Rounding up 2022 in the form of my favorite watch releases was quite the undertaking. This year reinstated the grandeur that accompanies watch launches. Therefore, sharing the experience and the reaction to specific releases sticks with you over the year. Take, for instance, the MoonSwatch phenomenon generating excessive queues. Could we have known the extent of demand worldwide without witnessing the long lines? The MoonSwatch was not the only collaboration between two powerhouses. From Bremont and Bamford to Breitling and Triumph, it has been quite the year for combining efforts. But as you’ll see from my list, gold is the theme linking the best releases of the year for me.

In my mind, the notion of a gold or a jewel-encrusted watch is left for a world of higher-end, perhaps ostentatious customers who flaunt their bling. Yet, my tastes gradually gravitate to higher-end materials, even if my available funds are not going in the same direction. As stainless steel hype watches are bordering on unobtainable, gold is becoming the better value. In some cases, gold is worth the premium to own a classic design such as the Nautilus, Royal Oak, or Daytona. This year has been a new appreciation and discovery of precious metals, representing some of my choices below.

Fears Brunswick 40 Topper Jewelers

Fears Brunswick 40 Topper

Kicking my list off, though, is a stainless steel piece. Fears Watches took it up a notch this year with water-resistant 40mm cushion cases, ushering in a sporty new direction for the classy British brand. To introduce the uplifted case size and sporty nature, Fears turned to California-based retailer Topper Fine Jewelers. The grainy black dial, all-brushed case, and flash of yellow on the seconds hand are more adventurous details. But it’s the California indices that hit the inspiration home. While I enjoyed my time with this model during summer, it wasn’t until I swapped the Bristol brown leather with my personal Fears Kevlar strap that the look felt complete. Unfortunately, the white and black dials were limited to 25 pieces each (long sold out) and only available in the Burlingame, California store. Nevertheless, the Fears Brunswick 40 Topper stuck with me to end up on this list.

Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400 — best watches 2022

Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400 in steel and gold

My next choice is one for which I put my money where my mouth is. I’m still yet to publish my thoughts on my Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400 in steel and gold. Once I’ve put some mileage on the watch, though, I’ll share my reasons for buying it. For now, this two-tone Aquis is my first foray into owning a timepiece with 18K gold on it. The solid gold content is a tiny slither around the watch’s bezel, but you have to start somewhere. The Aquis design is one of the modern reinterpretations of a dive watch. And it’s a design whose merits I enjoy. But the touch of gold with the vibrant blue dial combine to elevate this version among the others in the lineup. Adding the Calibre 400 also extends the power reserve to a practical five days with fantastic anti-magnetic properties.

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Moonshine Gold — best watches 2022

Omega Speedmaster Professional in Moonshine Gold

Now we’re talking about some serious gold. Moonshine Gold is my all-time favorite gold mix, especially when Omega combines satin brushing and mirror polishing over the Speedmaster’s curvaceous lyre lugs. But what makes this particular Speedy stand out is the golden panda configuration. With a gold dial and black sub-dials with concentric grooves, the legibility remains high, unlike the Sedna Gold Moonwatch or green-dial Moonshine. The highly polished elements on gold pieces, such as hands and indices, often inhibit readability. But the new golden panda with blackened accents is different and keeps things sporty. Complementing the sports-luxe look is the manufacturer’s rubber strap, a first for the Speedmaster Moonwatch. Not only that, but the underside of the strap has a lunar-surface texture. My only gripe was the lack of Moonshine Gold plating on the caliber 3861, unlike the Apollo XI 50th Anniversary.

Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222 — best watches 2022

Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222

You may see the Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222 appear on many of our “best of” lists. It simply took the Fratelli by storm. There wasn’t a bad word any member of the team could say about the new 222. Well, other than the extraordinary price tag of €62,500. But there’s something about its attention to refinement and authenticity to recreate a classic Vacheron model that makes it worthwhile. The design captures the innocence of the original — before there was hype, waitlists, and collectors clamoring for clout. The mechanical improvements and ultra-thin technology highlight its modern production techniques over the 1977 model. But when it comes down to it, the yellow gold integrated construction is drop-dead gorgeous. I found it challenging to argue against it when I entered with the entirely gold Royal Oak in the Sunday Morning Showdown arena.

Girard-Perregaux Laureato 38mm Copper — best watches 2022

Girard-Perregaux Laureato 38mm Copper

I’m toning down the gold theme to close out my top five. Yet, despite the name, the Girard-Perregaux Laureato 38mm Copper has some pink gold tones, especially on the peaks of the Clous de Paris motif that fade to brown on the outer minute ring. I’ve always appreciated the Laureato design. However, I feel the typical 42mm diameter case outstays its welcome. The 38mm case size is not exactly new, but showcasing the dimensions with a flashy copper dial reminds me of its more concise style. Girard-Perregaux refers to the 38mm as a mid-size unisex option. I, for one, hope to see more color options in the Laureato lineup for 2023. But for now, the Copper is a luscious dial placed in a perfectly proportional 904L stainless steel case.

Final thoughts

It’s been quite a year for discovering new tastes and lusting after the higher-end echelon of the watch world. But now I want to hear from you. What were the best new watches that you saw hit the scene this year? And have you also had a similar journey to appreciating gold or other materials? Let me know in the comments below.