Hear from the team here at WatchGecko and our picks for favourite new releases of 2021...

We're almost at the end of 2021 and what another unpredictable year it has been! With nothing being guaranteed we're happy that the watch world still saw an impressive release of new watches. Of course everyone here at WatchGecko had certain favourites that stood out this year, so we wanted to share those with you today. Enjoy!

Richard's Choice: Luminox Bear Grylls Survival Series 3780 KM

Back in January 2021 I reviewed one of the first batch of the new and much anticipated Luminox Bear Grylls collaboration watches. There was (and still is) no minimum specification for a dedicated “survival” watch so when Luminox finally made one 100% dedicated to purpose I was hooked. This watch took everything we knew and loved about Field Watches and ramped it up into a non-militaristic package that was designed to be a critical element in your survival kit.

The 3780 had Luminox’s trademark superb legibility in day and night and a clever navigational aid which calculated your walking speed. The watch weighed only 89g thanks to the proprietary CARBONOX compressed carbon case. 6 times lighter than steel and 3 times lighter than titanium; CARBONOX is anti-magnetic and does not get hot or cold in extreme climates. It was great to see Luminox break away from their traditional Navy SEAL image and exciting to see the Survival Watch genre become a reality.

Greg's Choice: Grand Seiko: SLGH005 White Birch

Grand Seiko SLGH005 White Birch

The Grand Seiko SLGH005 White Birch - Image credit Grand Seiko.

My favourite watch of 2021 has to go to the Grand Seiko White Birch. This watch does have the precise, brilliant finishing we’ve come to expect from Grand Seiko. However, It’s all about that stunning dial texture for me with this timepiece, accurately representing the bark of a birch tree.

For me, quite often stainless steel hands and indices can often get overpowered and lost on a white dial but the depth of this realistic and gritty bark-like dial completely avoids that issue. It’s striking, elegant and legible.

Grand Seiko have found a perfect balance between polishing and brushing to keep it dressy and have sharp intricate angles. The light dances across this dial keeping your attention whilst on your wrist. The case size is at a safe 40mm. Where I personally prefer slightly smaller for a dress watch, thinking Datejust 36mm, this will look great on almost every wrist.

Overall this watch won me over the moment I saw the dial and keep finding myself coming back to images of it!

Fabian's Choice: Baltic Aquascaphe Dual Crown in Blue

Baltic Aquascaphe Dual Crown

The Baltic Aquascaphe Dual Crown - Image credit Baltic.

The Baltic Aquascaphe Dual Crown has got to be my favourite watch of 2021. The French micro-brand took all the classic features of the Aquascaphe Diver and gave it a refreshing, modern redesign. The dual crown may be what stands out for the Aquascaphe, but it’s the dial that I find so captivating.

It looks fresh, with a lot of breathing space. There’s an icy coolness about the deep blue dial that’s not quite sunburst or glossy, rather looking like it was conceived by the freezing Baltic Sea itself. The dial contrasts beautifully against white markers, especially when the arctic-blue lume comes alive.

Baltic struck a great balance of sharp and soft shapes, with defined ‘brushed tourbillon’ crowns and sword-shaped hands that complement the rounded indices. The shark tooth triangles in favour over a 12-hour marker is also a welcomed addition to Baltic’s clean design language. The proportions are just executed simply and effectively.

With a modest case of 39mm, the Aquascaphe Dual Crown is very wearable for any wrist size yet gives the illusion of a larger dial, thanks to the sloping inner-bezel and domed crystal that provides a real sense of depth.

Lewis' Choice: Oris Sixty-Five Cotton Candy in Pink

Oris Divers Sixtry Five

The Oris Sixty-Five Cotton Candy in Pink - Image credit Oris.

My favourite watch of 2021 was the Oris Sixty-Five Cotton Candy Pink. A theme that we’ve seen a fair bit of this year is watch brands being a bit more fun with their dial colours. We’ve seen a lot of green and blues but my favourite of these more adventurous dial options is the pink Oris.

Paired with the bronze case the pink dial really makes this watch stand out and brings really strong summer vibes. The watch diameter comes in a 38mm, being the perfect size for me. I find the Pink Oris a lot of fun and it’s a great reminder not to take things to seriously.

Anthony's Choice: Squale Sub 39 GMT Vintage

This is always the hardest one of the year to write, when you tend to sit on more fences than the average pigeon. My first thought was to nominate the JLC Reverso Quadriptyque – all 1.35 million Euros of it – just for the sheer breath-taking hubris of the most complicated Reverso ever made. But then I thought: what’s the point? I stand more chance of actually becoming a pigeon than I do of touching a Quadriptyque, let alone owning one. Hell, I’m not sure I even like it. So instead, I’m going the opposite way and nominating a watch that I not only handled and liked, but actually bought (a first for this yearly feature).

My watch of the year is the Squale Sub 39 GMT Vintage. It was a case of love at first sight when I set eyes on this skin diver, which encapsulates in one elegant package everything I love (and, as a frequent traveller, need): a dive watch with GMT functionality. It comes with a vintage look that reflects Squale’s own illustrious heritage, benefitting from supreme legibility and comfort on the wrist. It's a watch that just fits seamlessly into your life and looks good on every occasion. There’s a lot more I could say, but my colleague Richard has already gone very eloquently into it: check out his impressions here.

James' Choice - Rolex Explorer 124270

Rolex Explorer 124270

The Rolex Explorer 124270 - image credit WatchGecko.

It pains me to say it, because we’ve seen some amazing new watches this year from some great brands, but my top release this year has to be the new Rolex Explorer. For me, the new Explorer 124270 feels like a true evolution of the classic Explorer line.

The model’s return to its classic 36mm size cements the trend for smaller sports watches we’ve been seeing in the industry as a whole, as well as pleasing the purists who’ve missed the smaller size. As someone with skinny wrists I think that Rolex made a smart decision here. Whenever I’ve tried on the old 39mm Explorer I thought that it not only wore very large, but also that everything looked out of proportion. Of course, those problems are no longer present with the 124270. It’s incredibly wearable and dare I say elegant, whilst retaining the features that make it such an iconic tool watch. Of course, in a first for the brand this year Rolex also brought out a two-tone version of the Explorer. Whilst it’s not my cup of tea I do think it’s important to acknowledge this shows Rolex’s awareness that modern watches are more jewellery than instruments, and that the brand is looking forward as it draws inspiration from its past.

You can read our full review of the watch here: The New 2021 Rolex Explorer 124270 Review | WatchGecko

What's your favourite watch of 2021?

Do you have a favourite pick from the team? What about your personal favourite 2021 release? Let us know over on Instagram @watchgecko.