It takes considerable effort, but it has become commonplace. Entry-level prices for mechanical watches have fallen, at both the lower end and into the mid-range. They continue to fall, and the trend shows no sign of stopping. Some brands have come lately to the game, while others, old hands at entry-level pricing, continue to deploy their best efforts to beat off the competition. At Baselworld we saw a plethora of new models priced between CHF 1,500 and 3,000. At the lower end of the scale there are simple three-handed watches, some with a date. The upper end includes chronographs.
The most tempting of these is offered by Frédérique Constant. At around CHF 3,700, it is the least expensive manufacture chronograph made in Switzerland. With its sunray anthracite dial and applied indices, it has everything going for it.
Frédérique Constant’s sister brand, Alpina, concentrates its efforts in the price bracket below, focusing on a sportier aesthetic. The new Startimer Pilot Automatique, with its ultra-legible and rather smart-looking dial, comes in at around CHF 900.
Anonimo continues to develop and mature, with a new Militare Vintage model that showcases all the brand’s design codes, including the cushion-shaped case. At CHF 2,600, the price is more than reasonable for such a distinctive timepiece.
Longines is taking a different approach with its newest family, the Record. Its conservative design conceals three major new features. The first is a new automatic movement with a 65-hour power reserve; the second is its price – around CHF 1,800; and the third is systematic chronometer certification across the entire range, an approach Longines has embraced once again after a lengthy hiatus.
TAG Heuer has taken a two-pronged approach. First, the latest-generation Link, with its meticulously executed and complex design, starts at around CHF 2,600, and features one of the most sophisticated metal bracelets available anywhere. Also, while not mechanical, but not entirely devoid of interest either, the company’s smartwatch is impressive. Functionally, ergonomically and aesthetically, the Connected Modular 45 stands head and shoulders above the competition. It’s also more expensive, with prices starting around CHF 1,690. But what you get for the money is a uniquely broad range of customisation options, including the possibility of changing the strap, the lugs, the movement, the dial, and a whole host of other features. And – it’s a TAG.
However, the prize for best value for money has to go to Seiko. CHF 1,300 for a Presage Automatique power reserve with enamel dial (yes, genuine grand feu enamel, made in Japan, like its movement…) is quite simply unbeatable. Clearly, low prices are no longer just for inferior quality watches.
Honestly, I can’t argue with what Alpina Watches Abu Dhabi has done with the Startimer Pilot Automatic. Sure, you will find more impressive watches with air borne styling although not many come close when you take into account the list of features on the Alpina. You are getting a reliable Swiss motion in a Swiss made bundle with a tastefully completed pilot treatment for a price of around $1,000, which is a sweet place for many collectors and general buyers alike. In a wristwatch world of ever increasing options, together with micro shops nipping at the heels of major players, Alpina have lived and thrived by producing value propositions like the Startimer Pilot Automatic. Alpina have mastered the art of shooting some of their high end design thoughts of larger manufacturers, sending them through the Alpina mixer, and releasing them at prices regular folks can actually afford. Despite my minor issues, for me personally, it’s a theory which really takes off.Keeping the Alpina Startimer Pilot Automatic faithfully attached to a flight-suit, or typically, your wrist, is a heavy black leather strap with contrasting white stitching, that’s the exact same regardless of which of those four versions you choose. No word of a bracelet was yet announced. As previously mentioned, the Alpina Startimer Pilot Automatic AL-525 is available in four variants; stainless steel with a black dial, stainless steel with a white dial, a polarizing increased gold plated version with a white dial, and a “titanium coloured” version with a dark gray dial.