It’s almost a wrap for 2023, a year loaded with new watch releases. After a turbulent past few years, the industry has gotten back on track. We witnessed new releases almost every week. Some were weak, and others were ambitious. For the most part, however, we saw brilliant new timepieces pushed to the market, so putting together a subjective list of the best ones of the year was going to be relatively easy to do — or so I thought. Luckily, I got a bit of help.

Just a few weeks ago, in one of the episodes of Fratello On Air, Mike and I shared some of our favorite new watches of the year. I will talk about those, but I have some more that I enjoyed seeing this year.

Watches I Like To Look At

The best watches of 2023: Bvlgari Octo Finissimo CarbonGold

Let’s start the recap with the most excellent carbon watch of the year, the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo CarbonGold. The breathtaking design of the Octo Finissimo, which many of us are fans of, finally arrived in a case material that we had not seen coming. Whether the watch comes in steel, titanium, or gold, the Octo Finissimo’s overall look works. If you try the titanium model, its lightness and large size capture your attention. Yet if you put the gold version on your wrist, the same size matches with incredibly balanced heft. In both cases, the watch wears and looks great on the wrist. I was curious to see and feel this new carbon version on my wrist when it came out at Geneva Watch Days in late August.

More than a handful of carbon and gold timepieces hit the market in 2023. It’s also worth mentioning that I’m not a huge fan of this combination. For whatever reason, to me, carbon feels out of place when paired with gold. One is super sporty, while the other feels more elegant. But perhaps that’s why this watch is so stellar. The Bvlgari Octo Finissimo CarbonGold is exceptionally light and, as you would expect with this model, also super svelte at only 6.9mm thick.

Watches I Like To Look At

Inside the watch beats the brand’s in-house BVL 138 movement, a work of watchmaking art. Plates of gold, a micro-rotor made of platinum, 60 hours of power reserve, and a 2.23mm overall thickness are this caliber’s main features. Yes, the Octo Finissimo CarbonGold is a magnificent timepiece with an equally magnificent movement. It had to be on my list.

Fratello x Nivada Grenchen Racing Chronograph Lifestyle Shot Car2 the best watches of 2023

Fratello × Nivada Grenchen Racing Chronograph

This is another one from my podcast list and one that hits home. Early this year, a project we worked on came to see the light of day. Our collaboration with Nivada Grenchen, the Fratello Racing Chronograph, was a fun assignment to work on. For the first time, we put out a watch in five different dial colors for every watch fan out there. Our collaboration aimed to revive some of Nivada’s best design elements from the past. The racing dial with a bit of Fratello twist was the center of the project. Then came the case design of yet another important vintage Nivada model. Finally, we made it hand-wound, just like a real vintage chronograph. The rest just fell in line real fast. Luckily, we weren’t the only ones who loved the final product.

the best watches of 2023 Fratello × Nivada Grenchen Racing Chronograph

I feel incredibly proud and humbled to have been part of this project. In an industry where vintage inspiration is the driving force behind many releases, creating something unique was quite the challenge. The Nivada Grenchen Racing Chronograph’s size feels excellent, the bracelet is a treat, and the simple three-register dial is easy to read. I have had so much fun with this watch since I got mine; it has become my grab-and-go piece. Yes, I may be biased, but that’s understandable. Still, the product is living a life of its own, and fans of the brand love it, just like I do. This is why, to me and (hopefully) them, the Fratello × Nivada Grenchen Racing Chronograph is one of the best watch releases of 2023.

Grand Seiko SBGW305

Great minds think alike. When Mike and I put personal lists together for the podcast, we rarely, if ever, share them before the show. It’s always cool if we pick different timepieces so that we can offer some variety. But not knowing what the other has in store for us is also great fun. Luckily, this time, Mike had another backup watch to discuss because we both picked the Grand Seiko SBGW305 as our favorite watch from GS in 2023. It’s always challenging to pick a fav from the Japanese brand’s lineup. Grand Seiko creates some of the most astonishing timepieces I have ever seen. Nevertheless, the SBGW305 stood out among this array of beautiful offerings with its simplicity. The watch has a charm that is hard to match.

The SBGW305 looks vintage and modern simultaneously, bringing the best of both worlds into one timepiece. It is an extremely elegant manual-winding watch in a 37mm steel case with 72 hours of power reserve. Its dial is the most captivating feature. It is so clean and beautiful — utter Japanese perfection. Furthermore, at €5,800, this is a relatively affordable piece for Grand Seiko. Yes, that is certainly a lot of money for a watch, but it’s a fair price to pay for what you are getting. A bracelet with three beads-of-rice rows for the center links is something you don’t see often. If you are a fan of leather, the drilled lug holes help you easily change the bracelet to a strap. I enjoy the Grand Seiko watches in my collection, but I’d love to add the SBGW305 sometime, without a doubt.

The Laurent Ferrier Série Atelier V Sport Auto 40

Laurent Ferrier Série Atelier V Sport Auto 40

Haute Horlogerie is a weird and wonderful realm in our industry. Everything that does not work in the mainstream or traditional (however you want to call it) part of the business is the norm here. There are so many characters, stories to tell, and timepieces to see. Made in small batches, sometimes in collaboration with another brand, these watches are often not just machines to measure time but also pieces of functional art. This is how I feel about them, at least, and Laurent Ferrier is a prime example. During Geneva Watch Days, the Swiss atelier released its most fun project this year. A traditional, decadent design and unique case and hand shapes are all characteristics of Laurent Ferrier. We don’t usually see loud colors or playfulness, just pure and straightforward high-end watchmaking.

Well, the Laurent Ferrier Série Atelier V Sport Auto 40 is every as bit as high-end as their other models and more. Paying tribute to Mr. Ferrier’s life as a distinguished car racer, the watch is the loudest, most daring Laurent Ferrier model to date, yet it’s done in a classy and tasteful way. Perhaps that’s what drew me to this timepiece, and I could not get enough of it back on that hot August morning in the Hotel Beau-Rivage. “Expect the unexpected” is the perfect phrase to describe what many of my fellow journalists thought when they first saw the Série Atelier V Sport Auto 40 in real life. Green is the new blue, and it’s a dial color I’d love to see more of in 2024. It will be hard, though, to beat the beauty of this particular green dial.

Summer Blue
Honorable mentions

These are just a few of an army of new releases from 2023, but we need to draw the line somewhere. However, I could still throw some of my best-loved timepieces here. I love Omega’s new Summer Blue line, especially after having spent significant time with two of those releases (here’s my Aqua Terra review). The Doxa Sub 300β Sharkhunter is a daring model. Another watch with a black and gold theme, it’s everything you don’t expect from a diver, but it works well regardless. Ming deserves a mention as the brand keeps pushing boundaries, and I love to see all of its new timepieces. Tudor, Breitling, Longines, and Seiko all had remarkable new watches coming to the market. It is hard to pick one. Overall, it’s been an incredible year for our industry regarding new releases. Here’s to an even better 2024 — if that’s even possible.