Fratello Favorites: The Best Watches Released In 2022 — Thor’s Picks From Vacheron Constantin, Naoya Hida & Co., Furlan Marri, And Laurent Ferrier
This year has been another strong one for new watch releases, and these articles are the most difficult to write, hands down. There must have been 10-20 watches that I fell for in 2022, and a few of those actually made me sell one or two to acquire them. This time, I am going to remain firmly in daydream land with none of these being within my affordability spectrum except one. This is my take on the best watches released in 2022, including one affordable wild card for less than €1K.
My taste in wristwear still leans heavily on the independents, and with Rolex’s biggest (literally) release this year being an unwearable 50mm mastodon, the brand is pretty much out of the starting lineup. Ironically, Rolex is still the first brand I get asked about when I tell people that my passion-filled second job is writing about watches. Don’t get me wrong, Rolex has done a magnificent job of brand-building, but for me, its watches remain fairly ubiquitous and easy choices. One of my best purchases this year was the new khaki-green Kurono Calendrier, but that was eloquently mentioned by Thomas with my shots, so I’ll let you read his story here. The worrying thing about my wallet is that I seem to have taken a liking to gold.
The Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport Tourbillon Golden Brown
For me, the desire for a watch is only sometimes linked to the actual possibility of purchasing it. In my view, that is completely acceptable. My relationship with watches should be based on their functionality, but to be truthful, in more than 60% of cases (pun not intended), the aesthetics, finishing, and back story are what get me. This also makes me proclaim to have found my “grail watch” several times a year because, well, just look at this audacious piece from Laurent Ferrier. Its chocolate dial is simply divine, set within a rose gold case which is understatedly soft in design despite its brash glow.
I could literally stare at the Assegai hands and soft, elongated indices all day. And the pièce de résistance? Hidden on the dial above 6 o’clock (see it?) is a discreet dark brown lacquer print that says “Tourbillon Grand Sport”. Together with the rich cocoa flavor of the crosshair dial, it says everything about Ferrier as a watchmaker. It says, “Yes, my tourbillon is hidden, but the clean lines of the Grand Sport design are enough that I don’t need to flaunt the movement.” Turn it around, though, and the caliber makes for another mic-drop moment. For CHF 225,000, it is vastly out of my reach, but that doesn’t affect my admiration for it.
Naoya Hida & Co. Type 2C-1 “Lettercutter” × The Armoury
Ironically, Mark Cho of The Armoury and Drake’s is in the process of auctioning off most of his watches. His sartorial nous and views on dress codes have influenced me a lot, as has his predilection for smaller case sizes. But we all try to consolidate at a certain point, and with a goal of opening another tailoring mecca with the watch funds, I applaud his business sense. This year saw two collaborations cosigned by Mark Cho, the minimalist chic of the H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Small Seconds Total Eclipse × The Armoury and this razor-sharp version of the Naoya Hida & Co Type 2C-1. I have a deep affinity for Japanese watchmaking and 36–38mm case sizes. The Type 2C-1 has a proportionate 37mm case with a slim profile, sweeping polished lugs, and a German silver dial.
My fascination with the dial stems from my failed attempt to become a graphic designer many moons ago. The word “crisp” doesn’t even start to describe it. A brushed minute track contrasts with a satin-smooth center and those Lettercutter numerals. The distinctive typeface was designed by Cho and colleague Elliott Hammer, inspired by Art Deco and the art of stone cutting. This made my day. The letters and numerals are deeply engraved by Naoya Hida’s master engraver Kanou and filled with a navy cashew lacquer. This delicately matches delicately the needle-thin blued seconds hand and Hida’s favorite textured blue leather. The fact that the hand-wound Cal.3020CS is a quirky choice makes the Type 2C even more delightful. It is a solid 28,800vph movement with exquisite finishing and is based, ironically, on the storied Valjoux 7750 sans the chronograph functionality. This, my friends, is a studied choice for US$19,000.
Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222
We here at Fratello have continued to sing the praises of the Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222. Why? This was a bold move from Vacheron. Here we have the complete inspiration for the entire Overseas range, as perfect as a 222 in NOS condition. We see plenty of watches that attempt to feed our incessant appetite for vintage cool. But, to my chagrin, many brands scale them up (Longines and TAG Heuer, I’m looking at you). The 222 has all the right attributes and a sleek, sexy brushed case, only improved by 2022 standards of execution.
The 37mm case is less than 8mm thick with impossibly perfect side bevels. Yes, it looks like yet another Genta masterpiece, but it’s not. The half-circle-notched bezel and delightful hexagonal bracelet links were designed by a young Jörg Hysek. I can only imagine what went into re-engineering this slinky grail watch — and at €77,500 (inc. VAT), it certainly is one. From the champagne dial to the embedded Maltese cross, nothing is out of place. It is perfectly ’70s, perfected. Where are my beige suit, Carrera shades, and Miura?
The affordable Furlan Marri Nero Sabbia
I know, my love for this brand is obvious. And yes, it is annoying that most of the references I have written about were affordable at around €500 but all sold within minutes, even upon re-release. There will be more Furlan Marri mechanical watches, a glimpse of which I reviewed earlier this year, but while we wait, how about this cheeky one-register beauty? Furlan Marri has incorporated its Seiko meca-quartz, GPHG-award-winning chronographs into a permanent collection. The Nero Sabbia Ref. 1072-A plays on the resurgence of retro but not the usual ’60s divers. This is the busy dial art of the 1940s, and the single 60-minute counter at 9 o’clock smartly circumvents the meca-quartz drawback of a 24-hour register. The Nero Sabbia is dressy, mid-century elegance for CHF 555 (ex. taxes) from Furlan Marri.
So, Fratelli, tell me, what are your most significant hits of the year? And have you been tempted to buy a new favorite? Let me know in the comments.
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