As the year comes to an end, some of our editors will be highlighting their favorite watches released this year. I think you’ll agree that narrowing it down to just five watches is no easy feat, especially as this year saw so many special releases from big and small brands alike. From an update to the Omega Speedmaster and new Rolex Explorer models, to classics like the Patek Philippe Nautilus receiving a splash of color on its dial. Even microbrands kept busy this year, launching almost too many exciting watches to count during the past 12 months.

So, needless to say, I was dreading making my list. Having spent far too much time slotting brands and in and out of the list, I feel confident in having narrowed it down to five watches that I really enjoyed and that I would absolutely love to own myself. Though with one of my picks being a sold-out limited edition, and another’s release having been shrouded in controversy, I think you’ll find that the list is as varied in styles as it is in price points. So, make sure to check out all five of my 2021 picks, and let me know what you think of them in the comments below.

Cartier Tank Must SolarBeat

I’m kicking off the list with a watch that I basically already own. The new Cartier Tank Must SolarBeat does resemble my Tank Solo on the surface. But looking more closely, it becomes apparent that this 2021 release is a clever upgrade to the brand’s classic model. Its rounded edges and more square shape — reminiscent of the Must models of the 1970s — give the new Tank a more vintage aesthetic. It’s one of those watches that might look dainty, and feel impossibly small, but that just makes perfect sense on the wrist. My pick would be the larger of the two models, with a case size of 33 × 25.5 × 6.6mm. I was lucky enough to try this one on earlier this year at the Cartier Amsterdam pop-up event in De Bijenkorf. I got a side-by-side comparison with my own Tank, and I certainly didn’t forget about it.

Now, you may be thinking: why would you want the SolarBeat if it looks almost the same? And that’s an excellent point, but the clue is in the SolarBeat’s name. For me, the most exciting thing about this Tank is that it elevates the already cool quartz Tank into a new level of convenience. The solar movement is beautifully integrated and gives the watch 16 years of battery life. And I must say that as a stubborn fan of mechanical watches, the Tank Solo is one of the few watches that I not only don’t mind but actually prefer to have a quartz movement. That’s why the SolarBeat is a clear winner in my books, despite the bizarre lack of availability and the fact that it has not yet appeared on the Cartier website since its official release in September.

Tissot PRX

Here’s a watch that caused quite a splash earlier this year. I think everyone at Fratello HQ who got to see the new Tissot PRX watches was more than impressed. These slim, versatile, and extremely wearable watches swing well above their weight, especially given the affordable price point. I’m a big fan of the Tissot brand and own several of its watches, but it was always the brand’s vintage pieces that caught my eye. So by bringing back an old design, further refining it, and equipping the watch with the Powermatic 80 movement, Tissot hit every nail square on the head. Not only did this result in a sleek, modern watch with a beautiful integrated bracelet and awesome textured dial. But you also get a highly anti-magnetic movement with 80-hours of power reserve. All that, for just €660.

I think the only question to ask here is, “How do I not already own one of these?” And the answer, or rather my answer, is that there’s simply no rush. This seems to be a model that’s here to stay, and that the brand will hopefully iterate on, with different colors and complications. I don’t know what a PRX chronograph would look like, but a quick Google search for an obscure vintage reference (Tissot C450 PR Chrono PR100 Valjoux 7750) reveals something that I’d love to see make a comeback. So, for now, I will bide my time, and try not to be tempted by the already amazing blue-dialed model for as long as I can. That being said, I can’t promise I won’t cave and end up getting myself one of these brilliant watches.

Synchron Military Watch Press 2

Synchron Military

Have you ever heard the expression “a day late and a dollar short”? Well, it basically describes my experience with the Synchron Military. This is a watch that I heard about shortly after it was released, and couldn’t get out of my mind. However, I didn’t have the spare cash to pull the trigger, and before I knew it, they were all gone. Both the stainless steel and black PVD models are just incredibly cool, especially when you learn a little bit about the history of the watches. Now, you may be wondering why the Synchron makes the cut, but the new Aquastar doesn’t. Well, I set myself a one Rick-Marai-watch limit for this list. As the Aquastar already made my Best Dive Watches Of 2021 article, I thought I’d go with what’s probably my personal favorite diver released this year for this one.

Synchron Military Watch 1

So why didn’t the Synchron Military make my other list? Well, I was probably just too annoyed at the fact I didn’t get one. As you can imagine, these now fetch prices well beyond the initial $990 offered for pre-orders. A priceless element is the cool bit of trivia behind these watches. Originally made by Doxa, the mad genius that is Rick Marai released them after having left the brand and purchasing the rights to the Synchron name and logo. This explains the vintage charm and familiar looks of this awesome diver. Will the Synchron Military make a comeback? Will I have to wait for Doxa to release a re-issue of this watch? Or will I have to make our very own Rob Nudds an offer he can’t refuse? Only time will tell, but I know for sure I’d love to own one of these someday.

Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze

I’m sure some of you more familiar with my Instagram feed will have seen this coming. It’s no surprise that the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze makes it to my list. I’ve always found Hamilton’s field watches to be incredibly good-looking. The simple matte black dials, decorated with a full set of Arabic numerals, additional 24h markings, and the signature syringe hands. It’s an instantly recognizable aesthetic that makes these watches the perfect grab-and-go, do-anything, go-anywhere pieces. That said, this year’s 38mm bronze release adds a bit of fun and color to the classic combination. And though my go-to would likely be an older (pre-fauxtina) model, or even the H69419933 (with a different dial layout and date at 3 o’clock), the temptation to go bronze remains.

You see, I’ve never owned a bronze watch, and other than the now long-sold-out Fratelloris, I can’t think of a better watch for the material. And though some might argue that a tool watch should only be steel, I think an exception can be made in this case. Plus, when you’re buying bronze, it’s never going to be your only watch. It’s likely because you’re looking to try something new. Plus, for those who want to enjoy seeing the watch patina as it joins you on your adventures, this is a perfect candidate for the job. With a sapphire crystal, a titanium case back, 80 hours of power reserve, and 50m of water resistance (which I deeply wish was 100m), it’s a perfect choice for just about any adventure.

Doxa SUB 600T

A late addition to my list, the Doxa SUB 600T was a watch introduced this year as an LE for our friends down under, Time + Tide. It was then followed up with a full-production release on the 30th of November in Doxas’s six distinctive colors. Additionally, the watches all come with a choice between a steel or ceramic bezel, on a steel bracelet, or on a rubber strap. So many choices! Honestly, I almost felt like leaving this one out. I didn’t want to go on record stating my combination of choice, as this would imply actually being able to settle on just one! Part of me would love to go with the Sharkhunter (black dial) with matching ceramic bezel, but then a voice whispers “professional with steel bezel” in my ear, and before I know it, it’s actually the Searambler with a steel bezel in the shopping cart.

Honestly, the choice is truly overwhelming. This is my main gripe with the watch, and it’s a good one to have. Ultimately, I think I’d spring for a Sharkhunter with a steel bezel. I love the big orange hand, and the steel bezel is not only a bit cheaper, but it also makes the watch unmistakeably Doxa. My other gripe, and call it a Eurocentric bit of overkill, but I’d love to see a meter-scale bezel on these. Doxa, if you’re listening, you know what to do! In the meantime, much like with the PRX, I’ll bide my time and wait to see what moves the brand makes next before making a move myself. Although, as more of these Doxa SUB 600T watches appear on my Instagram feed, I can’t promise to hold out for a lot longer without one.

Final Thoughts

Wow! Thanks for sticking through to the end of this top-5 list turned watch-collecting-therapy session. I think if nothing else we’ve found out a lot about my strangely neurotic and overthinking collecting habits. Whereas there are others who are far more impulsive, I tend to try and forget the watches I really like. If they come back to my thoughts weeks or months after, then perhaps they are the ones that will make the cut. And so far this year, these five (along with a couple of others) are the ones that have passed this test. Will I be adding one to my collection any time soon? Maybe. Probably. Perhaps not! I really can’t say, as, in the end, I will more than likely end up going for some oddball vintage piece I find for peanuts on any of the classified ad sites.

Either way, my dear Fratelli, if/when I do, you’ll be the first to find out.

In the meantime, let me know your thought on my top five picks of 2021 in the comments below. Are the low-budget picks ones you also like? If not, stay tuned for more picks from other editors. There are sure to be big differences in our choices. That’s the beautiful thing about watch collecting. And speaking of which, if you want to keep up with the latest comings and goings in my collection, make sure to check out my Instagram: @ncgwatches