Staying objective as a writer on something as unnecessary as wristwatches is difficult, and 2023 made it worse. Brands seemed to be shrugging off post-pandemic woes with a vengeance and for good this time, despite sales lagging behind expectations. So for me, picking the best watches of 2023 was never going to be easy.

But we need something to keep our mood positive, and many of the watches I pick for my best-of lists are pure daydream material. The same goes for commissions and picks from press releases that refuse to keep to the big release weeks like Watches and Wonders and Geneva Watch Days. With great difficulty, I’ve picked three watches from this deep basket of goodness. The first is a Tudor that I’m afraid to try on for fear that it might derail me. The last two are grail material consisting of the Sylvain Pinaud × Massena LAB collab and a large, dusty pink dream from Laurent Ferrier.

The Best Watches Of 2023 Thor’s Picks

The Tudor Black Bay 54 that I dare not try on

Why is my first choice, the Black Bay 54, a Tudor that I haven’t tried on properly yet? In a year when I felt myself moving away from vintage-inspired pieces and retro love, this caused me trouble. OK, I did slip it on for a few seconds, but that was enough to scare me; yes, it’s that good. I’ve owned the 41mm Black Bay Black and the Black Bay 58, but neither was a keeper. I loved the chunky proportions of the broad-lugged 41mm version, but it was way too big, and the BB58 felt off in some way with its too-slim lugs. This time, I feel the proportions are back, and the monochrome 60-minute bezel? It’s a calm beauty compared to the red-triangled, gold-highlighted version with its busy 15-minute scale.

This bezel makes you notice the gilt-tone dial details, which are sublime by themselves, and the 37mm case is perfection. In fact, I felt a pang of guilt even mentioning this super-lauded timepiece. It’s definitely because I am having a retro-dial-down moment and lean ever more toward modern lines. I’m worried that this proportional perfection is so good that it will have me back to square one. Add up the slim case thickness of just over 11mm and the 70-hour MT5400 caliber, and €3,970 represents big value for the Black Bay 54 and its Rolex family ties.

the best watches of 2023 Sylvain Pinaud × Massena LAB Chronograph Monopoussoir

Did Sylvain Pinaud × Massena LAB offer us the grand collaboration of the year?

Collaborations are not the hot mini-grail drops they used to be. With some brands churning out brand collaborations almost weekly, sadly, I’ve grown weary. However, there was one big exception that I saw up close in Geneva, the notable Chronograph Monopoussoir Sylvain Pinaud × Massena LAB. Sylvain Pinaud is a great watchmaker with a few GPHG nominations and wins, well known inside our tight-knit community of watch obsession. This changed when William Massena and his LAB dropped their highest-priced collaborative effort to date.

This monopusher chronograph by Pinaud and Massena LAB is strikingly modern while traditionally finished. This 10-piece redesign of its steampunk-ish predecessor comes in monochrome titanium with a price of CHF 130,000. Pinaud will make only three pieces a year, so it’ll indeed be a rare beast in the wild. Housing a proprietary hand-finished movement, it deserves its 42mm size, with sapphire side-view windows offering a titillating bonus. The intricate open-worked dial is another collaborative creation with Comblémine SA, Kari Voutilainen’s dial manufacturer. And Voutilainen’s touch shows. A scene of brushed, muted grays and circular-brushed chapter rings is enlivened by a 45-minute pointer and central chrono seconds in a traditionally blued hue. This watch is a grail but resolutely modern in its titanium case. And that, rather than retro baiting, is what we need to draw a younger (wealthy) audience to the watch game.

best watches of 2023 Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport Tourbillon Pursuit

An evocative grail by Laurent Ferrier

Regarding my favorite watch on this list, I found myself in a similar situation as Balazs in Geneva on the 30th of August last year, dumbfounded by a large 44mm grail with a delicate, balanced dial. Many of you follow my writing, and I am honest about my favorite brands. For me, Laurent Ferrier is right up there. This was only exacerbated by visiting the small LF atelier during Geneva Watch Days last year, with grail-defining consequences.

Observing the assembly of a tourbillon is a defining moment for any journalist, but the GPHG-winning Grand Sport Tourbillon Pursuit has a lot more to unpack. Besides the fact that the twirling complexity of this miniature regulating ballerina is hidden from view, it is a bold move.

A hidden tourbillon is a centuries-old regulating feature. With 2023 production tolerances, it is not strictly necessary for chronometry but is often used to flaunt a brand’s stature. Not for Laurent Ferrier, though. Instead, there’s a subtle announcement through a tonal dial text. But you’ll need to turn the watch around to see it within the manufacture caliber LF619.01. At 44mm wide, is also a large watch, but through the magic of titanium and honed ergonomics, it wears unfeasibly comfortably. The first image is of my forearm in a hotel suite at the Beau Rivage. Considering my abseiling options, I was close to the terrace railings. That is how good this sports watch felt on the wrist. However wide on paper, its size does not appear imposing as the elegant, comfortably rounded design feels soft.

best watches of 2023 Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport Tourbillon Pursuit

The slightly darker tone of titanium makes you notice that it feels as well-defined as steel, both in satin brushing and polished bevels. And that says a lot for Ferrrier’s watchmakers, titanium not being an easy material to work with. The understated dial does not need a tourbillon window to make it special unless you’re a fan of bling attributes. A soft tone of pink is all it takes. Its color comes from the sunrise at La Sarthe during the 24 Hours of Le Mans. How is that for a poetic inspiration? Perfectly framed by an imposing bezel, the Grand Sport Tourbillon Pursuit is suave, quietly spoken, and understated for a CHF 175,000 watch.

So, my dear Fratelli, did this story make sense or confuse you? The only watch here that I am deeply in love with is unattainable. Should I have kept to reachable goals? Then again, I still felt that these were the best watches of 2023, regardless of my budget. Let me know what you think in the comments along with your top picks.