It’s that time of year again — you know what I mean: the time when we read the horological tea leaves and try to get a bead on what exciting new watch releases are coming down the pike. Of course, we’re not prophets — we have absolutely no idea what’s up the sleeves of the great and all-powerful Swiss. (And Germans. And Japanese.) But we do have some context clues…
Big anniversaries can be fairly easily calculated given known birthdates of famous models and marques. (We’re looking at you, Rolex Submariner. And at you, Royal Oak Offshore.) We can look at trends, too, and at watches that would “make sense” within the greater context of a brand’s catalog: We predicted some sort of Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight GMT last year, and while we didn’t get it, we did get a 39mm GMT with a fixed bezel, which scratched some of our theoretical watch’s itch.
Other releases aren’t as easy to suss out: The watch world works on a three-ish-year production schedule, meaning that a timepiece being conceived right now won’t hit the shelves till 2026 at the earliest. Conversely, a watch that comes out today has already long been in the works — for well over five years if it’s a particularly big deal.
This year, as always, there’s plenty of fodder for prognostication. Will 2023 be the year our timekeeping dreams come true? You never know! But speculating is fun. So come join us on our predictive journey into the horological unknown, and leave us a comment below if you’ve got a vision you’d like to share.
1. A Special Rolex Submariner (of Some Sort)
Rolex debuted the Submariner — the world’s most famous dive watch, and possibly, the world’s most famous watch, full stop — back in 1953. So though the Sub got a full-on, 41mm refresh just a couple short years ago, we’re predicting some sort of nod to the 70th anniversary of this very special timepiece. Back in 2003, the Sub got a special, green-bezel edition that now trades for several times its list price. Could we see something similar in 2023 at the new 41mm diameter? It’s easy enough to introduce a new bezel color (says a guy who’s never had to fashion anything out of Cerachrom), but we’ve already got green and blue in the mix. What about a new dial color? Personally, I’m predicting something wild, something that we’ve never seen from the brand before. Here’s hoping.
2. A 30th Anniversary Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore
When young industrial designer Emmanuel Gueit presented his idea for a souped-up Royal Oak back in 1989, he likely had no idea it would become somewhat of a phenomenon, and a permanent fixture in the Royal Oak Collection. (Original Royal Oak designer Gérald Genta was less thrilled.) This year, for the collection’s 30th anniversary, we’re predicting some sort of special showing for this very important watch, originally nicknamed “the Beast.” The current collection is fairly large, encompassing time-only automatics, the brand’s signature chronographs and even grand complications. So I’m gonna go out on a limb and say we’re gonna see something stupidly complicated and over-the-top: a fresh grand comp with a) a tourbillon b) a split-seconds chronograph c) a perpetual calendar d) world time e) a mechanical alarm. It’s going to be cased in carbon and will cost half a million dollars. (I clearly have an active imagination, but you get the point. A special Offshore!)
3. A Casio G-SHOCK DW-6900 40th Anniversary Model
You know what 2023 is? It’s the 40th anniversary of the toughest watch on Earth. Ibe Kikuo was just a young buck way back in the early 1980s when he conceptualized what would become one of the world’s best-selling digital timepieces, the G-SHOCK. We’ve already seen the brand drop a whole bunch of 40th anniversary models, but we’re predicting — because we want one — something more subdued: A special, limited-edition DW-6900. This watch only came out in 1995, but how cool would it be to use this platform to celebrate the big 40th birthday; after all, this is the model family that so many of us have worn while in uniform, which is a big part of the G-SHOCK legacy. I’d like one in an olive drab or sand hue with a 40th Anniversary caseback, please.
4. The Continued Proliferation of the Affordable “Flyer” GMT
For a long time, GMT options with “flyer” or “true” GMT functionality — i.e. an independently adjustable local hour hand — were limited to high-end, expensive watches such as the Rolex GMT Master-II. In fact, finding an affordable GMT period was rather tough for a while. In the past five years, things have begun to change, with microbrands picking up the GMT gauntlet and offering relatively affordable “caller”-style GMTs. Now, with the debut of movements such as the Miyota 9075, we’re seeing affordable “flyer” GMTs at prices previously unthinkable. It seems only logical that more and more microbrands — and larger brands — will continue to adopt such movements, as producing them at scale becomes more affordable and common. That’s great news for frequent travelers who would prefer not to smack down over 10 Gs on a GMT-Master II. LIP, Jack Mason and Bulova are already on board with the Cal. 9075; our guess is many more brands will follow in ’23.
5. More Brands Adopting the Used/CPO Model
Just a few years ago, it was unthinkable that Rolex would do what it did late in 2022 — offer up its own certified pre-owned watch program through its dealer network. But a dearth of new Rolex models in dealer cases and a market that regularly sees prices on pre-owned models far exceed those of brand-new watches has changed the dynamic. Rolex is doing what it does best: taking control, offering buyers a way to purchase a Rolex-certified, pre-owned watch with a guarantee of authenticity and a two-year warranty. It seems to be only a matter of time before other marquee brands follow suit. (Pre-owned Tank Louis Cartier, anyone?)
6. A New Tudor Heritage Chrono
Ten years ago, Tudor re-entered the U.S. market and dropped the Heritage Chrono Blue, a contemporary (and upsized) take on the “Monte Carlo” reference 7169. (2010’s Heritage Chrono in black and grey was likewise a spinoff of the reference 7031.) The brand has been on such a roll for the past few years with both vintage reissues and new creations that it’s tricky to forecast — could the Heritage Chrono be next in line for a refit after 10 years in the Tudor catalog? Rolex’s sister company certainly had no qualms pulling its Heritage Ranger ref. 79910 and replacing it with the newly beloved Ranger ref. 79950; maybe this is the year we’ll get a slimmed-down version of the “Home Plate” and “Monte Carlo” references, which would certainly be welcome in today’s climate of smaller watches. Can you imagine these things in 39mm? They’d be absolutely killer.
7. More In-House Movements from Oris
Hölstein-based Oris has been on an absolute tear lately with respect to its in-house movement production. From 2014’s Calibre 110 to 2020’s Calibre 400 automatic, the independent Swiss watchmaker is doing everything in its power to vertically integrate its production to the fullest extent possible. This year has already seen the release of the hand-wound Calibre 473 in a beautiful new Big Crown. What could be next? Producing a new movement takes a significant amount of time and development, but we foresee the proliferation of the existing in-house calibers throughout the greater Oris catalog. The brand often drops limited-edition Aquis and Big Crown models with its partners — we expect more of these that include the new Calibre 400 and 473 movements this year.
8. A New Bulgari Octo Finissimo Complication
Bulgari doesn’t have anything left to prove in regards to its groundbreaking Octo Finissimo collection — having broken eight world records since the relatively young collection’s launch in 2014, the watchmaking arm of one of the world’s most prominent jewelers could conceivably rest on its laurels and no one would grumble. However, there are some complications we haven’t seen yet within the Octo Finissimo mold: what about an outsize date, or a moon phase — the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tadao Ando Limited Edition looks like a moon phase, but isn’t one — or a complete calendar? Better yet, what about another completely new take on a complication, something the watchmaking world can’t even foresee? Honestly, nothing would surprise us anymore. Bulgari can do it all.
9. An Expanded Collection of Vintage-Inspired TAG Heuer Models
While many brands have been overly reliant upon their back catalog, contemporary TAG Heuer — especially under the direction of young CEO Frederic Arnault — has been more restrained, and that’s to be applauded. (Too many companies these days mine the depths of their vintage offerings to the detriment of modern R&D — I’ll call this “The Marvel Problem,” if I may.) However, Heuer has an incredibly rich heritage of beautiful chronographs, many of which had been poorly reinterpreted over the past couple of decades. It was no big surprise that the maison debuted a new 60th anniversary edition of the Carrera based on reference 2447SN early this year. That might be just the beginning: A redo of the Autavia ref. 3646 with a 12-hour bezel and a 39mm case? That would be a doozy — and we wouldn’t put it past TAG. (Note: I think this watch won the 2016 Autavia Cup, but to my knowledge, was never made? Hit me in the comments if I’m mistaken.) As long as they continue at their current, tasteful reissue velocity, we’ll be happy — and we anticipate more reissues later on in ’23.
10. More Intra-Group Collabs Like the MoonSwatch
Though Omega President and CEO Raynald Aeschlimann was supposedly less than thrilled when Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek Jr. came to him with the idea of the MoonSwatch, there’s no doubt the collection is a brilliant feat of product design and marketing. Sold out across the globe, the phenomenon saw people lining up in the wee hours of the morning to purchase a watch made of plastic. (To be fair, this is a Swatch we’re talking about.) What wouldn’t remotely surprise us is some kind of collaborative, inter-group sequel — though which watch would be involved, and when it would debut, is anyone’s guess. The MoonSwatch dropped in March of ’22. Could we be looking at some sort of dive watch-themed sequel? To be sure, FiftyFathSwatch doesn’t have nearly the same ring to it…but we can’t imagine it’s a one-and-done deal. There’s simply too much money to be made.