Feature: The Bargain 3 Watch Collection
If you’ve got a lump sum of around £5,000 burning a hole in your pocket, and you’re looking to get yourself your first watch, you’re probably thinking about some kind of Rolex, or Omega, or perhaps a Breitling. £5,000 doesn’t get you that far any more—you’ll get one decent watch, and that’s about it. Or is it?
Omega Dynamic III Chronograph 5290.50.00
It’s no secret that vintage watches from well-known watchmakers command a hefty premium, but a collection isn’t a collection without something that’s a seen a few decades go by. If you want to add any kind of complication, well you can just about forget it—which is why the ideal place to look is in that group of watches that are just about to become vintage.
Take this Omega Dynamic, for example. A steel, 38mm bi-compax chronograph from one of the biggest brands in the world that’s knocking on the door of 25 years old, and it can be yours for half the price of the newest Seamaster Professional. That’s an affordable entry to what’s soon to become vintage Kudos.
Sure, the movement is built on an off-the-shelf base, but that’s how things have been done in watchmaking forever. Pre-luxury watch revival, an in-house movement was an incredibly rare thing reserved for only the best watchmakers. Rolex, Breitling, Heuer—even Patek Philippe—all used bought-in movements, so it’s more than forgivable here.
The best thing about the Dynamic is just the way it looks. It was an entry-level watch at the time, not particularly rare or highly considered, but that utilitarian design gives it a lot of character today. The calligraphic numerals and the yellow accents on the hands and chapter ring are the most obvious styling cues here, but it’s the proportions of the watch that brings it all together.
A curse of the modern chronograph, thanks to larger case sizes and smaller movements, is crowding, where the chronograph sub-dials bunch around the centre, leaving an awkward empty space around the outside. This, with a smaller case, lets the sub-dials sit further out, giving the dial a balance you just don’t see in affordable modern watches anymore. It’s no historical landmark, but it really does tick a lot of boxes.
JeanRichard Terrascope 60500-11-601-HDC0
You’ve heard of Girard-Perregaux, the master watchmaker with over two centuries’ to its name, mastermind of exceptional horological innovations such as the stunning three bridge tourbillon, the wacky-yet-clever constant escapement and even the first Swiss quartz watch.
What does that have to do with the JeanRichard here? When Swiss luxury group Sowind bought the rights to JeanRichard in 2012, it was the group’s other watchmaking brand, Girard-Perregaux, to which they turned for assistance. Girard-Perregaux took JeanRichard under its wing, shaping the brand into what it is today.
JeanRichard, the legacy of watchmaker Daniel JeanRichard, actually traces its history back to the man’s first creation, built in 1681—but this is a story we’ve heard many times before, an old watchmaking name dug up to sell bad watches. And that could have been the case here—but Girard-Perregaux is better than that.
Don’t let the sub-£2,000 price-point fool you—this is a well-made watch. Believe me, to a cynic whose seen all these glossy press images and promises of craftmanship and quality before, this comes as quite the surprise. The Panerai-esque cushion case wears a selection of finishes, all well executed; the dial equally so. It’s available in 39 and 44mm sizes in a variety of colours and dial textures. If the design floats your boat, it’s hard to fault.
The movement is, of course, an off-the-shelf Sellita, as it would be at this level, but a little more spend gets you a Girard-Perregaux calibre 4000 decorated with JeanRichard branding. Either way, it’s a way of getting a taste of Girard-Perregaux watchmaking in an affordable, sporty package.
Bulgari Octo BG041BSLD
Every collection needs something a bit smart, but it’s incredibly hard to find a dress watch that isn’t bland and boring. How about this, then, the Bulgari Octo? At an RRP of over £6,000, it immediately breaks the budget in itself, but the jewellery name branding and strong styling has the rather appealing effect of making it fantastic value on the secondary market.
What you get for less than half the original RRP is actually a lot more watchmaking heritage than you’d expect. You’ve got a design originating from legend Gerald Genta—famous for the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus, as evidenced by his love of eight-sided designs—you’ve got an in-house BVL 193 calibre decorated to a high level, and you’ve got a level of fit and finish that will outclass most watches at this budget.
Granted, the design won’t be for everyone—a prerequisite of anything penned by Genta, it seems—but if it works for you, it’s a slim, different and well-made option that really does feel rather special. Even the movement, which could just as easily be something off-the-shelf, gets a sweeping balance bridge, twin barrels and a swathe of finishes.
It’s part of a line that, in recent years, has been attracting the attention of serious collectors, building the foundation for the record-breaking Octo Finissimo Tourbillon, the world’s thinnest automatic flying tourbillon. Who knows—maybe someday in the future, people will look back at the Octo with the same fondness they do the Royal Oak and Nautilus.
Just because watch prices seem to be going up at an unstoppable rate doesn’t mean there aren’t great timepieces out there that still offer exceptional value. Whether you want to put your money all into one watch, or share it out over several, there are so many avenues to find interesting, unusual and important timepieces without spending a fortune—as long as you know where to look. With a few big brands getting all the limelight, it can be hard to see the bigger picture—but it’s there, and it looks good.
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