A FIRST TIME TO REMEMBER
There’s a new generation of timepieces to fill that first-luxury-watch space on your wrist
When I was 18 — good grief, some 20 years ago — there was a fair chance that if you were given a watch on one of your coming-of-age birthdays, it would be the Omega Seamaster. This was the watch Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond had worn in 1995’s GoldenEye and it carried a certain kudos. Even Prince William got one (he still wears it). That’s how it was.
At the time, the Seamaster cost around £1,000. Plenty of money and a very generous gift for a young man still finding his way in the world, but democratic enough, and therefore reachable for a decent percentage of the population.
However, in the Nineties, the trend for Swiss mechanical watches was still some years short of its recent zenith. Since then, watches — proper watches — have turned time and money on their head, becoming not only universal status symbols in a tech age but also much more expensive. Today, the Seamaster 300M will cost you just shy of £3,000.
Meanwhile, as we well know, that decent percentage of the population hasn’t got a lot richer. Certainly the first-time-watch-buyer generation hasn’t, instead saddled with debt, an addiction to avocados and the prospect of working until all their teeth have fallen out.
All of which serves as a barrier to entry for the now generation lusting after some quality wrist furniture. So what to do if your budget is Nineties and your tastes are of this decade? Into that void created by the increase in traditional watch brand prices has crept a grouping of Swissand German-made watch brands.
Take Tudor, absent from the UK for more than a decade, reintroduced three years ago, and now offering a collection of credible mechanical watch designs that start with the Heritage Black Bay 41 at £1,890.
Or Oris, which has stemmed the rising price increases and continues to reel off hearteningly accessible watches. At £1,090, the new Artelier Date is a whole lot of stylish for your money. Over in Germany, Nomos Glashütte ploughs the same furrow, marrying its affordable mantra with the added cachet of in-house watchmaking. This year’s Club 38 Campus Nacht starts at £1,100.
Tag Heuer, back in the groove of serving up first-luxury-watch choices, is still just about in the mix. The new Link, with its fluid cushion-shaped case, is one of this year’s sleeper hits, albeit a bit top-end against our barometer at £2,300 for the Calibre 5.
Failing that, Brit Farer plugged into the system less than two years ago. Its series of Swiss-made mechanicals includes the £875 Endurance, which has an automatic movement, a sapphire crystal glass, a bronze crown and a silver sunray dial. Can’t say Farer than that.