We have always emphasised that watch collecting need not be an expensive hobby. In fact, more often than not, we have always found joy in modestly-priced watches that offer tremendous value proposition.
This is something that many watch manufacturers have also observed in the recent years. Over the last few years, we have seen an increase in more modestly-priced watches hitting the market – especially from bigger conglomerates and more well-known manufacturers. We believe that the market dynamics are changing, and it is clear from both the demand and supply side where well-made and well-priced watches are gaining popularity from collectors and non-collectors alike.
Throwback Sundays: Six watches that don’t break the bank
In this week’s article, we are going to introduce some of the best modestly-priced watches that you can get from the market currently. We aim to keep the prices of the watches low, with most of them retailing at below S$3,000. Price is definitely not the only consideration factor, as the watches must have a unique selling point – either with its functions, looks, or value proposition vis-à-vis its competitors.
Without any further ado, let us begin!
Yema Superman Steel Bronze
We begin this article with one of brands that had caught our attention last year with their modestly-priced offerings: Yema.
Yema, a brand that was founded in 1948 in France, is a manufacturer that was rather illustrious in the past and was relatively unheard of ever since in the subsequent decades. Thankfully, there was a revival over the last decade or so, with the brand launching many great vintage reissues and their own in-house movement as well. The Superman Steel Bronze, for instance, is one of such watches. In fact, this version had even gone a step further with a bronze bezel, crown, and its unique bezel-locking device.
Powering the watch is the in-house YEMA2000 movement, a self-winding calibre that boasts a date display, hacking seconds, and a power reserve of around 42 hours. At a price of €990 (approximately S$1,580) for either the 39mm or 41mm variant, the Superman Steel Bronze is definitely a steal – considering what this timepiece has to offer.
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm
Moving on, we have an interesting mechanical timepiece that offers an excellent value proposition: Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm.
This Hamilton was based on the historical military watches that were issued to the ground troops in the past. The watch remains faithful to its original aesthetics, and interestingly Hamilton had fitted the watch with faux cream luminescence to enhance the classic looks of the watch.
The watch is fitted with the ETA 2801-2 ébauche – a manual winding and dateless version of the renowned ETA 2824-2. It is a three-hand timepiece, with a decent power reserve of around 42 hours. The Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm is priced at S$690, and it is probably one of the most affordable mechanical Swiss-made timepieces. We like it for its appropriate case size, but more importantly for its manual-winding movement as well. This is a fun piece that is great for casual wear – and certainly a great piece to add into any watch collection.
First introduced in 1961, the Seiko Alpinist was touted as the first “Sports Watch” for the Japanese watch manufacturer. More than half a century later, however, the perennial favourite now has a cult following for both its functionality and versatility.
The latest variant, featuring a stunning midnight blue sunburst dial, is a limited edition piece for the US market. Fitted with a palatable 39.5mm stainless steel case, the Alpinist comes with two crowns at both the 3 and 4 o’clock position to adjust the time and bearings respectively. The latter points us to the roots of the Alpinist, in which it was produced specifically for Japanese mountain climbers in the past.
Powering the Alpinist is the humble Calibre 6R15, which is a self-winding movement that boasts a power reserve of around 50 hours. It is also additionally fitted with a Diashock absorber (for shock-resistance). While it might be a tall order to get the “original” Alpinist right now, the next best option is perhaps the new Prospex Alpinist (Reference SPB117/119/121) – which will be retailing from US$725 (approximately S$965) onwards.
Tissot Heritage Petite Seconde
The Tissot Heritage collection is, for the lack of a better description, a “treasure chest” with many hidden gems. As its nomenclature suggests, they are vintage reissues from past production models in their archives, and some of these pieces are actually rather exceptional. The Heritage Petite Seconde is one such timepiece.
This 42mm timepiece is the modern interpretation of the original timepiece that Tissot had produced in 1943. It is a simple three-hand watch, with a petite seconde sub-dial that is placed at the 6 o’clock position. We do like the aesthetics of the timepiece, with its large and legible display that faithfully follows the exact timepiece that the brand had produced in 1943. The use of vintage fonts and logo adds an even nicer touch to the timepiece.
The watch is powered by the ubiquitous ETA 6498-1 – a manual-winding movement that has a respectable power reserve of 46 hours. It is a solid movement, with its roots tracing back to 1950 where it was originally designed for pocket watches and subsequently converted for usage in wristwatches. It is to be noted that the production model will not feature the “Antimagnétique” script on the dial, as the movement does not provide this feature for the watch. It is definitely not a deal-breaker per se, but we thought that it would have been nice to include the feature and the script on the dial to complete the entire package.
Priced at S$1,510, the Tissot Heritage Petite Seconde offers tremendous value for what it offers. We really like how the watch looks, as well as the fact that it is a manual-winding movement. For new collectors, this is surely one of the timepieces to seriously consider if you wish to kickstart your watch collection journey.
Rado Tradition Golden Horse Limited Edition
Following the Tissot and Hamilton, we have yet another excellent vintage reissue from another brand within the Swatch Group conglomerate. Cue the Rado Traditional Golden Horse Limited Edition.
For our regular readers, the Golden Horse is probably no stranger to you. It was covered extensively on our review article, as well as the Throwback Sundays column as well. There is no doubt why the vintage reissue captured our hearts – it has a very palatable case size at 37mm, and its stunning red dégradé dial is a sight to behold. The vintage cues, in addition, lends a very nice rustic charm to the timepiece as well.
The Golden Horse is fitted with the ETA C07. It is a self-winding movement, with a decent power reserve of around 80 hours. It is a solid and reliable movement, with a decent performance to boot.
The cherry on the top of the cake lies in its price point. The Golden Horse retails at S$2,410, which offers compelling value for new and seasoned collectors alike.
Finally, we round up the article with one of our favourite brands from Germany: NOMOS.
NOMOS is a brand that we have often waxed lyrical about. The
Glashütte-based watch manufacturer is a perennial favourite of ours for two simple reasons – they produce well-priced in-house manufactured timepieces, and the Bauhaus-inspired watches are clean and simple in their aesthetics. It might be minimalistic, but the watches are surely much more than what meets the eye.
The Tangente is one of the watches that best represents the German watch manufacturer. It is a three-hand timepiece, fitted with an in-house Calibre Alpha. The movement is adequately finished, with notable traits such as perlage, Glashütte stopwork, and Glashütte three-quarter plate. Talk about getting the basics done right.
Prices of the watch begin at S$2,360 for the 33mm variant, but we highly recommend the Tangente 38 (priced at S$3,200) for its more palatable 38mm case size and the open case back (for the Reference 164). NOMOS is a brand that had garnered quite a cult following in recent years, and we reckon that its popularity will continue to soar with its well-priced and solid offerings – if the watch manufacturer continues to stand by its philosophies.
Except for the NOMOS, most of the watches are priced at below S$3,000. By no means a small fortune for some, but within the watch collecting scene, good mechanical watches at this price point are few and far between.
We hope that with this list, we can prove that watch collecting is not merely a hobby that is reserved only for wealthy individuals. There are some solid well-priced watches that are available out there, and in fact, these watches offer so much value that they have even attracted the attention of seasoned collectors. NOMOS and Seiko, for instance, are some brands that have amazed many with their quality offerings at reasonable price levels.
Do let us know your thoughts on our selection today. We also wish that we have opened the minds of some, and concurrently highlighted some of the good work that these manufacturers have done. This will help to increase the vibrancy of the watch collecting scene, and offer collectors more choices and opportunities to explore different genres of watches altogether.