2022 has been a fantastic year for the watch industry. We have seen some fantastic brands coming to the fore as well as some strong releases from industry stalwarts. Trying to narrow all of this year’s releases down to five of the best has been almost impossible. So, we’ve picked our top five brands of the year and their best individual release to make the list slightly more concrete.

Audemars Piguet celebrates the Royal Oaks’ 50th birthday in style

2022 50th Anniversary Audemars Piguet

Image Credit: Watch Collecting

Kicking us off is one of the world’s best brands and one of the Holy Trinity, Audemars Piguet. Audemars Piguet is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Royal Oak this year, and they’ve done so in style. Today, we are talking about the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-winding Flying Tourbillon.

When it comes to the Royal Oak two main thoughts spring to mind, no matter the reference: the elegance of design and the quality of craftsmanship. Of course, this rendition is no exception. 

In fact, this model goes one step further by integrating a Tourbillon. This is also a very thin watch, coming in at 8.1mm thick and 39mm in diameter. The regular Royal Oak, of course, doesn’t quite match the size and presence on the wrist like an Offshore, but I find personally that 39mm is a good middle ground for most wrist sizes. 

To have such a complicated watch feel so sleek and elegant is no mean feat, but Audemars Piguet has exceeded all expectations. 

This watch is without a doubt the heavy hitter on today’s list and out of reach for many. So, let’s consider some more accessible brands.

Omega adds a pop of colour to the Aqua Terra range.

2022 Omega Aqua Terra Colorful Dial Watches

Image credit: Wrist Advisor

It is hard to talk about Omega in the modern age without discussing the Aqua Terra. This model has become the Datejust’s closest rival and when you compare the pair side by side there are few differences. Omega has taken the Aqua Terra to another level by introducing some rather interesting dial variants. 

We have actually spent an extended period with the Aqua Terra 38mm on the wrist, and we actually feel that in most ways it does actually beat the Datejust. The bracelet tapers around the wrist better than the Datejust so it gives the Omega a sportier and sleeker appeal on the wrist. 

We also found that it pairs better with more formal attire as it tucks neatly behind the cuff. Of course, if you opted for the 34mm version this would only be more discreet when wearing a suit. 

But of course, it’s the dials which are the noticeable change to the Aqua Terra range. We now see Saffron, Terracotta, Sandstone, Atlantic Blue, and Bay Green in the 38mm version with Sea Blue, Lagoon Green, Sandstone, Shell Pink, and Lavender in the 34mm variant. Picking one dial variant for each size is a difficult task, but if we had to select one for each, we’d go for the Atlantic Blue in the 38mm case and the Lagoon Green in the 34mm variant. 

Both of these examples offer subtle variations from traditional blues or greens, opting for a more muted tone. I think this gives these watches a sort of understated elegance that Omega is so well recognised for.

Tudor did it again. Another stunning addition to their Black Bay line

2022 Tudor Black Bay Pro

Image credit: Tudor

At Watches & Wonders this year, Tudor released the new Black Bay Pro. The Black Bay Pro is the newest GMT to be produced by Tudor, adding to the ever-evolving Black Bay line of watches. It’s hard to ignore the fact that there are Explorer II nuances in parts, especially the 1655. But this is Tudors spin on the GMT tool watch, and they’ve done a terrific job. 

There are many features that stand out with this new model, notably the striking orange GMT hand, the newly designed Black Bay crown and the clean stainless steel fixed bezel. This new introduction is available on metal, on a leather strap or on a nylon strap, each of which works equally well with the 39mm case. I personally think that the nylon strap is the most interesting of the three and gives the watch a more tool-watch appeal. 

For under £4000, this is undoubtedly a bang for your buck and would be a fantastic addition to any collection. 

Rexhep Rexhepi releasing 2022’s the best watch? 

Image Credit: Swisswatch Magazine

Okay, so maybe the Royal Oak wasn’t the last high-end piece. Rexhep Rexhepi has potentially released the best watch of the year. 

In May the world was introduced to the second iteration of the (Akrivia) Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain. When it comes to finishing and attention to detail Akrivia (the name of Rexhep’s atelier in Geneva), this watch is very close to the best you can get. This new edition has been four years in the making and its release felt hotly anticipated, as though you were waiting for your favourite artist to release a long overdue follow-up record. And everyone has been singing its praises. 

Under a loupe, this watch is simply magnificent and enough to make anyone, whether you’re a watch fan or not, say wow. The sequel in this range is particularly well proportioned at 38mm and if you match the gold case with the white dial this watch could be the perfect dress watch if you are able to get your hands on one. 

This is personally my favourite watch of the year and it’s hard to see why anyone would disagree.

What’s a list without Rolex, right? Well, the Southpaw GMT had to be on this list somewhere.

Rolex left-handed GMT-Master II

Perhaps the most left-field release of 2022 is the Rolex Southpaw GMT, but has the Southpaw got it right? (Okay, enough of the puns). 

It’s very easy to jump to conclusions and share our judgement on Rolex before we’ve truly understood all of the key components. So, what are the standout changes to this iteration of the GMT? 

Well, the most noticeable of all changes is that the crown is on the opposite side of the case, meaning that this is designed to be worn on the right wrist, for left-handed individuals. The next significant change is the bezel colouration, with the green and black combination. 

In my humble opinion, this is a long overdue bezel colour and I think this adds a more casual and rugged appeal to the GMT. 

If you want a more in-depth look at the Southpaw GMT, read our full article on the release.

Those who got away

Notable mentions go to Grand Seiko, IWC & Oris who were just shy of the shortlist on this occasion. Some amazing releases came from these brands. Also, did you know Leica made a watch this year? It didn’t get close to our shortlist, but it certainly was one of the more obscure releases.