Throwback Sundays: Six affordable dress watches that won’t break the bank

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Dress watches, as we all know, suffer from a bad rep being the least versatile of them all; compared to a trusty diver that is both water and weather resistant, or a chronograph that has additional useful functions, the standard dress watch is basically just, a three-hand watch. However, when it comes to special occasions where one has to look smart and impeccable, only a sleek, subtle dress watch strapped around the wrist would fit the bill.

One of the most recognizable timepieces that is the epitome of all dress watches would probably be the Patek Philippe Calatrava with its iconic ‘Clous de Paris’ hobnail pattern. Take for example the reference 5119R – it comes in a ravishing rose gold case and only measures 36mm in diameter and 7.2mm in thickness. Under the cuff, the watch only intrudes only when you want to tell the time. But what if you’ve just received that wedding invitation to your favourite cousin’s matrimony and the event is happening in two weeks time, leaving you no time to decide and budget for a major watch purchase?

Today, we put together six dress watches that tick all the boxes, and yet maintaining their affordability.


Seiko Presage SJE073 “Baby Snowflake”



The 2018 Presage SJE073 may look very familiar at first sight since it bears some resemblance to the Grand Seiko “Snowflake” SBGA011 and looks identical to the 2017 SARX055 “Baby Snowflake”. However upon closer inspection one will find that it is now fitted with an impressively slimmer case, at 9.8mm thickness. Also, unlike its predecessor, the Presage SJE073 is limited to 1,881 pieces.

Inside the watch ticks the all-new automatic caliber 6L35 that runs at a rate of 28,800bph with a 45-hour power reserve, and it is factory adjusted to achieve an accuracy figure of +10/-15 seconds per day.

Priced at 2,200 Euros (approx US$2,600) the Seiko Presage SJE073 is a value-for-money dress watch that might just draw your attention away each time you check the time, with its mesmerizing dial and blue seconds hand.


Bell & Ross Vintage Bellytanker



If “retro” is your thing, you will surely fall for the vintage hues on the Bell & Ross Vintage Bellytanker, introduced in 2017. The Bellytanker is a high-speed racecar that is manufactured directly from the spare emergency drop tanks fitted in the belly of fighter plane. Fitted with a V8 engine, this aerodynamic vehicle acquired an iconic status, with its sleek design and powerful performance. The modern version, designed by Bell & Ross, is a faithful recreation of the race car that had graced the Bonneville Salt Lake in the past.

The three-hand version (BR V1-92) wears comfortably on the wrist at 38.5mm with a soft, brown calfskin strap. Its date window meets both form and function, as it is not obstructive to the dial, and sits subtle at the 4.30 position with its matching date wheel colour.

Priced at SG$3,700 (approx US$2,700), it is poised to accompany you on your Sunday’s Best with your Savile Row tweed suit and your suede John Lobbs.


Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Ultra Slim in stainless steel



The Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Ultra Slim comes in two versions, one in 18k rose gold and the other in stainless steel.
The stainless steel model will be the one that we are looking today as it is competitively priced at SG$3,085 (approx US$2,300) and is definitely fit for purpose as a gentleman’s dress watch. Sized at 38mm in diameter and with a height of 5.8mm in height, the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Ultra Slim is thin, light and classic.

Its subtle silver sunburst dial and the raised Arabic hour makers at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock break the monotony of what would otherwise be perceived as a boring and “yet-another” dress watch, injecting a sprightly and youthful feel. The placement of the logo is well-balanced with the word “Mecanique” beneath, immediately revealing that this timepiece runs on a manual-winding mechanism.


Longines Master Collection Annual Calendar


Longines Master Collection Annual Calendar


Both dressy and functional, the Longines Master Collection Annual Calendar came up frequently as one of the top picks from Baselworld 2018, thanks to its good-looking aesthetics and entry-level pricing, all for a robust automatic annual calendar. The most significant design element of this timepiece would be the silver dial that is stamped with the barleycorn pattern. The dial may look busy with the brand name, logo and other text, but reading of the time and date is kept very legible. Under different lighting conditions, the stylish deep blue hands can look stark black instead.

The annual calendar complication was first invented by Patek Philippe for reference 5035. The annual calendar watch automatically adjusts to display the correct date either on 31st or 1st, after the 30th of the month. The watch will only require one adjustment per year at the end of February. The new movement L897.2 that is designed by ETA achieves this on the Longines Master Collection Annual Calendar. The base movement of the watch is the ETA2892-A2, revised and with annual calendar module added.

Touted as the most affordable mechanical annual calendar in the market, the Longines Master Collection Annual Calendar is priced at S$3,350 (approx US$2,500).


Tudor Black Bay 36




A dive watch disguised as a dress watch, now updated with a stunning blue dial. This could only be the Tudor Black Bay 36 from their clean, bezel-less range, introduced during Baselworld 2018. The lacquered deep blue dial shows an outstanding contrast to the white lumed hour markers, ensuring legibility as top priority for the wearer.

Despite it missing that aluminium bezel as seen on the Tudor Black Bay diver range, this dressy timepiece features the same iconic “Snowflake” hands that first appeared on Tudor dive watches in the year 1969. The screw-down crown completes the entire classy look with an engraved Tudor rose motif.

The Tudor Black Bay 36 is priced competitively at US$2,700 and would be a good entry-level watch for someone who is just beginning to start on their watch collection.


Tissot Heritage 2018




We have come to last of the six choices and this would be the most affordable of them all. The Tissot Heritage 2018 was introduced just March this year during Baselworld but it is already a favourite amongst value hunters. Inspired by the wristwatch design from the Tissot collection in the 1940s, this watch comes with legible Arabic numerals and a small second subdial at the 6 o’clock position. It forms part of the iconic Tissot Antimagnétique collection comprising the first non-magnetic wristwatches in the world.

Priced at SG$1,050 (approx US$790), this 42mm timepiece with a water-resistance of up to 50m can be worn everyday from the weekdays to weekend as it can match with almost any outfit from your flannel suit, to jeans and sneakers.


Concluding Thoughts


The challenge of choosing a dress watch lies in all of its details – the criteria starts from the movement, to the dial design, to the case material and perhaps even the strap that it comes with. For an affordable timepiece, the selections are varied, but depending on the wearer’s priorities, it won’t be too difficult to narrow the search: The Seiko Presage offers an exciting and mesmerizing dial with a highly accurate movement. The Bell & Ross Vintage Bellytanker plays dress up and dress down very well, and easily matches with all colours of the spectrum on your wardrobe choices. The Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Ultra Slim offers a classic slim case with a vivid sunburst dial. The Longines Master Collection Annual Calendar value proposition is in its movement where it is the most affordable automatic annual calendar in the market. The Tudor Black Bay 36 is iconic, legible and comes with a long withstanding heritage. The Tissot Heritage 2018 introduced this year at Baselworld is the most affordable and versatile everyday-piece for wearers of any wrist size. From the list that we have picked, do you agree with our selections? What would be your choice for an affordable dress watch that is wallet-friendly? Do let us know in your comments below.


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