The Best Watches of 2023

From affordable Seikos to artisanal pieces covered in “dragon scales,” these are GQ’s favorite watches of the year.
The Best Watches of 2023
Collage: Gabe Conte

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2023 was a mega-good year for watches. The scene is crackling with independent makers turning out both affordable gems and artisanal, handcrafted, not-so-affordable heirlooms. The big brands, meanwhile, have all brought their A-game, and a pair of major anniversaries delivered two of the year’s most desirable special-editions.

As I cherry-picked my list of favorites, I was surprised to discover that many of these pieces weren’t unveiled at Watches & Wonders, the massive trade show where many brands show off their offerings for the year. It speaks to the way this world is splintering off and welcoming all comers. Here are my personal favorite watches from 2023.

The Best Debut

Xhevdet Rexhepi’s Minute Inerte

Xhevdet, the brother of watchmaking phenom Rexhep Rexhepi, set out on his own this year and made his jaw-dropping debut with this Minute Inerte. The blue seen in this JPEG does not do it justice. A collector recently tried on a prototype in Geneva and sent me a wrist shot, and it’s a less faded and more romantic blue—like Jeremy Allen White’s eyes! That beauty is backed up by a very fun complication and inspiration. Rexhepi told Hodinkee that he’s been thinking about making a watch inspired by the wall clocks in Switzerland’s train stations for years. Those clocks tick dramatically from one minute to the next. Rexhepi’s watch replicates that movement by pausing at the :58-second mark of each minute before the minute hand dutifully hops forward. It’s very fun to see in motion (the second slide here).

Rexhepi didn’t stop there: the design of the hands, right down to their swollen counterweights, are inspired by those clocks. It’s a perfect combination of high horology with a great bit of fun. I know this is meant to be a general, unranked roundup of my favorites—but if I were forced to put them in order, the Minute Inerte would be in serious contention for the top spot.

The Best Great Gatsby Remake

Cartier Tank Cintrée Les Rééditions

In September, Cartier reissued this slenderman version of the Tank Cintrée as part of its Les Rééditions program. The watch is a faithful remake of a vintage Cintrée that Cartier produced all the way back in 1924, a full century ago. This piece does that watch justice with a gorgeous eggshell dial and Breguet numerals. Cartier has been on a heckuva heater the past couple of years and watches like this Cintrée are why.

The Best Origin Story

Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto 40

Chronographs often borrow their names from famous races: the Carrera, the Monaco, the Daytona. Not the Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto 40. For this watch’s sexy green dial, the watchmaker turned to a car he actually drove in 1979 for inspiration. That’s right: Ferrier, along with brand co-founder François Servanin, drove a Porsche 935 Turbo in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The amateur team placed third! The car’s green livery was the source of inspiration for this watch’s dial, which also has pretty tangerine-colored hands and indices.

The Best Remix (feat. Travis Scott)

Audeamrs Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Openworked “Cactus Jack” edition

Remove the Travis Scott of it all and this is just an excellent watch. The brown ceramic case is a home run and the dial is full of great character. The day, date, and month subdials feature handwritten words and numbers while the moonphase complication—which has always been a little naughty—gets a playful spin. Add in the fact that AP is collaborating with one of the most prominent rappers in the world (who also happens to be a serious watch collector) and you have a killer horology-pop culture crossover.

The Watch I Want to Live Inside

MB&F’s HM11

You can always count on MB&F to find horological inspiration in the most unexpected of places. A jellyfish that stung his wife on vacation? Yep. A spaceship? Duh. A bulldog? Hell yeah, brother. But MB&F’s newest watch is radical even for the brand’s iconoclastic founder Max Büsser. The watch is an homage to futuristic architecture from the ‘60s and ‘70s. As Büsser told me in a recent interview: “It’s a house!” He takes that declaration seriously: one of the indicators on the watch is a temperature gauge. The rest of the “rooms” display normal watch stuff—hours, minutes, and a power reserve—in the most unconventional of packages.

The Best Watch to Quench Your Thirst

Studio Underd0g’s 02 Series

Are you starting to sense a theme with my list? This is another delightful watch from a brand that started with a singular mission to break away from the watch industry’s suffocating seriousness. Studio Underd0g debuted in 2021 with watches in brash, electric colors. It only released its second model, a field watch, this year in a variety of dial shades. The standout for me is the “Pink Lemonade” version with its gradient yellow-to-pink dial. Inspiration from watches can be found in everything, from highly serious and personal—like a Porsche you personally drove—or pink lemonade.

The Best Watch That Doubles as a Night Light

On the surface, this is a standard watch with a black case, a clean white dial, and a small ace card insignia that looks like it would be a popular choice at a tattoo parlor. The card is a nod to the ​​Black Aces fighter-jet squadron based at the Naval Air Station Lemoore in California, which IWC collaborated with on this piece. But the deceptively simple dial has a sick party trick up its sleeve. This is IWC’s first watch with a fully luminous dial, which means that when you turn the lights off it glows a sharp blueish-green. The effect is so great you wonder why watchmakers don’t just churn out watches in that exact color.

The Cool-Kid Favorite

Girard-Perregaux x Saint Laurent’s Casquette 2.0

My appreciation for Girard-Perregaux’s classic Laureato has grown enormously this year, but it’s a far stranger watch in the brand’s catalog that I can’t get out of my head.

GP originally put the Casquette out in 1976—an oddity with a driver-style view of the time. This year, Saint Laurent helped bring the model back in sleek all-black. The retro watch represents a future I want. I imagine as even more luxury labels catch on to watch collecting, they’ll start mining makers for the oddest pieces in their catalogs, hoping to find an unconventional hit. This is a watch that several of my friends and coworkers who aren’t into watches hit me up about it.

The Grail-iest Grail

Rolex’s Cosmograph Daytona for the 24 Hours of Le Mans

Probably the watch that made the biggest impression on the horological Richter scale this year. This special-edition Daytona is an homage to one of the industry’s ultimate grails: the “Paul Newman” exotic-dial Daytona. Rolex couldn’t have concocted a hotter timepiece if it collaborated with Mount Vesuvius.

The I-Can’t-Believe-It-Only-Costs-That Award Winner

Seiko 5 Sports’s 55th-Anniversary SRPK17

I love the way Seiko works. For many other brands, we spend months anticipating what they’ll release at W&W or endure a weeks-long marketing campaign leading up to a new piece. Seiko, on the other hand, is happy to just plop must-have watches into your lap on a random Friday. This Seiko 5 Sports watch, officially known as the SRPK17, calls back to one of the original Seiko 5 Sports watches from 1968. That frosty blue “Sports” text is a winner for me. It’s unbelievable that this piece only costs $415.

The Best Revival

Tag Heuer Carrera 60th Anniversary

The 60th anniversary of Tag Heuer’s flagship Carrera model has brought us plenty of riches. The Glassbox is a new staple for Tag and the brand brought back one of its difficult-to-find and beloved vintage models in the Skipper. But in my opinion, the brand did its best work at the top of the year with the reissue of the silver panda-dial Carrera. The watch is exactly what collectors want: a near-carbon copy of a Carrera from the ‘60s known as the 2447SN. This timepiece is so pure that it even uses the original Heuer logo—despite the fact the brand has been Tag Heuer for almost four decades now.

The Beauty Contest Winner

Chopard L.U.C 1860

There are many worthy contenders for prettiest watch of 2023—see the Grand Seiko below—but the L.U.C 1860 takes home the gold. The watch is so unfussy. All this salmon-dial Chopard wants to do is make every day feel like a red-carpet event.

The King of the Summer

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Ceramic

Does anyone in the watch world do color better than Zodiac? I’m not so sure. This is a pop of mint-chip ice cream in the middle of a heatwave. Zodiac cleverly neutralized the bezel with a matte white ceramic and then blasted color from the inside out with that radiant green dial. The result is something of a bullseye effect.. If there’s one watch I want to wear all summer, it’s this one.

The Best First Watch

Unimatic’s Modello Uno U1S-8B

I’ve long been a fan of Unimatic’s minimalist and relatively affordable watches. The brand’s UC1 is a great place to start a collection. But lately, the Italian micromaker has proved it can do so much more than just pared-down watches. It made quite a stir, for instance, when it released a South Park watch with the wide girth of Cartman across the dial. That watch is…not one of my favorites. This special version of Unimatic’s Modello Uno, however, is much more my speed. Inspired by Venice, the indices and hands are outlined in gold, giving it just the right amount of va-va-voom.

The Eiffel 65 Award Winner

Omega Seamaster 300

So many beautiful shades of blue. Omega found the exact right tints to paint across its range of 75th anniversary Seamasters. There are so many good ones to choose from, but this Seamaster 300 is the Goldilocks between the super-wacko Ploprof and the buttoned-up Aqua Terra. This version of the Seamaster employs a range of different blues, from light aqua to deep navy, to depict varying depths of water.

The Prince of Summer

Tissot’s Sideral S Powermatic 80

I didn’t anticipate mall-favorite Tissot generating so many of my favorite pieces of the year, but that’s why I could never work as a psychic. In the great tradition of other yachting timers, the Sideral makes excellent use of its many doodads and sub-dials to go big on color. The watch also comes in blue and red, but the sunshine yellow variation is my favorite. The case’s forged carbon composition, with its wavy texture, is a nice touch on a piece ostensibly made for sailing.

The Best Nod to the Great Outdoors (I Hear It’s Nice There)

Grand Seiko’s Spring Drive ‘Hana-ikada’

Cherry blossoms are always pretty, but they’ve arguably never looked more beautiful than they do on the face of Grand Seiko’s Hana-ikada. The flower’s pillowy petals are perfectly transposed across the dial. Grand Seiko draws inspiration from nature for all of its watches, but the payoff here is bigger than ever. The, ahem, cherry on top is the rose gold case—a natural pairing for the pinkish blossoms.

The “You Will Never Get This!” Award Winner, Presented by Borat

Simon Brette’s Chronomètre Artisans Souscription

This might just be the first building block in the making of the next great independent brand. Brette, who most recently worked at the avant-garde MB&F, released his eponymous label’s first-ever piece earlier this spring. The watch was an immediate hit with collectors—one told me they bought one (of 12!) but wasn’t expecting it to deliver until 2026. Good things are worth waiting for! Brette uses his technical know-how not just to make fancy movements but for aesthetic pleasures as well. The sea of sparkling red gold across the dial is hand-engraved to create an effect Brette likens to dragon scales.

The In-Their-Silly-Era Award Winner

Isotope’s HydriumX Exit

Isotope finds inspiration in the goofiest places. The U.K. company makes a red-and-white piece meant to mimic the familiar “Will Return” sign, and this watch mirrors the luminous green-and-white displays that sit above exit doors. I love to see a watch brand having fun.

Honorable mentions:

Tudor's Pelagos FXD Chrono "Alinghi Red Bull Racing Edition"

A couple of weeks ago, Watch Illuminati member Chris Hall documented the wide-spanning collaborations between watch brands and the Alinghi Red Bull sailing team. You can understand why: What watch wouldn’t look great doused in the team’s red and navy colors?

Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak

Anytime AP does anything in ceramic, it’s going to be an immediate yes from me.

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