Value takes on a new meaning in the world of high luxury watches — especially at SIHH, one of the world’s premier watch events, a land where brand booths are places of worship for gold-cased tourbillons that cost as much as a house.
In the past several years, a struggling European watch market has been pushed to explore a growing segment of Americans and others who are ready to graduate from watches that cost $1,000 to watches that cost $3,000 or $5,000. But now that market slump is over, and within that shove from the invisible hand, there’s less reason to expect such fun, truly affordable gems. Still, if you look closely, you can find them.
It’s important to note that when we talk about value at a place like this, we don’t mean low price tags. (Again, we’re speaking in many cases about house-priced watches.) Value here means bang for your buck, which in a horological sense has a lot to do with not just paying for an impressive name or a big-ticket complication when others have done it just as well for less. In previous years, we’ve found deals that included an $11,000 member of the “Big Three” and a Panerai for under $5,000. This year, even though the pickings seem slimmer, several deals have caught our eye, including a watch that offers extreme accuracy at a lower cost than usual; a classic pilot’s watch getting a shiny new movement made in-house; and a Montblanc for about $3,000 (and for less than $2,500 in steel).
Montblanc 1858 Automatic
Montblanc’s hit the nail on the head with its 1858 line: this is serious vintage-homage watch territory, but without excessive “fauxtina” and straight-up copycat looks. No, the 1858 Automatic, at 40mm and with Montblanc’s MB 24.15 movement inside, is everything you want, and nothing you don’t, for just a little more than $3,000. (Not to beat a steel horse, but it comes in that metal for about $2,400, too.)
Movement: Calibre 24.15
Case diameter: 40mm
Water resistance: 100m
IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic Spitfire
IWC’s Mark line of Pilot’s watches is considered a high mark in aviation timekeeping. Their Spitfire Automatic spins off that line and adds three very big words in watchmaking: in-house movement. Other IWC watches use the beloved ETA 2824-2, but this time around, IWC has built the movement itself. ETA is great, but a custom-made movement makes a big difference when it comes to value. This is a tough, well-sized (39mm) everyday wearer kind of watch. And for $4,300 in steel, the price is right. (Still, you might consider its bronze version, especially because of its excellent green dial look.)
Movement: IWC manufacture calibre 32110
Case diameter: 39mm
Water resistance: 6 Bar
Baume & Mercier Baumatic Perpetual Calendar
Last year, the new Clifton Baumatic Chronometer stole the show when it came to bang-for-buck. (The year before that, it was their Clifton Club, for under $2,000, that we loved.) Its COSC certification signifies its membership among some of the most accurate mechanical watchmaking in the world—and B&M did it for less than $3,000. This year, they expanded that value line, including another time-only piece for sub-$3,000. On the other end of the spectrum, the Baumatic Perpetual Calendar clocks in at $24,000—but for a perpetual calendar watch in a gold case, that’s a relative steal. Consider that another gold perpetual calendar, the A. Lange & Söhne Langematik Perpetual Calendar, goes for more than $85,000.