For this throwback article, I decided to have a slightly different approach. I am a “young collector” – a person that have yet to fulfil all his horological dreams. I still have many grails not yet achieved and the wish to buy timepieces is a strong voice in my heart – I am asking myself periodically how I can feed this passion and lust. A serious collector should have a plan, a list of priorities, grail(s?) and a lot of patience. Being an emotional buyer is dangerous for the budget, for the quality of the collection and should be avoided. Plus, it could delay the real thing – the grail. Any decision for a new purchase must be left to decant overnight, documented and balanced with the priorities. There is always a question of price and what you can get for the money. Taking into consideration the latest aspect, I thought about the pieces I could get for 10,000 Euro or USD, plus/minus some pocket change. This selection is done with a watch in each of the following categories: dress watch or traditional, chronograph, diver, calendar, crazy or unusual design and an independent (the categories are random).
Perhaps we begin with what is closest to my heart. The independents:
A marvel for the wrist, a friend for the heart – Independent watchmakers: Sarpaneva
My excitement for the independents stem from two reasons. First: wearing a watch from an independent brand will instantly put you on a list of people in-the-know. The wristwatches have something special, differentiating from the “traditional brands” in design, finishes or just a touch of genius or madness, or both. Having an indie piece on the wrist means instant pride, a connection with other like-minded collectors and a friendship with the watchmaker. Which is these second reason: knowing and making friends with the watchmaker. Why is that important? Well, for starters, the watch is a sign that you appreciate his work, his ideas. You will have always the warm friend that knows your watch as you know yourself. You can go together out for a drink and you will have at least one subject to talk about – your watch, created and produced by your favourite watchmaker.
A major con of buying an independent watch is the danger that your watch may not be serviceable in say 10 or perhaps 20 years. The gnawing fear that the watchmaker may not be in business. But let’s hope only for the best.
I chose for this article an indie watch dear to me – Sarpaneva Korona K0 Northern Lights, reviewed here. Stepan Sarpaneva is a talented watchmaker. He created his own company in 2003, after working for names like Piaget, Parmigiani, Vianney Halter and Christophe Claret.
The Korona K0 is a spectacular watch. The signature moon of Stepan is a Monalisa of the moon phase complication, every viewer has his own idea/concept of the sentiment behind the moon’s face. The design is easily recognisable and the watch looks amazing in any light condition. At a full light, the details of the case construction and the interesting layered dial keeps your eyes busy with beauty. At low light, the dial’s luminescence takes over and a hidden show is revealed.
The watch was priced €14,500 at launch, a bit over the budget for me then, but I think it worth every penny. If the interest is high but the budget remains tight, there is always the Korona Seasons priced at €10,000 or the new Daredevil with a price of €9,500 (approx. S$16,000).
The beast, the ugly or a god? – Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200
The next watch enters into several categories: a diver, child of the SWATCH Group, a piece with a rich heritage, a technological marvel, a tool watch. I am talking about the Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200. As the name suggests, the watch can handle the depth of 1200 meters. To withstand the requirements of the underwater world, the watch is manufactured in titanium with generous dimensions: 55mm by 48mm. The light metal makes it more comfortable for the wrist. The handling, setup and overall feel are very good. It’s a watch that must be put on the wrist before the acquisition, to be sure it will be visual adequate with the personal style and wrist size.
The Ploprof 1200 is powered by the Calibre 8912. The movement uses a balance vibrating at 3,5Hz (25,200 bph), offering 60 hours of power reserve. As a real tool, the watch can withstand magnetic fields of 15,000 Gauss, even with the see-through case back. The movement is adequately decorated, being proper for the entire package look.
Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200 Reference 126.96.36.199.04.001, has a price tag of €10,400 or S$16,300.
A classic diver as an “obvious” choice – Rolex Sea-Dweller
Another tool watch with an entirely different history and heritage, an easy and “safe” choice is the Rolex Sea-Dweller. This watch was used, from the 70s, as a tool watch, a sports/daily watch and even as a business/formal companion. Though not a dress watch by any stretch of imagination, icons like James Bond has worn the Submariner to great effect even in a dinner suit, so I guess nobody will scream “blue murder” if one does wear the Sea-Dweller to a formal event. But I don’t recommend it.
The Sea-Dweller has an interesting story, read here. Considering only the look, the watch is an honest classic diver, with the specific Rolex finish. The 43mm case has a nice black Cerachrom bezel and an impressive water resistance of 1220meters. The dial has a glossy finish with 18k white gold appliqué markers filled with Chromalight. The crystal has the traditional Rolex’s cyclops over the date at 3 o’clock, offering excellent date legibility.
The impressive specifications of the case are enriched by the new calibre 3235. The movement is certified to the Rolex Superlative Chronometer certification (COSC plus Rolex certification after casing) and regulated to an industry leading +2s/-2s a day.
The price S$15,250, inclusive of GST, round about €10,000, put the Rolex Ref. 126600 perfect in the price category. I think this is a safe choice for most of the collectors: a timeless design, a beautiful versatile watch from a reputable brand. One might consider this watch as the universal answer for every need, being for some the one and only piece they own.
What was first? The seconds or the chronograph? -Graham Chronofighter Superlight Carbon
For this chicken/egg rhetorical question, there is really no answer. But for my question what kind of chronograph timepiece should I chose, I have an unusual answer: Graham Chronofighter Superlight Carbon. Not that I don’t like the entire line of Omega Speedmaster, but I want something a bit out of the comfort zone. For S$14,873 (approx. €10,000) you buy a supersport chrono from an independent brand manufactured in state of the art modern materials.
The Chronofighter Super Light is a big player – literally, a big watch cased in 47mm carbon with a weight under 100grams. The modern materials look daring and interesting. The left pushers and crown intrigue at first but manage to spark one’s curiosity.
The Graham chrono is powered by the Calibre G1747. Based on the ETA/Valjoux 7750, the movement offers no unpleasant surprise: robust and easy to service. The movement is adequately decorated with classic perlage, Côtes de Genève, brushing and polishing.
The rubber strap and the case tightness guaranteed to a depth up to 100m makes the Graham Chronofighter Superlight Carbon an excellent companion for an active life. For the more playful, Graham offers a series of the same watch but with the dial decorated with Nose Art.
A gentleman’s choice – Jaeger LeCoultre
A dress watch is a tough choice to make. One is the dedicated purpose of the watch – a black tie event requires one not to wear a watch. A gentleman should take care of his lady or companion and not care about the time. But perhaps we might squeeze in a case to allow for a slim dress watch.
For me, a good compromise is Jaeger LeCoultre Geophysic True Second. A 38.5mm diameter steel watch with a clean dial adorned with applied baton indexes will make a good impression at a high-class event and also in a more formal environment. The presence of the date might be a contra-argument, but I think for this price class of S$13,300 I can enjoy it also as a daily office piece were the date is really useful.
But there is another wrist watch from the same brand, with an impressive history and heritage that is accepted as a dress watch, even if it’s initial purpose was a sports watch. We are talking about the watch created in the 30s for the polo players – the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso.
I have to admit that this is my all-time favourite pice. The way this watch manage to keep the same art-deco design, to be an elegant option until it is ultimately recognised as a dress watch doesn’t stop to amaze me. This is one of the watches that will fit every time and everywhere without the slightest effort. Recognisable as one of the most iconic designs, the Reverso is breading class and elegance.
The Ultra Thin 1948 has a magnificent simple dial with black ink printings and blued hands and indexes. The 1000 hours Master Control guarantees a verified and certified precision and quality. The nobility of this watch is breathtaking and this kind of watch can suffice easily a one-piece collection.
The Grand Reverso Ultra Thin 1948 boutique edition is priced at approx. USD9,450 or S$13,000.
Calendar for the wrist – Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronometer Annual Calendar Monaco
A mechanical annual calendar for the wrist is an extremely useful tool. The ones that don’t need and use this type of watch maybe will not understand the importance of this type of watch. The other ones will unconditional agree.
Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronometer Annual Calendar Monaco is a beautiful, 100 pieces limited edition with COSC certification.
The wrist piece offers an excellent combination of modern and classical elements. The 43mm diameter steel case offers a lovely design completed by rubber strap with titanium element. Simply said, it looks cool. The 100-meter water resistance will be enough for the sporty activities.
The white lacquered dial is tastefully decorated with blue Roman numerals as indexes, a date and calendar at 6 o’clock and a very useful 60hours power reserve indication at 12 o’clock.
The calibre UN-113 is an in-house movement, COSC certified, with an important characteristic: the setting works forward and backwards.
The watch is priced at €9900.
The versatile – Zenith Chronomaster El Primero Grande Date Full Open
The Zenith was left intentionally at the end of the article. El Primero Grande Date Full Open is a special piece that can fulfil more wishes at once. It has open dial revealing details normally hidden under a classic dial. It offers a well-known chronograph function, a date and a moon phase. For some, these are a must-have for a daily use watch.
The two-tone case emphasises, even more, the beauty of the movement visible under the sapphire dial. Decorated with gold indexes and hands, the dial offers a good legibility.
The watch is powered by the Calibre 4047B. The 50 hours power reserve are regulated with a 5Hz balance wheel. The movement is pleasantly decorated offering a good show on the top, as well on the back.
For me, the moon phase is mostly pleasure, since I love this complication. I consider it a “nice to have” function, a beautiful way to fill a dial face. For me it’s is useful to understand the fluctuation of the moon. Some people tend to be moodier around the full moon, and consciously recognizing the problem helps me understand better the entire picture.
The chronograph function is something I use daily at work and home. Counting the minutes until food is ready, is fun.
As intended and declared from the beginning, the watches used for this Throwback Sunday article are following just the price line. The choice is purely personal and is an invitation to an open discussion regarding price, personal needs and personal preferences. Collecting watches is a learning process, an evolution to the desired goal and gentlemen talk with arguments is always welcomed.