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Buying Guide – Some of the Best Luxury Sports Watches of 2020

buying-guide-–-some-of-the-best-luxury-sports-watches-of-2020

We’ve said it already and we’ll say it again: the most active and sought-after category of watches for the last couple of years is, without a doubt, the ‘luxury sports watch’.  A category of watches defined by their mix of luxurious appeal, relatively robust cases and integrated bracelets or straps. Dominated for long by the pioneers of the genre – a style defined in 1972 by the Royal Oak, soon followed by the Nautilus, the Overseas and others – the market has expanded drastically of late following the high demand of iconic models. We’ve seen multiple releases in past years but 2020 has been more than prolific for the luxury sports watch with dozens of new models and several brands entering this market. Today, we’re listing some of the most striking luxury sports watches introduced in 2020, from accessible to ultra-high, from simple time-only to high-complications, from classic to ultra-bold… 

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked Ceramic

Let’s start right away with what’s probably one of the most desirable watches of the year… Indeed, a couple of weeks ago, Audemars Piguet has just launched its emblematic Royal Oak in a stunning edition, combining the full black ceramic look – case and bracelet – with one of our favourite movements from the brand, the fully skeletonized double balance Calibre 3132. If the look is bold, sharp and modern, the movement, on the other hand, is all about traditional horology, with a strong focus on chronometry and precision and this contrast makes for a watch that is true to AP’s codes. The execution is impressive, with a movement that is finished with haute horlogerie decorations and a case/bracelet that can’t be faulted. And being a Royal Oak, it was the Audemars to make it to this list.

Quick Facts: 41mm diameter x 9.7mm height – black ceramic case – 50m water-resistant – Calibre 3132, in-house – openworked automatic with double balance wheel – 45h power reserve – black ceramic integrated bracelet – 15416CE.OO.1225CE.01 – CHF 72,100 (excl. taxes)

Bell & Ross BR 05 Chrono

A year ago, Bell & Ross surprised us by introducing the BR 05, a watch that integrated all the brand’s design cues – the square case inspired by flight instruments, the round dial, the 4 functional screws – within classic luxury sports watch codes – a sleek steel case, brushed surfaces and strong polished accents and, of course, an integrated bracelet. This was clearly a strong move for a brand that built its reputation on military and pilot’s watches. Yet, the result was not only convincing in terms of execution, but the watch also managed to stand out of the crowd. For 2020, the BR 05 comes back with a larger case (42mm) and sportier attire, thanks to the addition of a chronograph function. A watch with a strong personality that marks the more urban evolution of Bell & Ross.

Quick Facts: 42mm diameter x 13.5mm height – stainless steel case – 100m water-resistant – calibre BR-CAL.301, base ETA 2894-2 – automatic modular chronograph – 42h power reserve – integrated steel bracelet – BR05C-BL-ST – EUR 5,900

Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Automatic Steel Blue

In 2017, Bvlgari already demonstrated its mastery of the ultra-thin watch with two complex Octo Finissimo pieces, the tourbillon and the minute repeater. Still, it is the Automatic version that really brought the brand under the spotlights. When launched, it was equipped with the thinnest automatic movement ever created and its design, bold and contemporary, made a strong impression, with its modern-day attire. First offered in monochromatic, sandblasted editions (titanium, steel or gold), Bvlgari has introduced new versions if its Octo Finissimo Automatic this year, with multiple visual and technical upgrades. The look, thanks to the combination of satin-finished and polished surfaces, as well as contrasting dial (specifically this handsome blue version), is now sportier. Second, the case now has proper water-resistance (100m) and is fitted with a screw-down crown. If a bit thicker, this version is also far more wearable on a daily basis, yet its impressive movement is still present.

Quick Facts: 40mm diameter x 6.40mm height – stainless steel case – 100m water-resistant – calibre BVL138, in-house – ultra-thin automatic with micro-rotor – 60h power reserve – integrated ultra-thin steel bracelet – 103431 – EUR 11,500

Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono

Even though absent from the category for some years, Chopard is no stranger to the luxury sports watch. In fact, in 1980 already, the brand had a watch with integrated bracelet named St. Moritz. In 2019, the brand re-entered this competitive market with a highly modernized take on this vintage design, with a watch named Alpine Eagle. Less flamboyant, sportier and in line with the codes of luxury sports watches, this watch was characterized by its use of unusual alloys and ethical materials, as well as its striking textured dial. For 2020, Chopard unveiled the natural evolution of its Alpine Eagle, the new XL Chrono version, with chronograph movement and oversized case. A great alternative for those who want to combine the classic look of an integrated bracelet with bold, masculine proportions.

Quick Facts: 44mm diameter x 13.15mm height – Lucent A223 stainless steel case – 100m water-resistant – Chopard 03.05-C, in-house – automatic flyback chronograph – 60h power reserve – Lucent A223 steel integrated bracelet – 298609-3001 – EUR 19,100

Czapek Antarctique Passage de Drake

Czapek is a young but already very respectable independent watchmaker. Until May 2020, the collection was mostly focused on classic luxury watches, with a design echoing the timepieces created by Czech-born watchmaker Czapek. But, in early 2020, the brand surprised us with the Antarctique, a very personal take on the luxury sports watch with an integrated bracelet. Nicely designed and original, it also inaugurated the brand’s first fully in-house developed movement, a superb micro-rotor engine with complex layout. Originally offered in limited edition, its success pushed the brand to unveil a second iteration named “Passage de Drake”, which will be available in regular production. Evolutions are to be noted on the dial (new pattern, different indexes) and the movement has been improved with small but welcome upgrades.

Quick Facts: 40.5mm diameter x 10.6mm height – stainless steel case – 120m water-resistant – calibre SXH5, in-house – automatic with micro-rotor – 60h power reserve – integrated stainless steel bracelet – EUR 17,000

Frederique Constant Highlife COSC

The concept of luxury sports watch has long been reserved to elite brands, with prices that were inaccessible for most watch enthusiasts. However, considering the ever-growing popularity of this category, some brands in the accessible luxury field decided to offer fairly priced alternatives. The latest to enter the “accessible luxury sports watch” race is Frederique Constant, with its Highlife collection. Here again, the classic codes are respected, with a barrel-shaped case and an integrated bracelet. The brand has, however, managed to bring a relatively sleek and classic design, more in line with its usual design cues. If the cool and well priced perpetual calendar is our favourite, most of the sales will be done with this Automatic COSC model. And nothing wrong with that, since it offers a lot of a watch for the money. Quality, design and precision for less than 1,700 euros…

Quick Facts: 41mm diameter x 11mm height – stainless steel case – 50m water-resistant – calibre FC-303, base Sellita SW 200 – automatic COSC certified – 38h power reserve – integrated stainless steel bracelet or leather strap, additional rubber included – from EUR 1,695

Girard Perregaux Laureato InfinitY Edition

Some will tend to forget this, but Girard Perregaux was one of the first brands to enter the category, back in 1975 with its Laureato watch. In 2017, the brand came back with a modernized version of this emblematic design, as an answer to the growing demand for watches with such specifications. And yes, the result is quite convincing. Thin, well proportioned, beautifully designed and powered by in-house movements, it is really a watch to consider. Usually available with textured dials, this year the brand has introduced a version that is, in our opinion, the best-looking to date, the Laureato Infinity Edition. While the case, bracelet and movement are identical, the dial is now made of black onyx with a glossy, polished surface. Contrasting with the deep colour, the indexes and logo are made from pink gold. A handsome edition only produced in 188 pieces.

Quick Facts: 42mm diameter x 10.70mm height – stainless steel case – 100m water-resistant – calibre GP1800-1404, in-house – automatic – 54h power reserve – integrated stainless steel bracelet – limited edition of 188 pieces – 81010-11-635-11A – USD 13,200

H. Moser & Cie. Streamliner Centre Seconds

In early 2020, H. Moser & Cie. also introduced its own vision of the steel sports watch with an integrated bracelet. Of course, being Moser, the watch had to be different and unique. And indeed, the Streamliner was greatly standing out of the crowd with its fluid curves and organic design. First introduced with the superb Agengraph movement, a central chronograph with innovative architecture, it resurfaced this summer with a simplified display and a smaller case, but still with its strong personality. The Streamliner Centre Seconds was an immediate success, with its compact proportions and its striking Matrix Green dial. Inside is the brand’s automatic in-house movement. A great option for those who think outside of the box.

Quick Facts: 40mm diameter x 11.8mm – stainless steel case – 120m water-resistant – calibre HMC 200, in-house – automatic – 72h power reserve – integrated stainless steel bracelet – 6200-1200 – CHF 19,900

Maurice Lacroix Aikon Chronograph Skeleton

A brand known for offering great quality at reasonable prices, Maurice Lacroix is one of the brands to also propose an accessible alternative to these established, yet often unattainable luxury sports watches. Originally launched with quartz movements, the Aikon will be later offered with automatic time-and-date or chronograph movements, resulting in a collection that ticks most boxes, without breaking the bank. This year, the brand launched its most daring model to date, with the complex, masculine and bold Aikon Chronograph Skeleton. Architectural, full of layers and complex shapes, very detailed and providing an uncluttered view on its mechanics, this edition makes an impression.

Quick Facts: 44mm diameter x 15.10mm height – stainless steel case – 200m water-resistance – Calibre ML206 based on Valjoux 7753 – skeletonized automatic chronograph – 48h power reserve – interchangeable black textured calfskin strap – AI6098-SS001-090-1 – CHF 6,900

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton

Mechanically impressive and superbly executed… Vacheron Constantin here demonstrates that sportiness can work superbly well with delicate, refined haute horlogerie. One of the definitive options when it comes to a high-end sports watch with an integrated bracelet, the Overseas is the modern version of an icon, the reference 222. As such, it is one of the most legitimate watches in this category. And with this Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton, Vacheron shows to the world (if ever it was necessary) that it remains one of the best watchmakers on the market. Thin, complex, detailed, decorated to the max, the movement is simply stunning. And while more ‘luxury’ than ‘sport’, this edition of the Overseas retains its casual look and beautiful design.

Quick Facts: 41.5mm diameter x 8.1mm height – 18k rose gold case – 50m water-resistant – calibre 1120 QPSQ/1, in-house – automatic, skeletonized perpetual calendar – 40h power reserve – 18k pink gold integrated bracelet, leather and rubber straps also included – 4300V/120R-B547 – EUR 130,000

Wempe Iron Walker Automatic 40mm

One of the newest and least expected offerings in the luxury sports watch category is the Wempe Iron Walker collection, which plays in the “accessible luxury” segment. Even though not as prestigious and thin as the other watches here, it is equipped with a beautiful, robust shaped steel case and an integrated steel bracelet. It also has a relatively clean look and doesn’t make too much of a statement, especially in this low-key 3-hander version. The case is nicely shaped and relatively thin and works well with the steel bracelet. All the versions are equipped with chronometer-certified movements, including the present time-and-date with an upgraded ETA base calibre. And the price feels reasonable, especially considering the convincing quality.

Quick Facts: 40mm diameter x 9.75mm height – stainless steel case – 100m water-resistant – ETA 2892-A2 movement – automatic, chronometer-certified – 50h power reserve – stainless steel integrated bracelet – EUR 2,375

Zenith Defy Classic Carbon

Last but not least, here’s probably the most original of all the watches listed here… and not because of its design, but because of the material used for both the case and the bracelet; carbon fibre. While retaining all the elements of other Defy Classic Skeleton, including the proportions of its case, the shape and the openworked movement with bridges shaped like the brand’s logo, Zenith here adds an innovative and futuristic touch to its luxury sports watch. Known for its lightness and durability, the full carbon construction results in a watch that weighs only 65 grams and that looks ultra-modern, with the uneven texture of the material. The Defy Classic Carbon certainly is a daring model, but a cool one for sure.

Quick Facts: 41mm diameter x 10.75mm height – black carbon fibre case – 100m water-resistant – calibre Elite 670 SK, in-house – automatic openworked – 50h power reserve – integrated carbon fibre bracelet – 10.9001.670/80.M9001 – CHF 19,900

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