How to start a haute horlogerie collection: six recommendations

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We return to a topic which has been requested multiple times, and though we have had given it much thought and wrote several articles around it, not one which is directly addressed to how to begin a haute horlogerie collection. Here are six recommendations to think about as you start this expensive journey.

How to start a haute horlogerie collection: six recommendations

We made some assumptions on the start-up recommendations. These are as follows:

  • arbitrary price limit of SGD 30k
  • recommendation is for a family of watches, though we pick one as our favourite
  • the watch must be readily available at the Authorised Dealers worldwide, with minimal delays. And no bundling, extraordinary waitlists, or purchase with purchase shenanigans.

Chopard Alpine Eagle

When Chopard released the Alpine Eagle collection, we just fell in love. This is the final answer to the supply and demand imbalance in the luxury sports watch genre. Yet, the majors – Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet, had a couple of tricks up their sleeve. Patek discontinued the well regarded Ref. 5711A, leaving a void in the niche, which drove prices of the Nautilus in steel skywards. AP did not quite reply in the same way, but cut down their points of sales, and reduced the number of Royal Oaks in the market place. Prices also soared. And yet, the Alpine Eagle, introduced in 2019, remained calm with pricing, with a launch price of just SGD 17.2k. Today, the price has creeped up to SGD 20.4k, but still is within good striking distance of our budget.

Any of the time only Alpine Eagles will do the trick and be on this list. But our pick is from the 2023 crop, maximising our sub-30k budget with none other than the Alpine Eagle Cadence 8HF at SGD 28.4k.

Louis Vuitton Tambour

Still somewhat of a secret, though as we alluded in Peter’s Dear Santa pick, this may not hold for much longer. Our pick is of course the 2023 revised Louis Vuitton Tambour. The watch is only available through LV stores direct, and not even displayed in these stores. One has to quietly whisper to the LV boutique staff to be shown one. We found the new Tambour to be so engaging in so many levels. The design is beautiful, wears magnificently and is a truly masterstroke at elevating an older design to top drawer.

As we wrote in our full review, there are three key factors at play here: 1) the Louis Vuitton branding, 2) the serious watchmaking fronted by La Fabrique du Temps, and crucially, 3) masterful watch design. Priced at just a tad above SGD 27k, this is a good starter.

Vacheron Constantin Fifty-Six

The VC Fifty-Six collection is the gateway into the grand maison. The entire range is targeted to bust the pricing hierarchy of the haute horlogerie world. The low entry price comes at a price, albeit in our opinion a very small one. The movements are not in-house manufactured VC, but sourced from the Richemont owned ValFleurier. The movements are exclusive to VC, and designed for them. And we understand finished in the VC’s own facilities. Our review of the Fifty-Six Self Winding explores this issue in great detail (see Movement section)

Our pick is of course, the entry level Self Winding model in steel. It handily meets the budget by a rather handsome margin, coming in at SGD 18.2k.

The Citizen Mechanical Cal. 0200

This is Citizen’s entry to the high end. Like its Japanese compatriot Grand Seiko had silently entered the high end about a decade ago, Citizen is just beginning their move. But their marketing machinery is very conservative. And corporate culture is more aligned to engineering than to promotion of their excellence. And it will take many more years, decades perhaps before we see Citizen claim a more prominent position in the market.

We have always been impressed with the prowess of this engineering company. We visited their facilities in Japan, and were pleasantly surprised at their level of competency in watchmaking. Their shrewd acquisition of La Joux Perret and the brands Arnold & Sons and Angelus are strategic. And their line of The Citizen has always been at their flagship. Our adoration of the AQ4020 is due to the technical abilities and execution of a near perfect watch. It is quartz, but with this level, it is of little consequence. But for those who insisted on mechanical movements, the Mechanical Cal. 0200 is the answer. And is our recommendation. Or for an even smaller budget, the Series 8 represents excellent value.

Girard-Perregaux Laureato Absolute

The Laureato is perhaps a cornerstone in the Girard-Perregaux maison. It ticks many of the boxes – luxury sports watch which is tough, go anywhere but yet maintain an elegance. And at the leading edge of a new wave of GP watches is the Absolute collection with the use of innovative and interesting materials. We saw and loved the Absolute Rock Chronograph introduced in 2019 and still available now, conservatively priced in 2023 at USD 19.7k (about SGD 26.4k). And thus makes it our pick.

Prices are rising, and the latest Girard-Perregaux Laureato Absolute Chronograph 8Tech now carries a price tag of USD 26.7k (SGD 39k), and out of our starter kit’s arbitrary budget.

Ba111od Chapter 4 Tourbillon

We just had to include the incredible watches offered by Thomas Bailod in his Ba111od maison. Originally started out as a way to prove a marketing point, they are the kings of the affordable tourbillon. The movement is the same base as the Chapter 4.1 we reviewed in detail, sans skeletonisation.

The watches are made in collaboration with Oliver Mory who also makes inexpensive tourbillons for Yema and Louis Erard, but the Ba111od beats them all in pricing. Our pick is the latest BA111od Chapter 4.7 Onyx Tourbillon C. Lémanic. At only USD 5.5k for a flying tourbillon on a onyx dial with minimalistic markings, this is an absolute delight to the eyes, and tired wallets of collectors. The entire Chapter 4 becomes a no-brainer pick for a starter collector.

Concluding thoughts

This is what we would personally have loved to start with if we were to just venture into the world of haute horlogerie. Three others which may perhaps make this list but slightly bursts our SGD 30k budget. Coming in at about SGD 33k, they do, our view deserves honourable mention: the Czapek Antarctique (Passage de Drake is still available), the Moser Streamliner and the Parmigiani Tonda PF . What would be your choices?



    • Maybe I wasn’t as clear as I thought I was. The Citizen has both a quartz and a mechanical version. I have reviewed both in detail. Look up the two links. Either can make the list. But my pick is for the Mechanical Cal.0200 as suggested by the title of the section.

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