Looking back: the best the watch industry had to offer in 2023

Well, it looks like 2023 has come and gone, and many will say: “good riddance.” In a year that was literally overflowing with strife, anger and discord, there’s something comforting about how the more things change, the more they stay the same.  The watch industry is one of those things.  

As a leading horological authority has succinctly said, “It really does take quite a lot at this point to reinvent the wheel,” and that’s because the industry has evolved to such a point that, well… advancements seem almost miniscule.  But as evidenced by the watches below, these “small” advancements can still make waves.  Here is our list of some of the best the watch industry had to offer in 2023.


This first one is a given.  There is simple no scenario in any reality that Audemars Piguet’s RD#4 doesn’t make this list.  And say what you will about the overall Code 11.59 design, not to mention the choice of the open-worked dial… yada yada yada, but there’s no denying the monumental achievement that the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Universelle RD#4 represents.  

Let’s be clear, though: the Universelle RD#4 does not reinvent the wheel… but it re-sets the proverbial high bar for everyone else.  The winner of the 2023 GPHG “AIGUILLE D’OR”, not only is the Universelle RD#4 Audemars Piguet’s most complicated watch to date, it also happens to be one of the industry’s most complicated watches, period.  Just look at its off-the-chart specs: 1,100 parts; 23 complications; 40 functions; and 17 technical devices, all shoe-horned into a white or rose gold case measuring a downright svelte (to encase this much) 42mm in diameter with a mere 15.1mm of thickness.  

This includes a perpetual calendar, an accurate astronomical moon; a minute repeater; Grande and Petite Sonneries; a flyback spilt-second chronograph; a flying tourbillon a Semi-Gregorian calendar, and a much, much more.  A truly monumental achievement by AP that deserves to be at the top of this list (despite its alphabetical nature), and one that every distinguished watchmaker will set its sights on for the next decade.

BALTIC Experiments Premier Quantième Perpétuel

Baltic used its second time to participate in Only Watch to launch the young French micro brand’s fine watchmaking line called “BALTIC Experiments”.  And instead of simply revising an existing model, Baltic developed their own Perpetual Calendar called the “Premier,” the timelessness and easy readability of which was made possible with the collaboration of Emmanuel Bouchet and the talented watchmakers of Maclef.  Together the two companies created a modern modular calendar run by the ultra-thin Vaucher 5401 micro-rotor movement modified to move the date functions like a sonnerie system.  

The result is easily one of the most reasonable (read: affordable) perpetual calendars in the market.  It is presented in a svelte 37mm steel and titanium timepiece that incorporates a wonderfully legible dial featuring three distinct sub-registers to indicate the days, month, leap year; a silicium moon-phase with a continuous second hand at 6 o’clock; and a prominent pointer date positioned on the outer flange of the watch that harmoniously complements the overall aesthetic. 


Inspired by Berthoud’s historical marine chronometers, the impressive calibre FB-T.FC. made its bows driving the equally impressive Ferdinand Berthoud FB1 in 2015 after the brand was resurrected by the Chopard Group.  Alas, all good things must come to an end and this year saw Ferdinand Berthoud stage the swan song of this fascinating tourbillon movement with fusée-and-chain transmission, which took the top prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in 2016.

Available in white and rose gold matched with a blue and ruthenium grey dial, respectively, the 38-piece limited edition Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 2T marks the last time this movement is presented in a round case, which makes the spectacularly finished movement visible from the caseback, partly from the front, and through the side via a sapphire crystal window mounted in the caseband.


“FFC” stands for Francis Ford Coppola, the legendary filmmaker who approached the equally legendary watchmaker François-Paul Journe with a positively crazy idea for a crazy wristwatch.  The result was the F.P. Journe FFC, which was created as a unique piece for the 2021 edition of Only Watch, but which made its commercial debut this year.

Inspired by a mechanical hand created by Ambroise Paré (1509-1590), the father of modern surgery, the F.P. Journe FFC uses an automaton of a literal hand (actually, a gauntlet) to display the time.  That’s right, animated fingers show 12 different configurations to display the instantaneous digital hours in conjunction with the rotating minutes at the periphery of the dial to display the time.

The highly technical execution has resulted is a display that is admittedly quite the opposite of intuitive but that becomes easier to use once you get used to its eccentricity.  Not for everyone but an astonishing accomplishment none-the-less, and one of the most ingenious complications that 2023 had to offer.


Girard-Perregaux first unveiled the Constant Force Escapement in 2012 as a wristwatch with a unique, dual-wheel escapement with an integral constant-force silicon buckling spring.  Taking this concept and running with it, the striking Neo Constant Escapement made its debut as a unique piece at Only Watch 2023, and made its commercial debut shortly after.

Smaller and more refined than ever, the Neo Constant Escapement features a ‘fifth wheel’ on the gear train, and escapement wheels that are smaller and with a different geometry; two new rocking levers to transfer the force to the buckled blade and to ensure the much higher efficiency of the entire escapement construction; a central handset; COSC certification; and a guaranteed 7-day power reserve with the same size barrels as before and despite the larger, heavier balance wheel.  One of the most technically complex and impressive watches to come in a long time.


Takashi Murakami’s iconic smiling flower found itself at the center of Hublot’s first ever central tourbillon surrounded by twelve petals set with 444 gemstones for the 10th edition of Only Watch.  A Japanese contemporary artist known for blurring the line between high and low arts, Murakami’s now iconic smiling flower does just that, and blurs the line between high and lower culture.

Just last month, Hublot once again merged their exceptional Swiss watchmaking knowhow with that of Takashi Murakami’s playful universe with an all-sapphire version of that watch.  And people, it is stunning.  Completely clear and still very much flower-shaped, the Hublot Takashi Murakami Tourbillon Sapphire MP-15 technically has no dial, just the same central flying tourbillon with little hands that poke out and indices that become visible if you squint hard enough, all of which sits behind the artist’s smiley face.


According to Max Büsser, the extraordinary Horological Machines that have been created by Maximilian Büsser & Friends have been inspired by things that have fascinated him throughout his life.  This is why we’ve seen astonishing timepieces inspired by everything from jetfighter engines, spaceships, vintage supercars, a jellyfish, a panda, a frog and even a bulldog.  And now it looks like we’ve been introduced to Max Büsser’s dream house in the MB&F HM11 Architect, another horological UFO shaped like pod-style houses from the 1960s.

Physically, the watch is composed of a central core that connects to four pods that make up the rooms.  This central lobby of sorts is the beating heart and brain of the HM11 Architect and is positioned right in middle of the watch from which it which connects to the four rooms via a junction of corridors to distribute power to each of its functions: one displays the time, another displays the power reserve; the third displays the temperature; while the last is reserved for the crown to set the hours and minutes.

Best of all, the entire structure can be rotated to display whichever function is required at the time, all of which is driven by a movement with a central flying tourbillon escapement revealed by multiple sections of sapphire crystal.  Last but not least, winding the watch requires the rotation of the entire case clockwise.  Truly, the MB&F HM11 Architect must be seen to be believed.


The winner of 2023’s GPHG chronograph watch prize, Gaël Petermann and Florian Bédat’s second watch was limited to only 10 pieces and quickly sold out despite being priced at CHF243,000.00.  The epitome of hyper stratosphere watchmaking, the Petermann Bédat Chronograph Rattrapante is every bit a traditional technological tour de force featuring a technically impressive split seconds chronograph movement that incorporates a column wheel and horizontal clutch, a massive balance wheel, Breguet overcoil, and a swan-neck regulator… components that demonstrate Petermann Bédat’s clear appreciation for traditional watchmaking, specifically old pocket watches.

Best of all, Petermann and Bédat incorporated last year’s best chronograph, beating out entries from AP, De Bethune, and others, in a wristwatch that is perfectly wearable at just 38mm and 13.7mm thick, with curved lugs that are shaped perfectly for the wrist.  And did we mention the Petermann Bédat Chronograph Rattrapante perfectly reflects the watchmaker's visual identity with quite possibly some of the most extraordinary finishing in the industry?

SINGER REIMAGINED x GENUS 8-Track Watch for Only Watch

For Only Watch 2023, two independent watch brands, Singer Reimagined and Genus partnered “to rekindle the flame of the childlike sense of wonder that lies dormant in each of us.”  The result is the 8-Track Watch for Only Watch, a one-off that redefines the telling of time while offering a unique “auto(e)motive experience.”

Singer Reimagined, known for their “unconventional chronographs powered by engines standing apart from all previous chronograph movements,” supplied the aesthetic codes embodied in a 43mm cushion-shaped stainless steel case inspired by the iconic motorsport watches of the 60s and 70s.  This perfect setting was the canvas from where Genus executed the exceptional mechanics of their powerful in-house caliber.

An unprecedented design without a dial and without hands, the 8-Track Watch features a display that centers around two rotating minutes discs that together form a figure 8 (which is also happens to be the symbol of infinity).  A fully hand crafted 18K gold miniature sculpture of a vintage race car races along this 8-track to point to the minutes, while the hours are conveyed from a similarly rotating flange and indicated by a stationary pointer at 6 o’clock.

The result is a fascinating automotive ballet that will not only appeal to the horologically open-minded, and to motor heads, but this fusion of the mechanical-aesthetic, the “horo-kinetic,” and the “auto-emotional” is tuned to also bring out the inner-child that, hopefully, still lives within us all.


Only the fourth non-round timepiece made by the independent-watchmaking-darling, the Voutilainen TMZ CSW made its debut as a one-off wristwatch made exclusively for the 2023 Only Watch directly inspired by the 2019 Only Watch-exclusive Pocket Time-Teller co-created by father and daughter team Kari and Venla Voutilainen.  

Taking off from that previous pocket watch, the new 39mm x 39mm TMZ Cushion Shaped Worldtime is made from steel, and is a world timer powered by a completely new caliber TMZ217, which in itself is an evolution from the Vingt-8.  So easy to use, simply pressing the crown allows for the adjustment of the world time mechanism.  

As per Voutilainen tradition, the case with short curved lugs to ensure comfort has been adorned with four functional screws on each corner with the brand’s signature three-hole design; while the solid silver dial is colored in anthracite and is engined turned by hand with an elaborate trivague wave guilloché.