so it is no surprise that I’m drawn to such timepieces. Although this Laurent Ferrier Classic Origin is not a totally new model, it is a stunning example of what Haute Horlogerie means to me. It’s a simple and elegant timepiece that does not want to be more than what it is. Yet the Blue Origin’s shapes, the crosshair dial, and the shade of blue collectively create a timepiece that could be the cornerstone of any watch lover’s collection. Most would call the Classic Origin Blue a dress watch more than an everyday piece. I, however, see it somewhere in between. I have a friend who owns an LF and wears it regularly, not only with a suit and tie. This is a magical aspect of this brand. For me, the blue on the dial is just a great bonus.
Is that all?
Not nearly. There are so many watches that I loved and enjoyed in 2022. Omega’s Seamaster variants were delightful, and I loved everything I saw from Grand Seiko as well. And please don’t make me get into Hermès and Moser. It just would not be a list if we kept adding timepieces. Well, we can’t, and I’m happy with my choices. Let me know what you think in the comments below, and let’s see what 2023 brings us regarding watches. I can’t wait to find out.