Another Friday, another Top 5! This week, we will follow up on last week’s list of full-lume-dial watches with something new. First, thank you to all of you who added some great suggestions in the comments under last week’s list. There were quite a few great ones that could have easily been featured among ours. This week, we decided to look back at the first half of 2024. Instead of the best releases, we decided to focus on some of the most surprising and remarkable watches we’ve seen over the last six months.

While I am taking a little break from the gloomy Dutch weather with a holiday in sunny Croatia, it’s a nice moment to look back and reflect. With the first half of the year almost over, it’s good to review some of the most surprising releases so far. To be clear, they do not have to be the best ones. These are simply watches that stand out for a variety of reasons, such as their design, the way they snuck up on us, or how good they were once we got our hands on them. All five of these watches pleasantly caught us off guard, which is why we call them our most surprising releases of the first half of 2024.

Piaget Polo 79

The original Piaget Polo models are probably the best manifestation of luxury watchmaking in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The watches combined an extravagant stylistic presence with precious metals and quartz movements. With the quartz reign at its peak and the public’s urge to wear flashy timepieces, the Polo was the ultimate statement of that era.

We used to frown upon the stylistic choices of the ’80s, so the praise the Piaget Polo 79 received when it was announced in February of this year was quite surprising. Watch fans know the significance of the Piaget Polo put into the context of that decade, but we certainly didn’t expect to see massive applause for the modern Polo 79.

surprising watches Piaget Polo 79

Having said that, quite a few Fratello team members love this grandiose statement of opulence, including Robert-Jan, Laurits, and yours truly. The fact that Piaget opted for a mechanical movement makes this even more attractive. While it is a step away from the original Polo, it adds significant appeal for watch aficionados. Then again, few will get their hands on one due to limited production numbers and the steep retail price of €81,500 (including 21% VAT).

surprising watches Piaget Polo 79

But what that sum buys you is nothing short of impressive. As Robert-Jan explained, the Polo 79 comes in full 18K gold, weighs almost 200 grams, and measures 38mm wide and 7.45mm thick. Those perfect proportions are achieved thanks to the ultra-thin micro-rotor caliber 1200P1, which is only 2.25mm thick and offers 44 hours of power reserve. But this Piaget Polo 79 is much more about bringing back the stylistic brilliance of the original Polo. The timing, although somewhat surprising, seems perfect.

Audemars Piguet [RE]Master02 Selfwinding surprising watches

Audemars Piguet [RE]Master02 Selfwinding

When Lex returned from his trip to Audemars Piguet HQ in Le Brassus after the unveiling of the [RE]Master02 Selfwinding, one glance at a picture was enough to win me over. I adore the design sense and exquisite craftsmanship that went into creating this standout timepiece. Lex explained that the [RE]Master02 Selfwinding was inspired by Audemars Piguet’s Model 5159BA from 1960, which is on display at the Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet. This new version is an oddball watch with an angular case design and a shaped sapphire crystal that looks amazing.

[RE]Master02 Selfwinding

Moreover, the different elements are executed brilliantly. The 41 × 9.7mm octagonal case is made from 18K sand gold and has a horizontally brushed finish. As Lex explained, sand gold has a hue that lies between white and pink gold, and it looks incredible. It brilliantly accentuates the shape of the case.

Audemars Piguet [RE]Master02 Selfwinding surprising watches

The beautiful “Bleu Nuit Nuage 50” dial and the seemingly simple but stylish hands contrast the case nicely. To me, the design and execution of this dial are breathtaking. Seeing a standalone image of it made me fall in love. Seeing how it’s integrated into the watch, though, reveals that it is a true work of art.

The Royal Oak connection

Ticking away inside the case is AP’s hour-and-minute-only caliber A7129. The brand also uses it for its Royal Oak “Jumbo.” While there is a connection to its flagship Royal Oak, I love that Audemars Piguet surprised us with this €47,400 [RE]Master02 Selfwinding. At last, we get a watch that is not a Royal Oak and shows the brilliance of the brand’s archives. While we love the Royal Oak, Genta’s creation usually dominates the AP’s new introductions. That’s why it is both refreshing and exciting to see this new [RE]Master02 Selfwinding. It’s a watch we most certainly didn’t see coming.

surprising watches Parmigiani Fleurier Toric

Parmigiani Fleurier Toric

Parmigiani has garnered massive praise over the past few years with its Tonda PF line. The combination of its minimalist design with ingenious complications has kept us constantly on the edge of our seats. But when the Fratello team came back from Watches and Wonders, it wasn’t the Tonda PF that people were talking about. This time, it was all about Parmigiani’s revamped Toric collection. In particular, the Toric Petite Seconde made a lasting impression. If you’re familiar with the Toric watches from the past, you’ll know that they hardly stood out. With the new Toric collection, the brand completely revitalized the collection, aligning it with the Tonda PF design style while respecting the details of the previous-generation Toric. The results are rather stunning.

Watches and Wonders surprising watches Parmigiani Fleurier Toric

The two Toric Petite Seconde models come with a newly designed 40.6mm case that keeps the knurled bezel of the previous Toric watches. The Petite Seconde is also available with a platinum or pink gold case. Both are combined with beautiful gold dials with a grained matte texture in a soft color that gives these watches their standout presence. The pink gold version (CHF 45,000) features a sandy gold dial, and the platinum model (CHF 52,000) houses a soft gray-green (or celadon) dial.

surprising watches Parmigiani Fleurier Toric

A minimalist design full of details

While the design might seem minimalist, lovely details abound, like the chapter ring on the periphery with its humble applied indices and the recessed small seconds counter with its slim markers and hand. The watches are powered by the brand’s in-house manual-winding PF780 movement, which features 18K rose gold bridges.

This gorgeous caliber is also a key part of the aesthetic, which is brilliantly completed by the curved-end leather straps. Overall, these surprising new Toric Petite Seconde models show the brilliance of the design style that Parmigiani developed for its brand, not just the Tonda PF.

Dive Watches

Rolex Deepsea ref. 136638LB

The most talked-about Rolex watch during Watches and Wonders this year was undoubtedly the Deepsea ref. 136638LB. This 320g blingy beast of the deep raised a lot of questions. Why would Rolex create a gold version of its most hardcore professional dive watch?

Just when we thought that titanium was the new way forward for The Crown’s sports watches, the brand hit us with this ridiculous gold monster. I could review the specs to emphasize that it’s still a capable dive watch, but that would be useless. The only reason to drum up the specs is to explain how over the top this watch is.

Dive Watches suprising Rolex gold Deepsea

The new Deepsea has a 44mm case that measures 17.7mm thick, 51.8mm long, and 22mm between the lugs. Those dimensions give a pretty good idea of how chunky this gold timepiece is. The watch has a depth rating of a whopping 3,990 meters (12,800 feet) and features a helium escape valve. Rolex combined this gold case with a gold bezel and a blue ceramic insert with gold markings.

Dive Watches suprising Rolex gold Deepsea

The dial is blue with applied yellow gold indexes and white lume so you can still read the time during one of your diving adventures. Inside the case, you will find the brand’s in-house caliber 3235. The automatic Superlative Chronometer movement offers 70 hours of power reserve and an accuracy of ±2 seconds per day.

“Why?” is an easy question to answer

While that is all nice information, that is not what this watch is about or why people were questioning its existence. Most people who raised questions, including us, wanted to know why the people at Rolex would release this €56,300 watch. The simple answer? Because they can. In late April, I wrote a Top 5 list of full-gold Rolex sports watches.

Dive Watches suprising gold Rolex Deepsea

This new release continues that tradition impressively. While it’s about as over the top as it gets, it does suit the brand. But that doesn’t mean we don’t wish to see more titanium Rolex sports models rather than statements like this. After last year’s brilliant titanium Yacht-Master 42, this new Deepsea was quite surprising indeed.

Introducing The Architectural Futurism Of Toledano & Chan

Toledano & Chan B/1

Rectangular bracelet-style watches are having a moment. With an increased appreciation for stylistic timepieces that find the balance between a bracelet and a watch, we have seen quite a few interesting releases that celebrate the style. On top of that, there seems to be a massive increase in people who would love to find a pre-owned bracelet-style watch from the 1970s or ’80s.

In this series of Top 5 articles, I dedicated one list to the brilliance of Piaget watches that fit this mold perfectly. But who would have thought that the most impressive new introduction in that style would come from newcomer Toledano & Chan? We would expect it from the likes of Piaget or Cartier but certainly not from a new brand as its debut release.

Toledano & Chan B/1 surprising watches

Founders Phil Toledano — an artist and avid watch collector — and Alfred Chan — a Chinese watch designer — initially bonded over Brutalist architecture. They wanted to use that as inspiration for a new timepiece. More specifically, the men were inspired by an asymmetrically shaped window of the former Met Breuer building in New York City. It turned out to be a key element in making the B/1 a design that stands out immediately. The 904L steel watch features a case measuring 33.5mm in diameter, 31.5mm long, and 9.1–10.4mm thick with an integrated bracelet. Both display brushed and matte-blasted finishes to create a distinct look.

The magic of the B/1 is in the design details

As Thor explained, the magic of the case is in its asymmetrical presence. It measures 10.4mm at its thickest point, tapering down to 9.1mm at its thinnest, thus recreating the visual effect of the window that inspired the design. The massive bevel on the right side gives the case extra visual drama that combines nicely with the beautiful lapis lazuli dial. The choice of a stone dial fits the similar-style timepieces that big brands created in the 1970s. It also provides a nice contrast with the utilitarian look of the case and bracelet.

Inside the watch, Toledano & Chan opted for a Sellita SW200-1, which offers 41 hours of power reserve and is operated by the crown on the left side of the case. This B/1 is one of the most surprising and standout releases of the first half of 2024. All 175 pieces sold out quickly for US$4,000, and it will be great to see if Phil Toledano and Alfred Chan will continue their adventure with a follow-up release. We will be keeping an eye out for that!

surprising watches Toledano & Chan B/1

Final thoughts on the most surprising watches of the first half of 2024

There you have it! These are five standout releases, in no particular order, that pleasantly surprised us in the first half of 2024. We could have picked many more watches that would’ve suited this list perfectly. But that, dear Fratelli, is why we would love to turn the question to you all. What have been some of the most surprising watches of 2024 for you? Let us know in the comments section, and we’ll see you next week for another Top 5 list!