Favorite Watches (and Brand) of 2022, Part 3
Right, this is it! Part 3 of 3: My 2022 Favorite Watches and my Favorite Brand this year.
For my own convenience (and yours), I’ve called out a few specific categories. In no specific order, here they are:
Favorite Field Watch of the Year
Favorite Dive Watch of the Year
Favorite Dress Watch of the Year
Favorite Chronograph of the Year
Favorite Beater of the Year
Favorite Kickstarter Watch of the Year
Favorite GMT of the Year
Favorite Watch of the Year
Favorite Brand of the Year
That’s a decent number of categories, so I’ve broken this post up into three parts. In this final one, I’ll cover my favorite GMT, my favorite overall watch, and my favorite brand of 2022. So, let’s begin.
Favorite GMT of the Year 2022
2022 has been the year of the GMT. There were a lot of reasons behind this, ranging from the resurgence of travel across the world to a couple of new movements from Seiko and Miyota. The former released the NH34 office GMT movement, which made its debut in Seiko’s SSK lineup of incredibly affordable (and pretty nice-looking) dive-inspired GMTs. Pretty soon after, a number of microbrands like Nodus, Venezianico, and RZE jumped on the bandwagon, releasing similarly affordable GMTs. Soon after, brands like Traska, Jack Mason, and Boldr announced watches based on the Miyota movement too.
In the midst of the Seiko and Miyota-based excitement, the Swiss movement makers have been chugging along as well. Both Sellita and Soprod have been supplying excellent office GMT movements to customers like Maen, Christopher Ward, Islander, and Serica, to name but a few, and customers have been just snapping them up.
So, after a lot of ado, here it is: my Favorite GMT of 2022 is the Formex Reef GMT.
Sitting inside a case that measures 42mm from 10 o’clock to 4 o’clock, this is not a small watch. At the 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock position, if you take in the nice large 7.4mm crown, the watch comes in at 47.9mm, with a lug-to-lug measurement of 48.7mm.
What it gives up in its horizontal size, it more than makes up for in thickness. Even with the display caseback and a 300m water resistance rating, the Reef GMT comes in at a svelte 11.4mm thick with the sapphire crystal. That makes it easily the thinnest GMT watch with a bezel that I own.
Inside is an elaboré-grade SW330-2 chronometer that is COSC-certified. I own two other SW330-2-based GMTs, of which the Chris Ward has an elaboré-grade movement, but neither are COSC-certified. They are both considerably cheaper than the Reef — though I did buy mine pre-owned, saving a decent chunk of change that way — so there is that.
However, the Reef also has a couple of great tricks up its sleeve. The rubber strap I got it on has an ingenious quick-release system that works only with the Reef, but it’s so smooth I’m not even mad at the proprietary connector. Plus, the carbon-fiber deployant clasp also has an on-the-fly microadjust, as does the bracelet I have. In fact, that bracelet is one of the most comfortable ones I own, if a little blingy.
And finally, there’s the biggest trick up the Reef’s sleeve: the bezels are interchangeable without any tools. Mine came with a stainless steel bezel, but I have a black-and-blue (aka “Batman”) bezel as well, which is my preferred one.
The Formex Reef GMT is available here for purchase.
Favorite Overall Watch of the Year 2022
I struggled to come up with the criteria for this category. How would I determine what would make a watch my favorite of the year? Features? Looks? Functionality? How often I wore it? How much it cost? What materials it was made of? How complicated it was?
The answer, final, came down to one thing: how much did the watch resonate with me?
“Resonate” is a funny metric. In the strictest definition of the word, it’s a verb that means “produce or be filled with a deep, full, reverberating sound.” But another definition of the word is also “(of an idea or action) meet with someone’s agreement.” That’s the intangible, un-quantifiable measure I’m going with here. And there’s no other watch that has even come close to that with me more than the one I picked – very easily – to be my Favorite Watch of the Year: The Christopher Ward C1 Bel Canto.
CW calls this watch their “finest hour” and it is blatantly obvious why. The Bel Canto is their mic-drop moment, a watch that no one expected from CW. This is haute horlogerie made attainable, if not affordable.
At a starting price of $3595 on a leather strap, the Grade 5 titanium-clad Bel Canto is unlike anything you’ve ever seen from Christopher Ward. Even close-up, it looks and feels like a timepiece that should cost several thousand dollars more than it does. To start with, there’s no logo on the face of the watch – a far cry from the days when the “Christopher Ward” word mark graced the face of all their pieces. Even the new, much smaller and subtler twin flags logo only exists on the signed crown. The watch – its design, its mechanics, its colors – they all speak for themselves.
This is a ‘Sonnerie au Passage’ watch; once every hour, the hammer hits the gong and produces a single clear note in the key of ‘D’. A pusher at the 4 o’clock position turns the sound on or off. This is not the kind of movement or timepiece that you’d expect a small independent like CW to produce, yet produce it they have. The movement is an incredible series of modifications made to the tried and true Sellita SW200. A number of modules, some originally designed for the JJ01 jump-hour movement that went into the C9 Jumping Hour Mark I and then the Mark II (both long-since discontinued), were added to the SW200, along with around fifty new components. This resulted in what CW is now calling the Calibre FS01, and it is what powers the Bel Canto.
The Bel Canto isn’t all mechanical marvel either. I mentioned earlier that its looks and design are far above and beyond what one might expect from a maker like Christopher Ward. If you see, for example, hints of avant-garde watchmaking from the likes of MB&F and Armin Strom, well, you’re not far off. Chronode, the company that often works with MB&F, worked with CW for the bridges, spring, and hammer. The platine, or plate that all the parts are attached to, was a collaboration with Armin Strom. In other words, the Bel Canto brings with it a solid pedigree in both design and manufacture.
I said earlier that the Bel Canto was my favorite watch of the year because it “resonated” with me unlike any other watch had thus far. There are any number of metrics anyone could’ve used when determining their favorite watch of the year. Ultimately, watches are a passion pursuit, so it follows that the measure of what makes a watch my favorite would be one that evokes passion. This year, no other watch has evoked the kind of passion the Bel Canto has. That is why it is my favorite watch of 2022.
Currently sold out in its initial blue and green dial colorways, the Bel Canto is now available in four new colorways, all of which are open-edition watches that anyone can buy, as long as they are willing to wait.
Favorite Brand of the Year 2022
I just finished writing the bit above about the Bel Canto. Now, as I type this, I’m wearing a Christopher Ward C65 Aquitaine GMT, which was my favorite diver of the year. In fact, CW is the only company that has two watches in my year-end list.
So it should come as no surprise that Christopher Ward is my Favorite Brand of 2022.
CW has had a banner year. It started the year with a brand refresh itself where it ditched the word mark on the C65 Aquitaine, replacing it with the now-recognizable twin flags logo. Simultaneously, it also released the C65 Aquitaine series, then made repeated drops, refreshing some of its older Military series, introducing a smaller 36mm version of its C63 Sealander series, then delivering a really solid thinner and lighter sibling to its venerable C60 Trident Pro 600 series called the Trident Pro 300, which introduced a display caseback for a 300m water resistant diver for the first time in its lineup.
Then came the watch that, without question, shook the watch world: The C1 Bel Canto.
Will Brackfield is a rascal
CW designer Will Brackfield and I had a couple of fun conversations at the Windup Watch Fair in New York this past year. I was grousing about the amount of money CW was making me spend (because of course I had no choice in the matter) by showing off that dang C60 Trident Pro 300 in 38mm, which I totally fell in love with. He got a good chuckle at that, then replaced amusement with an evil glint in his eyes.
“Would you like me to make you spend some more money then?” he asked.
My heart sank. “No,” I told him firmly.
Will is insouciant and irrepressible. He simply beckoned me to a semi-private spot behind the CW display tables and reached behind them, withdrawing a clear plastic case meant to hold maybe five watches. There was, however, only one watch in it: a striking blue mechanical marvel of a piece.
That was my first look at the C1 Bel Canto.
24 hours later, I was back at the fair. I sought Will out again, told him what a real piece of work he was, then put my name down on the list of people interested in the Bel Canto.
The Bel Canto was officially announced a few days after the fair and to say that it shook the watch world is an understatement. Practically every watch media outlet I read or follow just gushed about it. This felt like the debut of a new entrant on the haute horlogerie stage, not a home run by a company that has been in business for 19 years.
Maybe “home run” is an understatement though…
You’d think that they’d stop at that, but no; when the Bel Canto sold out, they accelerated existing plans to bring forth a new green-platine version. That held them over for about two hours and now, on Jan 19, four new colors of the Bel Canto made their debut. The waiting list is already in the thousands.
2022 was the year that I stopped thinking of Christopher Ward as a microbrand and started thinking of them as an independent watch maker. In terms of volume, they were already there, producing around 20,000 watches a year. While not quite at the level of major independents like Oris (which makes over a million pieces a year, apparently), there’s absolutely no doubt that they are well on their way towards higher and more lofty goals.
More importantly, they manage to deliver a fit and finish on their watches that I find absolutely delightful. Throw in the fact that they are incredibly conscious of the value they deliver through their pricing and the confident manner they stand by their products (seriously, does anyone have a 60-day return policy and a 60-month warranty in the indie/microbrand space?) and you have a brand that has earned a customer for life.
Well, that’s it! I’m done with my year-end list. Next up: What I’m looking forward to the most in 2023.