Sunday, December 9, 2012

Top 10 Swiss/German Watches Under $500

Having just done a top 10 watches under $1000 led me to think that there are a lot other nice watches that can be had for much less, yet are still Swiss/German made. I'm of course referring to quartz watches and although a lot of watch aficionados won't touch quartz with a ten foot pole... like a close friend, I'm also not a quartz Nazi "NO QUARTZ FOR YOU!!" so if there is a nice quartz watch I'd wear it.

Generally speaking a quartz watch can be had for a lot less than their mechanical counterpart, so I've placed a ceiling of $500. And if you would just like a nice watch, don't really care about what makes it tick, but you don't really want just another 'fashion' brand, you've come to the right place. May I present to you my top ten choice for quartz watches. (AUD500, USD500, EUR400, GBP320)

Again, as before, the criteria for this selection of watches are:

Swiss/German made
Quartz movement
Available in reasonable quantities
And - quite important - that these are all watches I would personally buy/wear.

I've also tried to avoid fashion branded watches and big companies, focusing on more interesting deisgns/executions or watches that simply looks much more expensive than they are. The idea is to show that there are some amazing quartz watches out there that may not be well know, but well deserving of your wrist time.

I'm not including the Seikos, Citizens, Casios, as they all make great quartz watches and can be had for very little cash outlay. The idea of this post is to offer perhaps little known alternatives, or ones that one may not think of straight off the bat, or perhaps even thought they were priced higher when they're not.

**I have not provided links to some of the pieces mentioned here because they don't sell direct from a website, but they can easily be found for sale**

Bruno Sohnle Atrium - $455 AUD

Never heard of this brand until it was recently brought to my attention by a friend who was looking for a watch for a friend who wanted to avoid the usual Seiko/Citizen route. Read the post here You could say this post was partly inspired by that scenario. Although little known to me, the brand comes from that great watchmaking cluster in Germany called "Glashutte" and has all the markings of the great watchmaking tradition. Except that they make quartz watches, which brings the prices down significantly, without sacrificing quality... You can get them here in Oz now from Define Watches

Defakto Detail - 280 Euro

The Defakto brand also made the previous list for watches under $1000. But if we're talking about one-handed watches it's not as much of a consequence if the watch is battery powered right? It's not like you'll miss the sweeping seconds hand. The Detail is one fine looking watch. Thin and elegant, I wouldn't mind at all if my one-handed watch is a quartz, since you can't really tell the difference, and.. well.. just look at it!! At that price you can't go wrong. And no, I don't make appointment times like 3:12. a five-minute indication is really good enough. (Unless you only have 2 minutes to catch the train. In which case... you should've left earlier.)

Defakto Detail

Mondaine - From $345 AUD

This has to be on the list. It's a classic, Swiss railway watch. This has the history, the design, the story, and a distinctively pretty face. And you don't have to pay through the nose for it (unless you're Apple. Ahem.) It also comes in a huge variety of options and sizes so you could possibly get one for each of the family members.

Check them out at Brisbane Vintage Watches or Sydney Vintage Watches

Botta Mondo - 348 Euro less VAT

Just cuz I like the design.
Plus some of their designs have won the coveted red dot design award, too, so they do know what they're doing. Plus they're just so cool! (Edit: I didn't realise this until the post was finished - our previous tarts editor had actually posted about this very watch! - Read her review here Looks like Tarters do have very similar tastes!)

Botta Design

Laco Dresden Pilot watch - 350 Euro less VAT

Along with Stowa, Laco was one of the original companies that made the pilot watch back in the 40s (The other three are A Lange & Sohne, IWC and Wempe). If you want a pilot watch with a proper pilot watch history, but your budget is limited, Laco offers their classic pilot watch with a quartz movement where really the only discernable difference is the movement. And why not? Just because you have a limited budget doesn't mean you have to miss out on a classic, right?

Laco Watches

Tissot PRC200 - $475

Yes I chose not to include Tissot in the under $1000 range, but I think under $500 is where they truly shine. The PRC200 is one of those amazing looking watches that could easily pass for watches costing many times more. A sports watch at heart, stick it on a strap and you dress it up immediately. The watch also has that classic style which means it won't go out of date, and as long as you keep up the battery changes, you should have no issues with it whatsoever. It's also a great value for money if you count the number of hands you get for your bucks. It's the only chronograph on the list here (If you don't count Swatch - but that's kinda in a different league.) Oh. One more thing- this watch only sneaks under $500 if you DON'T buy it in Australia. But then again, Tissot watches are on sale constantly here I'm sure you can pick one up new for under $500.

Victorinox Active Original - $325

Known for their army knives, they also make some really nice watches. For the price you get quality Swiss made watches, powered by a reliable swiss quartz movement, and in a variety of military inspired colours, you can't go wrong with one of these for your weekend and/or casual Friday look. I especially like the matching nato strap, which you can easily change yourself from a huge selection available from just about everywhere.


cK Bold - 200 pounds

Yes CK is a fashion brand. But Mr Klein licences his name so much that it's really lost all meaning. CK watches are made by the Swatchgroup, meaning you are getting the watchmaking expertise behind this powerhouse. Being part of swatchgroup also means that you have the peace of mind when it comes to certain levels of quality. Plus I love the minimalistic design that they employ for the CK range. Delete the name from the dial, or even, replace it with something else and I'm sure you'll get away with charging at least 3 times more. And that's what I love about the watch - it just oozes style.

Swatch Irony - In A Blue Mode - $115

Swatch was an easy choice, and their whole range comes under the $500 ceiling. Just one thing to keep in mind though. Due to the construction of their cases (one piece) if the movement stuffs up, you can't service it. I mean, they were designed to be throw-away watches. Their Irony range (or anything that's not made from plastic) looks the part and provided you look after it, a battery change every 2 years or so should be all you need for years and years of stylish Swiss timing. I have an Irony chrono that's hit double digits and still going strong (touch wood). I have chosen the "In A Blue Mode" as I really like the style, sold bracelet design and looks fantastic!

Swatch In A Blue Mode

Fortis Flipper/Fortis Colour - 240 Euro

This is the return of the Fortis Flipper from the 70s. It's essentially a watch module that you can fit into different coloured "cases" which are integrated with the strap. You can choose from a set of three different colours for 240 Euro or a case of ten different colours for more $$$. This is a quartz watch and I'm assuming it's Swiss (it doesn't say but the rest of the Fortis range are) and it's a very inexpensive way into a Fortis, and a fun watch at that. The watch 'case' is made from silicon, and it's just a case of 'popping' the 'watch' in and out to change colours. The dedicated website is coming soon, but it seems you can get them already from Chrono24

Fortis Color

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