It’s been a busy year for the ABTW team. Spread across multiple continents and a half-dozen different time zones, we covered a wider variety of watches than ever before. Within that variety, there will always be favorites — but among those favorites, what watches actually end up on our wrists? To answer this question, we once again polled the team to learn what watches spent the most time on our wrists this year, and why — and whether new acquisition or old favorite, a discontinued or currently available model, you’ll find there was plenty of variety. As always, we’d love to hear in the comments what you — the reader — wore most this year, but not until after you’ve read through our Editors’ own selections. So, without further ado, here’s what ABTW’s crack team of editors wore most in 2019:
ZACH PIÑA: IWC SPITFIRE UTC STAINLESS STEEL
I logged nearly 80,000 miles in the air in 2019, and this watch was on my wrist for most of these flights. Classically handsome, unobtrusive, and unfussy, but still markedly capable, it is quite possibly the perfect low-key travel companion, regardless of destination. I’d also argue that the Spitfire UTC represents a high point of IWC’s Germanic pilot watch design, and one of the most underrated modern references to ever come out of the Schaffhausen manufacture during its decade-long run that ended around 2014 when the whole UTC line was shelved. Cased in stainless steel and fitted with a modified ETA 2893, the aperture at 6 o’clock displays time on a 24-hour scale, while the main local time can be adjusted in single hourly increments, making it a “true” GMT in a sea of “desk” or “phone” GMT watches masquerading as travel watches, and ultimately an excellent alternative to the more ubiquitous Explorer II from Rolex.
Even with the rise in popularity of the GMT watch in the last 24 or so months, it’s still surprising how hard it is to find a truly travel-worthy watch with the right balance of functionality and polish, without attracting the unwanted attention that a Rolex or Omega might yield. Granted, there exist even more sterile versions of the UTC Pilot dressed in IWC’s classic Mark XV aesthetic, but I do love the interplay in the dial between the brushed & snailed surfaces and the polished edges of the applied markers in this particular offering. This is the Spitfire at its very best, taking inspiration from the gleaming polished surfaces of the aircraft of it’s named for. Functionality-wise, IWC seems to have caught on to the importance of the reference and included a new Bronze UTC fitted with a “true” in-house-produced GMT movement in its 2019 novelties back at SIHH this year — and though my fingers are crossed for a stainless steel refresh in 2020, this classic Spitfire treatment will always be my first choice.
ARIEL ADAMS: LACO RAD-AUX LIMITED EDITION
As a professional watch reviewer, my wearing habits don’t always reflect my own personality but rather stories I am working on. That said, I can certainly recall particular watches in 2019 that earned much more wrist time than most. The most fantastical watch I enjoyed wearing in 2019 was an A. Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk Striking Time. It’s not particularly practical, but the elegant gong sound it emits every 15 minutes is precious. I didn’t find too much love for larger-brand watches in 2019, personally, aside from enjoying some of Casio’s higher-end G-Shock watches. Smaller brand watches found more time on my wrist, including the Formex Essence, Marathon GSAR, and Dietrich Time Companion. Then, there are watches I was responsible for creating in the first place — these experienced loads of happy wrist time, including the UNDONE Aqua BLK + YLW and the Laco RAD-AUX, both wonderfully distinctive and comfortable.
DAVID BREDAN: BREITLING EXOSPACE B55 YACHTING
Full of old-school, unapologetic Breitling vibes and fantastic functionality, the Breitling Exospace B55 Yachting has easily been my most favored watch for 2019. When a sea of boring blue dial options and vintage malarkey dominates the “novelties” of most all brands, this Yachting edition was a breath of fresh air, for me. With its carbon dial, colorful flange ring, large indices, and massive backlit displays, this is a “Proper Watch,” with a capital “P” and capital “W.” The way its menu system works, its displays function (including the minute hand that advances a third of a minute as the seconds hand strikes a 20-second interval), everywhere I look on this Exospace B55 I see some proper watch nerd’s work on show – even if it has an electronic heart. Full review coming soon to aBlogtoWatch. $7,685
BILAL KHAN: GRAND SEIKO SBGA413
I was pretty enamored of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGA413 “Spring” Watch from the USA-exclusive Seasons collection as soon as I saw it released at Couture in Las Vegas back in June. Not long after, I found myself preordering one, and I don’t think a week has gone by that I haven’t worn it since the watch was delivered to me in early September. The past year or so has been a bit of a whirlwind for Grand Seiko here in the United States, and the Seasons collection has been a rightfully important factor in so much increased buzz.
The watch itself plays magnificently with the light pink dial, which reveals itself so subtly that it takes at least several seconds to actually take in the color. Also, while I’ve usually not been highly fond of lightweight titanium watches, I’ve grown accustomed to the weightlessness on my wrist when I wear my SBGE413. Speaking as a customer rather than someone in watch media, I encourage everyone in the market for a three-hander in the mid-four-figure range to at least try one on. $6,300