Fratello Favorites: The Best Watches Released In 2022 — Jorg’s Picks From Zenith, Vacheron Constantin, Grand Seiko, And More
I can’t believe we are at this point again. The year 2022 has flown by, and I still remember compiling my list of the best watches of 2021. It’s now 12 months later, and I have enjoyed a great number of new releases this year. But as it tends to go with lists like these for me, the majority of my picks will be pieces that I actually want and can add to my collection. I’m always looking for a personal story, a personal connection that triggers the desire actually to want to buy a watch. And that story does not have to be multi-layered and elaborate. It can be as simple as a fascination with a design. Essentially, that’s where it all starts and ends for me with these five watches.
Some of you will know that in a previous life, I used to work at a design agency as a strategist. Working in design was a great joy because I have always been fascinated by how things look. It resulted in a healthy passion for the design of clothing, shoes, record covers, and furniture, and later on, a fascination for architecture and watches. As you will understand, the visual aspect plays a big part in my list of the best watches of the year.
Grand Seiko Evolution 9 GMT SBGE285 “Mist Flake”
From the moment I saw the press images of the Grand Seiko Evolution 9 GMT SBGE285 “Mist Flake,” it was love at first sight. I adore the monochromatic presence of this watch. It is boring to some but exciting to me. And with Grand Seiko, it’s never truly boring because of the great attention to detail. I wrote a love letter to it in an installment of Sunday Morning Showdown, and the watch actually beat the current Explorer II. The “Mist Flake” is my Grand Seiko of choice. And I’m not alone. Lex also expressed his love for the watch in a full review, and we remind each other regularly of the brilliance of the “Mist Flake.”
So what makes it so special? It all starts with the brilliant case. The modern angular 41mm × 13.9mm titanium case has a lot of attention to detail. I especially love how the wide, stylish lugs effortlessly flow into the crown guards. Additionally, the way the bevel on the lugs continues on the side of the case is a thing of sheer beauty. A second thing that stands out is the modest titanium 24-hour bezel. In combination with the majestic hour markers and hands, it creates the perfect dynamic.
And the backdrop that makes it all possible is the brilliant light gray dial with a textured pattern inspired by the morning mist in winter. The practical integration of the date and the power-reserve indicator is balanced and just right. Through the sapphire case back, you can see the Spring Drive caliber 9R66. It is the perfect movement for the watch with an accuracy of ±1 second per day and 72 hours of power reserve. Add Grand Seiko’s brilliance in finishing, and this is the complete package and my number-one watch of 2022.
Zenith A384 Revival Lupin The Third – Final Edition
If I were to start a collection focused on one watch, the Zenith A384 would be it. We have seen some amazing versions based on the brilliant combination of case and movement of the modern A384. Some are the Revival El Primero A385 that was part of the original trio, the brilliant stainless steel and titanium versions of the A3818 “Cover Girl,” the Chronomaster Revival Safari, and the Shadow. And last year, I picked the Chronomaster Revival El Primero A3817 as one of my five favorites of 2021. With all these variations, there’s plenty of goodness for a collection.
This year’s favorite is the completely insane A384 Revival Lupin the Third – Final Edition. The 1st and 2nd Editions came out in 2021, and the Final Edition combines those first two timepieces. Brandon wrote an article on the background of the three watches that were inspired by the Japanese manga and anime series Lupin The Third. While I love the 2nd Edition with its panda dial the most as a daily wearer, the Final Edition is the cherry on top. A combination of the first two editions sounds bonkers. At the same time, the diagonally split dial that combines the aesthetics of both of its predecessors is brilliant. I mean, just look at it!
The watch features a modest case that is 37mm in diameter, 12.6mm in thickness, and 47mm from lug to lug. Inside it, you’ll find the El Primero 400 movement. This 31-jewel automatic column-wheel chronograph is accurate to 1/10th of a second. It can measure up to 12 hours at a time and has 50 hours of power reserve. In good A384 tradition, the watch comes with the famous Gay Frères ladder bracelet. While all of that is great, the true brilliance is all in that crazy dial. I love Zenith for making it happen.
Tudor Black Bay Pro
When the Tudor Black Bay Pro first came out, I could not imagine it being on this list. I am a fan of the Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655, and this “shameless” Tudor copy rubbed me the wrong way when I first saw it. For the people that followed the discussion, I was in “Camp Lex” for quite some time. Whereas Tudor sometimes brought out Rolex-inspired pieces in the spirit of some of the brand’s greats, producing a “one-to-one” Tudor version of a Rolex classic was a step too far. While I recognized that Tudor had done a great job optimizing the design and adjusting it to Tudor standards, it felt like blasphemy at first.
But that changed once I experienced the watch in real life sometime after its introduction. Something clicked when I put the Black Bay Pro on my wrist. Once I did, the references to the Rolex 1655 vanished from my mind because the Tudor designers did a great job cleaning up the impractical design of the first Explorer II. Additionally, they gave it a twist that makes this very much a Tudor timepiece inspired by the ref. 1655 rather than a blatant copy of it. With that, my cynicism also disappeared, and I started loving the watch for its looks and what it offers as a GMT.
The main gripe that people have with the watch is its thickness. I agree that a thinner case with less overwhelmingly steep sides would have made it an even better watch. But being a big guy, the Black Bay Pro on the bracelet fits my wrist nicely. Some of you might know that I am looking for a GMT as my next watch. I must admit that the Black Bay Pro is a serious contender. I would have never thought I’d be saying that back in March.
Atelier Holgur Frømand
We see many new brands pop up yearly, and we love checking them out at Fratello. But hardly ever does a brand make the impact that Atelier Holgur did. Only a couple of weeks ago, this new Singapore-based brand unveiled its Frømand. Immediately after seeing the pictures and reading the press release, I reached out to Matt de Bakker, one of the two founders. The combination of the story, the design, and the movement makes for an impressive first timepiece. Not long after our first email conversations, Fratello’s own Nacho, Laurits, and I met up with the other Atelier Holgur founder Asbjørn Simonen-Andersen, who was kind enough to fly out to The Hague from Copenhagen.
Meeting him was a great reminder of why this love for watches that we have is such a great universal passion. We immediately hit it off, almost as if we were old friends. But we came to see the watch, of course. And the moment all three of us laid eyes on the Frømand, we were seriously impressed by its presence. De Bakker and Simonen-Andersen made sure not to cut any corners in the process of creating the Frømand. Down to the smallest details, this is a wonderfully thought-out timepiece with a great story. Nacho’s upcoming review, which we will publish next week, will elaborate further on that.
The Frømand features a 40mm Grade 5 titanium case that is 13.5mm thick and water-resistant to 300 meters. The lightweight, angular case feels very modern, has a mix of micro-blasted and polished finishes, and features “integrated strap bars.” The design takes inspiration from military divers from the past, but its execution is very modern, and overall, the watch is a perfect mix between a tool watch and a stylish timepiece. That is further enhanced by the beautiful Schwarz-Etienne ASE 200 that is visible through the sapphire case back. This truly is a stand-out timepiece and one of my favorites of 2022.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222
The last watch on my list is the over-the-top statement piece that I will never own but deeply love. In previous articles, I expressed my adoration for the Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222, and I think I mentioned this would be on my list of this year’s best watches. When I saw the 222, I was reminded how much I appreciate Jorg Hysek’s design. And I was not alone. Many people love the characteristic 1970s design of the watch that hadn’t been part of the Vacheron Constantin collection since 1985. The 37mm tonneau-shaped case with the notched bezel, the well-balanced dial, and the elegant bracelet make this an iconic statement.
Inside the watch, Vacheron Constantin switched from the veteran caliber 1120 to the modern caliber 2455/2. The updated movement operates at a higher 28,800vph frequency than the 19,800vph of the caliber 1120. It also enhances functionality with a quick-set date. At the same time, the watch is only slightly thicker at 7.95mm compared to the 7mm of the original. While not everyone was impressed by the choice of movement, the 18K yellow gold Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222 is a €62,500 statement of pure brilliance to me.
You see, this timepiece is where the design takes the upper hand and makes the movement a smaller part of the equation. The designs of the Nautilus and the Royal Oak are amazing, but we have seen them continuously over the years. Therefore, seeing the 222 newly revived ignited some genuine excitement. The bracelet, in particular, is a masterclass in design thinking that will never lose its impact. It will be interesting to see if Vacheron Constantin comes up with a stainless steel version. If so, that will sell like hotcakes, and it will be on my list again the year it comes out. I just love the return of this amazing timepiece!
Looking forward to the best watches of 2023
There you have it — the list of my five best watches of 2022. Looking back at all the goodness of 2022, I could easily have made a list of ten watches. But in the end, these five stood out. And it will be interesting what next year will bring. Will Vacheron Constantin release the steel version of the 222? Will the guys of Atelier Holgur sell out all 100 pieces of the Frømand? And what will their next stroke of brilliance be? Will Zenith release more remarkable limited editions that have us smiling in our seats? And will I finally buy that GMT watch I have wanted to add to my collection? It’s going to be an interesting 2023, and I can’t wait to discover what the brands have in store for us!
What do you think we can expect to see in 2023, and what were the best watches of the past year for you? Let me know in the comments below!