Friday, November 30, 2012

Top 10 Swiss/German Mechanical watches under $1000

**Updated 2013 List HERE**

I've had some people asking me more details about watches under $1k ever since the brief mention in the Sydney watch collector interview here. I thought it would be a great idea to do a top ten list of the 10 best new watches (in my opinion, the ones that I would happily wear and recommend to others) under $1k. As this blog has gained quite the international following, the $1k limit is set in USD, which is pretty close to AUD anyway. (for those in other major regions, this would be roughly around EUR800, 650GBP, 1000CHF, and 80,000Yen)

It was mentioned before that there are a lot of really nice watches to be had brand new under $1k, but of course, at this price, you'll need to forgo the "big brands" and start looking at some brands you may or may not have heard of. But if you cared about that you wouldn't be reading this blog would you? You'd just go and get that Rolex Datejust/Sub and be done. For the vast majority of you, who wear watches because you like them, let's go to the top ten list.

Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive and the watches are listed in no particular order... (Ok, in order of the watches that comes to mind) If there are enough watches left over at the end of the list I'll do a second top ten list...

Now the criteria for the watches that can appear on this list are the following:
1. Swiss/German made
2. houses a Swiss/German mechanical movement (with 1 exception)
3. More or less readily available (ie, not limited to 10 pieces worldwide)

This is also a good gift guide for that special someone (or yourself) for the upcoming holiday seasons. I would also very happily wear any of the following watches. In fact, a few of them are on my shopping list. Many brands also sell direct through their website (and I've included links where applicable). And now, without further ado, the top 10 watches under $1000, in no particular order...

Steinhart Ocean 2 - 412 euro

I have a soft spot for Steinhart and have owned/still own several of their models. It is simply amazing what they pump out for the price they charge. Amazing bang-for-your-bucks. Granted there are conspiracies regarding where exactly do they get their parts (as the requirement for the "Swiss Made" stamp is relatively low - won't get into that now) but then again, we could also argue where exactly some of the bigger brands get their parts... But all that is not important in the global village of today.

Another criticism of Steinhart is their derivative/homage styling. That has changed in recent years as they put more effort into their own styles and designs. They won't appeal to everyone but again, that is the case with pretty much every brand out there.

A lot of Steinhart models falls under the $1000 limit, but I have chosen the Ocean 2 as for me, it's one of their more successful inhouse designs. brilliant symmetrical dial, powered by the workhorse ETA 2824 movement (which you'll find fitted to watches 10 times the price), case quality is excellent for the price, and in my opinion, very good customer service (as long as you don't expect immediate answers- they get there in the end). This piece is high on my shopping list. You can get them direct from their website.


Archimede Pilot 42 Automatic - 375 euro

One thing Archimede is famous for is the watch case. Their cases are made by Ickler, (who also produces watches under several other brands) and you know when I said case is good for Steinhart at the price? Well, Archimede watch cases takes it to an entirely different plane. I'd rate them alongside many of the bigger 'prestige' brands. Which makes their pilot watch, a pinch at 375 euros, steal of the century. That is, of course, if you like pilot watches. They do have other models in the range, but I think their Pilot line is the most successful one. And everyone needs a Pilot watch in their collection, right? It's a classic that'll never go out of style. If you can afford it, for an extra 20 euro, you get a sterile dial ie, no branding, and that gives it a very clean look. And like a decent German car, you can also spend lots optioning up the watch with such luxury items as curved sapphire, custom engraving, bracelet etc. This is also available direct from their website


Prometheus Signatura - 389 euro

I only found them quite recently. But what they've made really blew my mind! I don't care much for any of their other models, but the Signatura is done so right where many others (more expensive) have done wrong. You'd think it quite easy to produce an elegant dress watch, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Prometheus managed it for a paltry 389 Euro! From the images the case quality seem to be on par with Steinhart, but for the money you get sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, sapphire display back with custom rotor, enamel dial(!!!), and Sellita SW200 (same as ETA 2824). The dial is simply gorgeous and elegant, and to top it off, symmetrical (yes I have a thing about symmetry on dials and good proportions in general). I really like the black dial as the enamel gives it a certain depth and sheen but you can't go wrong with the white dial/blued hands version either. A definite on my shopping list, direct from their website:


SevenFriday - 897 CHF

So far we've looked at very traditional looking watches. But what if you wanted something a bit "out there"? Well this one is for you. Name's a bit.. well.. but at least it's easy to remember and easily pronounceable. It doesn't look like anything else on the market around the same price range. (You'd need to be sniffing around the 5 figure mark at the very least). This is definitely not for everyone, but I really love it. So much so I'm willing to overlook the miyota movement (not that there's anything wrong with them) and include it on this list.

you can even print the watch out to try on your wrist!

Available direct from their website or from Jura watches for 695 pounds, less VAT if overseas

Jura Watches

Defakto Akkord from 420 euro

Their watches are also made by Ickler, so you know the case quality is top notch. But the Defakto brand itself employs very minimalistic, bauhaus inspired designs. Perfect for those who are sick of paragraphs printed on dials. The Akkord is more traditional with 2 hands, (but you can also get 1-handed watches for that extra minimalistic look) and powered by ETA 2824. Available direct from their website. Like their sister brand, Archimede, you can also choose your customisation for the watch for extra dough.


Halios 1000m "The Puck" $780 USD

Do you like to go deep? Or maybe you just like the idea that you could? Or perhaps you just like a massive chunky watch on your wrist? Then this is for you. With a diametre of 47mm and a height of 14.5mm, it is certain like wearing a hockey puck on your wrist. But it's all about the wrist presence isn't it? Big enough to also use as a weapon. The amount of stainless steel and sapphire crystal (domed and 4mm thick) makes this watch a bargain at $780 USD, direct from their website

Halios Watches

Stowa Marine Auto - EUR680 less VAT

Stowa is a great brand with a great history. (Stowa is one of the original makers of the pilot watch in the 40s) They continue today under Jorge Schauer, and continue to bring out great watches. The Marine is aother classically styled watch (like the Pilot) and Stowa's Marine watch comes with heated blue hands and a sterling silver dial. It's also powered by ETA 2824. I'd say their case quality matches that of Ickler's and you also get a variety of options to customise your watch.

Stowa Watches

Now we come to the 'bigger' brands. Well, the next two can probably still be considered quite niche, but by bigger brands I mean that they do spend money on advertising and marketing so you will need to factor that into the price... However if you searched hard enough on the interwebs I'm sure you can find some good deals.

Glycine Combat 6 manual 590 pounds less VAT

For a 'bigger' brand they're still fairly good value for money. But you are looking at the sort of case quality equal to that of Steinhart. But if you prefer a manual wind movement (or you just don't want something powered by 2824 or equivalent) this would be the one for you. It's powered by ETA 2801, which, well... it's really just the 2824 minus the rotor... um... You do get a choice of different dials for this model, ranging from sporty to dressy. My pick would be the blue dial. Love it. Jura watches in the UK has them in stock on strap for 590 pounds, less VAT if overseas.

Glycine Watches
Jura Watches

Sinn 556 - 630 euro on strap

There is something about Sinn. Unfortunately name perhaps in English, but there is a certain something that just feels special about their watches. With a Sinn, at under $1000 will get you into one of the very basic entry level watches in their range, but that doesn't mean it's any less of a watch. Case quality is again top notch, and although it is powered by ETA 2824, you do also get the following:

Shock resistant as per DIN 8308
Anti-magnetic as per DIN 8309
Sapphire crystal front and back, anti-reflective on both sides on the front, anti-reflective one side on the back
200m water resistant
low pressure resistant

It's also a smaller watch compared to all the others on this list at 38.5, so if you prefer something not so ostentatious but classy and high quality at the same time, you won't sin with a Sinn. Ahem.

Sinn watches

Hamilton Jazzmaster Slim

Last but not least is one watch from one of the majors. Hamilton is part of the Swatchgroup behemoth, but being part of something so big has its perks. Access to in-family ETA movements at most likely mate's rates, you get surprisingly good value and build quality from their watches. Especially the Jazzmaster Slim, which caught my attention not long ago. A really elegant dress watch, in 2 sizes (I'd go for the 40mm) powered by ETA 2892! The 2892 is much more expensive than the 2824, plus it is also a thinner movement, and by most accounts, a more 'premium' movement than 2824. And yet, look at what you get for the price! and this is retail. You can easily find them cheaper than that online. For my money, I'd get a Hamilton over a Tissot. Even if Hamilton is originally an US watch brand, they're all Swiss now, and I just think their watches are much, much better than Tissot. (Which is also why I haven't included any Tissot watches in this list. I do like Tissot, but... hmmm... bang-for-your-buck? Hammy wins hands down.)

Hamilton watches

43mm - 625EUR 795USD, 950CHF
40mm - 525EUR, 695USD, 795CHF

Hopefully this list has opened your eyes to some amazing new watches available out there for not a lot of money. And in most cases, if you buy right, you'll get most of your money back when it comes time to part ways. Most of the smaller brands (Steinhart, Archimede, etc) will amaze you with their resale value since they are sought after and not all that many in circulation.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Top Gear 50 Years of Bond Cars Wrist Watching

Top Gear.. well, Richard Hammond recently did a Bond car special to celebrate the 50 years anniversary of James Bond. This episode is absolutely compulsory viewing if you're the least bit of a Bond fan, or a car fan. Of course, as we all know very well that all 3 hosts of the program are also somewhat watch enthusiasts, as our previous posts have shown. And this time around, Richard did not let us down, wearing no less than 4 different watches during the course of this special episode.

2 of the watches we've seen him wear before so I won't go into details. They are the Rolex Sub and the Breitling. The third watch he wore during the interview with Daniel Craig, is a Tissot T-Touch of some sort. There aren't really any clear shots of the watch during the episode so I couldn't tell exactly which T-Touch it is...

However, what was most interesting to me, and I had to do a double take (well, in this case, pause, rewind, zoom) to make sure I wasn't mistaking what was on his wrist for most of the episode...

Aston Martin DB5 - the most famous Bond car of all...

As Richard is driving the DB5, I couldn't help notice what was on his wrist. It can't be....

But it looks like any other Speedy, you say. What's so special about this one?

Well, I'm going out on a limb here since I can only determine from the screen caps, but it's most likely a 105.012 or a 145.012. These 2 references were produced in the late 60s/early 70s and powered by the cal.321, which had the column wheel arrangement rather than the cam and lever that's found the cal.861 and subsequent Speedmasters.

But it is!!! Not just any ol' Omega Speedmaster...

The 105.012 is the first Speedmaster to have the text "Professional" added after omega discovered that its watches were sent to the moon on the wrists of the Apollo 11 astronauts and there are only very minute differences between the 105.012 and 145.012. And if you can tell the diff, you're even more of a watch nerd than you're letting on. I won't go into details here. There are plenty of info out there on the interwebs.

Of course, there are no hard and fast rules back in those days and exceptions do apply. Finding one these days that had everything correct and original is becoming increasingly difficult.

Plus the fact that the Speedy were pretty much unchanged over the past 50 plus years, and that it's been around for so long, there are always going to be franken-watches (put together using original parts, but may not be original to the actual watch) or watches that were serviced and had parts replaced with later original items... and a whole host of other reasons.

That's quite a long limb I've gone out on. Let's bring this back to the episode. In my opinion, I've never seen Hammond as one for vintage watches. James May we all know has quite a few vintage pieces and they do go... well with his style. But that's the thing about the Omega Speedmaster. It's such a classic and iconic piece of great design and engineering that something made in the 50s (the very first iteration of the Speedmaster) still looks modern today. Just like BOND! 50 years old and still as relevent today as he was 50 years ago (totally biased opinion here), and the Aston Martin DB5. Granted car tech has moved on since then, but the design is still as gorgeous today as it was 50 years ago.

Sorry... but the same can't be said for Roger Moore...

During Hammond's interview with Daniel Craig we see briefly what appears to be an Omega Aqua Terra.

You can't really see it but Daniel Craig is wearing an Omega Aqua Terra... as per contractual agreement...
More Bond car porn...
Classic Toyota 2000GT
Lotus Submarine!
The Breitling Hammond's worn before on Top Gear
Aston Martin Vanquish
A close up of the Omega Speedmaster
Aston Martin DBS

We also catch a glimpse of ex-Stig, Ben Collin's wrist, and he is sporting a TAG Heuer Carrera chronograph day-date, which is powered by the venerable Valjoux 7750. 

Ben Collins wearing a TAG Heuer Carrera chrono
Hammond and Tissot T-Touch of some description...
So it would seem that Hammond's taste in watches is almost as diverse as James May.
Now, can someone convince Clarkson to wear something else????

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

De Bethune Meet and Greet

If you happen to live in Sydney, and can spare an hour to get all the questions you have about De Bethune answered by the President and co-founder of the brand (such as how exactly do you pronounce the name and put to rest once and for all whether he really WAS inspired by the Starfleet badge) this is your chance!

Meet David Zanetta at The Hour Glass in Sydney on Monday the 12th of November and perhaps get your mitts on some hot watches too.

Don't believe me about the Starfleet badge? Have a look at the watch above, and below, and finally, the  Starfleet command logo...

image from De Bethune website

image from the internet