It’s not officially over until tomorrow, but 2014 was the best year ever for GMT Minus Five. I checked out some of the coolest watches to launch at Baselworld and SIHH this year (and some from much earlier), introduced video reviews, and managed to grow daily readership by over 900%. We’re all looking forward to 2015, but before closing the books I wanted to reminisce a little over my favorite in-depth watch articles published in the last year.
10. Hamilton Pan-Europ Automatic Chronograph
In 1971, Hamilton announced the Pan-Europ, a watch boasting Caliber 11, the world’s first automatic chronograph. Re-released in limited numbers in 2011, the modern homage to the 1971 Pan-Europ still remains one of the most faithful heritage releases I’ve come across. All 1,971 pieces are spoken for and getting your hands on a pre-owned one can be tricky. Released widely again in black and silver dial versions in 2012, it succeeds as one of my favorite entry-level chronographs. For $1,945, you get Hamilton’s caliber H-31 with 60 hours of power reserve, a balanced, retro dial design and superb case work.
Check out the review of the Hamilton Pan-Europ Automatic Chronograph
9. Lemania Limited Edition Automatic Chronograph “Trademark Run”
Silently released in 2012, the sole purpose of this watch was to avoid a period of “non-use” for the Lemania trademark in the United States, which is akin to forfeiting the name. In other words, you’re not allowed to hoard trademarks and never use them. So the Swatch Group produced an automatic chronograph bearing the Lemania name. The intrigue doesn’t stop there, though. This Lemania shares the same exact case as the Tissot PRC200 automatic chronograph as well as the movement, which is based on the legendary Lemania 5100 caliber. It’s versatile and unassuming, but the story behind the watch makes it retail price of $890 seem the bargain of the century. Of course, this watch is so collectible in the raw sense that you’re going to have a hard time getting your hands on one!
8. Timex 1973 Electronic
If you’ve been following along, then you’re probably aware that I’m not too big on vintage watches. The inevitabilities involved in owning old mechanical things ruin the fun of ownership (for me) and I’m not too keen on owning someone else’s story. However, when my grandfather passed away I stumbled upon a Timex Electronic watch in his possession. I investigated and came to the conclusion that this particular watch is a Model #52 from 1973. To this day, it seems to run intermittently and, understandably so, I haven’t had much success with getting a watchmaker to repair it for me. This is a vintage watch I’d love to wear in working condition, as I feel more deeply connected to the original wearer than I would any other vintage piece.
Check out the full story of my grandfather’s Timex 1973 Electronic
7. Seiko Solar Chronograph Diver
Now a must-have for Seiko enthusiasts, this quartz diver slowly sneaked up on us to become a cult collectable over the last year. It’s bold, dependable, convenient and affordable–all things Seiko. It’s a fun watch, too, coming in several variations, each with its own use of color just begging to be matched with a NATO or ZULU strap. At $375 (and often much less on Amazon.com), why wouldn’t you pick up this one? If for nothing else, I love this watch because it reminds me that watch collecting is supposed to be fun and you don’t need thousands of dollars to have a great time doing it.
Check out the review of the Seiko Solar Chronograph Diver
6. Longines Heritage 1973
This chronograph from Longines was one of several of the brand’s heritage releases this year. It’s arguably Longines’s most exciting release of 2014, winning the brand a lot of attention from budding collectors looking for an accessibly priced timepiece that illustrates the heyday of racing chronographs. It’s based on a watch that shared the exact same case as the Heuer Camaro–it doesn’t get much more racing credibility than that. From its panda dial to extraordinarily proud sapphire crystal, its vintage-inspired execution hits all the right notes. Coming in at $3,250, it’s an entry-level automatic chronograph but certainly not the cheapest. But for what you get here–a distinct heritage design with a column-wheel chronograph and a killer strap–it’s a solid throwback with modern convenience.
Check out the review of the Longines Heritage 1973
5. Omega Speedmaster Professional MKII
After the Omega Speedmaster Professional landed on the moon, Omega released an updated variation of the Speedmaster shortly thereafter called the Mark II. It was a reinterpretation of the Speedmaster featuring a brushed barrel case with hooded lugs similar to the cases of popular racing chronographs at the time. Aside from the date aperture and some writing on the dial, it’s almost a stroke for stroke remake. In addition to the striking racing dial and breathtaking case finishing, it’s worth celebrating this watch for its bracelet. Released in the summer of 2014 for $6,250, it was the first commercially available timepiece from Omega to offer its adjustable bracelet. Like Rolex’s GlideLock, the wearer can adjust the size of the bracelet on the fly without the use of tools, enabling a perpetually comfortable fit.
4. Frederique Constant Slimline Moonphase Manufacture
This watch embodies elegance and innovation. Its release made waves throughout the industry, and for good reason. The Slimline Moonphase Manufacture promises an in-house caliber at an accessible price with a beautiful, still dial to boot. Reminiscent of the Girard-Perregaux 1966 only looks and not in price, it’s 2-3mm too large for some to consider it a dress watch. Its mirror-polished steel case, clocking in at 43mm, combined with its deep midnight blue dial and matching blue alligator strap make for a bold wear, but I still love it. It’s honestly priced at $3,550 and I readily recommend it to anyone seeking to add a solid value to his collection.
3. Hamilton Flintridge
While much of the watch industry was enjoying SIHH in early 2014, I was stateside with Hamilton checking out the brand’s novelties. Hamilton had an impressive showing this year, but the single watch that swept me away was the Flintridge. A 1930s throwback, the Flintridge features a steel flip-top cover to keep dust, dirt and spills at bay. In its time, it was marketed as a true sportsman’s watch, able to take a knocking without destroying the plastic lens. While the watch beneath the cover on today’s version probably doesn’t need a steel flip-top cover, this watch is so charming and wonderfully nostalgic to a time I’ve never known. When it’s on the wrist, it transports you to a different decade and is sure to earn you some questions as strangers are likely to assume you have a fancy Dick Tracy watch on your wrist. The Flintridge is limited to 999 pieces and priced at $1,350.
Check out the review of the Hamilton Flintridge
2. Rolex Submariner 114060
You won’t find as many Rolex reviews as you would probably like, as the brand is extraordinarily careful about its information and watches. It’s a shame for us review-hungry collectors because Rolex is responsible for numerous classics. The Rolex Submariner may just top the list, being the single most imitated and versatile watch in the world. It looks great with a suit or swim trunks, but it’s not only aesthetically that I applaud its versatility. To some owners it’s the Grail Watch; to others, it’s a dependable everyday grab-and-go choice. The 114060 no-date Submariner embodies a lot of change (something Rolex doesn’t do very often) and is therefore controversial among Rolex purists. Priced at $7,500, it’s worth every penny although it’s not generally affordable by any means.
Check out the review of the Rolex Submariner 114060
1. Omega Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial
Of all of the watches I spent serious time with this year, this is the only one I swore would be in my collection one day. What I remember most about this one is not its impeccable fit and finish but its difficulty photographing. I say that not because I’m an expert photographer but because the irony was frustrating. This watch is extraordinary in looks and construction, and I have yet to see a single photograph capture what this watch looks like on the wrist. When you take into account all that makes your high-end luxury watches so, well, high-end–the gorgeously decorated in-house movement seen through a transparent case back, the comfortable and adjustable bracelet, the vintage dial and advanced materials–it’s hard to complain about the price of $6,600.
Check out the review of the Omega Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial
Thank you all. If it weren’t for your continued support, 2014 wouldn’t have been nearly as good. Stay tuned because we’ll definitely be saying the same about next year!