The Best Releases Of 2022 That Flew Under The Radar — Our Top 5 Picks From Zenith, Seiko, Louis Erard, And More
Can we still surprise you when it comes to new watches? And what about watches that fly under the radar? Well, hardly any watches truly fly under the radar these days. Still, we here at Fratello HQ thought it would be nice to highlight some of the less-talked-about releases of 2022 that deserve all the love and attention they can get!
When it comes to picking watches for this list, the “limited edition” ghost quickly becomes part of the discussion. Some people might say it’s not worth talking about watches that sold out in an instant. That’s a fair point, but it would also be strange to ignore them as if they didn’t exist. Additionally, if they are really great releases, we would love to see more of them, maybe in slightly different variations. Either way, this list highlights some of this year’s great releases that weren’t part of the ongoing watch talk amongst the Fratelli. Without further ado, let’s jump in!
Zenith Defy Revival A3642
We must go back to January this year for the first watch. I was immediately excited when I saw the first teasers of the Zenith Defy Revival A3642 on social media. Just seeing the characteristic hour markers was enough to reveal what watch Zenith was bringing back. It was a ballsy move because the first-ever Zenith Defy from 1969 had a very outspoken design. But what a design it was! If you consider that Zenith introduced the watch in 1969 and three years later, Genta revolutionized the world of luxury watches as we know it today, it says something about the path the Zenith designers were on. As Daan explained, Zenith perfectly respected the dimensions of the original A3642 with its “Miura” case.
The watch, with its octagonal case and the 14-sided bezel, is modestly sized with a 37mm diameter and a 44mm lug-to-lug. It offers 300 meters of water resistance, which gave the Defy the nickname “The Vault” back in 1969. The remarkable design continues with the gradient dial with its square, horizontally grooved indices, and it’s made complete with the iconic Gay Frères ladder bracelet. Inside the case, Zenith used its manufacture automatic Elite 670 caliber. This movement operates at 28,800vph while delivering a power reserve of 50 hours. Zenith did an awesome job bringing this A3642 back. The reason it was hardly talked about after its release can be attributed to the fact that it sold out the moment it was announced. All 250 pieces sold for CHF 6,900 immediately, and along with them went the impact of the release.
Le Diptyque Louis Erard × Alain Silberstein
Last year, Le Triptyque Louis Erard × Alain Silberstein took the world by storm, and it was easy to see why. It was a series consisting of three different models, all featuring a spectacular case in combination with Silberstein’s instantly recognizable dial designs. Rob reviewed the Régulateur II, my favorite of the three. However, all three watches produced in a limited run of 178 pieces sold out immediately. But did you know that Louis Erard and Alain Silberstein released two of the three watches with white dials in April of this year? I’m sure plenty of you didn’t.
These white-dial versions — Le Régulateur Blanc and La Semaine Blanche — were sold separately as limited editions of 178 pieces. Additionally, Louis Erard produced 28 limited-edition box sets named Le Diptyque Louis Erard × Alain Silberstein. I love the complete contrast compared to last year’s black versions. While remaining colorful, these white versions look a lot less bold, and I love that. The combination of the beautiful 40mm case constructed of micro-blasted Grade 2 titanium and polished Grade 5 titanium and the white dials with the colorful elements works very well.
And they are perfectly complemented by the gray nylon straps with white lining. Through the sapphire case backs, you will see the modified Sellita SW200-1 movements that make the front of these watches so much fun. Both of the watches sold out quickly for CHF 4,000 each. Once again, that might be why we didn’t talk about it all that much. But we do need more of these brilliant Louis Erard × Alain Silberstein creations.
Rado Captain Cook Over-Pole
The next release was, without a doubt, Rado’s best of the year. And although the Captain Cook Over-Pole is a limited edition, you should still be able to get your hands on one easily due to its obscure nature. As Mike explained, Rado produced a total of 1,962 pieces of this modern reinterpretation of the original Over-Pole from 1962. And Rado maintained the charm of the original piece really well by keeping the 37mm size relatively in check with the 35mm of the original. Speaking of which, Mike also wrote a #TBT article about the original Over-Pole back in 2019. As you can read in his article, it featured a bezel that showed a second timezone in conjunction with an internal 24-hour scale.
The watch features a 37mm stainless steel case with a lug-to-lug of 43.1mm while the thickness is only 10.3mm. The case features the characteristic inward-sloping bezel that would go on to define the brand’s Captain Cook models. Rado uses a black ceramic insert on this “stadium” bezel, complete with laser-engraved cities, to help keep track of another timezone. The dial comes in a silver gradient with faceted indexes that are faithful to the original model. You will see the ETA 2804-based caliber R862 with 80 hours of power reserve, Côtes de Genève finishing, and high-accuracy adjustment through the sapphire case back.
This Over-Pole can likely still be found for €2,550. It comes with a leather pouch, a brown leather strap, and a great-looking stainless steel beads-of-rice bracelet. It’s an absolutely gorgeous piece celebrating the past with its modern reinterpretation.
Seiko Prospex SPB301 “Save the Ocean” Special Edition
With the huge stream of new releases that Seiko and Grand Seiko unleash to the world, it’s easy to find ones that fly under the radar. Indeed, we could have picked a handful of them for this list, and you probably have your favorites as well that you think are not talked about enough. But there is a specific reason why I picked this Seiko Prospex SPB301. Did you ever notice that Seiko doesn’t grace us with many white-dialed Prospex divers? It’s a rare breed in the Prospex lineup. But this SPB301 takes a white dial to the next level. The SPB301 is one of three watches that make up the special-edition “Save the Ocean” series.
The watch is a 1970 Diver’s Modern Re-interpretation that uses the famous “Willard” case. It comes in at 42.7mm wide, is 13.2mm thick, and offers 200 meters of water resistance. As Nacho said in his intro article, the watch is still very wearable despite its dimensions. But the show’s true stars are the light blue bezel in combination with the icy white dial. I love that the dial has a texture that makes it much more than just another white dial. It brings depth, and combined with the blue bezel, it makes the SPB301 a spectacular sight. Inside the case, you will find Seiko’s caliber 6R35, which offers 70 hours of power reserve. At €1,400, the SPB301 is definitely amongst the more expensive Propex divers. But what you get in return looks stunning and is a great break from the norm.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin ref. 16202
Really?! Yes, really. This one is all about context. We knew it was coming. We hoped that it would be good, and as soon as we saw that Audemars Piguet had done a great job with the new Royal Oak collection, it seemed like we all moved on. Well, except for the people that could get their hands on one, maybe. Everything about the update of the Royal Oak for its 50th anniversary made sense. And that’s maybe there wasn’t much talk about the Royal Oak pretty shortly after the introduction of the new collection. The flagship of the collection is the Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin, and its main updates were a brand new in-house movement and a new dial. Overall, we could say everything about the update of the ref. 16202 respected Gérald Genta’s legacy brilliantly.
We said goodbye to the iconic caliber 2121, which is generally regarded as one of the best and most beautiful movements ever produced. As Robert-Jan stated, “It’s an incredibly thin and beautiful movement to observe through the sapphire case back, and it was the reason I traded my 39mm reference 15300 for the 15202.” The new caliber 7121 sees the operating frequency upped to 28,800vph from 19,800vph. Additionally, the power reserve increased to a modern standard of 55 hours. Additionally, all of the updated Royal Oak models produced in 2022 feature a special “50 Years” rotor.
Ultimately, we hoped and concluded that the new Royal Oak “Jumbo” ref. 16202 was going to be as good as it is. Audemars Piguet did everything right in continuing the legacy of the Royal Oak perfectly. Except for one thing, maybe — the price for the stainless steel ref. 16202 is a very steep €32,400. But we knew that was coming as well. Overall, the new Royal Oak “Jumbo” is still as brilliant as it ever was, which may be why we didn’t spend much time talking about it after the introduction.
Let’s hear from you
There you have it — our list of five watches that didn’t get as much attention as they deserved. But these are just five examples from the multitude of releases in 2022. I’m sure you have your own “under the radar” picks that would be great for this list. As always, this list serves as a conversation starter rather than gospel. That’s why I am turning the question over to you. What are some of your favorite releases that weren’t as talked about as you would have liked in 2022? Please let us know in the comments section.