The Biggest Surprises of 2022

Every so often, a watch comes along that stops you in your tracks and takes you completely by surprise. Whether it’s an unexpected complication, a watch you’ve hoped would be made for years and are shocked to finally see it in front of you, or an absolutely over the top novelty that reshapes how you think about an entire brand, we love being surprised. The truth is, so many watches, even watches we deeply admire, tread ground that’s familiar. So it makes sense that we’d want to celebrate the watches that upended our expectations and really started a conversation. Today, the Worn & Wound team selects the watches that surprised us the most in 2022. 

Zach Kazan 

The watch that surprised me most in 2022 comes to us courtesy of a brand that I’ve come to believe is too often maligned. The Hublot Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Purple Sapphire is precisely what it says on the tin: a big (a really big) watch made from synthetic purple sapphire with a tourbillon. Did I mention that it’s purple? And (kinda) made of glass?

Hublot has a bad rap among enthusiasts for, I guess, making overpriced, loud watches that are worn by people primarily outside the hobby. And some continue to criticize the brand for latching onto trends, and being a vehicle mostly for crass people to display that they have more wealth than taste. To those people, I say, respectfully: please put down your phone, and go outside and breathe fresh air. Every expensive watch is purchased by someone that you would no doubt say is tasteless and classless if you looked beyond the watch on their wrist, whether it’s a Rolex, a Richard Mille, or anything in between. Such are the dangers of making judgments of character based on watch buying habits. All that really matters is how you feel about the watch.

Of course, Hublot’s watches are not going to be to everyone’s aesthetic taste. They are, how can I put this – a little bombastic. If a discreet and subdued sports watch is the look you’re going for, Hublot is not going to be your brand. But for whatever reason, at this particular moment, I find myself drawn to exactly the opposite of that, and this ridiculous purple sapphire watch helped to unlock the idea that this kind of ostentatious, colorful watchmaking is one of the most exciting things happening in our hobby right now. 


So what was actually surprising about it? Well, besides my overwhelmingly positive reaction, the sapphire case was actually a bit of a shock in person. It has this very strange quality of feeling both incredibly light but also solid and sturdy in the way you’d want any sports watch to feel on the wrist. It’s translucent, so you get a great look at the complex case architecture, and the movement is almost fully visible from both the front and back. I’m a sucker for watches that feel like they could be props in a sci-fi movie set 3 million years in the future, when the human race has colonized the entire galaxy, so maybe I shouldn’t feel so surprised by the Barney (I’m calling it the Barney – I have no idea if anyone else is), but I’m certainly delighted by it. 

Zach Weiss 

I feel like I was taken by surprise a few times this year. Tudor did it with both their Black Bay Pro and Pelagos 39 models. The former was almost literally what I would have described as what I wanted from the brand (including the steel bezel), the latter I just didn’t think they’d make. Grand Seiko was chock full of surprises this year, first bringing their T0 concept caliber to a production (albeit, very low production) model with the Kodo, and then launching the 36.5mm 44GS case.

But the watch that was still the biggest surprise for me was… the MoonSwatch. Yep, can’t escape it. 2022 was the year of the MoonSwatch, like it or not. While old news at this point and territory that has been retread many times over, just in terms of sheer surprise, it’s still the winner. I was shocked. I was blown away. I never could have predicted a $260 bioceramic/plastic Speedmaster. Even more surprising was that it had both the Omega logo on it and Speedmaster on the dial. They could have just made the Swatch MoonSwatch “inspired by the Omega Speedmaster” or something to that effect. But no, they went full Speedy. Truly surprising. 

Thomas Calara 

Back in June, we were all caught off guard by not one, not two, but three different Seikos on the same day. There was the Seiko ‘Arnie’ Prospex diver, which I ended up writing about and compared the entire release from Seiko to Arnold Schwarzenneger’s stealthy, camo-painted face character from Commando and Predator that got the jump on us all. Then there was a trio of new Seiko Prospex divers inspired by the ‘Captain Willard’ sporting the familiar asymmetric case but in a thinner form, new date placement at 4:30, and a quirky steel bracelet. But out of three, none caused the amount of commotion and buzz within the comments on forums and blogs alike than the Seiko SSK GMT.

What makes the SSK GMT genuinely surprising is that it houses a new complication that’s a first for the Seiko 5 Sports line and builds on the old SKX, and current SRPD design. A bunch of us can trace our start in this hobby to the SKX diver, and for a while there, it was the watch that I’d personally recommend to those who were curious about getting into the world of horology. The SKX had its own aesthetic, an automatic movement, decent water resistance, and a dependable build for a watch at that price point. Then one day, the SKX line was discontinued and replaced within the Seiko 5 Sports line through the SRPD. 

The SSK GMT came bursting onto the scene, sporting a familiar 42.5mm SKX style case, bold markers and a jubilee bracelet. As mentioned above, this was the first time we’re seeing a GMT movement in the Seiko 5 Sports line via the Seiko 4R34 movement. Equipped with 41 hours of power reserve, the movement uses an independent GMT hand that works in tandem with the friction-less 24 hour split-bezel to track multiple time zones. In Seiko-like fashion, we got a variation with an orange dial and orange bezel accents, as well as one with a sunburst blue dial and a bezel colorway that’s often referred to as the “Batman”. Then there’s the straightforward black dial paired with a split-ghost bezel and a red GMT hand, a watch that easily could (and should) have made its way into the collection. 

Then there’s the price. $475. Up until that point in the year, there weren’t many GMT options out there that were even close to the retail price of the SSK GMT that had a good looking design and didn’t feel derivative to previous GMT models. Even now as the year is coming to a close, the Seiko SSK GMT holds its own against the slew of sub $1,500 GMT’s we saw released later in the year. For the price, you can’t beat the amount of fun and practical use you would get out of the SSK, whether you’re in your local time zone, or abroad. It might seem that I’m already making a case for a “Favorite Watch of 2022” in addition to the watch that surprised me the most this year. But then again, can you blame me?

Blake Buettner 

When you spend most of your time looking at and thinking about watches, it can be pretty tough to come across something genuinely surprising. I saw plenty of watches I didn’t exactly expect to see this year, but very few actually left me surprised. Chief among those that did is the Bel Canto from Christopher Ward. Here was a watch that exhibited the level of creativity generally seen in the rarified realm of high end independent brands, presented beautifully, at a cost affordable to many. 

The Bel Canto is a time only watch with a visible striking mechanism arranged at the bottom of the dial, marking each hour with a pleasant chime. You can even turn it off. Visually, this is an exciting watch, a near total departure from the somewhat predictable design language of brands like Christopher Ward (which I generally enjoy, fwiw). It looks exotic, not to mention expensive. But its biggest limited factor was the low volume being produced. And that makes sense considering the total subversion of what’s expected of a brand like this. 

I see a lot of watches that compete to fill the same hole in your collection. We are spoiled for choice when it comes to a bog standard, capable dive watch, and increasingly so with the likes of GMTs and chronographs. But, when all the options are pretty good, you start looking for the unusual. Who’s doing their own thing? Who’s truly pushing ahead and doing something exciting? I’ve always liked Christopher Ward, but until the Bel Canto, I wouldn’t have placed them in that category. Seeing this watch was a complete surprise for me, and one I hope to see more of not just from them, but from brands across the spectrum. 

This watch shows that there’s plenty of room for creative and fun solutions at every price range. Same goes for the new So Labs Layer 2. The M.A.D. 1 is another example, though this Bel Canto features a better execution, if you ask me. Hopefully it sparks some new ideas from unexpected places in 2023. There’s clearly an appetite for it. 

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