At 2020 nears its end, there's a good chance you just want to get away. We feel ya. Better times are on the horizon, and watch brands in 2020 have prepared us well for whatever type of adventures await in 2021.
Dive watches, pilot watches, field watches, tool watches and more are popular not only because they're durable and neat-looking: their very nature evokes excitement. Even though there were fewer chances to use them due to quarantine and travel restrictions, 2020 perhaps needed adventurous watches even more than other years.
So, with the hope of putting them to use soon, here are some of the most functional, badass and ready-for-fun watches of the year.
Astor & Banks Fortitude
The Fortitude by American microbrand Astor & Banks looks appropriate for the office, but it's also imbued with plenty of sportiness. Some might call it a "field watch" or an "officer's watch," but whatever you call it, 200m of water resistance makes it ready for the trail, beach or whatever adventure you might throw at it. Sapphire crystal, a refined design and a robust Japanese automatic movement make its price seem all the more attractive.
Seiko Prospex "King Turtle"
Seiko released a bunch of cool sport watches this year. The "King Turtle," however, stands out for taking one of the brand's most classic, popular and recommendable dive watch and making it even more desirable. You get the great look, ergonomics and bang for buck of the familiar Seiko Turtle, but the "King" offers sapphire crystal, ceramic bezel, a day and date display with a magnifier and a waffle-textured dial — yet it remains affordable and ready for anything.
Timor Heritage Field
Though less well-known than companies like IWC and Omega, Timor was one of the 12 brands to make field watches for the British military in WWII that later became known to collectors as the Dirty Dozen. Now, the brand's back at it, offering a recreation of that famous watch, but with modern movements and materials like sapphire crystal. And yes, it's available to civilians.
Ollech & Wajs OW Ocean Graph
Built on the foundation of Ollech & Wajs' no-nonsense 1,000m-water-resistant C-1000 beast of a dive watch, the Ocean Graph adds a striking look with faded blue and orange. Sure, it stands out aesthetically, but it's also built like a rock (a heavy one) and features a retro decompression bezel. We're generally impressed with the resurrected brand, but this might be their most attractive modern watch yet.
Nivada Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver
Yes, it's another one-to-one reissue of a vintage watch, but it's a damn cool one. With a rotating bezel, a chronograph and 100m of water resistance, the Chronomaster seems like it's made for action — of any sort. Recreated precisely in its design, it has automatic or manual Swiss movement options, measures 38.3mm, is topped with sapphire crystal and offers a hell of a value.
Zodiac Super Sea Wolf GMT
The GMT complication for tracking another timezone evokes travel, even if you're only using for keeping in touch with far-flung family or colleagues. The Zodiac Super Sea Wolf is a dive watch at its heart (and remains water-resistant to 200m), but slightly reimagined with a 24-hour bezel and Swiss GMT movement, it's one of the coolest, adventure-ready watches of the year.
Yema Superman GMT Bronze
French watchmaker Yema announced this year the latest generation of its proprietary movements, which are designed and assembled in-house by the brand. It's particularly notable that the watches they debuted in remain reasonably priced while offering the popular GMT functionality, a great vintage style and a nicely sized (39mm or 41mm) bronze case.
Some of the coolest dive watch designs happen to also be monstrously sized. German watchmaker Sinn's U1 is one of those, but the current industry trend of smaller diameters caters to those who just want something easier to wear on a day-t0-day basis. This year's U50 takes the same basic design of the 44mm U1 and offers it in a tantalizing 41mm package. It's still badass, made of German submarine steel and 500m water-resistant, but easier on the lithe-wristed among us.
Montblanc Star Legacy Orbis Terrarum
World time watches are practical and often visually interesting — particularly those which incorporate a map dial. Montblanc has done an excellent job taking the traditional map motif and necessary information (24 time zones) and displaying it all in a fresh and elegant way. The map is more than aesthetic, however, as it's rendered on a sapphire crystal beneath which a disc rotates to help visualize daytime and nighttime for different time zones.
Panerai Submersible Azzuro
Panerai is known for big watches, but many rejoiced when the Submersible dive watch was first offered in a relatively moderate 42mm diameter. More versions have followed, and the model dubbed Azzuro features sporty blue highlights alongside its serious-looking black dial. Consistent with other Panerai watches, it's got plenty of bravado, a hearty build, an in-house automatic movement and should take to strap changes like, well, a dive watch to water.