BEGINNERS WATCHES £200 – £1000
You’re ready to buy your first watch. Cash is an issue, but you don’t want to forego quality or credibility. The good news is that watches now represent such amazing value that you can find chronographs, diving watches, dress watches, mechanical movements, fashion pieces – anything you like – without worrying about what the brand name on the dial says about you.
While the cognoscenti obsess over Swiss watches, it should never be forgotten that the Japanese make vastly more timepieces every year than the Swiss can muster. Seiko has a long and noble history, and they’ve even created a cult watch in the “Orange Monster” diving model. Casio? Cool enough for the most fashion-conscious rapper, and unmatched for cramming more features into wristwear than anyone else. If Team GB increased your national pride, London-based Christopher Ward is delivering unimaginable bargains. Bulova and Luminox show what the Americans can do, and while Hamilton may be Swiss, its roots are to be found in the USA.
If Swiss it must be, though, then rejoice: Tissot, Mondaine, Glycine and others can sate your lust. And if you can’t stretch to £200, the coolest, most universal and egalitarian timepiece of them all costs only £111: the Swatch Irony Big Automatic.
1) BULOVA Precisionist Chronograph (£549-£649)
A massive and chunky display of macho that times events to a remarkable 1/1,000th second and is accurate to within 10 seconds a year.
2) CASIO Edifice EQW-A1110DB (£500)
Solar-powered, a 1/20th-of-second stopwatch with 10 memories, alarm, Casio’s Smart Access to simplify the functions – what can’t it do?
3) CHRISTOPHER WARD C700 Grande Rapide (£850)
A handsome British chronograph with a Swiss-made Sellita SW500 automatic movement for this price? A gift!
4) GLYCINE Combat SUB Stealth (£795)
Address your inner Arnie: 42mm black PVD steel case, bi-directional bezel, water resistance to 200m, military strap – a lot of watch for the dosh.
5) HAMILTON Intra-Matic Automatic (£73)
If you’re a Mad Men obsessive, this dressy retro beauty is so 1960s that the only giveaway is its 42mm diameter. Automatic, bracelet – it demands a well-cut suit.
6) LUMINOX Field Automatic 1800 (£655-£690)
Day and date, high legibility – from the brand that defines butch, but this time a model dressy enough for an officer.
7) MONDAINE Chronograph Evo (£325)
You know the dial if you’ve ever been on a train in Switzerland; Mondaine makes their clocks found in every station. The definition of Bauhaus clarity in a 41mm case.
8) SEIKO Solar Diver’s Watch SSC017P1 (£275)
A certified diving watch secure to 200m, solar-powered, with chronograph, date and rotating bezel – the ocean beckons.
9) TISSOT Le Locle Automatic Chronometer Edition (£750-£825)
So underpriced, you’ll wonder if they left off a digit: a COSC-certified chronometer, automatic movement visible through the caseback. A dress watch for grown-ups.
10) VICTORINOX Infantry Large (£335)
Nothing beats military watches for functionality, and nothing enjoys greater cred than the brand that supplies the Swiss Army. 40mm steel case and retro charm.
Watch Brand Of The Year: Bremont
Barely five years old, Bremont has already earned the credibility to justify its own boutique in Mayfair: the watches are so highly coveted that Sylvester Stallone, Tom Cruise and a host of other A-listers bought theirs. And why? Because Nick and Giles English are the real deal – ex-RAF pilots who restore vintage aircraft. So are their timepieces. They proudly wave the Union Jack, every watch they’ve ever made is a certified chronometer, last year they introduced a world-class marine clock, they’re about to open a UK-based atelier, their cases use the hardest steel in the industry, and in 2012 they brought out a watch to honour HMS Victory … made with bits from the actual ship. No contest, if you think about it, for Brand of the Year.