If you read the SIHH (Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie) news or the latest auction headlines, you’d think that watch collecting is exclusive for the wealthy. Prices with four, five, or even six zeros appear to be the standard, and those of us who aren’t millionaires can feel like outsiders.
So, if you don’t have a lot of cash, what can you get? The good news is that playing in the shallow end is a lot of fun. There are significant “serious” timepieces available for less than the cost of a quartz fashion item. End Of Advertising Message (Advertising Message) (Advertising Message) (Advert
The watch industry’s relentless pursuit of innovation has produced a trail of “firsts,” which are a terrific place to start for the budget-conscious collector. The Harwood from the late 1920s is an example of the earliest ever automated wristwatch and can be purchased for less than £300.
The turmoil of technology in the 1950s and 1960s provides fertile ground for “firsts.” Try a Hamilton Electric if you can stand wearing anything powered by a battery, though they might be unstable for normal use. The Bulova Accutron, the first watch without a balancing wheel and hairspring, would be a superior choice. It’s simple to obtain, inexpensive to purchase, and durable enough to wear even after 60 years. The Omega Megasonic is the next step in electronic timepieces, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Their intricate system is nearly impossible to repair, so get one that works and hold your breath. The Seiko Astron, the original quartz watch, is now fairly expensive, but Hamilton’s Pulsar, the first quartz digital watch, is still a bargain.
Returning to mechanical watches, the first automated alarm, the famous Jaeger LeCoultre Memovox, is still available for a bargain, and if you can live without the Jaeger on the dial, the US LeCoultre variants are even cheaper. The first high-beat movements (the final gasp before quartz) provide excellent watchmaking at an affordable price. The first was Girard Perregaux, but the Longines Ultra Chron is a suitable option. The Tissot Idea 2001 or Astrolon, the first mechanical watch with a plastic mechanism, is a strange but valid pick. These were a commercial catastrophe at the time and were viewed as throwaway, so they are now scarce but not prohibitively expensive to acquire. Message in Advertising Message At The End Of Advertising
Look for partner brands or companies that share movements as a chance to get near to certain legendary watches while still saving money. Do you want a Rolex Prince but can’t afford one? The Gruen Techi-Quadron is a good choice. It’s the same movement and style for a lot less money. After its inception in 1969, the Chronomatic movement was employed by Heuer, Breitling, and Hamilton, but it is the first two that garner the most attention. Despite being the most expensive of the three, the Hamilton may be had at a fraction of the price. The El Primero is in a similar boat. Because Zenith and Movado are owned by the same holding company, the El Primero is also available as the Movado Datron, which is a more economical option. The Seiko 6139 Speedtimer is another contender for the title of “first automated chronograph.” Despite the lack of partners, this watch has always been a decent buy and a bargain when compared to its Swiss counterparts.
Try digging down the original inspiration, the Amida Digitrend, with MB&F and Romain Jerome bringing the driving watch back into style. Because of its low cost, few have lasted till now. They were designed as a low-cost yet unique take on digital watches like the Girard Perregaux Casquette. Unlike newer versions, if you can find one, it won’t break the money.
The same criteria apply whether you’re buying for a large sum of money or on a shoestring budget. Choose the greatest condition you can afford, and keep in mind that uniqueness is essential. Because the lower price entails a smaller risk, the transaction should be less stressful. Don’t get caught up in the herd, chasing the same few “grail” timepieces. Learn about history while having a good time with watches that are both inexpensive and interesting. Which low-cost rarity would you like to get your hands on?