So, we’re less than two days into Watches & Wonders, but have we seen the best new watches of 2021 yet? Things are already quite muddy, and know that as we get into this initial list, we are looking at actual new watches. This is no place for “it has a new dial” or “we made it in rose gold this time”. Many of these watches will be extensions of existing product lines, that’s normal, but we want to talk about things that are either entirely new collections, or new complications/functions added to existing collections. For this reason, none of the Rolex or Tudor watches qualify, nor do a TON of new releases from everyone from IWC, Panerai, Nomos, Chopard, and others. That said, we’re still left with an interesting list of watches that will just continue to grow over the coming few days.

In this list (which we will continue to update with new releases over time) you’ll find a mix of new releases ranging from record breaking complicated wonders, through to standard production models that are new for 2021.

Breitling Premier Heritage Collection

Say what you want, but Breitling has been on a roll in the last few years when it comes to its new releases. I was a bit skeptical at first, especially after the Navigator 8 turned Aviator 8 blunder, and the strange method of making both in-house and supplied caliber versions of the same models in the aforementioned line. The flushing out of the Premier line is looking great thus far, with the inclusion of a 40mm manually wound chronograph, a split seconds chronograph (42mm), and the Datora complete calendar reference, all of which are using in-house manufacture calibers. If you’re not into modern interpretations of vintage watches, these are unlikely to tick many boxes for you. As someone who once was smitten with the old Transocean 38 Chronograph, and who has always appreciated the history Breitling has with the early days of chronograph wristwatches, I’m entirely on board with the new Premier. Yes, it would be nice to see the sticker price be a grand or two lower, but it is what it is. These references price out at $8,400, $10,250, and $12,950 USD in steel, ($20,200, $22,850, and $25,650 in gold).

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Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 (Quadriptyque)

As 2021 marks the 90th anniversary of the JLC Reverso, so there’s little surprise that an absolutely over-the-top Reverso was in the launch plan this year. That said, this is the most complex Reverso reference ever created, fitted with 11 complications, including perpetual calendar, minute repeater, indications of the synodic, draconic and anomalistic cycles. Those last three indications are especially obscure. The synodic cycle is really just a fancy way of referring to the standard moon phase indication we’ve seen in watchmaking forever. That said, this reference is touted as having an accuracy period of 1,111 years. The draconic cycle, on the other hand, is the period of time, between intervals where the moon intersects with the orbit of the earth around the sun. Anomalistic time is another peculiar one, being the varying distance between the earth and moon. Are any of these things necessary? No, but nor is any sort of high complication watch, when you think about it. Regardless, to be able to incorporate the display of this many different complications into not only the two primary faces of the reverso, but also into both sides of the cradle is absolutely wild. In case you’re wondering, at midnight a push pin protrudes from the main body, activating a pusher in the cradle to advance the respective geartrains for the complications in the cradle. Only 10 examples will be made, with a sticker price north of $1.5M USD.

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Hermès H08

Ok, time to bring things back down to earth a bit, isn’t it? Hermès continues its push in luxury watchmaking, with a new men’s collection arriving for 2021. The H08 features a 39x39mm case, and is powered by their own caliber produced by Vaucher Fleurier—as was the case with the Slim D’Hermès and a number of other prior releases. In contrast to the more dainty and dressy Slim, the H08 has 100m of water resistance and a screw-down crown, and is available on either rubber or textile straps, or a steel bracelet. Not everyone will be a fan, however there’s a charm to the overall dial and case design, as well as its numeral font that pulls the piece together in a very cohesive manner. Prices start at $5,700 USD on rubber strap, and climb to $8,900 for the black ceramic version.

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Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar

Back to one of the big guns for a moment, as we can’t ignore the new world’s thinnest perpetual calendar wristwatch that launched this week. Measuring only 5.8mm thick, this piece beats out the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak RD2 perpetual that previously held the record at 6.3mm thick just two years ago (concept in 2018, but production in 2019). The Octo design language is still an acquired taste for some, but I’ve been enamored with it since spending some time with the 3-hand version back in 2017. The combination of lightweight titanium and a slender profile make these things wear like a second skin, even though the squared 40mm diameter would lead one to think otherwise. It’s also worth noting that Bvlgari went contrary to convention with the layout of the perpetual calendar’s indications here, with a retrograde date and retrograde leap year indications alongside a pair of large boundary-less subdials. It’s not cheap, but at $59,000 USD it’s still a lot of watch for the money.

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TAG Heuer Aquaracer

With tag spending so much time on more vintage/heritage focused models in recent years, it’s nice to see the Aquaracer get a proper refresh for 2021. While not vintage-focused in the least, a close look at the new case profile definitely shows influence from past references of Heuer Professional 1000, 2000, and 3000 references, with the latter being the inspiration point for its new bezel shape. Offered in 43mm and 36mm, in an assortment of dial choices, all references are powered by the TAG Heuer Calibre 5 automatic movement. If I were to poke and prod a bit on this one, my one gripe is the choice of dial texture. Your options are the horizontal slats as seen on the previous version of the Aquaracer—as well as on the Omega Aqua Terra, Patek Nautilus, and many others—on the 43mm reference, or you can have a wave-like pattern that is just a bit too similar to the Omega Seamaster for my liking. The new models are priced at $2,800 for the 36mm and $3,000 for the 43mm version respectively.

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IWC Big Pilot Shock Absorber XPL

Aside from some dial colors and the making of a “small big pilot” in 43mm this year, the real interesting news from an engineering (or overengineering) standpoint was the launch of the IWC’s XPL. Partnering with the engineering lab of Cambridge University, IWC set out to see how far they could push the boundaries of shock resistance, under the guise of the forces of vibration and harshness experienced by modern day fighter pilots. Unlike similar developments by the likes of Richard Mille’s R&D team, who uses cable suspension systems to reach an impressive operating shock resistance of 5,000 Gs, the bizarre honeycomb spring retainer setup in this first IWC XPL model passed tests up to 30,000 Gs. Once again, this has no real-world practical application, in that you smacking your watch into a door jamb or into your stone countertops won’t generate that much force. That said, the intent of this watch, and of the new XPL division across the board is to develop new technologies for IWC’s watches, so there’s clearly potential for technological trickle-down over time into more standard product lines. For now, the XPL will be produced at a rate of 10 pieces per year, over the next three years. The list price? $83,600 USD.

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A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar

Let’s face it, the Lange 1 is a fantastic example of traditional Glashütte watchmaking, and adding a perpetual calendar function to the mix in a way that doesn’t disrupt its baseline aesthetics? It’s hard to go wrong if you can stomach the exorbitant sticker price (98,000 Euros in pink gold with grey dial, and 109k for the white gold reference with salmon dial). Granted, there has been a Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar before, though fitted with a tourbillon for a significantly higher sticker price. Aside from its sharp design and brilliant finishing, it’s worth noting the nominal case dimension increases that went into making this happen. Compared to the Lange 1 Moon Phase, its case diameter increased from 38.5mm to 41.9mm, however its case thickness only increased by 1.9mm to add all the necessary gearing. On one hand, I can’t help but stare into its dial, but on the other, I can’t help but notice the position inversion of its dial indications—the date and time functions have swapped sides of the dial.

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Baume et Mercier Riviera

Who wants another affordable steel sports watch with an integrated bracelet? Baume et Mercier has brought back the Riviera ready to fight it out in the coveted category. We’re waiting on confirmation of pricing, but as it stands it seems like we’re looking at between $2-3k USD for a Sellita-powered model, and closer to 5 or 6 for those fitted with the brand’s high spec COSC certified 5-day power Baumatic calibers. The former are on offer with textured finish dials, whereas the latter have smoked semi-transparent ones in blue or black depending on the reference at hand. At 42mm across and 10.6mm thick, these pieces are a little chunky, but will still be a consideration for those chasing the Royal Oak look without the big spend.

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Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Split Seconds Ultra-Thin

After that last one, we need something a touch more conservative and timeless to settle down with, don't we? Enter this lovely new Vacheron split-seconds chronograph, in a platinum case, with a microblasted platinum dial. The 15-piece limited edition model is fitted with the self-winding caliber 3500, which runs at 3Hz and is comprised of 473 individual components. the piece also uses a peripheral rotor, allowing for an unobstructed view of the caliber via its exhibition caseback. Sticking with a peculiarly over-the-top detail that has carried through every Excellence Platine limited edition, the stitching on its leather strap is a silk with a small amount of platinum thread woven into it. Over the top? Absolutely, but it's still a damned fine watch.

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That's all for now, but expect more updates early next week. For now, what do you think? What did you like? What did you not like? What deserves further discussion?