Hello everyone, and welcome to another Singaporean article! On this shiok Sunday, I’m doing something a little different – I’ll be showing you guys some of the watches on my personal wish list. I’ve been reviewing watches for about 2.5 years now, mostly microbrand watches. While I absolutely adore some of the watches that I’ve reviewed on this website, there’s no denying that being a watch enthusiast at heart, I have my eye on some haute horology timepieces too.
Due to the current COVID-19 situation – whereby Singapore is currently on lockdown (or “circuit breaker”, as the Government calls it) – I’ve been unable to test and review watches are per usual. Hopefully, once the restriction lifts in June I can start doing my usual reviews again. In the meantime, I thought it might be interesting to give readers an insight to my personal taste in horology. Let’s get started.
Under S$5000 – Cartier Tank Solo XL
Considered entry-level luxury, S$5000 gets you a lot of options from a wide variety of brands, such as Nomos, Maurice Lacroix, Frederique Constant, Montblanc, and even Omega. However, one watch rises above the rest for me – the Cartier Tank Solo XL.
The Tank needs no introduction – it’s iconic. The Tank is a timepiece that has graced the wrists of numerous luminaries over the course of history: Jackie Kennedy, Princess Diana, Calvin Klein, Yves Saint Laurent, as well as Andy Warhol, who famously said, “I wear a Tank because it’s the watch to wear.” First introduced in 1917, the Tank is truly a design that has stood, and continues to stand, the test of time.
This particular model, the Cartier Tank Solo XL, is the most accessible automatic Tank model currently available. Yet, it retains the key qualities (the case shape, the roman numerals, blued hands, the inner railway pad, and jewelled crown) that the Tank has come to be known for. Furthermore, it also features an in-house movement by Cartier, the 1847 MC movement. You will be hard pressed to find another watch that is as iconic as the Tank for under $5000. Personally, I’m eyeing this as my next purchase – I don’t have a rectangular watch yet, and I can think of no better addition than the Tank!
Price: MSRP is $4850 locally.
Honorary mention: Rolex Datejust 16234, market price ~S$5000.
Under S$10000 – Grand Seiko SBGA413
We are now in the realm of mid-level luxury, where brands such as IWC, Breitling, Omega and Panerai rule. There is a plethora of great watches here from esteemed Swiss watch maisons. Yet, the best watch at this category belongs (in my opinion) to a Japanese brand – Grand Seiko.
Ever since Grand Seiko established itself as a separate brand from parent company Seiko, it’s been going on a tear. Seemingly out of nowhere, Grand Seiko has managed to endear itself to the watch community, largely due to its outrageously high level of finishing for its price. It’s also a technological ground breaker – its Spring Drive movement is truly one-of-a-kind.
In many ways, Spring Drive has come to define Grand Seiko and its offerings. Out of all the Spring Drive watches, the most iconic would probably be the SBGA211 “Snowflake”. However, my personal pick would be the US “Four Seasons” exclusive, the Grand Seiko SBGA413. I find the pinkest hue of the textured dial on the SBGA413 – meant to be reminiscent of pink sakura blossoms – absolutely beautiful. There’s a warmth to it that’s simply stunning, and I love how the dial changes under different lighting conditions. I’m also in love with the smooth sweep of the Spring Drive movement – it just exudes class and elegance. Combine that with the best finishing (look at the polished bevelling on the hands and indices!) you will probably find for four figures, and the Grand Seiko SBGA413 is a no-brainer pick for the price. If you’re interested in this particular reference, I highly recommend watching Teddy Baldassarre’s fantastice Youtube review here.
Price: MSRP is $6300 USD, or about S$9000.
Honorary mention: Roger Dubuis Much More, market price ~S$10000.
Under S$15000 – Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Duoface
For most watch enthusiasts, they will probably choose to splash 15 grand on a Rolex sports model, or perhaps a Datejust for those who can’t get an allocation. This Rolex craze has unfortunately resulted in the overlook of some stunning timepieces like the JLC Reverso Tribute Duoface.
JLC is known as the “watchmakers’ watchmaker” – before these watch maisons developed their in-house movements, brands such as Patek Phillipe, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, and IWC used movements from JLC due to their excellent quality control. This high level of quality still exists today through what’s known as the “1000 hours protocol”, whereby all JLC timepieces undergo rigorous testing for 1000 hours before shipment. People often credit Rolex for their stellar quality control – I personally think JLC is at least a league higher.
The Reverso is perhaps as iconic to JLC as the Tank is to Cartier. Invented to protect the watch during rigorous sports such as polo (the face of the watch can be flipped inwards), the Reverso has been a bastion for art deco watch design, and one of the first few (along with the aforementioned Tank) that watch enthusiasts think about when it comes to rectangular watches. Out of the current Reverso line-up, the Reverso Tribute Duoface looks the sharpest, the most modern if you will. It features a striking sunburst blue dial and is paired with polished alpha hands to give it a crispier look compared to the regular Reversos. Being a Duoface, it also flips open to reveal a secondary dial that can be set to a second time zone – how cool is that?
Price: MSRP is $10400 USD, or roughly S$14800.
Honorary mention: Glashütte Original PanoMaticLunar Rose Opaline, priced at $9600 USD/ ~S$13600.
Under S$25000 – Patek Philippe Gondolo 5124G
We’re in the big boy leagues now – watches now cost more than an entire university education! For such a significant amount, I’m (unconventionally) going to the pre-owned market for this pick, as it’s no longer in production: the Patek Philippe Gondolo 5124G. After all, you never really own a Patek Philippe, but merely keep it for the next generation, right?
Patek Philippe needs no introduction – it’s one of the Holy Trinity brands, and arguably the most prestigious out of the three. For many watch enthusiasts, a Patek Philippe watch is the grail, an item one hopes to be able to obtain someday if one works hard enough. Like Rolex, the prices of Patek Philippe timepieces have been skyrocketing lately, largely due to the widespread popularity of the Nautilus. While that’s definitely a boon for Patek Philippe, it’s a bit of a bane as well, as some of their other lines – like the Gondolo – have slipped through the cracks.
The Gondolo is the line that illustrates the art deco spirit of the brand, and largely features rectangular or tonneau case shapes in a classic dress package. To me, the Gondolo 5124G is the most undervalued Patek Philippe currently due to its relative obscurity. I love the 5124G, especially in this colourway with the salmon dial – it’s a watch which encapsulates the class and elegance that Patek Philippe watches are renowned for. The case is a precious metal as well (white gold) and features a display caseback through which the beautifully finished Patek Philippe 25-21 movement can be viewed.
Price: The Patek Philippe Gondolo can be found on Chrono24 for about S$22000 currently.
Honorary mention: H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Small Seconds, priced at $17,900 USD or roughly S$25000.
Under S$50000 – F.P Journe Chronometrie Bleu
50K is a lot of money, and if one is parting with such an amount, it had better be something special. Some popular picks here would probably be the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut, or perhaps a Vacheron Constantin Patrimony, but I’ve chosen to deviate from the Big 3 and instead opt for a timepiece from an independent watchmaker – F.P Journe.
There’s a charm with independent brands that the corporate brands (even the Holy Trinity) cannot compare to. This may sound like bullsh*t, but when I hold a F.P Journe watch in my hands, I can feel the soul of Mr. Journe in its design and construction. From design to conception, F.P Journe is involved each step of the process, as manufacturing of the watch is entirely in house.
The Chronometrie Bleu was initially meant as the entry-level F.P Journe watch, but it has become widely regarded as also one of his best. That blue dial is arguably one of the most captivating ever made – it plays with the light in an incredibly unique way. There’s also the trademark hands, and the fact that the entire movement of the watch is made of 18K carat gold. To put the icing on the cake, the case of the Chronometrie Bleu is fashioned out of Tantalum, which is an extremely strong material known for being extremely hard to machine and finish. In fact, F.P Journe is one of the only brands that has managed to manufacture a case completely polished in Tantalum! F.P Journe won’t be making watches forever. When he stops doing so and becomes regarded in the same legendary light as Gerard Genta currently is, expect the Chronometrie Bleu to be regarded as one of his best creations, the way the Nautilus or the Royal Oak is for Genta.
Price: MSRP is $39,900 locally.
Honorary mention: Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Lion, priced at $32,200 USD or roughly S$45800.
Under S$100000 – A. Lange & Sohne 1815 Chronograph
Ah, the Nautilus realm – a Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711 has a market value of almost 6 figures currently. This begs the question: are there any other haute horology options that isn’t almost entirely fuelled by hype? Thankfully, there is – the A. Lange & Sohne 1815 Chronograph!
Since its relaunch in 1990, A. Lange & Sohne has come a long way to become one of the most revered brands in the watch industry today. This is largely due to their distinctive German design, as well as the painstakingly beautiful finishing of their technically complex mechanical calibres – without a doubt, A. Lange & Sohne makes some of the most beautiful movements in the market currently.
A. Lange & Sohne arguably makes the best chronographs available, with its flagship chronograph – the Datograph – widely regarded as the cream of the crop. However, I prefer its little brother – the 1815 Chronograph, especially the version shown above in white gold with a black pulsation dial. It’s smaller in diameter (39.5mm to 41mm) and slightly slimmer compared to its big brother, due to the exclusion of the big date aperture. Flip the watch behind, and one gets the same stunningly finished chronograph movement that powers the Datograph – the L951 – sans the aforementioned date window. It’s a great value proposition too, considering that chronographs from Patek Philippe (5172G) and Vacheron Constantin (Harmony chronograph) costs almost S$30,000 more!
Price: MSRP is $50300 USD, or roughly S$71500.
Honorary mention: De Bethune DB 25 Starry Varius, priced at $60,000 CHF or roughly S$88000.
If money is no object – MB&F Legacy Machine 2
Finally, the Crazy Rich Asian level. If the sky is the limit, what would one get? The most obvious option would be Richard Mille – after all, it’s not the subject of multiple rap songs for no reason! However, that’s not where my personal tastes lie, though I do think that the RM 67-01 is quite a stunner.. When choosing this final pick, I thought to myself: “What would Nick Young (from Crazy Rich Asians) wear?” My answer: the MB&F Legacy Machine 2.
The youngest brand on this list, MB&F – abbreviation for Maximilian Büsser & Friends – was founded in 2005 to be a revolutionary force in the watchmaking industry. Through their radical watch designs and collaborations with several renowned watchmakers, MB&F has successfully carved out a niche for themselves whilst sweeping up accolades left and right. While they are perhaps better known for their Horological Machines, my final pick belongs to their Legacy Machines line, which is their interpretation of the watches MB&F would have made a century ago.
I had the opportunity to see this watch in person, and it has left such a deep impression in my psyche that I literally dreamt about this watch that night. The MB&F LM2 is a technical marvel that looks absolutely stunning in the metal. The double suspending balances that you see on the dial? Those are actually the parts of two fully independent regulating systems, each beating at its own rate. Furthermore, the two flying balances and their escapements are identical mirror images, right down to the tiniest of details. Yes – the watch is perfectly symmetrical! To achieve this feat, MB&F tapped on the watchmaking genius of Jean-Francois Mojon, best known for being the brain behind the Harry Winston Opus X. As for the icing on the cake, the finishing of the movement is executed by watchmaking wizard Kari Voutilainen! To honour their contributions, both watchmakers’ names are engraved on the baseplate of the movement, visible through the exhibition caseback. The MB&F LM2 is a watch that packs a punch in both the aesthetics and watchmaking departments, and yet also a watch that flies under the radar enough that only those in the know realise the greatness that this watch represents.
Price: MSRP is $226,000 locally.
Honorary mention: Romain Gauthier Logical One, priced at $102000 CHF or roughly S$150000.
I had a blast writing this article, and I hope you guys had enjoyed reading my writing as well. Writing an article such as this feels vastly different from my usual microbrand watch reviews, and I thoroughly relished the chance to show you guys what my taste in watches is like. If the reception to this article is positive, I would love to write another (possibly on vintage steals)! As always, feedback is very welcomed, be it on my picks above or the writing in general. Regular watch reviews will resume soon, once the current situation dies down – stay tuned!
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