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Throwback Sundays: Six Underrated Luxury Watches to Consider, from Our Archives

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Collectors, at least within the local context, are a conservative bunch. There are certainly no shortage of collectors in Singapore, but most of them tend to stick to the usual few big brands. No prizes for guessing what are some of the brands that we were referring to.

As a watch publication, we hope that we are able to share and expose collectors to the myriad of offerings that this wonderful industry has. Ultimately, we hope that collectors can look beyond their usual options, and eventually venture into something different for their next acquisition.

In this week’s column, we will be taking a look at six underrated luxury watches that are typically overlooked by people. These are solid watches, and they definitely give their better-known competitors a run for their money. What have we selected this time round? Let us find out!

Parmigiani Toric Chronometre

First up, we have one of our favourite pieces from Parmigiani – the Toric Chronometre.

Parmigiani is one of the more prominent independently owned high-end watch manufacturers, and the Toric collection is known for producing haute horlogerie pieces that feature complications such as the minute repeaters and tourbillons. As our Chief Editor mentioned previously, it was a pleasant surprise that Parmigiani had launched a basic model for the collection, and a beautiful one at that.

Despite being a simple timepiece, Parmigiani have incorporated intricate touches to the timepiece. The bezel, for instance, comes with a coin edge design that was inspired by columns of Ancient Greece, with the patterns derived from gadroons and knurling. The end result is certainly stunning, and yet it still manages to maintain its elegance and classiness.

The Toric Chronometer is powered by the in-house calibre PF331. It is a self-winding movement boasts a date indicator, as well as a power reserve of around 55 hours. The 40.8mm watch is available in both red and white gold, with a retail price of CHF18,500 (approximately S$27,712).

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59

When Audemars Piguet launched the Code 11.59 last year, many critics thought that it fell short of expectations. However, were the comments actually warranted? After spending some time with the actual timepiece, we think that the Code 11.59 is actually a rather nice watch. This finishing techniques are excellent, and we especially like the subtle but interesting touches on the case – such as the octagon mid-case and the hollowed out lugs. The double curved glareproof sapphire, in addition, is also another sweet touch to the watch. The same goes for the movement as well.

While the 41mm timepiece is still overshadowed by the highly successful Royal Oak collection, but we reckon the Code 11.59 is still a timepiece with many merits. The base model, cased in either white or pink gold, is priced at S$37,600. While it might have been a controversial watch, but we do think that critics might want to see the watch in person before making another judgement call. It is a solid watch after all, and we do think that it is certainly worthy enough to bear the name of the Maison.

Chopard L.U.C. Quattro

Chopard is one of the brands that we adore for its well-made timepieces, but it is not a manufacturer that is many are familiar with. It is a great shame, as collections such as the L.U.C. is certainly up there with the big boys.

The new 43mm Quattro is one of such remarkable creations. The timepiece attained its nomenclature with the use of four mainspring barrels, which offers an impressive power reserve of approximately 9 days. Its construction is rather sophisticated as well, considering that Chopard is able to maintain the movement’s thickness of a mere 3.7mm. On top of that, the finishing of the in-house Calibre 98.01-L is sublime.

Retailing at US$25,800 (approximately S$34,791), the L.U.C. Quattro offers collectors an alternative in the world of haute horlogerie. It is rather challenging to find any faults with this timepiece, and we sure hope that the brand gains much more recognition than status quo.

Habring² Doppel 3 Split Seconds Chronograph

Habring² – the brainchild of Richard and Maria Habring – is probably one of the most accessible independent watchmakers that we are so blessed to have. Operating out of Austria, the husband and wife duo is no stranger in the horological world. For the uninitiated, Richard Habring is the person behind the famous split-second chronograph mechanism which was used on the IWC Doppelchronograph and the IWC Il Destriero Scafusia.

The Austrian watchmaker offers several interesting pieces, with an excellent price point to match. The Doppel 3 is perhaps our choice pick. Based on the Valjoux 7760, which is similar to the original IWC Doppelchronograph, the timepiece features his ingenious split-second chronograph mechanism that he had invented in the yesteryear. Our full review covers the details on the movement and the clever design he incorporates within. Incidentally, the start-stop-rest functions are powered by a single pusher, similar to a monopusher chronograph.

The best part of all is its price tag. The Doppel 3 retails at S$10,500 – which is very reasonable for an independently produced split-seconds chronograph timepiece with a limited production annually. It is something that is hard (or virtually impossible) to beat, especially for a well-made timepiece with this level of exclusivity.

Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter

Over the last few years, Montblanc has positioned itself as a serious threat to their competitors by offering collectors quality pieces at attractive prices. The move has certainly yielded pretty good dividends with many collectors are finally taking Montblanc seriously and gravitating towards some of their watches in recent years.

In 2015, Montblanc launched a new series of watches under their 1858 Collection. This collection is part of the “Return to Minerva” series, featuring classic-style watches fitted with movements made in their Villeret facility, historical birthplace of Minerva movements. Of the collection, the 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter is our favourite. The watch features an alluring blue dial reminiscent of pilot’s watches that Minerva had produced between the 1920s and the 1930s. What’s especially alluring is the Calibre 16.29 inspired by the Minerva 17.29 that was produced in 1920s, and the entire movement is produced with many old school components- a visual treat with signature ‘devil’s tail’ and impeccable finishing.

Priced at S$37,800, it is outstanding value, and the market agrees with us given the amazing sales. The 44mm timepiece combines stunning good looks with class and quality.

Singer Reimagined Track1 Geneva Edition

For car collectors, Singer is certainly a brand that is instantly recognised by many. The California-based car restoration workshop is known for its works on classic air-cooled Porsches, and it has now teamed up with others to bring its philosophy into timepieces.

The Track1 is Singer’s first attempt at creating a timepiece. The theme of the watch seems to draw its inspiration from the 70s, in which its tonneau-shaped 43mm case reminding us of both the Omega Speedmaster Mark II and the Heuer Autavia. The Geneva Edition – a gold version launched in SIHH 2018 – further exudes the classic vibes.

But the watch is not just a pretty face either. The Track 1 is fitted with the AgenGraphe – a 67-jewel, 477-part movement that has a minimum power reserve of 60 hours and operates at a traditional 3 Hz beat rate. It is a well-crafted movement, with an equally attractive level of finishing.

Priced at CHF72,000 (approximately S$107,850), the Singer Reimagined Track 1 Geneva Edition is slightly pricey for a newcomer into the game. However, it does seem to offer an interesting proposition, and we will certainly keep our eyes peeled on their subsequent offerings in the future.

Concluding Thoughts

There are certainly no shortage of great options, especially when we get more liberal with the price tag. Many independent watchmakers do offer compelling alternatives, and lesser-known brands have also constantly improve themselves to produce robust and stunning timepieces as well. The onus lies on the collectors to take the leap of faith and take the plunge into the unknown – which is admittedly easier said than done.

Perhaps, collectors might want to start off with something more modest. Habring² and Chopard L.U.C, for instance, are relatively well-priced and henceforth perceived to be “less risky” with a seemingly lower capital outlay. Collectors might just take more comfort with that, for a start. 

We hope you have enjoyed this week’s article. Do let us know your thoughts on these underrated timepieces, as well as the watches that you think deserves a spot on this list. 

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