20 tempting tickers: The most exciting watches of the year

Watch sales might be down on past peaks, but the standouts keep coming. Whatever your preference for case, colour, complication or cool, here are 20 newcomers that caught our eye.

This story first appeared in the AFR Magazine's summer Watch supplement, .

Something to savour

Chopard's L.U.C Heritage Grand Cru is a rare tonneau-shaped self-winding watch, inspired by the craftsmanship of winemaking – tonneau in French means barrel – and finesse of early pocket watches. Both the ultra-thin case and crystal are domed, the dial is a picture in porcelain and the shaped-to-form chronometer-certified workings have twin-stacked barrels for 65 hours' power reserve.

Gold standard

The Dior Grand Soir Royal Botanic packs 795 diamonds (3.83 carats) and 93.32 grams of gold into its package despite its size of 36mm. Limited to eight pieces, the case is yellow gold with a white gold bezel paved with snow-set round-cut diamonds, while the dial is white gold set with round-cut and marquise-cut diamonds, and adorned with polished or lacquered gold elements. White gold hour and minute hands and a strap of velvet sum up the look.

Summer sheen

Breitling's Superocean Héritage ll is celebrating 60 years but looks fresher than ever thanks to a timely makeover to enhance the features – high visibility, dive-worthy water resistance – that make the range so distinctive. The Superocean – in black, blue or brown hues on strap or bracelet – is now available in either a 42mm or 46mm size. Its auto movement, developed with Tudor, offers 70 hours' power reserve.

Astronomical feat

Bovet's Récital 20 Astérium is described as a 10-day flying tourbillon with an annual calendar and "astronomical functions" – the latter being true in every sense of the word. Accepting that time is defined by the position of the stars in the sky, it features a functional night sky map with the stars and constellations highlighted on a revolving dome of translucent blue quartz. In addition to hours and minutes, you'll find sidereal time, equation of time and moon phase indications.

Bronze age

IWC's Big Pilot's Watch Heritage in bronze is but the latest watch to discover the warmth of the copper-based alloy, joining similarly cased models from Panerai, Tudor, Montblanc and Oris. Why not? The ever-changing material personalises and adds patina, not only turning green in extreme cases, but also drawing appropriately envious glances. To add to the allure, only 1500 are on offer.

Deco delight

JLC's Reverso Jewel. Inspired by 1920s and 1930s Art Deco, the era in which the Reverso was born, a graphic lozenge motif wraps itself around this pink-gold high jewellery piece. The strap, designed as a supple bracelet, boasts individually gem-set links, while diamonds dot the Bali mother-of pearl dial. The hand-decorated self-winding movement has 100 parts.

Strutting stuff

The Grand Seiko Hi-Beat Peacock GMT sees a peacock-inspired deep green patterned dial grace a watch revered by collectors worldwide. The movement, a Geneva watchmaking Grand Prix winner, is manufactured and assembled by hand and allows the time to be adjusted without stopping the watch.

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Flowering fantasy

The Jaquet Droz Lady 8 Flower showcases not just the time but an enamel butterfly and unfurling lotus flower that blossoms under the sapphire crystal dome at the press of a button then closes again. At its centre, a briolette rises to join the dancing petals on a mother-of-pearl stage, a feature surely designed to while away idle moments. Cased in gold and set with diamonds, two independent mechanical movements power the creation.

Aiming high

Montblanc's Star Legacy Automatic Chronograph reflects the design codes of the Minerva works absorbed by the brand a decade ago, namely a silvery-white dial, beautifully balanced proportions, traditional blued leaf-shaped hands and a railway minute track encircling the dial. The steel case is 42mm with a distinctive rounded finish, the strap handcrafted in Florence, the movement self-winding.

Mechanical mastery

"Legacy" (something that's been superseded but is difficult to replace) seems apt for the MB&F Legacy Machine SE, while the "SE" in the name stands not for "special edition" but "split escapement", an unconventional feature that allows the flying balance wheel to do its thing floating high above the dial, seemingly independently. The other parts of the escapement are located on the opposite side of the movement. Sub-dials show the time, power reserve (72 hours) and date, and the "frosted" face comes in blue, dark grey, or gold. Each edition is limited to just 18 pieces, and you're looking at around $100,000.

Classic or quirky?

The Vacheron Constantin Historiques Small is a 36.5mm version of a watch with an off-centre dial designed for ease of reading while driving – with hands on the wheel – or reading a speech. First seen in the 1920s, it reappears as a female – or more likely collector – edition, oozing elegance. Power is a manual-wind, hand-finished movement, Hallmark of Geneva certified with a reserve of 65 hours.

Pedal power

Richard Mille's RM 70-01 Tourbillon Alain Prost. No, it's not foot-driven, but this time-tallying slab was designed for Mille's friend the former F1 pilot and cycling enthusiast Alain Prost. Forged from titanium and carbon, it's shaped to hug the right wrist for easy read-outs. A manual totaliser lets you keep track of the kilometres – which you'll be racking up on the Colnago racing bike that comes gratis with the watch. Just 30 are on offer.

That's a tool watch?

The Panerai Luminor Due is what happens when you take the famed tool watch and add an extra dash of finesse and finish, not to mention colour. Thanks to a clever movement it's the thinnest Panerai yet, but sacrifices none of its presence. In your choice of titanium, steel or gold case, spanning 42mm to 45mm. We'd go the gold with its creamy face.

Vintage appeal

The Longines Avigation BigEye, a Geneva Grand Prix 2017 award-winner, is styled on a 1930s chronograph the brand recently acquired for its museum and happily looks it. Not too big at 41mm, not too glossy but highly legible with an eccentrically outsized seconds counter at 3 o'clock, it's powered by a modern column-wheel movement.

Chequered flag

The Omega Speedmaster Racing Co-Axial Master Chronometer's chequered minute track around the perimeter is a reminder that the Speedmaster was originally destined for the auto track rather than the moon. First seen in 1968, the design returns in black or silver-dialled chronos now sporting vastly upgraded co-axial movements promising 60 hours' power reserve.

New coat

The Girard-Perregaux Laureato Black Ceramic sees the iconic model don a darker garb for the first time, and it does wonders for the 42mm piece, giving it a fresh edge without adding to the weight, thanks to the use of ceramics for the case and bracelet. Alternate polished and satin-brushed surfaces pick up the light and add to the appeal.

Serious fun

Romain Jerome's Hello Kitty introduces the brand's first female line, but don't be surprised if collectors of any gender fall for it. The dials feature pixels of different levels ranging across glossy, with a lacquered Hello Kitty applique and polished bezel; sparkling, with a set bezel; or glittery, with the applique in diamonds and pink sapphires. Each version is 40mm and limited to 76 pieces "to celebrate the year the Hello Kitty character came to prominence.

Colourful chrono

The Bell & Ross Garde Cotes eschews the black or silver dial commonly found on chronographs for a matt grey and "safety" orange number, the latter a nod to the coast-guard inspiration for the piece. Self-winding and spanning 41mm, it's water resistant – naturally – to 100 metres.

Birthday boy

Tag Heuer's Autavia Jack Heuer 85th Anniversary Watch celebrates the man who created the Autavia model back in 1962. Jack Heuer turned 85 just a few weeks back and Tag has released this limited edition capturing the feel of the 39mm original. It now spans 42 mm and houses a contemporary self-winding chronograph movement with a power reserve of 80 hours. A "grains of rice" bracelet completes the vintage look.

Night time

Louis Vuitton's Tambour All Black channels a svelte after-hours look with fresh matt black garb cloaking every surface apart from the brilliant white hands and markers. There are two versions, a 46mm chronograph and here, the 41.5mm Petite Seconde, both powered by self-winding movements and water resistant to 100 metres.

This story first appeared in the AFR Magazine's summer Watch supplement, .