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Throwback Sunday: Six watches for a S$12,000 budget

by Peter Chong on August 4, 2019
Watches

We received a lot of very positive feedback on our $5,000 budget selection, so we thought we’d raise the budget and give it another go. Here we explore what you can buy for your S$12k.

As with the earlier article, our original intent is to focus on watches which are off the beaten track, but when we began writing in earnest, the task proved to be very difficult. This is a price segment which is perhaps the belly of watch collecting…the broadest segment, and with the most popular watches.

But one thing for sure, you will not see Rolex on this list. Not because they are not recommended, indeed we cannot recommend Rolex highly recommended enough, but you already know to look out for them. As collectors ourselves, we are painfully aware that getting a stainless steel Rolex from an Authorized Dealer at retail price is going to be a huge stretch for most people. The market is kind of crazy – and these watches are seriously constrained in supply. Our advice is to grab that SS sports Rolex if the opportunity presents itself on you. But only at an Authorized Dealer at retail price. All the super popular Rolex models like the GMT-Master, the Submariner, the Explorer or the Air King are broadly within this budget. But please don’t pay over retail to the black market seller. Consider, instead these other options.

Omega Seamaster Diver 300m Coaxial Chronometer

Perhaps we start with the other rather obvious marque – Omega. But this one is readily available. Our pick is either last year’s Seamaster Diver 300m Coaxial Chronometer (S$7,200 in SS bracelet) or the regular (non limited edition) Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch (S$7,150 SS case and bracelet) . Limited edition Speedmasters are difficult to procure, and the term may seem to be an oxymoron these days, but that’s another story, so we leave it at that. But the Seamaster Diver is not difficult to get at an Authorized Dealer or Boutique. And is a sterling example of why Omega is such a behemoth. This is a watch which is very competently designed and beautifully executed. It is robust, it is aesthetically pleasing, and performs the tool task very well.

The updated bracelet design gives the Seamaster a more masculine and sporty outlook.

Another option might this year’s Time to Move new release, the Diver 300m Coaxial Chronograph (S$10,350 in SS case, SS bracelet). A very similar watch, but with a chronograph movement instead of time only. A full hands on review of this is coming soon.

Back to the standard diver, the retail is only S$6,750 with a rubber strap or S$7,200 as shown in the photograph above. We particularly love the brushed PVD dial in a chrome colour ceramic and laser-engraved wave motif and the ceramic bezel with a white enamel diving scale. Movement wise, it features the Omega Master Chronometer Calibre 8800, which can be seen through the sapphire-crystal on the wave-edged caseback. And the 5 year Omega warranty.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Date

A list at this budget level must include a Jaeger-LeCoultre. The classic time only Reverso is an obvious choice in stainless steel. But our pick is the sector dial Master control Date, at US$ 5,700 (S$7.900).

We think the design is outstanding at this level. Less is more, and the simplicity of the sector dial makes for a nice aesthetic. Many collectors have expressed that if JLC had omitted the date at 3, it would be even better, but we are persuaded that the date aperture is provides a visual counterpoint to the dial, and its a useful complication. We also love the syringe hands, which we feel adds a nice touch to the aesthetic.

The pedigree of the in-house movement – the selfwinding calibre 899/1 is unquestioned. And its robustness proven. This is the very same movement used in several JLC watches like the Master Ultra Thin Date. Competently designed and beautifully finished, it is a shining example of the kind of work that JLC continues to produce. And continues to impress.

Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42

Next up, from the new and exciting Breitling. Here we propose a chronograph with an in-house developed and manufactured movement, in a stainless steel case, with a magnificently beautiful panda styled dial at S$11,600 as shown with folding buckle. The design exists in many colour options to choose from, including a collaboration with Bentley in British Racing Green (S$11,400 with strap), and another in collaboration with Norton Motorcycles in a black dial (S$11,450). The collaborations also feature limited edition examples. In total, 11 steel models are offered in the collection, and when configured with alligator/leather straps, all fall within our S$12k budget.

For us, the two key distinguishing factors of the Breitling Premier B01 is the Caliber 01 movement, and the beautiful dial layout and colour selection.

The movement is a self-winding, chronometer-certified chronograph with a power reserve of about 70 hours. The 4 hz movement is COSC-certified and has chronograph, time and date functions. The in-house caliber uses a ratchet wheel control with vertical coupling.

The dial takes direct reference to vintage chronographs, using a dual counter layout, a tachymeter on the periphery and the two tone color scheme. The crystal is raised slightly to give the effect of a vintage plexi-glass crystal, but now in sapphire glass with double anti-reflection treatment.

Glashütte Original Sixties

Our next recommendation is the Glashütte Original Sixties Annual Edition. Presented in green for 2018, and in a varnish red/black with a dégradé finish for 2019, both are excellent choices at S$10,000.

The dials are spectacular, and made with a special process as described in this article. The Sixties evoke a vintage feel with great attention to detail. As mentioned, the dials are very nice, but also the indices, the stylized Arabic numerals, the hands and the case shape all reflect the era.

Glashütte Original Sixties Annual Edition 2018. The latest 2019 Edition is in a striking red and black dial.

Like all GO watches, the movements are in-house designed and manufactured in Glashütte. In particular, the Caliber 39-52 features a large rotor for automatic winding, and a respectable finishing which can be admired through the sapphire glass back.

Grand Seiko SBGR305

From Japan, we have the Grand Seiko series. Many of their models will fall within the price range, particularly the automatic models with and without power reserve, or with and without GMT. The popular Snowflake (US$5,800 or about S$7,900) in a Spring Drive movement is certainly a great candidate, but our pick for this article is the time only automatic with sweep seconds hand with US$ 7,200 (S$9,100). This is a modern reinterpretation of the 1960 GS – the Grand Seiko SBGR305, limited edition of 968 pieces. Cased in brilliant hard titanium.

The Grand Seiko SBGR305, limited to a production run of 968 pieces. 

Attractive from every angle, the case is a mixture of polished and brushed surfaces, perfected with Seiko’s unique Zaratsu polishing technique. The finish emanates a brightness that conventional pure titanium lacks. The double sided sapphire crystal ground to highlight the dial is the other outstanding feature. The dial is done in a beautiful frosted finish, the texture provides glimpses of specular highlights which complements the magnificent polished and faceted indices and hands.

The movement is the Caliber 9S68, a workhorse movement that powers most of modern Grand Seikos. Perhaps not as sexy as the aforementioned Snowflake, so you would be well advised to check that out too!

Editor’s note, added 1 hour after publication : a reader pointed out correctly that the SBGR305 is a Limited Edition and may be sold out by now. In which case we say, go for the Snowflake instead.

Tutima Patria Admiral Blue SS

The last, but certainly not the least is the Tutima Patria in an Admiral Blue dial in a stainless steel case. At a retail price of just € 4,900 (S$7,500), the Patria has classical good looks. Discreet and perhaps demure, it exudes a quiet persona and a beautiful personality, if watches can have a personality.

The movement is an in-house design and manufacture Caliber 671. And here comes the argument for personality – the base movement is the Caliber 800 with its minute repeater components removed. One cannot get much more credibility than that! The Caliber 800 is the first minute repeater ever made by a German manufacture (Lange for example, never made a minute repeater before Tutima’s. All their pre-war repeaters were Swiss ebauches. And the Lange Grande Complication is their first Minute Repeater only made its appearance in 2013, several years after Tutima revealed theirs in 2011), and a huge feather in Tutima’s cap in the Homage Minute Repeater. Review of the Homage MR is a bit long in the tooth, but coming soon too!

The caliber 671 retains the elaborately designed and beautiful click from the caliber 800 is retained on the flying barrel. Its sensuous form, and mirror finish lending an air of class to the movement side. Also kept is the beautiful gold chatons secured by mirror polished screw heads, the Glashütte ribbing, and the skeletonized balance cock. The anglage applied to the edges of the plate and cock is immaculately executed.

Concluding thoughts

And there you have it. our six suggestions for a S$12,000 budget. All feature in-house designed and manufactured movements. Out of these, we have the Omega, and maybe the JLC which might perhaps be considered a usual suspects. But the rest of our choices are less obvious. The Breitling is chosen for the outstanding B01 movement, one also used by Tudor in their chronograph. The Glashütte Original and Grand Seiko was chosen for the magnificent case and dial, in-house movements notwithstanding. And finally, perhaps the most underrated of them all, the Tutima stands as a icon of elegance with a superb movement.

Given that this article is to provide you with some options within this budget, it is neither exhaustive nor does it pretend to be. There are many valid options out there. What would you have chosen?

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