Top 5 Value-For-Money Watches At SIHH 2019 From Jaeger-LeCoultre, Cartier, Baume & Mercier, Montblanc, And IWC
The first crazy week of watches in 2019 at the SIHH has come to a happy ending. Despite the doom-and-gloom predictions going into the fair, it wasn’t half bad, packed as it was with high complications, creative innovation, fancy booths, quality cuisine, and overall high spirits.
The mood was good, and that is like a breath of fresh air – even if expensive air: the Geneva fair is known for offering the most luxurious side of watchmaking. Having said that, there were however a certain number of cool, more affordable pieces among the usually quite pricey offerings of the 35 exhibitors.
My Top 5 Value-For-Money Watches At SIHH 2018 landed in the top ten of your most read stories of 2018, so I thought it a good idea to pick these out again – and happily SIHH 2019 did not disappoint with some great new, more affordable timepieces.
Mind you, “value for money” does not mean cheap in quality or design.
In fact, Joshua Munchow, Quill & Pad’s resident nerd writer says, “The watches that represent the best value are quite possibly the coolest watches to the broad collecting community, largely because it is what a majority of collectors buy.
“When the grail pieces come out, everybody oohs and ahhs, but only a handful of people in the world will ever own those. Entry-level pieces like the Vacheron Constantin FiftySix, Cartier Santos-Dumont, and Montblanc Heritage collection are all pieces that represent great values and entry points to legitimate brands.
“The coolest watch is the one you get to wear every day, and these pieces represent a real possibility of that – unlike high-end watches that can be most of a year’s salary for many. It’s better to have a watch that makes you happy and doesn’t break the bank than one you need to sell a kidney to own.”
I could not agree more.
The five watches below represent very serious, well thought-through approaches to creating great-value timepieces, which can well be one’s entry to the world of fine watchmaking.
So without further ado sit back, relax, whip out your credit card, and enjoy . . .
Every year since I have been attending SIHH, IWC has devoted its SIHH presence to one single, specific line of watches. It wasn’t hard to guess which one was it this time as you walked into IWC’s booth, which was converted into a large hangar for a silver Spitfire fighter plane.
The British Spitfire ruled the skies during the World War II, and to today is still believed to be one of the greatest planes ever made. “Pilots” were IWC’s leitmotif of 2019, with a particular focus on the brand’s Spitfire line.
IWC has partnered with The Longest Flight project, which sees a silver Spitfire flying around the globe. The two pilots involved will, of course, wear IWC watches, but not the one I selected for this list.
My eyes automatically wandered to the entry-level 2019 Spitfire Automatic, which is designed like an iconic Mark XI with clean lines, a highly legible dial with time and date indications, a slim case, and a good automatic movement inside. That movement – Caliber 32110 – is manufactured in-house, the first of its kind for IWC.
You can select from two options, either stainless steel with a black dial or bronze with gorgeous green dial. Both come in at 39 mm and with a leather or textile strap.
The bronze version is quite honestly to die for.
For more please visit www.iwc.com/en/watch-collections/pilot-watches/iw326801-pilot_s-watch-automatic-spitfire.
Quick Facts IWC Pilot’s Watch Spitfire Automatic
Case: 39 x 10.8 mm, bronze or stainless steel
Movement: automatic IWC Caliber 32110, 72-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Price: €5,400 (bronze), €4,800 (stainless steel)
Mastering the ultra-thin watch, which is about refining the design of a watch offering extremely limited volume, is no easy task. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Ultra Thin line was always one of the hottest slims out there, and its simple “automatique” version just got even better.
Not too much has changed, just delicate little tweaks like a smooth dial, longer indices, longer lugs, and a revised date window that make a great piece even better.
The new Ultra Thin in steel measures a very wearable 39 mm in diameter (one mm less than the previous model) and 7.8 mm in height, and the case still houses an automatic movement, Caliber 899/1.
I’m not much of a suit-and-tie wearer, but when I am, I’d love to slip one of these under my cuff: it is pure elegance in a properly understated way.
For more information, please visit www.jaeger-lecoultre.com/us/en/watches/master.
Quick Facts Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin
Case: 39 x 7.8 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic JLC Caliber 899/1, 38-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Montblanc Heritage Automatic GMT
Since Davide Cerrato arrived at Montblanc, the company has gone through a major aesthetic overhaul. The impeccably dressed Italian first revamped the sporty Timewalker collection, then turned to creating a completely new line very clearly named Heritage and this year consisting of five different models, from a simple automatic to a Minerva-powered monopusher chronograph (which is absolutely gorgeous).
Price-wise, I believe that the optimum choice from the collection might just be the Automatic GMT, which comes in a 40 mm, classically shaped steel case that is topped off by a beautiful salmon-colored dial.
A lot of work has been put into making the dial look expensive with multiple finishings, polished and applied indices, and faceted hands. The GMT hand is an amazing shade of blue, corresponding with the hue of the 24-hour scale on the outer ring.
You may also enjoy Montblanc 2019 Heritage Line: Minerva More Visible Than Ever. And That Is So, So Good.
Quick Facts Montblanc Heritage GMT
Case: stainless steel, 40 x 11.8 mm
Movement: automatic Caliber MB 24.05 (base ETA 2892-2), 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 42-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; second time zone/24-hour indication
Price: $2,850 (grey Sfumato Montblanc alligator strap); $3,060 (stainless steel Milanese bracelet)
The Baumatic was already featured in my 2018 list of best value-for-money watches of SIHH. And this year it returned in a revamped version that is quite a bit more different and with a new movement.
The obvious new element of 2019 Baumatic is a radiant blue dial. While the original watch came with a white lacquered dial that made it a very classic dress watch, the blue makes the watch’s appeal more casual. It’s also not a simple blue, but rather sort of a gradient coloring, from black at the edge to brighter blue in the center.
The second new thing about the Baumatic is something that escaped my attention while still in Geneva. Apparently due to legal reasons — though Baume & Mercier officially says it is because it is looking to improve the movement where possible – the brand took the silicon elements out of the Baumatic’s caliber.
That, in turn, made the watch €250 less expensive, but I personally would have preferred it with the original silicon escapement. Baume & Mercier’s Baumatic comes on either a black leather strap or a steel bracelet.
Quick Facts Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic Blue
Case: 40 x 10.3 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber Baumatic BM12-1975A, five-day power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, optional C.O.S.C. certification
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
There is something inexplicably magical about Cartier’s style of watchmaking, and I am not even talking about the mechanics (which are at times superior). Cartier’s design must be one of the sexiest and most alluring out there, and I have had it on my wish list for a very, very long time.
Speaking of this year’s top release, it’s . . . well . . . quartz. Yes, I know what you think. We even had a little internal debate on it over at my publication www.CH24.pl, but the new Santos-Dumont is just so cool.
Named after the famous Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, this line comprises an emblematic Cartier design: a square that is rounded on the edges, coming in steel, pink gold, or a two-tone combination and in two sizes, making it a unisex proposition.
Thanks to the aforementioned quartz caliber inside with six years of battery life, the watch paired with a leather alligator strap is slim, slender, and comfortable. And then there is that simple, silver-colored dial with printed, Arabic numerals in black and a set of tempered blued hands.
The larger-sized one in steel is priced at €3,800, and I am praying to the watch gods for a slim, manually wound version next year.
You may also enjoy The Best-Looking Cartier Santos-Dumont Is As Of 2019 The Most Affordable.
Quick Facts 2019 Cartier Santos-Dumont
Case: stainless steel, two-tone steel and pink gold, or pink gold; 31.4 x 31.4 mm (large) and 27.5 x 27.5
Movement: manufacture quartz
Functions: hours, minutes
Price €3,550 (small model) and €3,800 (large model) in stainless steel
Łukasz Doskocz is the editor-in-chief of the premier Polish watch publication www.CH24.pl.