Titanium, long prized for its incredible strength-to-weight ratio, is used in spacecraft, race cars, and other places where performance is measured down to the millisecond. While watchmakers have been playing around with the material for decades, this year’s best sports watches make use of the ultralight alloy as never before. Tough-as-nails, with a subtle matte sheen, a titanium watch is the ultimate accessory for 2022.
Breitling Avenger Chronograph Night Mission
An olive drab dial and strap paired with a matte grey DLC-coated titanium case deliver a healthy nod to Breitling’s ongoing relationship with several of the world’s Air Forces. Even at 45mm across, the use of titanium makes this piece barely noticeable when strapped on, which is seldom the situation when wearing a watch of this size. ($7,300)
Panerai PAM1291 Submersible Chrono Mike Horn Edition
These flyback chronograph variants of Panerai’s Submersible line are especially charming, in part on account of their rare use of central hands for indicating elapsed chronograph timing. This particular reference was designed as part of the brand’s ongoing partnership with legendary explorer Mike Horn, who has taken these lightweight yet rugged watches to the farthest reaches of the globe. ($25,900)
TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver
The Aquaracer collection as a whole has been going through changes in recent year, tipping its hat to past references from the ’90s. While this reference carries some of that legacy with it, its 1,000m water resistance and new shrouded crown design are properly modern additions. Once again, it trades off to titanium to lighten the overall structure and rigidity needed to dive to such depths. ($8,300)
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Spitfire
Known in some circles as the “Little Big Pilot” — the original Big Pilot is 46mm, and IWC has recently offered up a 43mm variant — this latest version is still big by most standards without being quite as overbearing as its predecessor. The warm grey of its titanium case not only suits the traditional pilot watch aesthetic, but it in turn sheds mass much like its counterparts in this list. ($12,200)
Mido Ocean Star 200C Titanium
Even simpler and more conventional dive watches can benefit from a titanium case and bracelet, including things like Mido’s Ocean Star 200C. The understated diver features a crisp wave patterned dial, a day and date indication, and a ceramic bezel insert for increased robustness. Using its Swatch Group-derived automatic Caliber 80, the watch offers an impressive 80-hour power reserve. ($1,475)
Oris Aquis Titanium Date
The Oris Aquis is a legend in the entry tier of the luxury watch category, offering impressive construction and specs for a relatively modest price of entry. The use of an integrated bracelet provides improved wearing comfort, further enhanced by a reduced mass when looking at the titanium version; it’s also offered in stainless steel. There are plenty of dial colours and case sizes to choose from, but there’s something about this monochromatic grey variant that always speaks our language. ($3,100)
Hamilton Khaki Field Titanium Auto
This modernized version of a WWII field watch combines the looks of the 1940s with 21st century technology. It contains an H-10 automatic movement that will run accurately for up to 80 hours between wears, with a scratch proof sapphire crystal and a sturdy calf leather strap that will patina beautifully with age. Most notable, however, is a 42mm titanium case that’s lighter and stronger than steel.
Alternatives to Titanium Lightweight Watches
While titanium seems to be having a moment, that’s not to say that it’s the only game in town. Watch brands big and small have spent a fair amount of time and resource to find alternative materials that are capable of lightening the load in contrast to steel or precious metals. There’s also the consideration of allergy — while not common, there is a small percentage of the population that’s allergic to certain titanium alloys, and thus going the route of ceramic or carbon can make a fair bit of sense. With that in mind, here’s an assortment of lightweight watches that take a different approach.
Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Carbon Flying Tourbillon
There’s nothing subtle about this watch, despite its blacked-out colour scheme. Still, for a 45mm-wide tourbillon, it cuts a remarkably svelte figure thanks to its skeletonized dial and liberal use of multi-layered carbon in the case, bracelet and even parts of the movement.
Panerai Luminor Marina Fibratech
Among the new releases to mark the 70th anniversary of Panerai’s Luminor line, this brand new PAM01663 shows off some very impressive material technology. In addition to Carbotech, the brand’s proprietary carbon fibre composite, and sandblasted titanium, this Luminor’s case is made using Fibratech, a new aerospace material made from unidirectional mineral fibres derived from basalt rock.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton
Before quartz movements changed the game, watchmakers like Vacheron Constantin were locked in a race to create the thinnest, finest, most complicated movements possible. This 2020 release calls back to that age, with a movement as impressive as its slim profile. While just 8.1mm thick, there’s nothing lacking in either the dial, which is skeletonized, and the movement itself, a self-winding perpetual calendar. Don’t let its thinness fool you, this is a serious watch from a serious watchmaker.
Grand Seiko SBGK009
In honour of the brand’s 60th anniversary this year, Grand Seiko has released a slew of new models and movements. The most understated of them (if not the most beautiful as well) might be this Elegance model in steel, with a manual-wind Caliber 9S63 movement inside. The combination of its slim profile (perfect for slipping under a shirt cuff) and austere black dial, plus the unexpected touch of the seconds subdial at 9 o’clock, ensure this watch will look jut as good 60 years from now.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin
If its name is a mouthful, perhaps that is in part to make up for this watch’s remarkably brief dimensions. Look at it face-on, and it has all of the hallmarks of a Royal Oak, from the visible screws to the baton-style hands. See it in profile, however, and it almost disappears thanks to a case that’s just 6.3mm thick. This makes it not just the world’s thinnest automatic perpetual calendar wristwatch, but a true marvel of modern watchmaking.
Richard Mille RM 67-02 Extra Flat Automatic
The secret to Richard Mille’s miraculous 32 gram, 7.8mm thick RM 67-02 is the use of Carbon TPT and Quartz TPT, proprietary composite materials chosen for their spectacular strength-to-weight ratio and shock resistance. Appropriately for such a high-performance watch, previous editions honour Olympic track stars, skiiers and tennis champions, while this recent version is dedicated to French World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier, and liveried in his flag’s colours of of red, white and blue.
Rado True Thinline Les Couleurs le Corbusier
These limited-edition pieces celebrate the colour theory pioneered by Le Corbusier in a rainbow of eye-catching hues. Just as impressive as their palette, however, is their thinness and lightness on the wrist. Thanks to a slim quartz movement and a case made out of high-tech ceramic, this watch and bracelet weigh in at just 80 grams.
Nomos Tangente Neomatik 38
Nomos is a German brand known for understated modern watches with high-quality mechanical movements. At 38.5mm-wide and 7.2 mm thick, this slim dress watch is a good example of Nomos’ signature aesthetic, and the movement inside (the Nomos calibre DUW) 3001) is among their latest and most advanced.
Chopard LUC XP
A 3.3mm thick movement is the heart of this timepiece, designed and built by Chopard at their manufacture in Fleurier, Switzerland. With a satin-finished silver dial, rhodium-plated hour markers and a double-faced cashmere and alligator leather strap, this watch may be thin, but it’s definitely not missing anything.