Can I Get A “Real” Watch Without Breaking The Bank?

Tissot Visodate Heritage with black face and Milanese loopIf quartz watches are supposedly junk how can I wear a “real” watch as you call them if I don’t have thousands of dollars? Kind of stupid if no one can afford them, no?

– Not Rich Like You. (also, with similar invective but much better grammar from Steve, TT, and Phukyu)

You may be surprised to find out the answer is in fact “yes”. I understand that you might have been somewhat aghast at the prices that were being tossed around in the “It’s Not A Watch” feature. When I reference “proper Swiss watches” I am almost always using the Omega Speedmaster 57 as my starting point. I use it as an example because it is arguably the pinnacle of modern Swiss watchmaking. It has a timeless design, exquisite mechanicals, it will last forever and is literally a work of art on your wrist. It’s also startlingly expensive to a someone taking their first steps in this particular playground. Fortunately there are two distinct price tiers in Swiss-made automatic watches … and the gap between those two tiers is rather substantial, in the same sort of way that the Grand Canyon is rather wide. While a decent Omega or Chopard is going to start around seven grand and shoot upward from there, you can get yourself a very nice watch from the shores of Lake Geneva for well under $1000.

Why the crazy difference in price? Three words: In-house movement. The most expensive Swiss watches feature internal mechanicals that are hand built – even to the point of machining the individual parts one by one – in-house by a single hyper-skilled craftsperson. When the timepiece on your wrist was built over the course of a few weeks or months by one of a scant handful of qualified artists, it’s going to cost. And cost and cost and cost.

When you drop down to the “second tier”, however, you are still getting a watch that still has a finely crafted case, exceptional design, and a sophisticated automatic mechanical movement … but that movement comes from an outside company who makes them by the thousands in a factory environment. The big player in this game is a company called ETA and they are so big that they control a virtual monopoly in the market. Fortunately, ETA movements are generally excellent and the scale of production means that watches built with them are affordable for pretty much anyone.

Where does that leave you and your dangling participle? It leaves you with a staggering number of watches to choose from. If you want a starting point, allow me to recommend the Tissot Visodate Heritage. Inside, it packs the proven ETA 2836 “top” grade movement with a full display back. Outside it references the classic mid-century-modern design that Tissot forged their name on, highlighted with the gorgeous classic logo, and the black face with minimal indexing is striking no matter what you wear it with. People will notice this watch. And you.

Close-up view of Tissot Visodate Heritage

As an added bonus Tissot has specified the original Milanese loop bracelet, which has a subtle and understated flair combined with an absolutely unique level of simple functionality. It’s going to be a statement too … you are going to see this band on Apple watches this summer and packing one through the spring will firmly entrench you in people’s minds as a trailblazer and tastemaker. When the Apple Watch is all the rage, people will remember that you were rocking the style first.

Quality, great looks, a timepiece you will have for life and a bit of alpha-male flair. That’s a potent package for well less than a grand. If you want to wear a real watch, it’s a hell of a place to start.

Oh, right. You’re welcome.

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