Rolex Explorer II
Rolex Explorer IICourtesy Image

Horological Marvels: Our Favorite Watches of 2021 So Far

Ready for some new wrist candy? Over the first half we’ve seen nearly every major maker release an epic luxury timepiece. From haute horological masterpieces to cool everyday tool watches, here are our 12 favorite launches.



Rolex Explorer II
Rolex Explorer II Courtesy Image

1. Rolex Explorer II

While much of the watch world was expecting a substantial aesthetic update for the model’s 50th anniversary, Rolex had other ideas. The crown does as it pleases, and they decided it would be best to upgrade the movement to the in-house caliber 3285—the same that beats inside the GMT Master II. They also added a new brighter, longer-lasting lume to the indexes and hands, making it a more reliable, heartier classic. Sure, some might be disappointed by its staid appearance, but we’d bet no one who actually lands one will feel that way.


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Omega Speedmaster Professional: Favorite Watches of 2021
Omega Speedmaster Professional Courtesy Image

2. Omega Speedmaster Professional

It’s the moon watch we all know and love—but now with Omega’s co-axial escapement and a silicon hairspring, making this Speedy METAS certified, accurate to +5 seconds a day, and anti-magnetic to 15,000 gauss. Omega also upgraded the bracelet so it’s both better looking and more comfortable. Plus the brand re-ran the original NASA testing on the new version and it passed with flying colors, so it’s ready to go back to the moon… or Mars when the time comes.


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Zenith Defy Extreme
Zenith Defy Extreme Courtesy Image

3. Zenith Defy Extreme

The 45mm Defy feels like something Bruce Wayne might wear all day, then leave on his wrist when he suits up as Batman. The micro-blasted titanium case and bracelet protect an El Primero 21 high-frequency chronograph movement that spins the seconds hand around the dial in a single breath. The new model also features a quick swap system that allows the wearer to swap from bracelet to strap and back again with the push of a button—perfect if you have to transition from the boardroom to battle the Joker in a moment’s notice.


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Audemars Royal Oak Self-Winding Chronograph Limited Edition
Audemars Royal Oak Self-Winding Chronograph Limited Edition Courtesy Image

4. Audemars Royal Oak Self-Winding Chronograph Limited Edition

A gold watch was once a signifier of retirement. This Royal Oak ain’t that. It’s more of a statement piece for those seriously in their prime. The automatic chronograph is gold on gold with a stunning green dial, which they tell is very en vogue at the moment, but when is green ever actually out of style? It’s only available at the New York boutique and is limited to 125 pieces.


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Breitling B25 Datora: Favorite Watches of 2021
Breitling B25 Datora Courtesy Image

5. Breitling B25 Datora

It’s hard not to find yourself transfixed by the copper dial on this Breitling Datora. It’s an elegant and luxurious shade that draws you in to admire the texture of the chronograph subdials, as well as the complete calendar and moon-phase complications.


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Jaeger-LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque
Jaeger-LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque Courtesy Image

6. Jaeger-LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque

The odds of you ever owning one are astronomical, as is the price, but this Jaeger LeCoultre is an absolute masterpiece of high horology utilizing 11 different complications, so attention must be paid. The Reverso watch has four faces. The first features the time, a perpetual calendar and a flying tourbillon. The second face also displays the time with a jumping hour and the mechanism of the minute repeater. The third face depicts the moon phase and orbit. And the fourth face, displays the lunar phase from the southern hemisphere on the back of the case. It’s an insane degree of complication in a wearable piece that only further burnishes JLC’s reputation as a “watchmaker’s watchmaker.”

[~$1.64 million;]

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Hublot Big Bang Integral Tourbillon Full Sapphire: Favorite Watches of 2021
Hublot Big Bang Integral Tourbillon Full Sapphire Courtesy Image

7. Hublot Big Bang Integral Tourbillon Full Sapphire

Uber technical and aesthetically dynamic, this Big Bang is evidence that Hublot is on the cutting edge of fine watchmaking. The crystal, case, bracelet, and some parts of the HUB6035 manufacture automatic tourbillon movement are made out of sapphire. It’s just a bonkers watch limited to 30 pieces worldwide.


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Tudor Black Bay Chrono
Tudor Black Bay Chrono Courtesy Image

8. Tudor Black Bay Chrono

This new chronograph from Tudor certainly evokes a Paul Newman Daytona aesthetic, but who doesn’t love a panda dial? This iteration features a 70-hour power reserve; a screw-down crown; and pushers that give the sports watch 200mm of water resistance, so it’s a versatile, go-anywhere piece.


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H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Centre Seconds Concept x seconde/seconde/ : Favorite Watches of 2021
H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Centre Seconds Concept x seconde/seconde/ Courtesy Image

9. H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Centre Seconds Concept x seconde/seconde/

Indie brand H. Moser is our kind of cool, managing to kick out pieces that are unpretentious yet still swanky. This collaboration with artist seconde/seconde/ replaces the hour hand with a pixelated eraser for a fun, minimalist piece of wrist art that’ll make you smile every time you check the dial. The edition is limited to 20, but each watch also comes with a signed, numbered seconde/seconde/ piece for the wall as well.


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High-End Watches With Vintage European Flair

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Rado Captain Cook Ceramic
Rado Captain Cook Ceramic Courtesy Image

10. Rado Captain Cook Ceramic

Rado’s Captain Cook is a pretty rad dive watch, but the brand dropped this version with both a ceramic case and a ceramic bracelet for under $4K, which feels like a steal at twice the price. The case has been beefed up from 42mm to 43mm and the clear sapphire dial exposes an automatic, skeletonized Rado caliber R734movement with an 80-hour power reserve.


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Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar: Favorite Watches of 2021
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar Courtesy Image

11. Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar

The new Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar is staggeringly thin. The watch clocks in at a scant 5.8mm, making it a technical watchmaking masterpiece and also the thinnest perpetual calendar on the market. The case and bracelet are both constructed from sandblasted titanium, so it’s light to boot.


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12. Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Aquamarine Dream

Zodiac’s one of our favorite brands because they aren’t afraid of bold colors—and the Aquamarine Dream edition definitely makes a pop. This Super Sea Wolf is a collaboration between Zodiac and Ariel Adams, the founder of aBlogtoWatch. The striking shade was inspired by the Caribbean waters off the island of Nassau in the Bahamas. You can almost feel the warm sea currents with every glance at the dial.


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