When the price of a mid-tier mechanical watch can contain four zeros without breaking a sweat, you know you’ve entered the realm of prestige, status and luxury, rather than value or pragmatism.
But move beyond the obvious choices and look at watches through the appropriate lens, and it’s possible to find fine watches offering equal measures of quality and value.
Yes, I'm fully aware that trying to argue that almost any watch is 'excellent value' might be a hard sell about an object whose key function is efficiently replicated by the phone in your hand. But there's much more at play here.
For most people, such a timepiece is a once-in-lifetime purchase and, with care and regular maintenance, these watches will go the distance – something that typically can't be said of cheaper, more disposable timepieces. And these four watches are built to return value with a lifetime of reliable service.
Tissot is well known for sporty chronographs but, as the handsome Gentleman proves, the Swiss brand is no slouch when it comes to dressier designs. The Gentleman is a new collection announced in 2019 and set to be a hit, thanks to a combination of high-spec mechanics and crowd-pleasing design.
The mechanical movement is in many ways a cut above its competitors. The Powermatic 80 movement utilises silicon technology, allowing for greater accuracy and anti-magnetic properties.
On top of that, the automatic movement can hold an impressive 80 hours of power. And then there’s the looks – the 40mm steel case features a solid rose gold bezel, rather than being plated. That's a decent amount of gold, and it certainly adds a healthy dose of flair to any gentleman flourishing this Gentleman on his wrist. ($1975)
One way to find solid value in the world of watches is to walk the path less travelled. And Monta – a small, direct-to-consumer start-up based in St Louis, Missouri, of all places – offers the promise of a reliable watch you're not likely to see on anyone else's wrist.
The Atlas is one of the brand’s most recent models, and quietly sophisticated in all the right places. With a steel case measuring 38.5 mm wide and a slender 10.2 mm thick, it's a comfortable watch, made even more so by the chamfered edges of the case – a detail not often seen on watches with this sort of sticker price.
On top of that, the dial of this travel-friendly GMT is well considered, avoiding the trap of incorporating too many design elements. It's powered by a proven (but not showy) Swiss automatic movement. All up, the Atlas offers an understated (but far from underwhelming) watch at a price that is beyond fair. ($1795 USD on bracelet)
Grand Seiko SBGV223
This Grand Seiko stands out from the others on this list because it's not powered by a continually whirring automatic rotor, but by battery. Typically, a quartz movement is a sign of a generic, mass-produced watch, and paying thousands of dollars for one would be counter-intuitive at best. But Grand Seiko's 9F movement is about as far from generic as it gets.
First of all, Grand Seiko has form with quartz technology (which sees an electrically charged sliver of quartz vibrate at a regular rate, allowing for some very accurate timekeeping), as Seiko developed it for a wristwatch way back in 1969. The thoroughly modern 9F is to an ordinary quartz movement what a bottle of Dom Perignon is to Seaview Sparkling Brut.
The quartz crystal in this watch was grown by Grand Seiko themselves, aged and tested for temperature variation. The mechanism is made to a very high level (overkill would not be an exaggeration). The battery is good for three years, and the movement needs servicing every 50 years.
Oh, and it's accurate to within +/- 10 seconds a year. On top of that, the 40mm steel case and bracelet are the epitome of classic design, with a black dial and mirror-polished, faceted hands and markers that truly are first class. ($3600)
Montblanc 1858 Automatic
Montblanc's 1858 collection draws its good looks from the rugged world of yesteryear's explorers. This inspiration is apparent in several elements of this no-nonsense steel watch.
The strap is (as you'd expect, given Montblanc's form in leather goods) very fine, with some lovely contrasting stitch reinforcing near the lugs. The crown is pleasingly domed and easy to use.
But it’s on the dial itself where the vintage charms are most apparent. Big, luminous Arabic markers and Cathedral-style hands against a plain black dial ensure that telling the time is never an issue, and the use of the historic Montblanc logo, replete with mountain (a motif echoed on the solid case back), is a subtle nod to the past. ($4200)