With the end of the year quickly approaching, it is time to reflect on 2023. Today, we’ll look back specifically at the Haute Horlogerie releases that stood out to us, from the fantastically futuristic to the terrific traditional. High-end horology seems unaffected by the market slowing down somewhat, so we have been spoiled for choice yet again.

The following are some of our favorite releases of the past year. It is a subjective list comprising a broad range of styles within high-end horology. Let’s dive in!

MB&F HM8 Mark 2 High-end horology highlights 2023

High-End Horology Highlight #1: MB&F HM8 Mark 2

The first on our list is the MB&F HM8 Mark 2. It is another fantastical creation by Max Büsser and his band of friends. This one takes its inspiration from car design, specifically, double-bubble roofs. It also reminds me of the see-through engine cover on a Ferrari F40.

Whatever inspired it, the result is both awe-inspiringly weird and supremely attractive. I found this to be an MB&F creation that I could see myself actually wearing, unlike the recent HM11, which, arguably, is even more impressive. The white “hood” is executed in MB&F’s proprietary CarbonMacrolon, and it provides a sapphire-clad view of the engine underneath. That engine is a Girard-Perregaux caliber at heart, fitted with a jump-hour module.

The time is angled towards the wearer, displayed through sapphire prisms, and is set via a double de-clutch crown. You push it in and rotate it 270 degrees to engage it. MB&F released 33 pieces in green and a regular-production model in white. At €70,000, I think the HM8 Mark 2 easily counts as a high-end horology highlight of 2023.

Grand Seiko SBGZ009 High-end horology highlights 2023

High-End Horology Highlight #2: Grand Seiko SBGZ009

Next, we go from the crazy imaginative to the traditionally perfect. Another high-end horology highlight for us was the Grand Seiko SBGZ009. This platinum beauty from Japan is inspired by the local birch forests. Now, I do not typically enjoy being fed far-fetched marketing blurbs, but in this case, the inspiration really shows. Both the dial and the case have been chiseled by hand to represent a birch’s bark.

Inside ticks the hand-wound Spring Drive caliber 9R02 with an accuracy of ±15 seconds per month. Equally impressive is the way it accomplishes its power reserve of 84 hours. It has a relatively typical double-barrel setup, but it also reclaims some of its excess energy. When the watch is fully wound, its torque is greater than required. A clever mechanism puts around 30% of that power back into re-winding the spring.

To me, though, the aesthetics of this watch are the true highlight. It has a tranquility and cleanness to it that I absolutely love. Interestingly, at €80,000, the Grand Seiko SBGZ009 is even more expensive than the MB&F HM8 Mark 2.

High-End Horology Highlight #3: Greubel Forsey Balancier Convexe S²

The third high-end horology highlight of the year came through downsizing an existing watch. Halfway through the year, Greubel Forsey surprised us all by releasing its Balancier Convexe S² in a 41.5mm case size, down from the original 43.5mm. Now, why would we consider that a highlight? Are we really that eager to see smaller watches?

Not at all! The reason for labeling this a highlight in high horology is how it was done. Size and proportions are crucial design elements in watches. You cannot just take a watch and resize it. That introduces all sorts of design issues, and that’s even before we consider technical challenges. Greubel Forsey had to completely redesign the unique partly visible movement architecture. Even the curves of the top and bottom crystals required reworking.

Gruebel Forsey Balancier Convexe S² High-end horology highlights 2023

But the result is stunning. Interestingly, I find the smaller version better looking than its bigger brother. The dial is a little better filled, making the watch come alive a little more. Maintaining the beauty of an original design during downsizing is one thing. Improving it is a different matter altogether. Admittedly, this is a bit of a personal indulgence as I am obsessed with such techniques in watch design. But the Greubel Forsey Balancier Convexe S² is such a great champion for skillful design that I felt it was justified. This masterclass in downsizing comes with an eye-watering CHF 212,000 price tag.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duoface Tourbillon High-end horology highlights 2023

High-End Horology Highlight #4: JLC Reverso Tribute Duoface Tourbillon

We go back to a classical watch once more. This highlight is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duoface Tourbillon. Executed in 18K rose gold, you get two time zones in the typical Duoface style. That in itself doesn’t justify a €130,000 price or a feature on this list.

Those are justified by the caliber inside. This specific Duoface, as the name implies, features a tourbillon. And it’s one of the flying kind, at that. Naturally, you can admire it from both sides. One side is relatively traditional and subdued, featuring just a champagne sunburst dial, applied indices, and an aperture for the tourbillon. The other side is a bit more involved. The black dial floats on a gold hobnail plate. In the top-right corner, there is still a beautiful day/night indicator.

The great thing is that this work of art still measures less than 10mm thick. Plus, the new-for-2023 rose gold guise looks particularly good. The Reverso Tribute Duoface Tourbillon was one of the few horological highlights that we all agreed on at Fratello HQ.

Chopard L.U.C Strike One High-end horology highlights 2023

High-End Horology Highlight #5: Chopard L.U.C Strike One

Next, we have a highlight from the good people at Chopard. This is one of those true manufactures that flies under the radar of many, but it really shouldn’t. This new Strike One is a prime example of why.

This is a 40mm watch in ethical white gold, featuring a stunning galvanically plated white gold dial. The dial is textured through detailed guilloché work and plated in a unique petrol-green hue. The magic happens underneath, although the keen observer can spot it dial-side too. The Strike One chimes at every whole hour. The exposed hammer hits a sapphire gong if you so desire. If you do not, you can switch it off via the crown-integrated pusher. An indicator at 12 o’clock shows you the current status of the mechanism.

The L.U.C 96.32-L caliber inside is finished to Haute Horlogerie standards and bears the venerable Poinçon de Genève. The 22K gold micro-rotor is yet another beautiful element of this high-end horology highlight. Interestingly, we have yet another entry in the same price range as the first two in this article. The Chopard L.U.C Strike One comes in at €75,000.

Girard-Perregaux Neo Constant Escapement High-end horology highlights 2023

High-End Horology Highlight #6: Girard-Perregaux Neo Constant Escapement

So far, I have highlighted watches that we at Fratello particularly liked. By all means, this is a highly subjective list. But even if it were more objective and based on significance alone, I am sure that this watch would still earn a spot. The Girard-Perregaux Neo Constant Escapement brought horological innovation in the classical sense of striving for mechanical accuracy. And for that alone, it deserves its place here. Actually, this is a refinement of an invention that already won GP a prize in 2013, so it isn’t technically new for 2023. But you know what? It’s almost Christmas, so I’ll be lenient for once.

The Neo Constant Escapement addresses the problem of torque differences as a mechanical watch’s mainspring unwinds. This results in timing deviations between a fully wound and a nearly depleted watch. Girard-Perregaux uses a silicium buckling spring, visibly positioned above 6 o’clock, to even out the energy from the mainspring. Simply put, it functions like a playing card between your thumb and index fingers, buckling from one side to the other.

If this tickles your fancy, I highly recommend exploring Nacho’s earlier article about the tech. Let me suffice to add that the resulting watch is also beautiful to behold. For a price of €105,000, you do expect your fancy innovations to be attractively packaged, no?

Reflecting on a year of high-end watchmaking

These six watches are merely the tip of the Haute Horlogerie iceberg. These may be some of our favorite releases, but the list doesn’t do justice to all the amazingly skillful watchmakers, artisans, designers, and visionaries who create such works of art day in and day out. Still, part of the joy of writing for Fratello is to have the privilege of telling the world about their creations.

As mentioned before, the higher-end watch world doesn’t seem to suffer like the broader watch market, which still seems to be softening somewhat. So it seems that we can expect to see more fantastical creations in 2024. For now, I think we can conclude that 2023 hasn’t been bad in this sense. It hasn’t been bad at all.

Which is your favorite high-end horology release of 2023? Please do add it to our little list in the comments below!