Friday, December 6, 2013

Top 10 Best Swiss/German Mechanical/Automatic watches under $1000 UPDATE: 2013

It's been just over a year since our first top 10 Swiss/German mechanical/automatic watches under $1000 was published and the response was overwhelming! We had no idea so many people were interested in high quality mechanical watches under $1000 and that this figure seemed to have really struck a chord. So one year one, we have decided to come up with an updated list of our top 10 Swiss/German mechanical/automatic watches under $1000.

A number of things have changed. firstly, the AUD isn't where it used to be. This meant a couple of watches that were under are now over, so they were excluded. There were also a few watches that people felt weren't really properly Swiss or German, so this year, we have stricter rules and definitions. To be included in this year's list, the watch MUST have either "Swiss Made" or "Made In Germany" on the dial.

German watches again takes up 50% of the slots, but not only that, the watches are so well priced that you could almost buy 2 for $1000. Funnily enough all of the German watches runs Swiss movements! And on with the list:

Steinhart Le Mans GT Automatic - 412 Euro (excl. VAT)

For this year I have chosen Le Mans GT automatic, as it is another of their in-house designs. It's pretty darn obvious from the name and the style what they were going for in this watch. For the price you get an elaboree grade ETA2824-2 movement, and amazing dial detailing AND case detailing. (Spoke of the alloy wheel on the dial, case is the tyre, with tyre grooves on the side of the case and strap, and the case back is the disc brake!) Granted this watch isn't for everyone, but for a motor racing fan, I think it's a must have. You can buy direct from their website.,559.html

Stowa Ikarus - from 488 Euro (excl. VAT)

The Ikarus is a stunning looking watch drawing on pilot watch design cues, but with a matte finished grey dial (apparently from galvanisation) and a subtle date window at 6:00. The layout is classic and with a diametre at 40mm, also extremely wearable. The Stowa case quality is top notch (a step above Steinhart) and it is powered by ETA2824-2. You have the option of upgrading a number of items on the watch for extra dough, direct from their website.

Archimede Pilot 42 Automatic - 399 euro (excl. VAT)

On the list for the second year running- their prices have gone up a little bit, but still extremely good value.

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 the case is good for Steinhart at the price? Well, Archimede watch cases take 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 399 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. 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.

Defakto Akkord - from 420 euro

On the list for the 2nd year in a row, we still love the styling and the pricing.
Their watches are also made by Ickler, so you know the case quality is top notch. But the Defakto brand itself enploys 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.

Max Bill by Junghans Manual - USD853

The last German watch on the list, it's their first appearance on the Tart's top 10. The watch style is bauhaus minimalistic, and it is a small diametre watch (at 34mm). However, as the watch is all dial and no bezel, it does wear bigger and it's great for someone looking for a dressy, understated watch. The height of the watch is only 8.8mm, which is really quite thin and will easily fit under the cuffs. The watch is powered by ETA2801-2 (essentially a 2824 without the rotor) and available direct from the website.

Christopher Ward C5 Malvern Auto/C8 Pilot Mk II Vintage - 396 Pounds

Yes another variation on the pilot watch. What can I say? It's a classic design! Chris Ward is an English brand with watches made in Switzerland. Their watches aren't bad at all, and should be considered if you can get over the awkward branding. CHRWARD just looks awkward.... The watch is powered by Sellita SW200-1 (essentially a 2824 clone) meaning you're not likely to have any issues. A lot of the bigger brands are switching over teo Sellita as ETA slowly decreases supplies to brands outside the swatchgroup and Sellita takes over the slack. You can get them direct from their website

Mondaine Automatic - 439 Pounds (Maybe VAT back...)

Mondaine are known for being the Swiss railway clock. The distinctive dial is highly legible and can be accurately read at a distance, thanks to its high contrast colours and simplicity. In 1986 this design was interpreted into the wristwatch form and they haven't looked back since. Most Mondaine watches are quartz, but they do have a small collection of automatic watches, aptly named "automatic". They come in 40mm case diametre and are powered by the Sellita S220-1 with day-date functions. See the watch here and maybe purchased here:

The final 3 watches on the list are all part of the giant conglomerate the swatchgroup. Being big has its advantages- price advantages. They are able to offer extremely good value and the following are just the tip of the iceberg.

Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto 38mm USD870

To be honest, this watch just might have the best bang-for-your-bux at the under $1000 category. It is the only watch powered by the ETA 2892-A2 movement, and this is a much more "premium" movement compared to the ETWA 2824-2. Nothing wrong with the 2824. Mind you, it's probably one of the most reliable, but you generally don't see the 2892 fitted to watches under $1000. Keep in mind that the same basic movement is used in Omega as Calibre 1120, and was also used as a base for the very first versions of Omega's co-axial movement, the Calibre 2500. This Hamilton, although only 38mm in diametre, it wears much bigger thanks to its all-dial-and-no-bezel design. It really really is a shame that Hamilton isn't sold in Australia. I'm sure they'll do extremely well here.

Tissot Heritage Visodate from 2012 USD650

The Visodate is inspired by 50s Tissot watches of the same name and it really is a great modern interpretation of a classic. For those who must have both the day and the date on display, this is a great watch. Go with the white dial though. I can't stand the day/date disc being in different colours to the dial. Just can't. I also really like the ye-olde-style Tissot logo on the dial. Powered by the ETA 2836-2 (Basically day-date version of the ETA2824) you can't go wrong and it's a gorgeous classic looking watch. I'd take this one if you can't get your hands on the Hamilton.

Swatch Automatic - $220 (at your local friendly Swatch retailer/boutique)

There are plenty of Swatch Irony automatics you can choose from, and seriously? If you want something Swiss, automatic, and in steel, and don't have a big watch budget, this truly is the way to go. And yes, you can service these and yes, a great watchmaker will be able to regulate the watch to within COSC accuracy (ie -4 to +6 seconds a day), and yes, really for around $220 Aussie. I'll be honest, there won't be much (if at all) of those old-dude-in-a-white-lab-coat involved in the making of this watch, but really... I don't think that's a factor at this price point...

Hopefully this list have introduced you to some watches that might now be up for consideration, and it's actually really not that pricey to get into a proper Swiss/German mechanical watch. My picks of the bunch would be the Hamilton for dress watch and the Archimede for the sports watch. C'mon. You can't have just the one watch. Seriously. It just won't work. Same as you can't have just the one knife.


Elsa West said...

wow beautiful timepieces I really love Archimede Pilot 42 It looks gorgeous with big face watch. Thanks for the awesome top 10 posts.


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Sandy Zalstein said...

The visodate is a lovely homage timepiece, echoing the 1950s 1960 s style. Very madmen. And it's a nicely made watch

Ian @ Blackall said...

Trying to source a Hamilton Intra Matic, but not sold in Australia and can't get any sense from the website, and any overseas websites exclude Australia (USA, UK etc). Strange company, u would think they would welcome business, but not so. The gray market is a bit not right, not real confident with some posts about them so, where 2 now??? Any suggestions??

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a useful review and list that doesn't look down its nose at any watch under $5K.

The Sydney Tarts said...

Thanks Anonymous. Not all great watches need to be expensive.