Best Watches of 2013 by Ken Kessler

Ken Kessler’s Personal “Best Watches of 2013″


by Ken Kessler

Writing about the ‘best watches of the year’ is an inherently vexing matter, for a number of reasons. Not least is the timing itself: one has to wait until the year has ended in order to include with any fairness all the watches that appeared in the previous 12 months, while knowing that in mere weeks, a flood of new timepieces will appear in Geneva at SIHH. It’s as if the ‘best watches list’ has a shelf-life of a mere month…

Another major concern is simple knowledge.Nobody can have full experience of all the watches that appeared in 2013, even though watch writers are bombarded with press releases, attended BaselWorld, etc, etc, because there are simply too many to absorb. Whenever one create lists like these – especially choosing a mere five watches out of a few thousand that are launched every year – one is haunted by those he or she might have missed.

Then there’s the biggest concern of all: any list like this is wholly subjective, and the result of one’s prejudices. Should one merely repeat the list of winners chosen by the judges for the Grand Prix? Should one concur with learned colleagues and superiors? To do so would be denial of one’s own position, knowledge, experience, and – yes – preferences and/or biases.

Throwing caution to the wind, here are my five personal favourites of 2013. I am not saying that they are the ‘best’ watches of 2013, merely that they are the five I would love to own, or respect deeply. But before I tell you what they are, know the following about my personal criteria:

1) I have no desire to own any complications beyond date, GMT and chronograph, and have no interest in tourbillons;
2) I am partial to chronographs, GMTs, diving watches and military timepieces;
3) I have no interest in quartz.

So here are my five, with the above caveats, in alphabetical order:

Best Watches of 2013 – Omega Speedmaster ‘Dark Side of the Moon’

In my little world, there are a few watches that I consider to be perfect examples of their type; the Omega Speedmaster Professional is in my permanent Top 10. You might think, then, that tampering with it would be sacrilege, but I appreciate that the market will not accept a watch remaining unchanged for half-century-plus.

Omega has continually refined the Speedmaster (while leaving an unsullied manual-wind ‘Moonwatch’ version in the catalogue), and the latest offering is simply irresistible. Using the sublime Co-Axial Calibre 9300, the closest most of us will get to owning anything connected to the late, great George Daniels, Omega has come up with an all-black version in a 44.25mm ceramic case, accented by 18k white gold applied indexes.

Omega Speedmaster - Dark Side of the Moon

Omega Speedmaster – Dark Side of the Moon

It even wears a super-cool black Cordura® fabric strap with a black ceramic buckle. Although not a fan of Pink Floyd, I have to hand it to Omega for wittily naming this gem ‘Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon’. (www.omegawatches.com)

Best Watches of 2013 – Peter Roberts Concentrique Grand Complication 5

Aside from the inclusion of moonphase, this is my ideal watch. It’s gorgeous, it’s made by a maestro, it’s manually-wound, it contains one of the greatest movements ever made, it’s super-rare, the dial is breath-taking in its perfection, it feels so ‘right’ on the wrist that it’s as if Peter measured me for it. Which he could have: he’s one of my best friends. (And if that ain’t honest disclosure, I don’t know what is.)

Peter Roberts Concentrique

Peter Roberts Concentrique

By now, the saga is familiar. Peter produced the world’s first wristwatch with five hands from the centre in order to graduate from WOSTEP in 1971/2. For the past four decades, collectors have been pestering him to put this chronograph/GMT into production. He’s relented with a very limited run.

It is a masterpiece, a model of restraint and excellence in an age where flamboyance and hype seem to rule. This watch is so deliciously un-bling-y that it brings tears to my eyes. Believe me: the Grand Complication 5 will enter the annals of watch mythology. (www.peterrobertswatches.com)

Best Watches of 2013 – The Ressence Type 3

Falling in love with a trompe l’oeil might seem a bit flippant, but Ressence has completely transformed the way a watch looks. I’m as much of a sucker as the next watch enthusiast for timepieces with visual depth and complex, layered, open-dial structures like Greubel Forsey, certain Jaeger-LeCoultre and Urwerk, but Benoît Mintiens has gone in the opposite direction. He has devised a dial that appears to be absolutely flush with the glass – indeed, it looks like it is the glass.

Ressence Type 3 orbiting dials and main hand are bathed in a fluid that, according to the company, ‘refracts light like air does, so the indications appear to be displayed directly onto the sapphire.’ Underneath the glass is a complex dial using discs to show hours, minutes, seconds and days. The effect mesmerises: you simply can’t figure out how it’s done.

Ressence Type 3

Ressence Type 3

At a time when all mobile phones have displays with high-def screens, one is forgiven for assuming that the dial is simply an LCD, and what you see is merely a clever app. But this is a mechanical watch. Pure genius (www.ressence.eu)

Best Watches of 2013 – Speake-Marin Spirit Mk II DLC

As mentioned above, I love military watches, and Speake-Marin’s all-black Spirit Mk II DLC looks as stealthily militaristic as any watch can look. Despite this, the brand’s core styling remains present and accounted for, from the crown to the heavy lugs to the fonts on the dial. But the Stygian colour scheme transforms it from something that looks like it belongs on the wrist of a Victorian parliamentarian, to a timepiece suitable for, oh, the Boer War.

Speake-Marin Spirit Mk II DLC

Speake-Marin Spirit Mk II DLC

Inside is TT738 Calibre with five-day power reserve, thanks to the presence of a second barrel. The handsome 42mm sandblasted stainless steel case is coated with anthracite DLC, while the back is engraved with the motto, ‘Fight, Love & Persevere’ – according to Peter Speake-Marin himself, that ‘upholds the Spirit Collection’s name and confirms its credentials as the perfect talisman.’

Less poetically, it’s simply a great-looking watch with superlative finish and a style that will suit evening wear or, uh, combat. (www.speake-marin.com)

Best Watches of 2013 – Urwerk EMC

More unalloyed prejudice on my part: in my ‘other life’, I write about high-end audio, and am immediately fascinated by anything that talks about ‘Hz’ and capacitors and PCBs. Anything, that is, except watches. What the mad wizards at Urwerk have done is created a purely mechanical watch with its own on-board electronic measuring equipment for regulation by the user!

How devilishly cool is that? It doesn’t even need a battery, as the Urwerk EMC features a crank that feeds a generator with enough power to allow the user to undertake the measurements and set the adjustments with only 15-20 turns of the handle. An optical sensor on the balance wheel captures the precise rate of oscillation of the 4Hz/28,800 v/h regulator, while a 16MHz oscillator provides a precise reference rate. An artificial intelligence module calculates the difference between the timing rate of the movement and that of the reference oscillator.

Urwerk EMC

Urwerk EMC

Your local watchmaker will either be relieved if you’re a pest, or feel threatened that he’s being robbed of work. All I know is that my anally-retentive watch collecting buddies who time their watches every night to the second, against radio signals, will be climbing over each other to buy one of these. (www.urwerk.com)

This article is part of “Best Watches of 2013” series for DreamChrono Blog :

http://blog.dreamchrono.com/2014/01/best-womens-watches-of-2013-by-tracey-llewellyn/ (2013 Picks of Tracey Llwellyn)
http://blog.dreamchrono.com/2014/01/best-watches-of-2013-by-matthew-boston/ (2013 Picks of Matthew Boston)
http://blog.dreamchrono.com/2013/12/best-watches-of-2013-by-amr-sindi/ (2013 Picks of Amr Sindi)
http://blog.dreamchrono.com/2013/12/best-watches-of-2013-by-angus-davies/ (2013 Picks of Angus Davies)
http://blog.dreamchrono.com/2013/12/best-watches-of-2013-by-michael-weare/ (2013 Picks of Michael Weare)
http://blog.dreamchrono.com/2013/12/best-watches-of-2013-by-eduard-osipov/ (2013 Picks of Eduard Osipov)

Author Bio

Articles by Ken Kessler

Contributor

Ken Kessler has been involved with watches for over 35 years, initially as a collector, then as a dealer in vintage pieces. He has been writing about watches since the mid-1990s, his articles having appeared in Wall Street Journal, GQ, Men’s Health, Top Gear, Esquire, Financial Times, FT How To Spend It, The Telegraph, The Times, QP, International Wristwatch (USA), Status (USA), Hour Glass (Australia), Playboy, Brummell, City AM, Your London, Spear’s, Motorsport, Mail On Sunday and many other titles. Also a renowned expert in high-end audio, Ken is the author and co-author of four hi-fi histories. His weaknesses include chronographs, military watches and diving watches, while other pursuits include music, literature and wine.