Bienne Watch of the Year: the 4 Finalists

So here we are. A few months after having announced the first Bienne Watch of the Year election, and later received nominations from the community, the 4 finalists are known. They will face each other on Sunday December 18, which, half by chance and half for extra fun, is the same day as the FIFA World Cup final.

Throughout the month of November, nominations were submitted via Instagram. In true horological fashion, exactly 12 watches made the cut. It was already clear by then that a few stronger contenders emerged, with several models each getting many spontaneous nominations. The 12 were then randomly drawn into 4 groups of 3 watches. Each group would have a winner proceeding to the final. The groups were:

  • Group 1: Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur, Swatch How Majestic, Hamilton Railroad Special Pocket Watch
  • Group 2: Horage Supersede, Rolex Air-King 2022, Speedmaster ’57
  • Group 3: Armin Strom The Orbit, Rolex GMT-Master II “Destro”, Speedmaster Chrono Chime
  • Group 4: Norqain Wild One, Rolex Deep-Sea Challenger, The MoonSwatch

Every group ended up with a clear winner, with over 50% of the vote, and, in most cases, well over 60%. That should make the final particularly interesting. To help everyone fine-tune their vote for the big day, below is an overview of the 4 finalists.

Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur

First, a lot of people tend to forget, or simply not realize, that Hermès watches are made in Bienne. This may be due to the fact that the town of the manufacture is in fact Brugg. However, Brugg, with its population of 4 500, is part of the Bienne administrative district. Also, Hermès as a brand being so strongly associated with France, those not so familiar with its sophisticated productions may even forget its watches are made here in Switzerland!

There is a lot to love about this watch, and for those who want to go more in depth I suggest the brands’s site or a hands-on review on Fratello. Beyond the overall design, and the beauty of the imaginary continents on the dial, perhaps what stands out most on this piece is how the sub-dial showing the time at destination moves around across different positions to indicate the time back home. Am I not explaining this properly? Take a look at this 4 seconds video.

Omega Speedmaster ’57

I was personally surprised this watch received so many nominations. Not because of its lack of intrinsic qualities, but rather because the differences that separate it from its previous 2013 iteration are, well, details. Please don’t get me wrong: for having tried this on side-by-side with the previous gen, I found the cumulation of small improvements to make a huge difference on wearability and overall appearance. I was just impressed that so many folks in the community had gone to this level of geekiness!

The ’57, in reference to the year the Speedmaster was first introduced, is loyal to the O.G. in several aspects. The straight lugs and broad arrow hands are the most obvious. Of course, it’s not an exact copy, starting with the introduction of the date in lieu of a third sub-dial. The 2022 variant, available in multiple color combinations, innovates with a thinner movement than its predecessor, allowing excellent proportions on most wrists. On the black version, the sandwich dial is a favorite for many fans. To go deeper, beyond the brand’s site, you can read this Hodinkee review.

Omega Speedmaster Chrono Chime

This one made a lot of noise (pun intended) over the past couple of months. The Speedmaster Chrono Chime is both totally in line with what we are used to from Omega, a variation of the ever-popular chronograph, and something completely different and unexpected. It took the watch world by surprise, and, rightly so, made many headlines.

The most remarkable feature of the piece is a first in the history of watchmaking: a minute repeater that does not chime to tell what time it is but rather what was the time measured on the chronograph. Enhanced by the aventurine dial making just enough space for the repeater’s two hammers and the in-house Sedna gold construction, the masterpiece received universal praise. To read more about it, here is a Hodinkee review and, even better, to hear it, you can go to the Omega site.

Swatch x Omega The MoonSwatch

If you haven’t heard about the MoonSwatch, well, first, welcome back to Planet Earth. It’s been a while! You missed a lot, and, to be honest, way more important things in life and in the world than watches, but as far as the latter go, there was some pretty big news this year. In an unprecedented move, the two most famous brands owned by the Swatch Group collaborated and created a series of 11 Swatches that are also Omega Speedmasters, priced at 250 CHF.

The launch led to massive waiting lines in the best cases, and minor riots and stores closing in others (check here for what it was like at the intersection of both brands’ HQs in Bienne). To this day, almost 9 months later, it’s extremely difficult for many people to get their hands on one, and they continue to sell for more than retail on the secondary market. Fortunately, they are not limited editions, so over time, once production is able to follow the unexpectedly large demand, it should all nicely fall into place. The launch gave a massive, much needed boost to Swatch, and also greatly bumped the desirability of the Speedmaster, resulting in increased sales for Omega of the “real deal”. You can check out the models on the Swatch site and read about the genesis in this Fratello interview of Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek.

Conclusions and what to expect on Sunday

It’s pretty striking that out of the 4 finalists, 3 are Speedmasters. It’s also remarkable that the 3 references cover such a high range in product category and pricing. This over-speediness can be explained by a few reasons.

First, chance, by way of the draw. Had either 2 ended up in the same group, well, it would not have been possible for all 3 to make it to the final! Second, as recently discussed in an interview with Speedmaster vintage expert Julien Vallon, this year has been a truly exceptional one for the model. The MoonSwatch received unprecedented global attention for a watch launch, and the Chrono Chime is a unique feat in the history of Omega and watchmaking. Another factor may be that Rolex launches this year, while of course performing exceptionally well on the market, may not have captured the imagination of the community as much as at other times. Finally, the vote is community-based, not scientific, and folks will always have their personal tastes and preference. That’s what makes this interesting!

The Sunday vote will actually begin on Saturday, at 2 pm Bienne Time. That way, you will have 24h to vote, until 2 pm on Sunday. The reason for this timing is that, while it’s neat to coincide with the World Cup final, it’s pretty obvious no one will pay attention to the vote as soon as the game begins at 4 pm. The result will be announced as soon it’s known, and a short blog post will follow later in the week to mark the occasion. Until then, bonne chance to the 4 finalists !

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1 month ago

The year of the Speedmaster! 🚀