5 Of The Most Controversial Timepiece Releases

The world of watchmaking is often full of new releases as brands battle it out for market share and space on your wrist. With the emphasis on releasing new watches as often as possible, it is only to be expected that not every timepiece is going to strike a particularly melodic note with the community, and thus it may receive some backlash. While the reasons for not liking a particular release can vary amongst collectors and members of the community; here are five timepieces that didn’t exactly enjoy a red carpet treatment.

Tudor P01
Released in 2019, the Tudor P01 was born to resemble a 1960s dive watch prototype. The original prototype set out to solve a relatively simple problem that was facing dive watches at the time; how to secure the rotatable bezel. As a key piece of kit in the ‘60s, a misaligned dive bezel could be the difference between life and death. So, Tudor came up with the “Commando Programme” to create a watch with a bezel-locking system that existed between the lugs and placed tension on the bezel. Scrapped for one reason or another, Tudor decided to bring back the prototype design and extend their growing Black Bay collection with the P01.

Far from a popular watch, the P01 has split opinions, to put it nicely. With Tudor’s initial attempts to build hype for the release hinting at a possible Submariner re-release (by posting a picture of the triangle at 12 o'clock) hopes amongst collectors were high. Instead of a brand classic, we were treated to what must be one of the most love-hate designs in recent memory. While the design certainly screams prototype, it fails to play on the romantic nature of a vintage design that is only now getting to see the light of day. With claims from the community that Tudor is simply creating a false history, the P01 was controversial for more than just its design. Misleading hype and an ambiguous backstory all aided the Tudor P01 in becoming a controversial release.

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59
Also released in 2019, the AP Code 11.59 received perhaps the most negative reception for a watch within living memory, second to what is mentioned below. Lambasted by the watch community for what was thought of as a completely over-hyped release, underwhelming dial designs and off-brand aesthetics, the Code 11.59 was a proverbial punch in the face for a lot of watch fans, especially those Audemars Piguet aficionados amongst us. With an elaborate case design and impressive mechanics, the Code 11.59 fell at the most important hurdle, the dial.

Striving to go on, however, AP has clearly invested in the collection and has strengthened the Code 11.59 with various dial designs, new complications and various other technical improvements. While the Code 11.59 has begun to claw its way up ranks of appreciation, it certainly has a long way to go before the community fully accepts it.

Lange & Söhne Odysseus
Almost as if 2019 was the most controversial year for releases ever, the Lange & Söhne Odysseus was released in late 2019. While Lange has rarely put a foot wrong in their relatively short existence since their re-establishment in 1990, the Odysseus was controversial for several reasons that are probably specific to Lange. Famed for being a master of complications and impeccable dress watches, the Odysseus was controversial simply because it was a sports watch, with a pretty unique integrated bracelet. With integrated bracelet sports models being all the rage, Lange decided they should have one too, and so they designed one to satisfy every Lange-esque design choice possible. With Lange’s signature date and day displays, Lange’s hands and a minute track along the dial periphery, the Odysseus was perfect.

The community’s disdain simply came from the fact that Lange would dare indulge the trend of blue dialled integrated bracelet steel sports watches. As the Odysseus was Lange’s first model ever to house a metal bracelet, that too received a chorus of negative feedback, all of which still exists today in certain pockets of the community. Trading for double retail, it seems that the controversial release hasn’t stopped the Odysseus from winning collectors over and rightfully so. An original design should always be rewarded, and nobody can claim the Odysseus isn’t exactly that – original.

Hodinkee Travel Clock
The first of the 2020 releases I will mention, the Hodinkee Travel Clock goes down, without a shadow of a doubt, as the most controversial release ever. Released out of the blue, the infamous Hodinkee Travel Clock was supposedly inspired by the travel clocks of the art deco period. Limited to just 96 units, the story told to us was that the Hodinkee team stumbled across 96 new-old-stock Pontifa 8 Day key-wound alarm clock movements and just had to make the Hodinkee Travel Clock.

While that story was all well and good, the lack of movement finishing and lack of a display caseback all contradicted the focus Hodinkee place on the movement. Couple that with the $5,900 price tag and the apparent low-quality construction and Hodinkee had a nightmare on their hands. Numerous meme accounts either made fun of the release or were set up just to make fun of the clocks. On top of those jokes, the Hodinkee comment sections celebrating the release were full of legitimately angry community members that were enraged about Hodinkee trying to charge so much money for a travel-based product in the middle of a pandemic during international travel bans and lockdowns. Not the wisest of choices really.

Rolex Submariner “Starbucks”
Unlike the rest of the releases we’ve gone through, the latest version of the Submariner collection was not controversial because of the brand’s deliberate over-hyping of the release, or because it was totally uncharacteristic like the Odysseus. It was simply controversial because it’s a watch from Rolex, and how dare they change anything. The latest version of the Submariner combined an increased diameter, of 1mm, and a slimmer set of lugs to create a more elegant looking timepiece. As the Submariner has been 40mm for a very long time, collectors were unhappy with the change, but invariably, they will have to get used to it.

While official Rolex material states that the diameter of the new Submariner is 41mm, it has been measured in at around 40.7mm, just 0.4mm bigger than the 40.3mm of the previous maxi-case Submariner’s weigh-in it. Also, while it can be no surprise to anyone that the Hulk was discontinued, the fact Rolex replaced it with an old colour combination, green bezel and black dial like the Kermit, did rub fans up the wrong way, so in a sense, the controversy was deserved. In the grand scheme of things, no matter what Rolex did it was going to split opinions. Whether they decided to keep the Submariner at 40mm or bring a totally left-field colourway into the collection, as they did with their Oyster Perpetuals, people were always going to talk about it.

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