This story is part of our end-of-year series This Year in Gear rounding up the most notable releases of 2022. For more stories like this, click here.
A timepiece built with a function-first approach is often called a "tool watch." That includes dive watches, pilot's watches, field watches and just any generally no-nonsense, instrument-like watches ostensibly meant for use and action. We're suckers for this kind of watch, and this year saw some great ones. You'll notice trends of titanium cases and smaller size options, but there was plenty of variety, too. Here are the standout tool and dive watch releases of 2022.
Tudor Pelagos 39
Following the Black Bay Fifty-Eight and Ranger, another Tudor sport watch got the shrinkage treatment — and it's worth getting excited about. Shaving off three millimeters in diameter brings Tudor's titanium-cased Pelagos dive watch down to 39mm, a size increasingly considered a sweet spot. Lacking the bigger (42mm) Pelagos's helium escape valve and water-resistant to 200m (as opposed to 500m), it's not quite as serious-feeling but we'd take those tradeoffs for its significantly increased wearability.
Hamilton Khaki Field Murph
We loved when Hamilton announced in 2019 that the prop watch created for and featured prominently in the 2014 movie Interstellar was going into general production — but it was kind of, well, ginormously proportioned. That all changes now. Hamilton has announced a new version of that watch in a 38mm-wide case, down from the original's 42mm. That upped wearability factor shot it straight to the top of our list of great field watches.
IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XX
Finally the perfect, everyday pilot's watch from IWC with a historical connection and in-house movement? Enthusiasts might debate the finer points, but the Mark XX has got to be pretty damn close. Until this year, the successor to the collector-favorite Mark XI used an off-the-shelf Sellita movement (and had date window placement that infuriated some). That's all been solved with a movement from the Richemont manufacturer Val Fleurier, increased water resistance of 100m and a range of subtle design tweaks.
In a sea of dive watches that look more or less similar, Breitling's newly redesigned Superocean collection manages to stand out. It does so by combining traditional dive watch appeal with an utterly unique and distinctive look. That look is based on a fascinating vintage chronograph from 1965, and although this is not chrono, it does qualify as one of the most striking releases of the year.
Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Ceramic
$1,700. That's really not bad for a fully ceramic-cased dive watch, not to mention one that looks this good. Inside the ceramic case is a steel inner case for structural support, and inside of that is an STP 1-11 automatic movement. In person ceramic has a different feel than, say, a black DLC coated steel case: it's highly comfortable, lightweight and silky smooth. Ceramic tends to be a rather premium material in watchmaking — and not something you see coming from smaller brands like Zodiac.
Artya Depth Gauge
Watchmakers have taken different approaches to incorporating depth gauges on dive watches, but none as cleverly simple as this. Despite coming from a watchmaker with abundant capability of producing complicated mechanical works, Artya's diver is technically simple with a simple (though high-end) automatic movement inside. The cleverness is in its external design: prominent colors on the dial disappear one by one as you descend underwater and the color spectrum decreases. A bonus is that its purposeful looks are colorful and cool as hell above water.
Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea Challenge
Rolex finally announced its first watch ever available to the public fully cased in titanium. It's a move that fans had long awaited, but the watch itself isn't the kind that most people could easily wear every day. In the brand's professional-oriented Sea-Dweller collection, it measures a hulking 50m wide and is rated to no less than 11,000m of water resistance. Yeah, it's a serious tool for divers and a serious investment at $26,000, but it also represents a step toward the possibility of more wearable titanium watches from Rolex in the future.
Longines's new Ultra-Chron is notable for not only resurrecting a cool vintage dive watch, but also the type of high-frequency automatic movement that made it stand out back in the 1960s. We love a well-done neo-vintage watch — but the Longines Ultra-Chron ups the value and interest with its technical chops. It's a cool-looking dive watch with state-of-the-art mechanical tech that references its interesting history but, on top of all that, it's one of the most affordable high-beat watches available today.
Oris Hölstein Edition 2022
Resurrecting a watch from the 1990s, Oris had one of the most unexpected releases of the year with its Hölstein Edition 2022. A 36.5mm worldtime watch with the unique feature of plus and minus buttons on the case side that allow you to easily adjust local time both forward and back.
Serica 8315 GMT Chronomètre
A field watch, a diver and now a GMT: every watch Serica makes seems carefully considered — and we're fans of each. The GMT is the latest and it builds on the brand's dive watch design, as well as some traditional GMT features. Yet, like other Serica watches, it feels utterly unique. Yes, it has a bicolor bezel (ceramic), but in stark black and white it's got a striking look on the wrist that's unlike anything else that readily comes to mind. It also features a COSC chronometer-certified automatic movement, a first for the brand.
The Bremont Supernova watches are notable for a couple reasons: Firstly, they're among the first non-limited collections from Bremont to feature its own "Made in England" movement. Second, they represent Bremont's take on the "integrated bracelet" concept. Together with the other features the brand is known for they make for some compelling watches which will also be as polarizing as everything the brand does — consider that more talking points.
Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Chronograph 0 Oxygen
Montblanc created the first watch to be completely free of oxygen. But it's no mere novelty. Extreme environments found on the world's highest peaks can cause a watch's crystal to fog up; without oxygen, however, the dial will remain clear as day (and it also prevents the oxidation of internal components). The watch has be tested by mountaineer Nimsdai Purja who confirms that crystals fogging up on the mountain can be an issue. In addition, it features chronograph and world time complications.