While there’s no official tally of sport watch sales, the anecdotal feedback makes clear that the category dominates the luxury watch sector. And while steel models constitute the majority of the segment, our highly debatable “best sport watches of 2022” list below suggests that alternative materials (from carbon fiber to various titanium alloys) are rising in favor. In fact, just one steel model made the cut.
Sure, a few of the models highlighted below stretch the limits of what most people consider a sports watch (Exhibit A: TAG Heuer’s $374,000 bling-tastic Carrera Plasma model), but in selecting our favorite sporty styles, we sought out timepieces that had an original point of view, said something interesting about where the sport watch segment is headed or simply looked like watches we’d want to strap to our wrists. How’s that for precision decision-making?
A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus in Titanium
The newest Odysseus model from the venerable German watchmaker is a masterful rejoinder to the steel-obsessed masses. Encased in lightweight titanium, the model—the latest in the brand’s 3-year-old collection of sport watches—manages to project understated elegance despite lacking any real heft. With its icy blue dial and combination of polished, brushed and matte surfaces, the timepiece boasts a refined aesthetic that belies its robust build.
Audemars Piguet x Carolina Bucci Royal Oak Selfwinding 34 mm in Black Ceramic
In its third collab with the Italian jeweler Carolina Bucci, Audemars Piguet struck a disco nights vibe that gave us chills (they’re multiplying!). Housed in a sleek 34 mm black ceramic case, the model features a truly next-level version of AP’s classic tapisserie dial: A multicolored rainbow design that changes based on the light. The watchmaker placed a sapphire plate atop the brass dial and added a golden metallic treatment to the back of the plate to create a mirror-like effect. The resulting iridescence is nothing short of spectacular.
Breitling Super Chronomat Automatic 38 Origins
Breitling set the traceability bar high with its October introduction of the Super Chronomat Origins watch, a 38 mm automatic model in a case fashioned from 18k red gold. Not just any gold, mind you, but gold sourced from a single artisanal mine in Colombia that meets the Swiss Better Gold Association’s criteria. Breitling also promoted the source of the lab-grown diamonds that adorn the watch’s bezel: Fenix Diamonds, based in the Indian state of Gujarat. Accompanied by a digital provenance record, the watch is poised to set a precedent for greater transparency in the historically secretive luxury watchmaking sector.
Grand Seiko Chronograph 15th Anniversary Limited Edition
If Grand Seiko’s fans had their druthers, this entire best-of list would be devoted to the brand’s models. But we elected to show some restraint in picking just one from the Japanese watchmaker’s stellar 2022 lineup: the 15th anniversary limited edition chronograph, otherwise known as Spring Drive Chronograph GMT 9R96 (SBGC249). Like the other Spring Drive sport watches the brand introduced in March, the limited edition titanium model with the striking blue dial and bezel signals the emergence of a sporty new superstar to seriously rival the Swiss (say that 10 times fast!).
IWC Chronograph 41 Top Gun Ceratanium
Stealthy and sophisticated, the new Chronograph 41 Top Gun Ceratanium from pilot watch specialist IWC is no sporty impostor. With a case made of the brand’s proprietary Ceratanium, a mix of lightweight titanium and comfortable, scratch-resistant ceramic, the piece can legitimately take a licking. And with its 41 mm sizing, the piece hits the sizing sweet spot.
Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Huracán Sterrato MB
“Part high horology, part Miami Beach chic, with a dash of Italian sports car cool.” That’s how we described the new Excalibur Spider Huracán Sterrato Monobalancier when Roger Dubuis introduced it earlier this month as an homage to its 5-year-old partnership with Lamborghini. Admittedly, the orange, yellow and black watch—on a camo-patterned strap, no less—isn’t for everyone. But for people who like their traditional Geneva Seal-approved timepiece to come in a super-modern, unapologetically flamboyant package, this 45 mm model—housed in a case made of SMC Carbon, a lightweight composite material used in the Lamborghini Huracán’s monocoque chassis and body panels—is just the ticket.
Rolex Oyster Yacht-Master 42
Since its introduction in 1992, the Yacht-Master has only appeared in cases crafted from precious metals—primarily 18-karat gold but also a handful of models executed in Rolesium, a combination of platinum and stainless steel. The newest addition to the Yacht-Master lineup, a 42 mm model that appears in 18k yellow gold for the first time, carries on that luxe reputation. Its matte black ceramic bezel, minimalist black dial and supple black Oysterflex bracelet lend this sport watch major evening wear vibes.
TAG Heuer Carrera Plasma
With the introduction of the Carrera Plasma Tourbillon Nanograph in March, TAG Heuer proved that lab-grown diamonds can be used to create truly pioneering watch designs. A one-of-a-kind watch laden with 11.7 carats of man-made diamonds, the model, which comes in a 44 mm black anodized aluminum case, features a dial formed from a single plate of polycrystalline diamonds, a crown made entirely from a 2.5-carat lab-grown gem and a case decorated with diamonds in elongated custom-cut shapes. At 350,000 Swiss francs (about $374,000), the iced-out timepiece is the very essence of avant-garde luxury. tagheuer.com
Vacheron Constantin Historiques 222
One of the sexiest watches to debut at Watches and Wonders Geneva in March, the Historiques 222 borrows many of its design codes from Vacheron Constantin’s cult classic Jumbo 222 model, introduced in 1977, including the iconic hexagonal-link bracelet and 37 mm casing. Updated elements, like the in-house movement and sapphire case back, only add to the model’s groovy retro appeal.
Ulysse Nardin Diver Norrøna Arctic Night
The Diver Norrøona Arctic Night is the product of a collaboration that does more than just mingle two brands’ DNA on the dial of a wristwatch. Working with the Norwegian outdoor sportswear brand Norrøna, known for its sustainable and premium outerwear, the Swiss watchmaker created a 44 mm timepiece that incorporates alternative and sustainable materials to evoke the black, gray and white color palette of Norway’s fjords and volcanic rocks. (The side-case and the case-back of the model are fashioned from 40% Carbonium, an environmentally conscious carbon composite, and 60% recycled fishing nets, while the stainless steel case is made up of 80% recycled automotive materials.) Available in a limited edition of 29 pieces, the watch is sold with a Norrøna Arktis Gore-Tex® Pro jacket. Style and substance for the win.
Zenith Defy Extreme E “Island X Prix” Edition
Luxury watchmakers have long partnered with the automotive industry to make timepieces celebrating the need for speed. Now, however, instead of touting traditional gas-guzzling cars, brands are teaming up with electric car leagues to promote more responsible racing. The Defy Extreme E “Island X Prix” Edition, the second iteration of a special collaboration series from Zenith and sustainable electric car racing league Extreme E, offers a vibrant orange example. Limited to just 20 pieces, the 45 mm openworked piece comes on a rubber strap made from recycled Continental CrossContact tires from the league’s first season.