A FIRST TIME TO RE­MEM­BER

There’s a new gen­er­a­tion of time­pieces to fill that first-lux­ury-watch space on your wrist

Esquire (UK) - - Style - by Robin Swith­in­bank

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.

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