We asked the authors at Chrono24 Magazine to look back at 2020 and reflect on what the year meant for the watch industry. What changes have they noticed since the start of the pandemic? Has the global crisis brought any positive or negative consequences? How have their collections changed over the course of the year? We’d also love to hear your answers to these questions. Share your thoughts in the Facebook comments beneath the link to this article.
This year has been unusual in every sense of the word. At first glance, you might even call it “dreary” or “boring,” but that doesn’t make for very interesting reading. So, what is there to say? Normally, the end of the year seems to fly by, but this year, time feels like it has slowed down a little. This applies to the watch world, as well. To be fair, the industry isn’t exactly known for being quick on its feet; however, with trade shows out of the picture and a staggered release schedule, 2020 has felt like more of a stroll than a sprint. Brands like Rolex, Omega, Tudor, and others announced their new watches online, which you might see as progress. In any case, the extra time between releases gave us the chance to look at the Submariner, Black Bay, and their fellow debutants in more detail. Why was there so much talk about the Sub’s precise measurements and the exact shade of blue used on the new Black Bay? The fact that these discussions were happening online is just further proof of how important the internet has become for brands, retailers, and the industry in general. It will be interesting to see what long-term effects the current situation will have on buyer behavior and brands.
In terms of my collection, Tudor won me over with their online presentation of the Black Bay Navy. This year, I also purchased a smartwatch for use while working from home, which means I now save my mechanical timepieces for special occasions. As a result, I feel like I’ve come to appreciate my mechanical watches even more. I have discovered the coexistence of progress and tradition on my own wrist.
I don’t need to tell you that this year has been quite different to years past. To start, I have yet to buy a new watch, but that’s okay with me. I’m completely satisfied with my current small collection. (Four watches count as a collection, right?) I’m currently rather taken with my latest purchase, which now dates back more than a year. It’s a Maen Hudson 42 Mk II, a chic retro diver that is comfortable on the wrist despite its 42-mm diameter. Maen is a microbrand from Stockholm, Sweden that offers international flair: Its founders are two Dutchmen with a fondness for New York who produce their timepieces in Switzerland.
In any case, the Hudson quickly became my daily wearer. My favorite part of the watch is its “midnight blue” dial. The color is difficult to describe; it’s a pale dark blue hue that changes depending on the light. Contrasting white luminous material fills the applied indices and hands. The dial’s edge is also white and features a minute track, lending it an open and airy look. Domed sapphire crystal and a diving bezel with a black aluminum insert complete the timepiece.
Today, Maen only offers a 38-mm version of the Hudson, which many consider the perfect size for a retro diving watch. Well… I’m glad I was able to get my hands on the 42-mm edition before it was too late.
The past year has been one of the most turbulent of my life so far. From great personal misfortune to the greatest gift life has to offer, it had a bit of everything. If I reflect on 2020 in terms of watches, however, I can only think of a few things that really knocked me off my feet. Sure, Omega introduced a new Snoopy, and Rolex seems to have finally discovered the existence of bright colors, but neither of those developments floored me. To be fair, I must admit I do like the new Snoopy. I find it much more appealing than James Bond’s new titanium Seamaster, which, by the looks of things, we probably won’t see on the big screen until 2021.
My own personal watch highlight this year, however, was the purchase of a used but perfectly maintained Laco by Lacher. The watch is a mix of a pilot’s and diving chronograph and is limited to a run of 200 pieces. It has a unidirectional rotating bezel with a 60-minute scale and is water-resistant to 200 m (656 ft, 20 bar). The model reminds me ever so slightly of the legendary Heuer Bundeswehr chronograph; however, thanks to its Valjoux 7750 movement, the Laco has three subdials instead of two. The movement has a perlage finish and is visible through the display case back.
Luminous material completely coats the hour and minute hands, making them stand out instantly. There’s also a red seconds scale that adds a splash of color to the otherwise black dial. All in all, this is a great watch that has accompanied me quite a bit this year.
2020 has been an emotional year. To start, there were no trade shows due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Baselworld ceased to exist altogether, and the other trade shows were canceled, except for Geneva Watch Days. Most manufacturers announced their new releases online, and there were hardly any get-togethers for meeting up with brands or fellow watch enthusiasts. If anything, 2020 has shown us we need trade fairs and events to create a sense of community and experience new watches.
The second thing that stood out to me was the continued Rolex hype and all its negative effects. The buzz surrounding the new Submariner and Oyster Perpetual seemed quite ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong: They are great watches, but now you can’t even get a steel Rolex at an official dealer, and prices for pre-owned Rolexes have gone through the roof. It’s been like that for a couple of years now, but prices are reaching absurd levels. A new Rolex has long been something for the happy few; however, if things keep going this way, this exclusivity will soon apply to all Rolexes.
To end on a positive note, we have seen so many great introductions this year from both small independent brands and big names. It’s fascinating to see how companies can still surprise us and come up with stunning new timepieces. My personal favorites are the Omega Speedmaster Calibre 321, the Czapek Antarctique, the Grand Seiko SBGJ237 GMT, the Aquastar Deepstar Re-Edition, the Laventure Transatlantique GMT, and the latest addition to my collection, the Unimatic Modello Uno U1-FM. The list goes on. I just hope to be able to discuss watches in person again in 2021!
To say it’s been a difficult year seems like a gross understatement. I can’t even begin to sum up the challenges of 2020, so I won’t even try. What I will say, though, is that it hasn’t been a total write-off. In fact, I’ve been particularly impressed with how the watch industry has responded to these unprecedented times. They’ve shown a level of versatility and adaptability that many had previously assumed they were incapable of. I’m sure it was very tempting for several executives to simply ride out the year, not releasing anything of note and instead holding out for a (hopefully) brighter 2021. However, rather than sitting back, Tudor helped get the ball rolling with the release of the very cool Black Bay 58 Blue, and it kind of just snowballed from there. Big brother Rolex came in strong with new Submariner and Oyster Perpetual models, bringing with them a welcome splash of color and levity. Omega added its own sense of whimsy with the 50th Anniversary Speedmaster Silver Snoopy Award and then knocked it out of the park with the Calibre 321 Speedy. AP even managed to do some interesting things with the Code 11:59 collection! It doesn’t look like the first half of 2021 is going to be any easier at this stage, but here’s to hoping watch brands continue to give us some nice distractions to take our minds off of things.
Where do I even start? Last November, at the end of Dubai Watch Week, we were all on our way to the airport and saying things like, “See you in a few months in Geneva.” Little did we know that DWW would be the last watch event for quite a long time. Everyone knows what has since happened in the world, so let’s not get into that, but for the watch industry, it resulted in the cancellations of Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) and Baselworld. After an initial panic, watch brands managed to find innovative ways to present their new releases. What stuck out to me? Let’s see: I loved Doxa’s SUB 300 Carbon Diver, Hamilton’s PSR, and the new Tissot T-Touch Connect. It was a pleasure to wear the new H. Moser & Cie Streamliner and, of course, the new Omega Speedmaster 50th Anniversary Silver Snoopy Award. That being said, I would have loved to experience these pieces at one of the aforementioned fairs or a launch event. Let’s hope that 2021 sees the return of those much-needed gatherings. I’ll end with this: See you in the flesh (and not only on Zoom) in 2021!