The year ahead holds some interesting possibilities for the watch world. Each year sees watch brands celebrate any anniversary with a round number, but 2022 marks a big one: the iconic Audemars Piguet Royal Oak turns 50. This and other factors suggest that the already white-hot category of sport-lifestyle watches represented by the Royal Oak will further heat up in 2022.
The Royal Oak created a new genre of watches in 1972 by offering a steel luxury watch with a sporty style more so than a sporty purpose. Watches with similar traits (integrated bracelets, prominent bezels, polygonal shapes, etc.) like the Patek Philippe Nautilus followed, along with an army of wannabes. This type of watch will be in the zeitgeist even more in 2022 than it already is.
The year ahead will see Royal Oak designer Gerald Genta's own Royal Oak auctioned, Patek Philippe is expected to replace its outgoing 5711 with a new Nautilus, and the Vacheron Constantin Overseas has an anniversary of its own. But what does this mean for the industry in general? Aside from much fanfare from those brands, we expect the concept to trickle down to more affordable brands, as we've already seen it begin to.
The year won't only be about the Royal Oak, though, as we expect other trends to continue: it's about time for green dials to follow blue and go mainstream; and shrinking median watch sizes may settle around 39-40mm. Can we expect more balance between vintage reissues and fresh, forward-looking designs? Watch consumers are surely starting to itch for that.
The year ahead will hopefully be full of interesting watches, and even surprises (we like those). To whet your horological appetite, below are some of the watches we'd like to see and some of what we expect in 2022.
A successor to Patek Philippe's Nautilus 5711
The Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711 is discontinued, but it would be insane for Patek to simply stop making one of the most successful watches of all time at the height of its popularity. The Nautilus collection, however, lives on, and there'll have to be some new version with a new reference number to replace the 5711 eventually. We don't expect it to be a radical departure.
Expectation for the outgoing 5711's replacement will be part of the general zeitgeist of 2022. It's perfectly plausible, however, that the brand will stay silent for a year or longer on whatever it's got in store for the collection, and simply let the hype build.
A 39mm Vacheron Constantin Overseas
There are a few reasons to expect something new from the Vacheron Constantin Overseas. Firstly, the Overseas' progenitor, the "222" from 1977, has its own 45th birthday in 2022. Secondly, the Overseas is Vacheron's answer to the Royal Oak and Nautilus, but it doesn't have the same overinflated prices, hype and availability issues, and it therefore has the chance to fill a market niche.
What can we expect from the Overseas? The upgrades the line got in 2016 are still looking fresh, but they leave a gap between 37mm and 41mm sizes. A 39mm automatic version (ok, maybe some with variations or complications, too) would be in-line with current tastes and trends. To make it more than just a new size of an existing model, vintage cues that reference the 222 would help it feel more special and deliberate.
A reissue of the 1972 Porsche Design Chronograph
Yes, the Porsche Design brand is also turning 50 in 2022, and its catalog is wide open to include a reissue of its inaugural product: the world's first all-black watch.
Though Porsche Design hasn't leaned in to the rest of the industry's vintage reissue bonanza and remained resolutely modern in its designs, the anniversary presents an opportunity. A reissue would be cool, but we'd be equally happy with a modern interpretation perhaps with relatively "vintage sizing." The brand recently seems more open to smaller case sizes as evidenced by its 39mm Sport Chrono.
An updated Rolex Milgauss
Only a couple Rolex watches remain that haven't yet gotten the latest movement upgrade. With a compelling backstory and a pretty funky look for the brand, the Milgauss remains one of Rolex's most distinctive watches. It's about time for it to get some love and attention.
While the people fantasize about amazing new Rolexes, like a "Coke" (black-and-red-bezel) GMT Master II or even a titanium Yachtmaster, modest and very subtle tweaks and upgrades to existing watches are generally what you can expect. Rolex's 3230 movement for the Milgauss would be the minimum we'd expect, but something like a new colorway (there are currently two) would make an even bigger splash.
Finally, a Tudor Black Bay Fifty Eight GMT??
We're just going to keep hammering at this until we get it: for god's sake, Tudor, a Black Bay Fifty Eight GMT is a no-brainer! Will hit happen? We think eventually it will. The simple formula of the Black Bay GMT in the Fifty Eight's 39mm size would be celebrated, but Tudor regularly surprises us. We might not get exactly what we want this year, but we can't help but dream.
A Green-Dialed Omega Seamaster Diver 300m
Someone pointed it out recently: Omega hasn't yet brought much green to its sport watch collections. Everyone else is doing it, the trend seems set to continue, and the brand hasn't been afraid of color in the past, so why not?
Although the Seamaster Planet Ocean might seem like a good candidate, with a precedent of colorful iterations, it'd be particularly cool to see it on the more versatile Seamaster Diver 300m. It's pretty well established that just about any watch that also looked good when it got a blue treatment can also look great in green, and the Seamaster Diver 300m fits the bill.
A reissue of Girard-Perregaux's 1970s LED driver's watch
For Only Watch 2021, Girard Perregaux teamed up with Bamford Watch Department on something rather unexpected. It was like a reissue of the funky LED driver's watches the brand made in the 1970s, but with a very modern case in carbon fiber and titanium.
The one-off creations for the Only Watch auction often portend future releases, so it seems possible that Girard-Perregaux has something like a collection in the works in a more accessible execution such as stainless steel or titanium. It would fit the industry's general vintage reissue trend but sure would be interesting to see from the prestigious brand otherwise firmly rooted in mechanical watchmaking.
Citizen automatic dive watches for the U.S. market
A while back, Citizen released some of its very cool and affordable Promaster "Fugu" dive watches with automatic movements. Unfortunately, they were only available in certain regions, and not in others like the United States. We thought they'd arrive eventually, but we're still waiting.
It's currently hard to find any automatic watches on Citizen's US site (aside from a couple weird, high-end ones) despite that the brand owns Miyota, one of the biggest producers of automatic movements in the world. Citizen has the chance to fill a market niche and compete with Seiko dive watches, and maybe this will be the year we'll finally see it happen.
A return to the IWC's Ingenieur of the 1970s
This is the last thing about integrated-bracelet watches, I promise. The IWC Ingenieur collection was last overhauled in 2017 to reference its conservative 1955 roots, but the resulting dressy watches don't add much to the brand's catalog. Why not bring back the Ingenieur of 1976?
Redesigned by Gerald Genta (him again) with all the sporty style that made the Royal Oak successful (and introduced the same year as Patek's Nautilus), the Ingenieur gives IWC the chance to offer something hip with legitimate provenance at a competitive price.
An online customization tool from G-Shock
Shortly after I pleaded with G-Shock to offer an online watch customizer, news emerged on G-Central that the company's financial report mentioned plans for such a program "starting with Japan." The program is called "My G-Shock," and we can only hope that we'll see it more widely available in 2022 with all the models, colors and options we dream of.