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IT doesn't matter how wealthy one is, everybody loves a bargain. And this is an important thing to remember, especially for first-time watch buyers with budgets to manage. With so many decisions to make: which brand, what type of watch, where to buy and, especially, how much to pay, the process can be intimidating. The good news is, we have the answers right here.
At Baselworld 2018, we spied a number of value buys - all mechanical timepieces, of course, offered by brands boasting respectable prestige and heritage. The best part? These watches come in at below the S$5,000 mark, with some way lower.
Starting at the gates of the entry-level category, we have the Khaki Field Mechanical from Hamilton, a brand known for its alliance with Hollywood, with watches that have cameoed in movies spanning Blue Hawaii to the Men In Black franchise. At S$635, Khaki Field Mechanical rocks up with a really good bargain. The watch ticks off numerous virtues that include a hand-wound ETA 2801-2 movement with hack-seconds feature, 1940s-inspired design that is very much on-trend, and great versatility, thanks to its 38mm stainless steel case.
Nudging higher up the price bracket, we find Tissot and its new Ballade models, priced between S$1,380 and S$1,660. Admittedly, the classically rooted design of the Ballade may be too old-school for some. But don't be too quick to judge. This collection turned our heads with its impressive engine, namely the Powermatic 80 automatic movement that offers up to 80 hours of power reserve. Arguably one of the most underrated calibres on the market today - its price to performance ratio is simply outstanding - the Powermatic 80 movement here has been upgraded, too, equipped with a silicon balance spring, made from a cutting-edge synthetic material that promises to improve the watch's precision.
For those looking for something a tad more exclusive (yes, that is possible too while on a budget), we recommend two options. The first is the BR V1-92 Racing Bird from Bell & Ross (S$3,600). Limited to 999 pieces, this automatic offering scores with its charming aesthetics, with looks inspired by a high-speed propeller engine aircraft designed by Bell & Ross' creative director Bruno Belamich. Full of delightful details that include a seconds-hand with a tip in the shape of an aircraft, and winsome white-blue-orange colour combination, the BR V1-92 Racing Bird ought to pique the interest of watch fans with an eye for contemporary design.
The second limited edition we have in our sights is Oris' Clipperton (from S$2,950). The chunky dive watch, capped at 2,000 pieces, is created to draw attention to the Clipperton Island, the world's most isolated landmass with the ecosystem of its surrounding waters under threat due to illegal commercial fishing and pollution. But even if you have no clue where Clipperton Island is, or its significance to marine conservation, you can surely appreciate the watch for what it is: a well-built high-performance tool watch that is equipped to go on an underwater expedition if required. It is highly legible and water resistant to 300m. It also features a sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides, unidirectional bezel, and Oris' proprietary safety anchor and quick adjustment clasp for the rubber strap - essential dive-ready features that give you a lot of bang for your buck.
To round off our list of value picks, we saved the best for the last. Tudor's new Black Bay GMT (from S$4,896) is one of the darlings of Baselworld 2018, and rightly so. Its ultra-chic throwback disposition aside (two-tone bezels, especially in the 'Pepsi' colours, are all the rage this year), the Black Bay GMT is possibly one of the coolest and most practical entry-level complication you can buy this year.
Think about this: for a little under five grand, you get a dual-time complication from one of the hottest horological revival acts in town. Tudor shot back to fame over five years ago with the deliciously nostalgic dive watch-inspired Black Bay range.
This year, the brand takes things further with the said GMT complication, powered by a COSC-certified proprietary movement, no less. There are many watches you can get for S$5,000, but you'd be hard pressed to find one with the same knock-out combination of looks, personality and functionality as the Black Bay GMT.
Nothing beats the feeling of money well-spent, we say.
- The writer is editor-in-chief of South-east Asia's leading watch titles, Crown magazine and CrownWatchBlog.com