Our 2023 Watches of the Year

No matter your budget, taste, or experience in the hobby, it seems like the entire watch community is in agreement: it was a great year for watches. Not just for new releases, but for the watch community, for talking about watches, and for being involved in this strange but incredibly fun world. 

We asked our team of Editorial staff members and contributors to pick their Watch of the Year. It could be a new release that they own, or don’t own, an addition to the collection, or any watch that spoke to them in 2023. The selections are wonderfully diverse, and speak to the huge variety of watches we were able to collectively experience this year. More than that, they underline vibrancy of the watch world, and seem to point to a movement toward watches that are unique or special in some way. 

We had a great time talking to you about watches this year, and we can’t wait to bring you even more from every corner of the watch world in 2024. Happy new year!  

Zach Weiss

My watch of the year is the Christopher Ward C1 Bel Canto. Yes, it came out in 2022, but this was the year I got to wear it…and wear it I did. And I think it also colored the watch world itself in 2023, setting a new standard, showing what brands that were formerly ignored by the industry at large can do. Proof of this was its well-earned GPGH award.

Now, I’m working on an owner’s review, so I don’t want to spoil that, but the gist is this: I can’t get over it. It’s a watch that still brings me just as much excitement on day three-hundred-something as it did on day one. It’s a work of art that revealed to me a bit more about what I am looking for in a watch, and thus myself. Something unexpected that had to be experienced to learn. A taste of the exotic, a bit of the weird, but rooted in horological cleverness, not novelty.

As I enter 2024, surely there will be new watches that will tempt me and watches that will inevitably make their way into my watch box, if for a time, but I don’t think anything can unseat the C1 Bel Canto, as it’s a singular experience. As such, don’t be surprised if I’m writing the same blurb for next year’s version of this article.

Zach Kazan 

An immediate disclaimer to my Watch of the Year pick: I’m cheating. I’ll happily accept any fake penalty you wish to assess in this fake exercise where we rank the creative endeavors of our fellow humans, but yeah, I’m picking three watches. They are all related, at least to me, in a very clear way, and they capture what for me was the great theme of 2023, which was a year that I suspect set me down a watch collecting path that I’ll be on for the next little while. After a period of watches aimlessly coming in and out of my collection, coming out of this year it feels like my own personal collecting decisions are forming a recognizable shape. 

Because this year, 2023, was the year I figured out a personal sweet spot in accessible, unique, independent watchmaking. My Arcanaut Arc II, Bell & Ross Multimeter, and Louis Erard x Atelier Oi Regulator were all new additions to the collection this year, and each opened my eyes and broke my brain in different ways. These watches all offer a heaping dose of originality in a package that’s surprisingly approachable but still plenty weird. As someone who has admired the haute indies for years, I found that these watches, in surprising ways, scratched an itch I didn’t know I really had for conversation starters, statement pieces, and watches that express a distinct point of view, acting as a reflection of my own taste and interests. 


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I’ve been on record for a while about being kind of bored by “tool” watches (although that didn’t stop me from adding new watches that fit within that general framework from Tudor and Lorier to the fold this year), and have leaned heavily into an “aesthetics first” mindset. Above all, I have to like the way a watch looks. These three, I think, are the most compelling examples of that collecting strategy in my watchbox at the moment, and looking back at the full year now that it’s nearly behind us, it feels like they also reflect a solidification of my ever evolving taste.

These watches have nothing in common, really, except that they were acquired in the same calendar year. But thematically, they complement each other perfectly. A thought exercise that we consider around here fairly often is “What is the watch that others most associate you with?” I don’t really know the answer to that question and I’m not seeking to tip the scales, but if it were any of these three, I’d feel like they’re a good fit. “Zach watches” all. 

Brad Homes 

My watch of the year award goes to the Fears Christopher Ward: Alliance 01, which saw two British brands collaborate to promote the work of the Alliance of British Watch and Clockmakers. Although the watch was released right at the start of the year, and with a sample on my wrist over Christmas 2022, nothing else has had quite the same impact during the last 12 months. I count myself lucky to be one of the 50 people worldwide to own one.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been waiting for the perfect semi-formal jump hour watch. I’ve always enjoyed the complication, owning the Christopher Ward C9 Jumping Hour briefly many years ago before buying it twice more just in case I got it wrong first (and second) time. I have also followed the Fears story closely since meeting Nicholas Bowman-Scargill at the Salon QP event at London’s Saatchi Gallery, and despite liking each Fears release more and more, I never felt that any of them were quite right for me. The Alliance 01 represents the conclusion of both of those journeys for me.

Like many jump hours watches served by a modular complication sitting on top of an automatic movement, thickness is always going to be a challenge. My concerns that the Alliance 01, at almost 13mm in height, might wear similarly to the jump hours of my past were put to bed thanks to the lovely contours of the Fears Brunswick case. Christopher Ward’s JJ01 caliber powers the watch, but with only the “Twin Flags” logo etched on the underside of one of the lugs, the rest of the watch is branded as a Fears. Even though the original design work was done by Christopher Ward, it “feels” like a Fears. Throw in a sparse and striking dial layout and a rich burgundy colorway and the watch is a winner. Good things come to those who wait.

Marc Levesque

Contrary to what you may believe, my Grand Seiko SBGE257 is not my Watch of the Year. While this is a very special milestone timepiece for me, I have chosen another. A watch I came upon after a conversation I had with fellow member of the Worn and Wound+ Slack Community, discussing the advantages of Tritium lume. 

As much as I adore my Grand Seiko, its lume leaves much to be desired and it would be nice to be able to read the time at 3am, as I wear a watch 24/7. Since I had a few dollars squirrelled away for a future watch purchase and perhaps the future was now, I started hunting. I decided I wanted a quartz watch; something grab-and-go that could be equally rugged as it is comfortable and slim. 

After much YouTube and Worn & Wound research I decided on the Marathon Steel Navigator. Once the choice was made, I started hunting. Brand new was a little above my budget and there were a few in the U.S., but did I really want the hassle? Then I remembered the Canadian Watch Collectors website and go figure, a listing for one had just been posted in my area. I made an offer and within an hour, it was on my wrist.

Turns out the seller is an Air Canada pilot, and the Navigator has 50+ hours of flight time.  How cool is that? He was selling it because he had just acquired his dream watch, a 90s Breitling Aerospace, which he got from a dude at a bar in Asia. Literally bought the watch off his wrist. He went on to explain that pilots do not like thick watches. Airplane cabins are super tight, and he had recently destroyed his Speedmaster bracelet when jamming it between his seat controls and other instruments.

Since its acquisition, the Marathon has become a little more than just my nighttime watch. I catch myself keeping it on more often than I care to admit. Its +/- 10 sec a year accuracy and its bang on precise ticks right on the hash marks really satisfy my OCD. I could not stand the pass-through strap it came with, so I replaced it with an inexpensive mesh band, and it is an incredible combination. 

The Marathon Steel Navigator is super comfortable, ticks all the boxes I was looking for and the fact that it is a Canadian company is just icing on the cake. This is my Watch of the Year.

Christoph McNeill 

Watch of the year? Was it some great new “Heritage” release, or a stunning one-off for Only Watch? Nope. Was it my most-worn watch this year (Tornek-Rayville TR-660)? Nope. For me the answer is simple, it’s the only watch that I added to my personal collection this year, a vintage 1968 King Seiko 45-7000.

The King Seiko 45-7000 has been my White Whale for well over a decade, and I was finally able to reel one in this year. I’ve been a huge fan of Seiko’s Grammar of Design watches since I first laid eyes on them, with their broad flat planes, razor sharp edges and incredible contrasting brushed and polished finishes. Most of the vintage King and Grand Seikos exhibit these design elements, but the 45-7000 truly is the epitome of that aesthetic. Coupled with the fact that it has a manual wind movement and no date window, this watch checks all the boxes for me as a vintage Seiko collector. The gorgeous case with those wide, flat lugs, the classic silver dial with simple steel baton markers, no date, perfectly finished steel dauphine hands, the beautiful gold KS medallion on the back, and the stunningly finished manual wind caliber 45 movement….ahhhhh yes.

If you’ve read any of my offerings here in the past, you will know that while I’m not averse to patina, I greatly prefer no patina on the dial of my vintage watches, and I absolutely detest a polished vintage case. So, it was my task to find a vintage Seiko 45-7000 that had a perfect dial and unpolished case. I mean, how hard can that be? Well…..pretty darn hard it turns out. I scoured the various watch forum sales corners and checked my saved eBay search daily for over ten years searching for the perfect example of this watch. I had determined that I would be patient, and wait until the right one presented itself.

Rewind to April of this year, and while I was on vacation, scrolling through Instagram, I came across a “for sale” ad for a nearly perfect 45-7000, from a seller in Singapore. After a few messages back and forth, funds were sent, fingers were crossed…and eventually my White Whale arrived at the post office! The watch was as good as advertised, the seller couldn’t have been more professional, and the watch even came with a correct, vintage KS buckle along with a custom black strap. 

Nathan Schultz

My watch of the year award goes to the watch that went in (and then back out) of my online cart more than any other watch this year: The Bulova Oceanographer GMT. Earlier this year I reviewed a Bulova Oceanographer from my own personal collection, more commonly known as the Devil Diver. I wrote about how I’d made a mistake when I sold a previous Oceanographer and that, despite its flaws, the Devil Diver was a watch worth purchasing and keeping. Well… I didn’t follow my own advice and I sold the darn thing (again). But it’s not my fault. While writing the review, I got in my head about two flaws of the watch, and simply wasn’t able to look past them again. 

The first downside to the regular three handed Devil Diver is the movement. Mine was powered by a Miyota 821D, a perfectly functional movement, but that lacked hacking and had the notoriously loud rotor we’ve all grown to love from 8000 series Miyotas. Here is what I wrote in my review:

It’s fun to dream about an Oceanographer with a high beat 9000 series Miyota that hacks and doesn’t require ear plugs. Citizen acquired Bulova in 2008 and could probably make it happen, but doing so would come at a cost. 

After picking on the movement, I set my sights on the applied name and the inexcusable amount of adhesive (or whatever that is) blobs securing it to the dial.

And then, as if to tell me to shut up, Bulova did exactly what I had asked for. They fixed the applied logo issue (or at least made it less noticeable) and threw in a high beat Miyota 9075, in turn converting my favorite dive watch into a true automatic GMT. Even better, these substantial improvements had a minimal impact on price. The new Bulova GMT retails for $1295, but I see them on sale all the time from authorized dealers for less than $900. Who knows, maybe the third time’s the charm and I’ve finally found the Oceanographer with some staying power. 

Tanner Tran

2023 was the best year of my life: I found a new job, moved, and best of all, got married to my best friend. My Watch of the Year is easily my 1991 Submariner 14060, a watch that I’ve written and shared about here before. It was a wedding gift from my parents, and I wore it on our special day. I’ve since had it engraved with my wife’s and my initials and wedding date, and it’s a watch that will be with me forever. Wearing it is a sweet reminder of the family and friends with whom we celebrated.

While the Sub is my sentimental watch of the year, 2023’s epilogue ends with a twist. Just last week, I took an unexpected delivery of a watch that I truthfully was unsure about: The 126720 VTNR, aka the left-handed GMT-Master II. As a southpaw myself, I find it charming that such a watch even exists. I’ve been wearing it the last week or so, and I think we’ll get along just fine.

Meg Tocci

Though Hamilton released the Murph 38mm last November, it has remained a fan-favorite throughout the duration of 2023. It joined my collection in May and quickly became my dedicated adventure watch. It’s journeyed with me from the beaches of Lake Tahoe, NV to the top of Cadillac Mountain, ME. 

On a trip to New England this summer, I embraced my (temporary) status as a One Watch Woman. The Murph was a partner in exploration through rural Maine and Acadia National Park where we picked wild blueberries along the cliffs. Then, down past the outskirts of Boston to the Old North Bridge and the storied beginnings of the American Revolution. It kept time in the dense foliage surrounding Walden Pond, where Thoreau went to the woods to live deliberately, and where that sort of deliberate life felt possible to me as well (for an hour or two). It was there through the winding colonial backroads of Connecticut – a witness to many a lobster roll – ever southward, until we reached the shores of the Long Island Sound. 

In an old tent this fall, the lume provided comfort while waiting for a frigid October sunrise. I’d roll up three layers of sleeves (to ward off the Colorado chill) and check the time – thinking to myself if the critters didn’t get me it’d be the cold. Ironically, the Murph was also on my wrist when I planned the excursion from the warm embrace of my heated apartment. C’est la vie.

I have a connection to this watch. It’s tough to separate it from the film for which it was created, and I see parts of myself in the character whose name it shares. But, more than that, I see myself in the watch alone. It’s got a vintage sensibility with a dose of modern practicality. Comfortable dressed up but most at home under an expanse of summer stars. It’s old-fashioned in the ways that matter. A faithful companion.

I have over a dozen watches in my collection but this one feels like me. Now speckled with scuffs and scratches bearing out the stories of our time together this year, I think it’s more beautiful than the day I unboxed it and called it my own. I’m not sure what adventures I’ll check off my list next year, but I’m confident the Murph will be there for all of them.

Brett Braley

As I still dive deeper (and deeper!) into the world of watches, I’m finding my proverbial groove into the types of watches that interest me most. While my eye is most drawn to the dressier, prestige watches like Cartier and Rolex, I would be lying if I said that a simple Seiko wasn’t my go-to watch this year. It’s a 7002 700A, to be exact, with a blue dial and Pepsi bezel. I got it on eBay after a couple drinks and having read an article about a cashmere designer who only wears an automatic diver watch, which convinced me – of course – that I needed one, too.

While this wouldn’t have been my normal style, it surprisingly works with most of my wardrobe and is a bit of a workhorse when it comes to being just interesting enough to be eye-catching without being ostentatious. At 41mm it’s got some presence on my wrist and while I was worried that the Pepsi-colored bezel would clash with whatever shirt or sweater I had on, I’ve actually found that the varying colors of the watch — sky blue dial, dark blue and red, silver — to all give just enough of a contrast to not have to necessarily worry about clashing or complementing an outfit. This Seiko simply stands on its own when worn, making it easy to throw on without a second thought. And, I have to say, I love it for that versus the Tank or Rolex I picked up this year.

Alec Dent

The watch industry of the last few years has been obsessed with fun. It makes sense: so many of the industry’s most iconic designs are from 50 years or so ago and have changed little, so a sense of whimsy can help a new watch stand out from the crowd. The timepiece that captured my attention most this year also struck me as the most whimsical: the Rake x Revolution x Alessandro Palazzi x Bell & Ross limited edition Bellytanker Chronograph “Vesper.”

I have to confess, I don’t own this watch, so I don’t have the hands-on experience necessary for a true and thorough review. But, as a martini enthusiast and someone who lusts after timepieces with Jean Singer exotic dials, I fell in love with the design of the watch almost immediately. I love a cocktail watch—Rowing Blazers x Zodiac x Harry’s Bar is another favorite of the genre—and found the small martini-glass hashes a beautiful touch.


“As a watch nerd, I kind of just wanted to stick all the different things that I really liked into a chronograph,” Wei Koh, founder of The Rake and Revolution, recalled in an interview.

And he succeeded in getting a lot in: the martini-glass variant of Singer “Paul Newman”-style subdials, the black and gold coloring that pays tribute to the gold hue of the Vesper cocktail, and the “thirstmeter” on the bezel in place of the regular tachymeter.

The watch even has some James Bond heritage, with the martini-variant that gives the watch its name being an Ian Fleming creation and named after Bond’s love interest in Casino Royale, Vesper Lynd. (It contains gin, vodka, and Lillet blanc aperitif or vermouth, whereas the classic martini is gin and vermouth with a garnish of an olive or lemon peel.) And Bell & Ross and Koh earned some serious cocktail street cred by partnering with legendary bartender Alessandro Palazzi of the Dukes Hotel bar in London on the watch. It’s a partnership that actually makes a great deal of sense if you stop and think about it.

“The martini is the most elemental drink in the world because you basically have your spirit, which is either gin or vodka, if you like vodka, or both in the case of the Vesper, and then you have some kind of flavor-y element to it,” said Koh. “It only lasts a couple of minutes before its flavor profile starts to change.”

It is, in other words, a reminder of the passage of time in a glass, now commemorated in something that measures the passage of time. A perfect watch concept, beautifully executed.

Chris Antzoulis

2023 was quite a year for me; a few watches left the collection, but 14 watches entered (some of which will inevitably leave). When I looked over this evolving collection I had a hard time choosing what my “Watch of the Year” would be, but there’s only one new watch that represents my own personal growth as a collector — my Grand Seiko SBGA413 Shunbun. This was the first truly calculated watch purchase I’ve ever made. That’s not to say that I bought the others on a whim, most of them were “right place, right time” kind of purchases, gifts, or Casios that I seem to collect like Pokemon cards. But the Grand Seiko was the culmination of more than a year’s worth of figuring out exactly what it was I wanted in a watch. 

I’ve only been a true watch enthusiast and collector for a little over two years, and like many before me, my first love was the Omega Speedmaster Professional. I went to my local AD multiple times a month to try it on, wear it around the shop, and pine over its iconic looks and history. However, as I went into the shop more, I’d try on other watches along with the Speedy, and one day I made my way to the Grand Seiko section of the store. The pink hue to the Shunbun on the whimsical cherry blossom dial caught my attention instantly. I tried it on and something inside me changed. The dial was mesmerizing in a tranquil way that I never experienced before. I’m a writer and spend a lot of my time sitting and typing up the next article, poem, or short story, and I fell in love with the idea of turning such a peaceful watch to my gaze and allowing it to lull me and help me to cultivate the next sentence. 

And that is exactly what my ShunBun became, a companion. It’s calming when I need it to be, generally inspiring, and always reminding me that my art and my ability to connect with the world around me is what’s most important. Believe me, I know it’s strange to think that a watch can facilitate the creative process, but it does. It helps bring the world into my hands. 

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