Fratello Favorites: The Best Watches Released In 2022 — RJ’s Picks From Audemars Piguet, Omega, Rolex, Longines, And More
Compared to the previous years, 2022 flew by. And thinking about all the releases in 2022, we’ve had a great, full year packed with exciting new watches. There have been so many great new watches this year that it is difficult to compile a short list, so I won’t. Instead, I will touch upon all the highlights that I saw in 2022.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 50th Anniversary
Early in the year (January), Audemars Piguet introduced its Royal Oak “Jumbo” upgrade for the 50th anniversary of this Gérald Genta design. After 50 years, the Royal Oak “Jumbo” received a new movement. The ultra-thin caliber 2121 has been replaced with the new caliber 7121. This movement comes with the long-awaited quickset feature. Working on such an iconic watch is not easy, contrary to what some people think. You can easily mess it up, and it isn’t easy to make improvements. The movement is an improvement, but so is the dial, in my opinion.
My vote goes to one of the gold versions, either rose or yellow. Both look awesome. The price of the rose gold reference 16202OR.OO.1240OR.01 is CHF 66,200. And yes, that’s around CHF 3,000 more than the price tag when the watch came out, but we will see that with other watches in this list. The price increases will continue as long as these watches are sold quicker than a boutique can book the orders. Nevertheless, I had the pleasure of trying this watch on again recently when visiting Audemars Piguet, and it’s mind-blowing. Suddenly, the price tag almost made sense (almost). I would have a hard time choosing between this and the Vacheron Constantin 222, which will make an appearance later in this article. You can read my hands-on review of this Royal Oak 50th-anniversary edition here.
Grand Seiko SLGH013
For many years, I have been a fan of Grand Seiko watches. The way they’re made and finished doesn’t need further explanation. Indeed, we have explained that countless times in our articles on them. When I was in the market for my first Grand Seiko, the models that I considered buying were the Mt. Iwate and the Snowflake. Meanwhile, the number of Grand Seiko limited editions and specials has surpassed the number of Speedmaster editions. And don’t get me wrong; I like to have choices and value a nice variation, but it has also become tougher to make a proper choice when looking for that first Grand Seiko. At least that was the case until Grand Seiko introduced the SLGH013 this year, among dozens of other releases.
When I was at our Fratello × Grand Seiko event in Paris, I had the chance to play with it again, and I noticed the dial reminded me of a meteorite dial. Furthermore, it seems to absorb light brilliantly. When I took it outside, it was very blueish. Inside the Grand Seiko boutique at Place Vendôme, however, it showed a bit more white. The 44GS-style case is my favorite, so I fear that this watch will find its way into my collection at some point.
The SLGH013 has the recently introduced thin(ner) 9SA5 movement. This allows the watch to be more watch-nerd-friendly in the thickness department. If I were in the market today for my first (or any) Grand Seiko watch, this SLGH013 would be high on my list. The retail price of the Grand Seiko SLGH013 is €9,300 / $9,500. You can read my hands-on review of this watch here.
Omega Speedmaster Chrono Chime
Omega had a big year in new introductions. The brand started the year off on a (Speedy) Tuesday with the Speedmaster ’57 Broad Arrow in Canopus Gold. Later, new Moonshine models joined the lineup, and a new range of updated Speedmaster ’57 watches made its debut. There were also new Seamaster Aqua Terra models, a new De Ville Prestige collection, a new Seamaster Ultra Deep, and of course, the recently introduced new Seamaster 300M James Bond 60th Anniversary watch.
The Chrono Chime watches — the Speedmaster and Olympic 1932 — debuted at the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and it was quite the spectacle. I was there, and I got the chance to wear this exclusive (~CHF 450,000) Speedmaster and admire the hand-finished movement, aventurine dial, striking hammers, and last but not least, the amazing weight (326 grams). Omega’s CEO and President Raynald Aeschlimann assured me that this is not the brand’s new direction. Instead, it was to show that Omega can create and develop such an Haute Horlogerie watch. The price tag aside, this new (unique) complication is nothing less than impressive. You can find all the details about Omega’s Chrono Chime here.
Just like most other watches in this overview, it is far beyond what I can (and would want to) spend on a watch. Nevertheless, it’s an incredibly beautiful piece. Being a Speedmaster geek, I hope that next year we will see some pieces that are actually affordable (or accessible) and that I can add one to my collection.
Rolex Day-Date “Black Onyx” 228238
Well, the Day-Date isn’t exactly a new watch (neither is the AP Royal Oak). Nevertheless, this version really surprised me when I saw it in the flesh. Rolex didn’t show it to us during Watches and Wonders, but we had a meeting at Rolex afterward, and some Day-Date variations received this “silent introduction” in 2022. One was this ref. 228238 with an onyx dial and baguette diamond hour markers. It’s the 40mm Day-Date, and I normally prefer the 36mm for its design (especially the profile). This onyx dial, however, compensates for that a lot.
The specifications of this Rolex Day-Date 228238 are identical to all other 40mm Day-Date models. Indeed, only the dial differs from the others. As you can see in the images above, the onyx dial has a horizontal line just below the hour markers at 4 and 8 o’clock. This is unique to the piece of onyx that Rolex used, and you may find different patterns in other Day-Date 228238 with this dial. The price for this model is available on request. For more on Rolex’s silent releases from 2022, have a look at our article here.
Tudor Black Bay Pro
Yes, finally, something in the more affordable category! Tudor did an amazing job in getting some cool releases out in 2022. I contemplated highlighting the new 39mm Tudor Pelagos, but it’s the Black Bay Pro that actually got me more excited. Although the Pelagos is my favorite collection from Tudor (the LHD is one I’d like to have), the Black Bay Pro speaks to me a little bit more. The 39mm case wears incredibly nice on the wrist (see above) and the watch has a useful GMT function. And yes, it does look like the Rolex Explorer II (especially the vintage ref. 1655), but that’s also the idea behind it.
Prices have gone berserk on the vintage Explorer II 1655 — heck, even on the later 16570 references. It’s not only about price, but it’s also a watch that looks cool, has the right dimensions, and technically, there’s nothing to criticize either. Tudor is growing rapidly and is starting to be a brand recognized outside the circle of enthusiasts. That’s a pretty amazing achievement! The price tag of €3,770 for the version on a bracelet is a very honest one. It is a wonderful no-nonsense tool watch for everyday use. What more do you want? Read my hands-on review of the Black Bay Pro here.
Panerai Submersible QuarantaQuattro Bianco PAM01226
Without the date aperture, this would be a perfect white-dial watch. At least to me, of course. My first Panerai was a Luminor Marina with a white dial, a PAM00113. I bought it in 2004 or 2005 and have fond memories of wearing it. During Watches and Wonders 2022, Panerai showed us the Submersible QuarantaQuattro Bianco PAM01226, and I was quite impressed. Well, except for the date window. If I bought a Panerai today, it would be a Submersible, which shows how tastes can change (or develop) over time. It’s a collection I wouldn’t have considered back in the day, but now it’s the one that I’d wear.
The discussion about in-house or (Richemont) group movements doesn’t concern me too much. I just don’t care much about the movements when it comes to Panerai watches. The first ones I had were powered by ETA/Unitas hand-wound calibers, and they did the job perfectly. The only thing I have to say is that brands should be transparent in what they use (or don’t use). That’s it. Whether on social media, in boutiques, or on the website, inform your customers about the (expensive) product they are buying. Anyway, to me, a Panerai is much more about the design or style of the watch rather than the movement, and it always has been. This white-dial Panerai PAM001226 ticks many boxes for me, especially with the green rubber straps. It looks like a great everyday watch.
This Panerai PAM001226 now retails for €9,700, marking a €500 increase since its launch (click here for my hands-on review).
Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222
What a great year 1977 was! Besides the fabulous “Mr. Blue Sky” song by ELO, the Atari 2600, the first Star Wars movie, and the birth of yours truly, it was also the year of the introduction of the Vacheron Constantin 222. In 2022, 45 years later, Vacheron Constantin introduced a perfect tribute — or homage — to that watch that set the stage for the later Overseas. The new Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222 stays true to the original with a 37mm case, only two hands, and a very thin profile.
Jörg Hysek created the original 222 design (not Gérald Genta, who I sometimes still see being credited). He did an amazing job, and I must admit that it’s a beautiful design of the 1970s and still looks more attractive (and timeless) than some of the later Overseas models. Holding this watch in my hands felt like serious business, but so is the price tag. It comes at a retail price of €78,500, which is far more than its introduction price of €62,500. I am guessing that would have been without VAT, but otherwise, it’s the steepest increase of the year. So including (21%) VAT, it would have been a launch price of €75,625. You can find our in-depth article on the Historiques 222 here.
Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Automatic 10th Anniversary Yellow Gold
To do something special for its 10th anniversary of the Octo line, Bvlgari introduced two versions of the Octo Finissimo in gold. One is an unlimited rose gold edition, and the other is a yellow gold limited edition of 50 pieces for the US market. It happens to be my favorite execution, though. At first, I was more drawn by the rose gold model, but the yellow gold and brown makes for a beautiful combination.
You know the drill by now. The Octo Finissimo is only 6.4mm thick (or thin) and measures 40mm in diameter. In my experience, it wears a little bit bigger due to the shape. Despite the thin case, it maintains a water-resistance rating of 100 meters. Inside is Bvlgari’s caliber BVL 138, offering a power reserve of 60 hours. Whereas previous gold Octo Finissimo models were all matte or sand-blasted, these 2022 models also have polished surfaces, making them a bit more flashy or playful. The price for the yellow gold LE is $45,500 excluding taxes.
Longines Spirit Zulu Time
Back to some steel with the Longines Spirit Zulu Time. This 42mm diameter Zulu Time was introduced in 2022 as an extension to the Spirit collection. It is available in three different color variations — a blue dial with a blue bezel, an anthracite dial with a green bezel, and a black dial with a black bezel. Then, there’s the option between a stainless steel bracelet and a leather strap. Longines is valued by many of you for its vintage pieces, but the Spirit Zulu Time also received quite a few positive comments when we published about it (here).
For the current price point (€3,000 on a leather strap, €3,100 on stainless steel), I think it’s a very attractive watch for daily use. It has a traveler’s GMT function (independent 12-hour hand) and has a chronometer-certified movement with a silicon balance spring. The bracelet comes with a micro-adjustment mechanism that worked very well for us. Longines has been on a roll this year with the Spirit Zulu Time and the Ultra-Chron Diver. It seems the brand has been focusing more on watch enthusiasts in recent years, and I am curious to see if this will continue in 2023.
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante
Another Watches and Wonders 2022 release was this Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante. The beautifully designed, nearly integrated pusher at 8 o’clock is there to adjust the extra GMT hour hand. Pushing it will advance it in one-hour increments. It is very useful if you travel or deal with people or businesses in different time zones. Additionally, you’ve probably already noticed the pusher on the crown at 3 o’clock. This pusher will activate the rattrapante function for the GMT hand. If you activate it, the GMT hand snaps back under the hour hand as if nothing happened. The GMT hand is in gold, so it’s easy to tell it apart from the normal hour hand. It matches the gold pusher on the crown.
The back side of the watch is as beautiful as the front, showing the PF051 movement in all its glory. The price tag of this watch is CHF 26,000, which is by no means a small amount. However, it does show that there’s competition for the Royal Oak, Overseas, and Nautilus (at retail price). On top of that, the steel Parmigiani Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante has a platinum bezel. I think it is one of the coolest releases I’ve seen this year. Feel free to check out our introductory article here.
Those that did not make the cut
With the year ending, I think we can reflect on a very fruitful one regarding watches. And not only that, but it was also the first full year that we could actually go out again and see and try the watch ourselves. During the pandemic, many brands shipped watches to us for review, which meant we didn’t see all the collections or watches we wanted. It felt really good to be out there again at Watches and Wonders 2022 and Geneva Watch Days, for example.
Some watches that were introduced are definitely interesting and probably worth mentioning in my overview, but I limited myself to the ones that really stuck with me. The new Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonshine models were discussed a lot, but what to think of the new Rolex GMT-Master II “Destro” or the Oris ProPilot X models? Another watch that got a lot of attention was the Omega × Swatch Speedmaster MoonSwatch. Whatever you think of the MoonSwatch, or the way it was distributed (or not), it was perhaps one of the most talked-about pieces. And that’s also what makes this watch-collecting hobby or passion so great; everyone has his or her take on what a watch should be or shouldn’t be.
Do you have any favorite releases from 2022 that didn’t make my list? If so, let me know in the comments below.