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12/28/2023
 8 minutes

Seasonal Mood(s): The Year 2023 in Watches

By Sharmila Bertin
2023: A Watch for Every Season
2023: A Watch for Every Season

In our relationship with watches, as with our daily lives, there are as many visions of life as there are visions of time. That’s strange to write, and I imagine it’s strange to read, too. While our rhythms are mechanically broken down into seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, etc., we are not machines, but rather identities full of emotions, needs, and dreams, evolving both individually and collectively. Some of us work to a very strict timetable, while others – like me – are more into a… how shall I put it… bohemian lifestyle?

In my case, I don’t cling to the timetable imposed by society, but act according to a list of objectives that I set myself. I manage the durations for each of the tasks I have to accomplish, and I erase all the boundaries that exist between my professional domain and my personal life; between morning, noon and evening; and between sad rainy days and those beautified by the sun, in order to make my desires and duties cohabit in a coherent whole – coherent for me, but not necessarily for others. In concrete terms, I let myself be guided by cues instead of the “classics.” I follow colors, seasons, and creative desires. Synesthesia – a sensory perception disorder based on the association of impressions from different domains – is preponderant in my little existence. Each moment of my day corresponds to a mood, which in turn translates into a color. Months are irrelevant, as I orientate myself according to the seasons and the evolution of the natural world around me.

Oyster Perpetual 31 © Rolex
Oyster Perpetual 31 ©Rolex

When I was asked to take stock of this watchmaking year, to make a selection of the watches that have made their mark in 2023, it was impossible for me to group my choices academically by following the chronological order of new model launches. I preferred to let my personality express itself, impose its own vision of time, and remain sincerely faithful to it. What’s more, I have to admit that I see so many references in the space of twelve months, especially at trade shows, that my brain can’t catalog them all, but simply categorize them according to a hierarchy of my own. We’re back to synesthesia here, to an “internal” assembly to compose a seasonal color chart. And I have to admit that the system recently put in place, which enables watch brands to produce new products at a much more consistent pace, without having to content themselves exclusively with the major annual or even biennial events (LVMH Watch Week, Watches and Wonders, Dubai Watch Week, etc.), makes the work of a watch journalist much more exciting. There’s also one inescapable parameter when I discover a watch, and that’s imagining it on me. If I’m potentially going to buy it, it deserves to be in this article.

Color Is More Powerful Than a Vitamin Cocktail

The watchmaking post-summer break no longer begins in springtime, as the late Baselworld imposed, but as early as January, when the first snowdrops appear. Cold seasons aren’t always kind in Switzerland, where I live, and winter sports are of no interest to me, so after Christmas, I literally count the days until spring arrives, and I’m already in “green rebirth” mode. Even though it’s still cold, and I’m wrapped up in my warm puffer jacket with my nose buried in my scarf, there’s only one thing I fantasize about: color!

My first crush of the year fits perfectly with this need to see life other than the dull gray that covers the sidewalks of Geneva, since among the first pieces presented by TAG Heuer for the 60th anniversary of the Carrera was a collection of three-hand watches, including one with a fuchsia dial. In terms of mechanics, we’re a long way from the chronographs (with or without a tourbillon) that were unveiled at the same time, but this one immediately appealed to me with its bright hue. I’m lucky enough to own one, and I wear it very regularly. Its basic but essential displays suit me perfectly, because even if I applaud technical prowess as a journalist, it’s the everyday use that attracts me as a customer. The only criticism I can level at it is its 36-mm diameter, which I find small compared to the 40-mm watches I usually wear.

TAG Heuer Carrera Date © TAG Heuer
TAG Heuer Carrera Date ©TAG Heuer

The Oris ProPilot X Kermit Edition (39 mm), on the other hand, has been on my wrist since the day I got it, because its titanium case is so lightweight. The invigorating green face replaces the vitamin capsules I would otherwise ingest every morning at breakfast, and once a month, I can’t help but smile when I come across The Muppet Show frog in the date window at 6 o’clock.

Another “feel good” model that I’ve completely fallen in love with is the Oyster Perpetual, 41 mm in diameter, of course, with its turquoise dial and a flurry of bubbles tinted yellow, red, green, and pink. Quite simply put, I’m crazy about this watch.

My childhood memories are like an engine that helps me navigate the ups and downs of everyday life, and these three references, so full of uncompromising, straightforward nuances, punctuated by balloons or a character I used to watch on TV, are a delight in the eyes of my inner child. As I often say, life’s too short to be bored with black. Besides, black is too easy, whereas color is an exercise in style.

A Versatile Personality for a Serene Summer

I don’t buy watches to stash them away in a safe deposit box at the bank, but to accompany me on my adventures. Thus, they must not be afraid of getting scratched, swimming in the sea, or getting covered in soil when I’m gardening. The notion of companionship is fundamental, and when summer comes, I turn to sturdy pieces because I’m a merciless working mom. Nothing should impede my freedom of movement, nothing should weigh down my arm or make my skin sweat, and removing my watch before throwing myself into the blue waves of the Mediterranean is a non-existent concept in my personal philosophy.

In short, any Tudor is perfect to share my summer with, but this year, selecting just one is a complex task. My heart sways between the Black Bay GMT, which seduced me even though I’m not a fan of white dials; the Pelagos FXD with its titanium and carbon bezel; and the “classic” Black Bay in 39 or 41 mm. As for the latter, the only detail that bothers me is the Jubilee bracelet. While I love metal links, I don’t really like this design and prefer those of other references in the collection – or the NATO textile strap, which is without a doubt the most beautiful, comfortable, and robust in the entire watchmaking landscape.

Doxa Army Bronze Bezel © Balazs Ferenczi
Doxa Army Bronze Bezel ©Balazs Ferenczi

Coming back (again!) to colors, I think the Hermès H08, available in green, blue, yellow, and orange, is a great success. In addition to the eye-catching geometric silhouette and the fine graining that covers the anthracite surface of its face, the watch has the advantage of being versatile – which is everything I expect from a watch – with its sporty yet elegant character.

The Tissot Sideral also plays with colors, materials, shapes, and different environments. It’s relatively light thanks to its tonneau-shaped steel and forged carbon case, efficient due to the Powermatic 80 caliber, and beautiful with the multicolored circular scales that adorn its dark dial. Also in the Le Locle-based brand’s catalog, I really like the new versions of the PRX automatic, notably the sky-blue version, which exudes that summer feeling, and the golden one with a digital display, which takes me back to my first watch when I was seven.

Other alternatives for a serene summer, one without having to worry about your watch’s water-resistance and sturdiness while remaining distinguished, include Doxa’s SUB references, Alpina’s Alpiner Extreme Automatic (for wrists a little thicker than mine), and Mido’s Ocean Star Decompression Worldtimer Special Edition.

The Relaxed Back-to-School Spirit

The end of summer signals the end of vacation and the start of a new school year, with student benches for the young and open-space offices for the older among us. While I’m delighted that I don’t have to put up with working in a collective space, but can write my articles in the comforting warmth of my own home, September marks the return to watchmaking events, press trips, and product presentations. After a few weeks off, preferably on a sunny beach, my mind starts to settle down, and so does my wrist, as I opt for more classic models, but… always with a creative streak that makes them different, because conformism isn’t for me. I have a passion for tone-on-tone watches, where the metal of the case spreads over the bracelet and lets its silver hues invade the dial.

The new Tambour from Louis Vuitton, a young twenty-something entering its third decade with a revised, toned-down aesthetic, has assets that are hard to resist. Everything is impeccable on this steel piece that juggles finishes to offer luminous shades of gray, and both its ergonomics and motorization make it a friend you’ll want to keep by your side for a long time.

At Bvlgari, even though I belong to the club of unconditional admirers of the Octo Finissimo, I must mention the arrival of the Octo Roma, a three-hand watch with a date featuring neat, contemporary architecture. This one is ideal for younger generations looking for a timepiece that combines Italian sophistication with Swiss precision.

Octo Roma © Bvlgari
Octo Roma ©Bvlgari

And from Zenith, all references from the Chronomaster Sport, Defy Skyline, and Revival ranges share a desirability that grows with the years and the variants. The latest addition, the Skeleton Night Surfer El Primero, has a sort of enigmatic bluish aura that arouses visual curiosity.

A Long Wish List to Santa

So far, most of the watches I’ve mentioned are relatively easy to acquire and wear from morning to night, 365 days a year. However, you may have noticed there are no chronographs, because while I praise the beauty of the complication, I personally have no use for it. Plus, I appreciate the uncluttered beauty of a dial displaying only the necessities, and if possible, dressed in an intense color. However, in this festive season, if I had to write a wish list to send to Santa Claus – assuming he exists and has an unlimited budget – it would be fantastical.

I’d turn to the fine crafts that make my childish eyes sparkle when I hold fabulous pieces in my hands, like the Reverso Tribute Enamel Hokusai by Jaeger-LeCoultre (largely to satisfy my long-standing fascination with the great Japanese master of ukiyo-e), the Lady Féerie by Van Cleef & Arpels, a veritable gateway to the realm of dreams, or one of the four masterpieces in Vacheron Constantin’s Hommage aux Naturalistes Explorateurs series.

Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act III © Blancpain
Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act III ©Blancpain

In this imaginary inventory, I would add innovative editions such as Cartier’s Masse Mystérieuse or Chanel’s J12 X-Ray Star, whose transparency soothes me; Ulysse Nardin’s Blast Free Wheel Marquetry, whose blue radiance transports me to a Mediterranean setting; Richard Mille’s RM 07-04 with its comforting colors; the fabulous Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59 Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4; and the Reverso Tribute Chronograph by Jaeger-LeCoultre, which remains one of my favorite pieces of 2023.

However, among this chimerical enumeration intended for a white-bearded gentleman domiciled at the North Pole, two watches in particular exalt my sentimental soul, as I’m passionate about history: Breguet’s “military” Type 20 Chronographe 2057 model presented in June and Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act III. Perhaps one day, my dreams will come true – who knows?


About the Author

Sharmila Bertin

When I moved to Switzerland and started working at Omega HQ almost 20 years ago, I was told early on that once you enter the world of watchmaking, you never leave it. It's totally true.

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