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Orange is the New Black: Our 10 Favorite Orange (Non-Dive) Watches of 2019


As my colleague Mark Bernardo pointed out during WatchTime’s post-Baselworld Round Table earlier this year, 2019 has often felt like it is “more about new colors than new complications.” Diverse colorways have no doubt been trending upwards in recent years with blue, green, and brown all making major headway onto the wrists of watch collectors. One color that we did notice on the upswing so far this year, especially at Baselworld, was orange.

Orange, being the drastic hue it is, has typically been the design fodder of dive and ocean-faring watches due to its head-turning color (Doxa being perhaps the most famous practitioner). After all, you wouldn’t want to wear a blue dive watch into the ol’ deep blue, would you? But more and more brands are focusing on bringing orange into the realm of daily wearability. In this article, we narrow down a few of our favorite watches released this year that utilize orange tones. We’re going to skip over the typical dive watch usage to focus on the color’s aesthetic extension into atypical watch designs.

Glashütte Original Sixties Orange

Starting in 2018, Glashütte Original launched a new initiative focused on bringing colorful variants of its vintage-inspired Sixties and Sixties Panorama Date watches to market. Last year, the German brand released two models with memorable green-hued dials; this year, it returned with an eye-catching, burnt-orange design. The dial, which transitions from a light yellow in its center to dark orange — almost black — on its sides, was achieved through a laborious process at the brand’s dial manufactory in Pforzheim, Germany. First, the dial receives a galvanic bath treatment which leaves it with an almost golden yellow tone. Then, the dialmakers apply multiple layers of orange and black lacquer to darken the sides of the watch and give it a transitional feel. Once the dialmakers are satisfied, the almost-finished product is fired in a kiln to burn in its final colors, making each watch produced totally unique. The three-dimensional texture is the result of a 60-ton press that leaves the dial with its embossed low-relief pattern. Other than the new dial treatment, the two new watches are practically identical to last year’s releases. Arabic numerals are found at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock, while all the other hour markers are fitted with diamond-cut indexes that sink into the dial and showcase its nickel silver base plate. Sizing for both models, at 39 mm x 9. 4 mm and 42 mm x 12.4 mm, remains the same, as does the choice of movement, with Caliber 39-52 and Caliber 39-47 inside the time-only and Panorama Date models, respectively. The cases are built from polished stainless steel and come attached to a brown Louisiana alligator leather strap with a stainless steel pin buckle. After the success of last year’s version in green, it makes complete sense for Glashütte Original to make the colorful Sixties an annual tradition. The new Glashütte Original Sixties and Sixties Panorama Date are priced at $6,400 and $8,000. You can read more here.

Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1

Petro Onysko
Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1

This year, Bell & Ross looked beyond its typical cockpit instrument inspiration and took design cues from an iconic piece of aviator apparel, the famous MA-1 flight jacket that was adopted by the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s. Bell & Ross describes the model, with its familiar square case and large, legible Arabic numerals, as its “purest” pilot watch yet, meaning it’s the ideal stage upon which to pay tribute to the MA-1 “bomber,” whose parachute-derived nylon shell and reversible khaki green and orange design took it from utilitarian military gear in the ’50s to a stylish fashion statement in the ’70s. The 42-mm case is made of dark khaki-colored ceramic. The dial, also khaki-colored, is of the “sandwich” style with two superimposed metal plates, the lower one coated with orange Super-LumiNova that shines through the stenciled, cut-out numerals and indexes in the upper layer. Orange, of course, is a color long associated with the military and aviation, and the combo of khaki and orange is a direct reference to the MA-1 jacket. The strap, made of calfskin leather and fastening to the wrist with a gunmetal-colored PVD steel pin buckle, continues the theme. Like the jacket, it is dark khaki on its top layer (even the stitching is in the same color, for a total camouflage effect) and orange on its lining, and reversible. For a pilot in distress, putting the orange layer on the outside served as a beacon for Search and Rescue teams; for the wearer of this watch, it essentially allows you to wear it with two totally distinctive looks. The Bell & Ross BR 03-92 MA-1 is powered by the automatic BR-CAL.302, based on the tried-and-true Sellita SW300-1, which offers a 38-hour power reserve. It’s priced at $3,900 and you can learn more here.

Breitling B01 Navitimer Chronograph 43 Airline Edition – TWA

Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43 Airline Edition – TWA

The first Breitling Navitimer, with its built-in chronograph, stylish design, and circular slide rule bezel, quickly became a favorite of airline pilots shortly after it debuted in 1952, around the dawn of what we now refer to as the golden era of commercial aviation, from the late 1950s to early 1970s. This year, Breitling pays tribute to that booming era of passenger flight, and the iconic airlines that emerged from it, with the release of a new Navitimer “capsule collection” produced in a limited volume and celebrating three historic carriers: Swissair, Pan Am, and TWA. All three of the new Airline Editions are reimagined versions of Breitling’s Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43, with 43-mm stainless steel cases and that famous bidirectional circular slide rule bezel, an innovation that allowed the pilots of the ’50s to make crucial flight calculations on their watches, essentially serving as wrist-borne onboard computers in those halcyon days of commercial flight. Inside each case is Breitling’s in-house Caliber B01, renowned for its integrated 1/4-second chronograph function driven by a column wheel, its substantial 70-hour power reserve, and its timekeeping accuracy, as attested to by its chronometer certification. All of the watches feature the classic Navitimer three-register dial layout, with a date window at 4:30, and each one has a sapphire exhibition caseback bearing the classical logo of the airline it represents. Speaking of, Trans World Airlines, better known as TWA, seems to be experiencing a renaissance these days with the recent opening of the new TWA Hotel next to New York’s JFK airport. The defunct airline’s momentum doesn’t appear to be slowing down here either with a silver-colored dial featuring anthracite gray subdials and bright orange on the hands and inner calibrated slide rule scale. You can learn more here.

Breitling Cockpit B50 Orbiter

Breitling Cockpit B50 Orbiter

Breitling sure knows how to stand out in a crowd, doesn’t it? Along with the new Airline Editions, Breitling released an updated take on its ana-digi, quartz-powered Cockpit watch that commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Breitling Orbiter 3, the first non-stop balloon flight to circumnavigate the world. For many years, Breitling was sourcing its high-end quartz models from ETA; however, starting with the first Cockpit B50 that was released in 2014, the brand began producing its own hyper-accurate quartz models thanks to its now-patented Superquartz technology which is thermocompensated, COSC-certified, and billed as accurate within 10 seconds per year. The orange dial of the new watch references the color of the Orbiter 3 and contrasts nicely with the black titanium case construction. The caseback features an engraving of the original Orbiter 3 superimposed on a globe and surrounded by the words “FIRST NON-STOP FLIGHT AROUND THE WORLD – 20th ANNIVERSARY – ETANCHE 100 M” as well as the limited-edition number (1 of 213). Functions include a 1/100th-second flyback chronograph, a perpetual calendar, countdown timer, the ability to set up to two daily alarms, and a second time zone display. Limited to 213 total pieces, the Breitling Cockpit B50 Orbiter is priced at $8,360.

MeisterSinger Metris Black Line Edition 2019

The new MeisterSinger Metris limited edition

Diverging slightly from the orange theme of this article, MeisterSinger released a fairly surprising model in its Metris collection during Baselworld this year. Distinguished by a bright yellow dial — there are hints of orange around its periphery — the new watch fits seamlessly within the Metris family. While most of MeisterSinger’s timepieces lean on dressier motifs, the Metris line has established itself as a robust alternative that can handle a bit more wear and tear. True to form, the new Metris features a blacked-out, DLC-coating on its stainless-steel case. The 43-mm case integrates its rounded bezel with curved lugs, and protects the 3 o’clock crown via rounded guards. Like all Metris timepieces, there’s a date window at 6 o’clock that is amplified courtesy a cyclops date window. Inside the watch is either an ETA 2824-2 or a Sellita SW200-1, both offering up a 38-hour power reserve.

Zodiac Aerospace GMT

Zodiac Aerospace GMT

The Fossil Group has been making remarkable advances in recent years as it continues to rebuild the Zodiac brand within the minds of watch enthusiats. For those that have followed the re-development of the brand, it’s obvious that there’s been a great amount of attention placed on bringing the Sea-Wolf, and the Super Sea-Wolf, back to their rightful place in dive watch history. We were happy to find out during Basel that the brand is continuing to expand its neo-vintage lineup in 2019 with a re-issue of the Aerospace GMT in two limited-edition colorways. There’s a model equipped with a black-and-gray bezel that directly references the Aerospace’s historical predecessor that was released in 1966 as an extension to the Super Sea-Wolf collection. The other model comes with a bezel featuring an attractive combination of baby blue and burnt orange, a playful look that should appeal to younger enthusiasts looking to move up from the main Fossil catalog into the more upscale — yet still accessible — Zodiac brand. The Aerospace GMT is nicely sized at 40-mm, comes on a three-link bracelet, and has a date window located at 3 o’clock. Rather than using one of the Fossil Group’s standard STP movements, Zodiac opted to use an ETA 2893-2 with a 38-hour power reserve. While Fossil does not yet have its own true GMT caliber, the success of this limited-edition run could help determine future development. Both of the new watches will be limited to a total production of 182 pieces in each colorway for a price of $1,695. You can learn more here.

Oak & Oscar Humboldt

Oak & Oscar Humboldt

Oak & Oscar was no doubt an early adopter of orange as a whole, making the color a key part of the Chicago-based company’s branding early on. For Oak & Oscar’s most recent release, Chase Fancher and his team introduced the Humboldt, a timepiece that doesn’t stray too far from the neo-classic design language that previous Oak & Oscar timepieces, like the Sandford GMT and Jackson Flyback Chronograph, have established. The sandwich dial, after being noticeably absent on the Jackson, makes a triumphant return and the colorways, with ample usage of blue, gray, and, of course, orange for the seconds hand, continuing over from the previous editions. What is new here, however, is the introduction of a 12-hour, bi-directional bezel, that can be used to measure elapsed time or a second time zone, and the option of a stainless-steel bracelet. The 40-mm model is inspired by Alexander van Humboldt, an influential 18th-century explorer, philosopher, and natural scientist that is perhaps most famous for his extensive travels and writing on the Americas. More importantly for Oak & Oscar, who have focused on naming their various models after Chicago-based historical figures, is that he’s the namesake for Humboldt Park located in the city’s West Side. The Humboldt features the kind of detail we’ve come to expect from Oak & Oscar, solidifying its standing as a brand driven by enthusiast appeal. These minuscule specifics, often laid to the wayside by bigger, more-established brands, include the date window at 6 o’clock being color matched to your choice between charcoal gray and navy blue dials, and the drilled 20-mm lugs that allow for a more fluid strap changing experience. Inside the watch is the workhorse ETA 2892-A2 caliber with a 42-hour power reserve that is visible through a display back. Water resistance is tested to 200 meters for additional reliability, while the sandwich dial layout that features Super-LumiNova on the bottom layer will ensure a high degree of legibility wherever you take the watch. The previously mentioned stainless steel bracelet, the first time the option has been available for an Oak & Oscar timepiece, was the result of 18 months of research and testing. Built to the brand’s specifications, the bracelet has a fully articulated link design that gradually tapers from the 20-mm solid end links to the 16-mm buckle. The Humboldt is priced at $1,750 on the bracelet and $1,550 on the leather. You can learn more here.

Zenith Swizz Beatz

Building on Zenith’s relationship with the hip-hop artist and record producer Swizz Beatz, the Swiss brand released a limited-edition version of its Defy Classic in ceramic with a bright orange design during its Geneva Days showcase in January. I’m typically not a fan of timepieces that are born from celebrity collaborations as more often than not they come across as lazy and thrown together. That’s not the case here as there is no outlandish branding visible on the dial; instead, Zenith and Swizz Beatz let the watch do the talking. The standard Zenith Defy Classic is a simpler, time-and-date-only sibling to Zenith’s flagship El Primero chronograph and features a 41-mm case made of ceramic. The dial of this specific version is openworked in a reference to the brand’s five-sided star motif and features orange detailing on the surrounding minute track, the seconds hand, and the rubber strap. The watch is powered by the automatic Elite 670 Caliber, which could be described as a more understated younger brother to the famous El Primero. The Elite, the first generation of which debuted in 1994, contains 187 components, including 27 jewels and an escape wheel and lever made of silicon. It stores a power reserve of 48 hours, just a little shy of the El Primero’s 50 hours, and oscillates at a frequency of 28,800 vph — speedy, but a far cry from the El Primero’s supercharged 36,600-vph frequency. While the new watch celebrates the brand’s continued relationship with the Grammy Award-winning musician, it also represents a new frontier for Zenith as the timepiece became the first watch to be sold exclusively through the brand’s e-commerce site. Limited to just 50 pieces, the Defy Classic Swizz Beatz is priced at $7,900.

Richard Mille RM 16-01 Automatic Citron

Richard Mille creations have always been easy to spot in a crowd. Thanks to the avant-garde styling, the generous usage of color, and the overall level of technical sophistication, it isn’t difficult to comprehend how the firm has evolved into one of the most recognizable brands in contemporary horology. The Bonbon collection, released at SIHH 2019, continues this trend with a spotlight on sweetness. That’s right, the lineup of 10 watches, each a limited edition of 30 pieces, borrows liberally from the candy of our youths and transforms the face of each timepiece into a scene straight from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The entirety of the new collection uses the construction of previous Richard Mille timepieces as a base. Recognizable models such as the RM 07-03, the RM 16-01, and the RM 37-01 have been completely transformed and sport a refreshed aesthetic. Cécile Guenat, the daughter of Richard Mille’s founding partner Dominique Guenat, served as the artistic director for the series and focused on injecting each new model with an extra dosage of joie de vivre. The 10 releases are further divided into either the Sweets collection (four watches) or the Fruits line (six total). The watches in the “Fruits” grouping all use Carbon TPT® or Quartz TPT®, the same layering materials found in popular models like Rafael Nadal’s RM 27-03 Tourbillon; the watches in the “Sweets” line are encased in two-tone ceramic. All the new watches include various details that help them stand out. Some models have miniature fruits and candies sprawled across the dial, while the crowns and case bands on other models take the shape of cupcakes and bowls of gelato. Guenat and her team leaned on the expertise the brand gained during their work with the street artist Cyril Kongo for the RM 68-01 to complete the project. At first glance, it might be hard to comprehend the value of such a whimsical approach to watchmaking, but there’s no doubt it provokes a response. Prices for the Richard Mille Bonbon collection range from $122,500 to $158,000. You can learn more here.

Chronoswiss

Chronoswiss Flying Grand Regulator Skeleton Ref. CH-6723S-BKLB

Chronoswiss has never been afraid to express itself with bold colorways to match its equally recognizable regulator-focused designs. This year proved no exception to that rule with a number of electrifying looks — just check this out — including a new option in the brand’s limited-edition series of Flying Grand Regulator Skeleton timepieces that combines baby blue accents with apricot-orange hands. Produced in a run of only 30 watches, the new release is housed in a 44-mm stainless steel case, with satin-brushed and polished finishes, composed of 21 parts. The knurled finish on the sides and vintage-look onion crown, longtime Chronoswiss hallmarks, add to the case’s distinctive look. The silvered, openworked dial offers a glimpse of the watch’s mechanical heart. Inside the case is the manual-wound C.677S caliber, whose plates, bridges and gear wheels have been painstakingly skeletonized. On the dial side, the multi-level construction features funnel-type subdials for the hours and seconds, plus Poire Stuart hands that sweep over the main dial and subdials to indicate the hours, minutes, and seconds.

9 Responses to “Orange is the New Black: Our 10 Favorite Orange (Non-Dive) Watches of 2019”

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  1. Personal preference, of course, but I’ve always been a fan of orange, and not just on dive watches. As some of these examples illustrate, orange helps straddle the line between dress and sport.

    It also makes it incumbent upon the watchmaker to demonstrate art, apart from the science of the watch, in the form of a timepiece.

    Good detail in the article – thank you.

    Reply
  2. Andrew Barber

    You have missed out the most famous Orange watched the Doxa…. they were the first watch company to do an orange watch…

    Reply
    • Logan R. Baker

      Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for reading! I definitely did not forget about Doxa, the brand is mentioned in the opening paragraph. This article is focused on non-dive watches that utilize orange dials.

      Reply
  3. Simon Wright

    All truly hideous watches. Why anyone would buy one of these wrist Gollums is totally beyond any sane persons comprehension.

    Reply
  4. Greg Romines

    Your inclusion of Oak and Oscar is insightful. Often, a limited application of color is more effective than a flat out embrace. While one might admire but never purchase the other pieces, Oak and Oscar is holds steady in tough company once again.

    Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  5. Randy Rogers

    Nothing here that would have me move from the Ebel Chrono 137, Lemania based Orange Dial, Sapphire Back, Arabic Numerals and Orange Crocodile Strap, circa 2001, still purring along.

    Reply
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