Got your sights set on a luxury watch? Something of a stretch? If you’re looking to put a foot on the luxury ladder without [completely] breaking the bank, the major players offer brand magic at an affordable – well, more affordable price. Check out these five entry level luxury watches . . .
[NB: This list is based on new-in-box, full retail prices. These watches aren’t necessarily the brand’s least expensive timepieces. They’re the best examples of the watchmaker’s art at a lower price point.]
Oyster Perpetual 39 – $5,700
The Oyster Perpetual 39 isn’t Rolex’s lowest price model. Smaller versions of the Swiss Miss (e.g., the Oyster Perpetual 34) lower the barrier to entry to a little over $5k. But the OP 39 is the ideal size – and style – for both fancy dress and faffing around. Spend less, get less.
Click here for my five-star review of a timepiece with classic good looks, unimpeachable quality and superb accuracy – a no-excuses-needed model that will not leaving you wanting more. In fact, I don’t see the point of moving further up Rolex’s range. But then I don’t flex. Much.
Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M – $5400
OMEGA’s $4900 Seamaster Dive Watch is the Swiss watchmaker’s cheapest [non-ladies] model. As good as it is, a buyer stretching their budget to obtain a piece of upmarket horological charisma is advised to puchase a watch that fully embraces and embodies its brand DNA. Wait. Did I just write that after recommended the under-the Rolex-radar OP 39?
File that one under foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Anyway, OMEGA’s Aqua Terra is an alpha OMEGA. Powered by their Master Chronometer caliber 8900 – a beast in terms of accuracy, durability and beauty (viewed through its transparent caseback) – the Aqua Terra has what German car companies call Überholprestige. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.
Master Control Date – $6100
Jager LeCoultre is the Rodney Dangerfield of high horology. Sure, it gets some respect. But it doesn’t get nearly the kudos it deserves. The Swiss watchmaker’s timepieces offer all the meticulous quality of an Audemars Piguet or a Patek Philippe, yet garner a fifth of the cachet. Which works out well for cash-conscious buyers looking to purchase a piece of perfection. Or people who like to take the Fifth.
JLC is known for Art Deco Reversos and their exquisite complications. For buyers jumping in at the “low” end, it’s a toss-up between the Polaris or the Master Control Date. The former is an excellent sports watch, the latter quintessential LeCoultre. From its silvered, sunray-brushed dial to its refined and subtly embellished movement, the MCD is a genuine classic, a dress watch for the ages.
Overseas – $18,900
Calling the Vacheron Constantin Overseas gorgeous is like saying Rachel Cook is a bit of a looker. While Ms. Cook’s beauty will mellow and fade, the basic Overseas will never lose its luster or go out of style. That said, there are thirty-five Overseas variations, some more seaworthy than others. Unless you’re a complicated man, the 41mm three-hander is the pick of the litter, and the least expensive.
The VCO is available in ebullient blue or stately black. In either case, its steel bracelet has all of the obvious quality and haptic joy of Rolex’s Oystersteel attachment, and a bit more style. But not too much. The Overseas is a true Vacheron – a handsome watch that’s at peace with itself. Shalom.
A. Lange & Söhne
Saxonia Outsize Date – $27,500
A. Lange & Söhne – a German watchmaker started by an American (you’re welcome) – is famous for flawless movements with achingly beautiful embellishment. The $17k Saxonia Thin is AL&S’ cheapest – sorry, least expensive model Some say it’s a minimalist meisterstuck. I say it’s dull as ditchwater. More importantly, it doesn’t spreche A. Lange & Söhne.
Another ten grand – yes, ten grand – gets you a Saxonia Outsize Date. That’s the price you have to pay to buy into A. Lange & Söhne’s gestalt – the jumbo date window is their signature move. The value retained for a watch that has one will protect that extra ten large, should you have to sell. Then again, none of these entry level luxury watches should be viewed as investments per se – except in your pleasure.