Hello everyone, and welcome to the next price point – S$3000! Again, thanks for the feedback on the previous price point article. I’ve since taken in the feedback, and reworked this series. The first (and most obvious) change would be the title – I’ve edited it to more accurately reflect the content. In addition, people criticized that I was “bashing SevenFriday without substantiation” – I realized that I need to set yardsticks moving forward.
Alright, without further ado, let me explain what I’ll look out for personally in a $3000 watch!
What you should be getting for $3000:
- A brand with a strong identity. Either historical heritage, or an innovative brand whose star is rising. Either way, you should be confident that the brand will continue to be relevant for the decades to come.
- Longevity. For $3000, the watch should last you decades. Good build quality is key.
- Strong design. The design should be carefully thought-out, and should withstand the test of time. When your children wear the watch, it should look as good (or even better).
- Value. $3000 is a dangerous price range – there are many overpriced watches out there, but also a few diamonds in the rough. One has to be discerning to separate the wheat from the chaff.
To round up, these are my criteria: brand, build quality, design, and value. It’s what I judge a watch by in my watch reviews, and I’ll apply the same mindset in this series!
The watch I would not buy for $3000: Rado True Thinline Leaf
In their pre-Baselworld announcement, Rado announced the Rado True Thinline Leaf. In my opinion, this is an extremely overpriced watch, and I’m going to explain why.
To start off, I feel that the brand identity is weak. In watch circles, Rado (in its modern incarnation, not the vintage pieces) is a brand that is rarely mentioned, and is hardly ever featured in watch collections. Nor will you see customers who are fiercely loyal to the brand, posting pictures of their Rado watches in watch groups and forums. Certainly, I think it’s safe to say that Rado is a brand that generally isn’t held in high regard by watch aficionados. I think that a big reason why this is the case is the lack of strong design ethos. When you think of fellow Swatch-group brand Hamilton, the Khaki series (Field, Pioneer and Navy) immediately comes to mind. There really isn’t a “signature” model or line of Rado that’s iconic. Take the Rado True Thinline Leaf for instance. Is the green mother-of-pearl dial a Rado design stalwart, the same way the sunburst dial of the Cocktail Time is to Seiko? No.
Furthermore, this is a QUARTZ watch. Yes – Rado is charging almost S$2800 for a quartz watch! That’s my biggest issue with it. The watch itself isn’t terrible – it’s just grossly overpriced. Yes, when you have a strong brand name (for example, Patek Phillipe or Richard Mille) you can overcharge for your products and people will still buy them for the logo on the dial. But as aforementioned, Rado isn’t anywhere near that stratosphere of brand identity. Yes, the case and bracelet is made out of ceramic, a scratch-resistant material that Rado is known for utilizing. But so what? Gorilla watches are made out of ceramic, forged carbon, anodised aluminium, titanium, and steel; the Vilhelm Talos that I recently reviewed (last day on Kickstarter!) combines bronze, forged carbon and steel. And guess what – both watches are automatic, and less than HALF of the price of the Rado True Thinline Leaf!
To sum up, I’m not paying almost S$3000 for a quartz watch from a brand with weak identity. I think there’s a reason why women make up the majority of Rado’s customers – such releases are geared more towards being fashion forward, and not serious watchmaking.
Watches I would buy with $3000: Hamilton, Longines, Frederique Constant
With that done and dusted, let’s move on to my personal top 3 picks for under $3000. These are watches that I personally love, and would snap up in a heartbeat if I had the cash.
1) Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 chronograph
My first pick is the Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 chronograph – I believe it is the best chronograph under $3000!
For starters, I believe that Hamilton has a strong brand identity. Even though it is technically Swiss (being under the Swatch group’s umbrella), it stays true to its American heritage, especially in the the Khaki series. For its pre-Baselworld 2018 releases, Hamilton introduced the Khaki Field Mechanical (a tribute to a mid-20th-century model for the military named the Hamilton “Hacked”), and the Hamilton Khaki X-wind Auto (a celebratory piece commemorating Hamilton’s long-standing relationship with US airlines). This is a brand that’s been doubling down on its American heritage in its timepieces. And it has quite a cult following too – pictures of Hamilton watches (most commonly the Khaki Field) flood Facebook watch groups. When the Hamilton Khaki Field mechanical reached Singapore shores, it was snapped up in a heartbeat by 10 members of SWAG (Singapore Watch Appreciation Group). Photos of the watch flooded the group for days! If that isn’t a testament to the Hamilton brand, I don’t know what is.
While the Khaki series may be the most recognizable face of Hamilton’s offerings, I believe that the Intra-matic series is the diamond in the rough, the little appreciated younger brother. I’m not a military person, so the aesthetics of the Khaki series were never for me. However, this particular Intra-matic stole my heart. If you have read my recent watch reviews, you would know that I’m a sucker for vintage styling. The reverse panda dial of the Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 is simply stunning! It’s based off a vintage 1968 Hamilton chronograph (hence the name), and I would say that it’s a faithful rendition of the original – with a few key upgrades. The movement is the H-31 calibre, a modified (improved) version of the ETA/Valjoux 7753 with an extended 60 hours power reserve. I believe that this chronograph is much more appealing than any current offering (under S$3K) from fellow Swatch group brand Longines.
A brand that stays true to its American roots, strong vintage design, a improved Valjoux movement, and it’s limited to only 1968 pieces. I dare say that this watch would probably grow in value over time! At less than $2900, this watch presents very good value. And it’s not just me – Hodinkee thought so too when they named it their value proposition!
2) Longines Heritage 1945
Next, we have the Longines Heritage 1945. This is a watch with a hell of a story. Personally, I never fancied any of Longines chronographs (not any under $3000 anyway) – but their Heritage series is a different matter altogether.
The story of how this watch came about is simply amazing. Ben Clymer (founder of Hodinkee) posted a picture of a vintage 1945 Longines timepiece that he happened to own on his Instagram. Longines saw it, freaked out, and requested to see the watch. Ben Clymer sent his watch over, and not too long later Longines contacted him again, informing that they would be doing a faithful re-release of his vintage piece. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that this may be the first case of a vintage watch getting a re-release because of an Instagram post! It gives the entire story a sense of poetry.
Longines is pretty strong as a brand too, with their strongest watches stemming from their aforementioned Heritage line. The Avigation Big-Eye chronograph from the Heritage line garnered almost universal praise when it was released last year. And it’s no surprise, considering the long and extensive watchmaking history of Longines. Its winged hourglass logo, registered in 1889, is the oldest unchanged, registered trademark that is still active today!
I love the design of the Longines heritage 1945. The copper-brushed dial, paired with those slender, blued hands – that is really a sight to behold. The sub-seconds dial is a sunburst one, giving the dial a nice contrast in texture. It’s such a clean, vintage look – I absolutely adore it. Inside, the venerable ETA 2895 (the slimmer version of the 2824) powers this beauty, a modern update to the manual-winding original.
A watch of unassuming elegance, Swiss reliability, great story, all coming from a brand with watchmaking history in spades. At a mere $2240, this watch is an absolute bargain. Honestly, I’m seriously contemplating saving up all my part-time salary from working at Watch Wonderland, and investing it in this watch. There are certainly worse things to invest in out there!
3) Frederique Constant Slimline Moonphase
Rounding up this list is the Frederique Constant Slimline Moonphase. While Frederique Constant is a relatively young brand, it’s a brand that I believe is on the rise.
Firstly, I firmly believe in the Frederique Constant brand. It’s a brand whose mission is in offering Swiss reliability and excellence, at an affordable price point. The Slimline Moonphase features an in-house movement (FC-703 calibre) at under $3000! I do think that Frederique Constant offers the most affordable Swiss-made watches with in-house movements in the market today. Their in-house Perpetual Calendar? A mere $5575 USD (S$7345) on Jomashop! Having an in-house perpetual calendar is one of the hardest and most technical challenges a watch maison faces. For Frederique Constant to offer a Swiss in-house Perpetual Calendar at a 4 figures price point is just incredible. The closest in-house perpetual calendar in terms of price is JLC’s Master Ultra-thin at $15960 USD. That’s S$21K, thrice the price of the Frederique Constant!
But value is not all that Frederique Constant is about – they are big on innovation too. Recently, they announced the Frederique Constant Manufacture Hybrid – a in-house automatic watch with a smart module attached to the mechanical movement. It’s a stroke of brilliance – a masterstroke of a compromise. You get the features commonly found in a regular smartwatch (activity tracking, sleep tracking, fitness coaching, etc) but also a function to analyze the health of the mechanical movement inside. Simply put, it’s a smartwatch for watch-lovers. I genuinely believe that this will change the landscape of the luxury watch industry, and Frederique Constant will be at the forefront of it. If Frederique Constant isn’t a household brand at the moment, it definitely will be in the very near future.
Ok, I’ve fanboy-ed about Frederique Constant as a brand long enough. Back to the watch at hand. I love the simple and clean aesthetics of the Slimline Moonphase, and it features one of my favorite complications – the moonphase. The moonphase window, when seen in person, is beautiful. The date function is smartly integrated into the dial as well, with the date displayed around the moonphase indicator. I feel that it’s a thoughtfully designed dial overall, and I believe it to be the best dress watch under S$3000.
A brand whose star is rising rapidly, an in-house movement, and a tasteful dial, all for around the S$3000 mark. Why would anyone get that ghastly quartz watch from Rado, when they could get the Slimline Moonphase from Frederique Constant instead?
$3000 is a lot of money – it’s important to not only see the watch as a purchase, but also as an investment. Like in stock-trading, invest in a watch from a strong brand. Invest in a watch that’s made to stand the trials and tribulations of time. If done wisely, you can get a lot of watch for your money!
Do continue to keep giving comments on this series. I do think that this article is a vast improvement over the previous ones – but as always, let me know what you guys think! 🙂 The next price point would be $5000. Stay tuned!
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