There will surely come a time during your watch collecting journey that you want to progress beyond the “usual” pieces in your watch collection.
Sure, the idea of having Rolex and Omega watches in a collection is great. In fact, these are probably brands that you dreamt of having, especially when you are just a student or a young adult who had just started building on your career back then. But now that you’ve achieved your dreams (or “grail watches”) and you want something more – what is the next step to take?
In this week’s column, we will be taking a look at some of the entry-level models from the higher-end brands – those that are a notch above the likes of Rolex and Omega. For the purpose of this article, we will also be discounting the popular options such as the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus too. What are the six watches that we have narrowed down? Let’s find out!
Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso
We begin the article with an unmistakable icon in the horological world. Cue the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso.
The Reverso first debuted in the 1930s, for an interesting reason. Back then, the Polo players requested César de Trey to produce a timepiece that can withstand the knocks from polo mallets. This gave César the idea to create a timepiece with a reversible case, and hence the Reverso was born.
Over the years, Jaeger LeCoultre had produced many iterations of the Reverso. For starters, we believe that the base model – which is a time-only watch – fits the bill perfectly. It is simple, yet so sophisticated on its own right. In addition, the empty caseback can be used for engraving purposes as well. The entry-level model with a manual-winding movement is priced at US$5,300 (approximately S$7,240), and this is similarly priced to a typical stainless steel Rolex Datejust or Explorer. We think it is worth a shot for someone who is looking for a dress watch, and yet might not want to spend a five-figure sum for a timepiece that is different from their usual options.
Grand Seiko SBGA011/SBGA211 “Snowflake”
The Grand Seiko collection is probably one of the best kept secrets in the horological world, until a few years back.
Amongst the finely crafted watches from the atelier, the “Snowflake” (Reference SBGA011/SBGA211) is perhaps one of the most popular options. This is highly attributed to its textured dial, combined with the immaculately finished case and Spring Drive movement. The result is an aesthetically stunning timepiece at all angles.
Priced at ¥570,000 (approx S$7,092) in Japan, the Snowflake offers collectors tremendous value. While Grand Seiko might not be glamourous as some of the other brands that we are featuring in this article, but the quality of the craftsmanship is up there with some of the very best. It is indeed difficult to go wrong with this exceptional piece.
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 of 20 pieces annually. It is something that is hard (or virtually impossible) to beat, especially for a well-made timepiece with this level of exclusivity.
Chopard L.U.C GMT One
The Chopard L.U.C. GMT One is an interesting timepiece from the Geneva-based manufacturer. Launched in 2016, the L.U.C GMT One attempts to offer collectors a more contemporary timepiece – a move away from the traditional dress watches that the brand is normally associated with. The 42mm timepiece features an inner rotating bezel to display its second time-zone, and the GMT hand can be adjusted with the crown at the 4 o’clock position.
The piece de resistance for the timepiece perhaps lies in its movement. The watch is fitted with the Calibre L.U.C 01.10-L, a self-winding COSC-certified movement that boasts a decent power reserve of 60 hours. The finishing is pretty good too, with some of the highlights including Côtes de Genève and chamfered edges for the bridges. The end result is pretty good.
The L.U.C GMT One is priced at S$13,630. Although the watch is slightly pricier than the rest of the watches in this week’s column, but we think that both its functionality and quality make up for the premium in its price tag. It is also a handsome piece, and we are sure that it will look appropriate in any kind of formal occasion.
A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin 37mm
The Saxonia collection is the entry-level piece in the A. Lange & Söhne family, but do not let that fool you. It is a well-known fact that A. Lange & Söhne is one of the finest watch manufacturer in Germany (and perhaps, in the world), and the quality of the Saxonia Thin 37mm is a testament to that. For instance, the finishing of the 167-part, 21-jewel Calibre L093.1 is simply superlative. The movement features some of the usual high-end touches, such as the Glashütte ribbing, anglage, and blued screws. But what makes it even more special is its engraved balance cock, which is done free-hand by one of the six master engravers under the maison. It is simply sublime.
As the name suggests, the timepiece is 37mm in diameter. In addition, with a thickness of 5.9mm, the Saxonia Thin is in fact a very comfortable watch to wear as well. The size is rather perfect for a gentleman – especially one who intends to pair it with formal office wear. Priced at S$21,300 in gold, we truly think that the Saxonia Thin 37mm is worth a serious consideration if one is intending to start collecting high-end timepieces.
Breguet Classique 7147
When it comes to watches in the high-end category, Breguet is often overlooked by many collectors. The bulk of the interest have always revolved around the holy trinity brands, although in recent times manufacturers such as A. Lange & Söhne have slowly attained its fair share of acknowledgement as well.
In Baselworld 2017, the brand has launched a rather enchanting dress watch in the Classique collection: the 7147. The 7147 is a quintessential Breguet piece, featuring its signature touches such as the “Breguet-styled” hands and numerals, fluted coin-edge case, and the welded lugs with screw bars. But what sets this apart from the rest of the watches in the collection is the dial. This piece is fitted with a grand feu enamel dial, which gives it a rather pure white appearance. Another noteworthy point is the sub-seconds dial at the 5 o’clock position, in which it is marked with a slight depression. This effect gives the sub-seconds dial a smooth transition, thus making it rather discreet and non-obtrusive. It is very cool indeed.
Powered by Breguet’s self-winding Calibre 502.3SD, the 35-jewel movement boasts a decent power reserve of 45 hours. It is well-finished as well, which adds a nice touch to the timepiece. The 40mm is notably available in either rose gold or white gold, and they are priced at US$21,500 (approximately S$29,226) and US$21,000 (approximately S$28,546) respectively.
The watches that we have highlighted today aren’t just any simple timepieces. These are well-crafted watches, and they predominantly focus on the craftsmanship of the product. This is why they are have a premium over most of the luxury watches from the more mainstream brands.
It is interesting to note that most of these watches that were showcased are entry-level pieces within the brand. However, as you might have realised, the attention to detail that was given to these watches are simply amazing. The Grand Seiko, for instance, features the famous Zaratsu polish – which gives the timepiece its signature mirror-like finish. The likes of A. Lange and Söhne and Breguet, on the extreme end of the scale, are at the pinnacle with their near flawless execution of haute horlogerie finishing techniques.
We admit that it might be difficult for collectors to take a leap of faith to enter into this territory of watch collecting, but it is certainly a rewarding experience. The watches just feel… different. It’s difficult to describe in words, and we reckon it’d be better if one goes down to a boutique or authorised dealer to get a hands-on experience. It is a truly spiritual experience for the uninitiated.
What are your thoughts on these watches? Are they tempting enough for collectors to move on from the likes of Rolex and Omega to try something different? Let us know in the comments section below!