You've spent the year cooped up in your office – or more likely cubicle – but with the end of another year of corporate conforming in sight, you're no doubt dreaming of relaxed times in chinos, shorts, polos and Ts. It might also be timely to give your wristwear the once over. After all, no longer do you have to wear something "appropriate" or polite, let alone anything that slips under a cuff, given this is an era of "what cuff?" As luck would have it, a number of brands have been thinking similarly, releasing a range of watches ideal for getting out and about. Think of them as the horological equivalent of having a smart SUV on your wrist.
Breitling is one. Having forged a new path in recent times with fresh takes on models from the archives, notably the svelte Premier range, the brand returns to boys-own form with a refreshed Avenger line-up. The new Avenger is "created for contemporary aerial adventurers" which seems a little restrictive – but then again the Super Avenger Chronograph Night Mission spans a mighty 48mm, a challenging size for many. That said, there are 43mm and 45mm Avengers too, so the choice is yours – medium or large SUV or in the case of the 48, a "don't mess-with-me" off-roader. Power across the range is a COSC-certified chronometer movement and the Night Mission version looks the part with a lightweight case in DLC-coated titanium, a blue dial with stencilled numerals "re-calling numbers on the decks of aircraft carriers" on a blue leather military strap. It's a more-than-competent piece of kit.
Competence is a word that also comes to the fore with Seiko's latest offering, two limited edition dive models with violet gold or platinum tinted bezels (200 of each only) in their premium Prospex LX line. The LX tag comes from the Latin word for light (lux) and refers to the way light is reflected in the surfaces of the Zaratsu-polished titanium cases that span 44.8mm and come in two finishes, one with a black ionised treatment. The bezels are forged from cermet, a composite heat-resistant material made from ceramic and sintered metal. Both versions are rated for depths of 300 meters and are powered by the brand's Spring Drive movement. It's an impressive offering all round.
Of course you might hanker from something a little left field, in which case a number of less familiar brands have you covered with interesting options. Ulysse Nardin deserve mention for their latest dive timepiece the Diver Deep Dive One More Wave. Forget the somewhat waterlogged name, this is one beast of a watch packed with good intentions. It's the result of a partnership between UN and the One More Wave organisation that helps wounded and disabled veterans with surf therapy and equipment to get them back into the sea. The watch spans a muscular 46mm and comes in black diamond-like-carbon satin-finished titanium, the all-over black relieved by yellow markings. The movement is self-winding and there's a unidirectional bezel and decompression valve at nine o'clock – handy given its depth rating is some 1000 meters.
Then there's Italian brand U-Boat which with its latest creation has immersed itself not in the brine – as might be expected given its nomenclature – but in oil. Available in chronograph and three-hand versions, the so-called Capsoil model submerges its electromagnetic movement and face in an oil bath, a dunking that according to founder Italo Fontana "transforms the dial into an absolute black, making it three dimensional and deep." Almost Panerai-like bold beige markings add to a distinctive retro feel. The case is 45mm, yours in steel or black DLC, and the Capsoil is water-resistant to 100 meters.
Should you wish for a resolutely modern take on things – and a watch that relies on fluidic prowess for its very operation – there's serial offender HYT, whose latest instrument, the H5, spans 48.8mm and sits almost 21mm high on the wrist. Green-dyed liquid pumped around a tube by tiny mechanically-driven bellows indicates the hour of day, a feature of the watch as unique as its inverted pudding-bowl appearance with highly transparent surfaces wherever you look.
While the clever HYT is the possibly most outrageous of this sleeve-busting bunch, none is going to fly under the radar, given each has its own character and presence. It might be a stretch to wear one as a dress watch at some summer function or evening – but given the times we live in, that would depend on what you're dressing for.
Bani McSpedden is watch editor of The Australian Financial Review.
Check out the gallery above to see your next watch for the road.