The most popular watches of the year 2021 are …

The watchmaking world is changing. The beehive spirit around collecting just seems less … hive-y these days. Independent and forward-thinking brands are starting to leapfrog, and the general meaning of what’s cool and coveted seems to be shifting. To measure these changes, you can look at auction results or call in experts to monitor. Or you can peer into the wrists of celebrities who love watches.

An unscientific measure of what celebrities wore this year (a year-end aggregation from our weekly roundup) is what is happening in the broader community of collectors. For example: after taking the lead over the past two years, an iconic timepiece has been dethroned as the most popular watch of the year. But the real changes are happening outside of the best dogs. Accumulated data shows that while people still love their Rolex and Patek Philippe, there is a lot more diversity on famous wrists than there has been in the past. Newly ascending collectors, like Tyler, the creator, and Tom Holland, take this hobby seriously, and they bring great taste with them. Here’s everything the numbers tell us about celebrity watches in 2021.

Christian petersen
Jordan johnson
Bellocqimages / Bauer-Griffin

The most popular watches of the year

  1. Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
  2. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
  3. Patek Philippe Nautilus

The Royal Oak was by far the most popular watch among celebrities of previous years. And while last year the Daytona didn’t even make the top three, the coin reached number one in 2021. Any reason that could have happened? The Daytona has appeared in every flavor this year: in the beloved black and white “Panda” dial, in icy blue, and vibrant iterations named after a song by Survivor (No, not “The Search Is Over.” “)

While the Patek Philippe Nautilus has made the top three every year, I have established this ranking, it is going in the wrong direction. I spotted 18 in 2019, 11 in 2020 (in a year of social distancing most people didn’t go out at all), and only 10 this year. Oddly enough, Patek Philippe’s senior executives are probably happy with the drop. The brand is ditching the most popular Nautilus model, the 5711, because it felt the watch was receiving inordinate attention.

The most popular brands of the year

  1. Rolex
  2. Patek Philippe
  3. Audemars Piguet

A predictable top three masks the changes that occur just below them. This year, I have spotted two or three times as many Cartier, Omega and Tag Heuer watches as in previous years. Yet 2021 belonged to the three most famous Swiss watchmakers in the world. And Rolex’s dominance is actually more dominant than ever: Celebrities wore the crown nearly three times as often as Patek, the closest competitor.

Rolex’s enormous lead in this category testifies to the great diversity of the brand’s catalog. While the Daytona and the Royal Oak may have comparable numbers, Rolex has several other watches that are almost reaching this level of popularity. The Day-Date and Datejust were hugely popular with everyone from Joe Biden to Lil Baby.

Kevork Djansezian
Vivien Killilea

While Patek executives would like to wean collectors from the Nautilus brand, celebrities are still turning to the brand’s steel sports watches: after the Nautilus, the most popular Patek Philippe is the Aquanaut.

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