Watch Snob Presents AskMen’s Watch Awards
These Are the 12 Best Watches of the Year According to Our Resident Watch Snob
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As the years continue to pass (which seems to happen more and more quickly these days) it becomes more and more clear to me that there are certain questions which come up from you, gentle readers, with sufficient frequency that it is perhaps best to address them overall, rather than answer the same questions piecemeal (which runs the risk of having answers that are as repetitious as the questions).
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Folks who read this column are often curious about the same general things, and while there are an infinite number of variations on the basic question, “Which watch should I buy?” there are also more specific versions of that question which bear further examination through a filter of what is actually currently available — yes, what has been recently introduced, but also the great classics to which clients for watchmaking, irrespective of budget or taste, return to again and again.
With all this in mind, let us look at the best watches of their respective classes, at this particular moment in horological history.
Best Men’s Watches Under $200
Despite what you may think, there are many watches worthy of respect at this price. Which do I endorse? Keeping on reading.
Shocking as you may find it that the Watch Snob recommends the G-Shock, but it represents in its own way horological purism as much as any Patek Grand Complication (maybe even more so). The G-Shock in its simplest version may be cheap, but is as far as possible from cheaply made — designed by its inventor, Kikuo Ibe, to withstand events that would probably kill its owner. It is quite simply one of the great classics of modern watch engineering and design, and has a blunt, no-nonsense, purpose-driven appearance that manages to be instantly reassuring and appealing at the same time.
$600 at GShock.com
Any Seiko 5
The Seiko represents in a mechanical watch some of the same attraction one finds in a G-Shock — robust, reliable, available in a bewildering plethora of designs, and sometimes unexpectedly beautiful. They are often less than $100 and I have yet to hear of one that disappointed its owner. With simple but reliable movements, and very often, quality in the dial and hands, which some so-called luxury brands seem to struggle to offer and prices several orders of magnitude higher, the Seiko 5 remains to this day one of the best ways to enjoy a mechanical watch, at an affordable price.
$82.99 at Amazon.com
The last thing, in my view, that the world needs is another social media driven startup watch company. (As a matter of fact, in my view, the last thing the world needs is social media, but I suppose that is a rant for another day). Whereas most of MVMT’s watches remain well under the $200 price point, it’s new Arc Automatic falls slightly above the $200, so consider this an average of all MVMT watches together. I was perfectly prepared to hate all watches from MVMT and regarded them for some time not only with indifference, but with active hostility.
However, that has changed. I cannot help but say that having actually seen one (rather by accident; my cousin Seamus showed up unexpectedly on my doorstep looking for yet another “long-term loan” and was wearing one) they look well on the wrist. Like the Seiko 5, they offer a way of enjoying, at an accessible price, a watch that looks so sharp that I am forced to use the term.
$300 at MVMTWatches.com
Best GMT Watches
A so-called GMT watch is a watch that can show the time in two time zones at once. Typically, this is done by having an hour hand that can be independently set, in one hour increments, and a hand that rotates once every 24 hours, which shows “home” time; you set the hour hand to local time when you arrive at a new destination. The GMT watch is probably one of the most useful, as well as generally robust, complications and some such watches are among the great classics of wristwatch design.
Rolex GMT Master II
The Rolex GMT Master single-handedly launched the category of GMT watches in 1956, and remains the defining GMT watch to this very day. It has unfortunately become all but impossible to actually buy one from Rolex, but I suppose that is a rant for another day. At least in the abstract, it remains an entirely wonderful timepiece. It’s easy to read, easy to use, and with a real history of use in aerospace service that taken on the whole, probably cannot be claimed by any other watch.
$9,250 at Rolex.com
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Tudor Black Bay GMT
Also known as the Rolex GMT Master, you can actually buy this one. Tudor has essentially become what Rolex was when the GMT Master first came out — a maker of solidly built, robust, eminently usable sports watches, which while priced at a bit of a premium, still offer quality disproportionate to cost. The riveted bracelet is a bit of nostalgic kitsch I wish Tudor had avoided but taken on the whole, this is a most sensible and good-looking watch.
$4,200 at Chrono24.com
Grand Seiko GMT SBGM221
This is probably the single best value in a true GMT watch currently on the market. It is relatively speaking a bit expensive, at about four and a half thousand dollars, but as is usually the case with Grand Seiko, it punches so far above its weight (to borrow an expression from the art of pugilism) as to remain a relative bargain as well. This version is particularly attractive — the combination of the ivory dial, heat-blued steel home time hand, and wonderfully crafted dial furniture and hands, makes the watch feel irresistible.
$4,599 at Chrono24.com
Best Chronograph Watches
Though my regular readers probably do not need the point to be made, there may still be someone who confuses the chronograph with the chronometer. A chronometer is a watch that has been verified to run to within certain minimum standards for precision (Rolex, Omega, and Breitling, for instance, offer a number of chronometer watches, certified by an independent Swiss agency).
A chronograph is a watch that has a stopwatch function added onto it. This simple definition, however, belies the irrational attraction classic chronographs can exert — the best of them seem to have an ability to make even the most mundane individual feel somehow a part of a far more interesting life, one involving fast cars, faster planes, and a generally jet-setting lifestyle — than one is actually living.
This, I hasten to add, is an endorsement of the current production Daytona, not the unbelievably expensive vintage models — and especially not the so-called Paul Newman Daytona, which is an horologically mediocre watch that has only become so expensive because there are rich fellows with more money than sense who have no objection to wasting their money on cosmetics.
The current Daytona has probably the best-engineered self-winding chronograph movement anyone has ever made (the Rolex caliber 4130) and so far it has avoided having its case suffer the fate of other Rolex professional models, which have in some cases become a bit too chunky and angular for their own good. Like the GMT Master II, it’s essentially impossible to buy in stainless steel, but still available, as far as I can tell, in precious metals, albeit this begins to become an extremely expensive proposition indeed.
$27,500 at Rolex.com
Omega Speedmaster Professional “Moonwatch”
This is a quite predictable, but also an unavoidable choice, at least if you know anything about the history of wrist chronographs at all. The Speedmaster came to be called the Moonwatch thanks to its selection by NASA as the official watch certified for manned space flight, and used during the Apollo era. It has continued to be used in manned space flight down to the present day (where it can be found on spacesuits used for spacewalks on the International Space Station).
Leaving its history aside, it is also one of the best-looking chronograph wristwatches ever made (the design in its original form came out in 1957) and at the moment, it is still not too absurdly priced, although Omega gives one a feeling that they would love to charge more for the watch than the current price of $6,350. It’s a classic, and one of the few remnants of a bygone world of watch engineering and design.
$5.350 at Tourneau.com
Zenith Chronomaster El Primero in Steel
The El Primero gets its name from the fact that it was one of the first automatic chronographs ever made. Automatic chronographs did not exist before 1969 when the El Primero came out, along with two other automatic chronograph movements. Of the three, the El Primero is the only one which has remained in production up to the present day (and even the El Primero came close to being abandoned permanently by Zenith).
It was only when Rolex decided to use a version of the movement in its Daytona chronographs that the company decided to resume production. It is, like the Daytona itself, and the Speedmaster, a relic of another time entirely in the history of watchmaking, and at just a little bit more than the Speedmaster at $6,700, it remains one of the relative bargains of modern watchmaking as well.
$8,600 at Tourneau.com
Best Luxury Watches
Exactly what a luxury watch is depends on who is looking for one — for someone who must make every penny count, even $40 for a G-Shock may represent a considerable expenditure and require considerable forethought, as well as occasion some sacrifice (fortunately the G-Shock will repay such efforts with many years of trouble free service and offers very little chance of buyer’s regret into the bargain).
However, by the classic definition, a true luxury watch is one in which no thought was taken of economies on any level, and such efforts tend to be expensive not because a company wants to charge lots of money, as such, but rather because such an approach is necessarily costly, rather than costly by intention from the beginning.
Naturally one should expect unflagging attention to detail on every level, as well as masterful execution of craft, and often, rarity of materials, although a luxury watch can easily be made simply using brass, steel, and a few other materials that are not expensive in and of themselves. In luxury watchmaking, the most costly element is usually the human touch, and the better the touch and more experienced the human, the higher the price. As with other watches we have considered, there are many more possibilities, but here are three that fit the definition of luxury admirably.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra Thin
This is the Royal Oak, more or less, as the design was originally conceived and produced in 1972. As with many classic luxury watch designs, it has been produced in so many variations and has had so many imitators that it is easy to forget the impact of the original design, but in 1972, it was a revolution: the very first modern luxury stainless steel sports watch. The extremely intricate construction of the case, as well as refinement of the movement — the caliber 2121 is the thinnest movement of its kind, even today, and this despite it being a mechanism first produced in 1967. It is the rare watch that combines a truly superlative mechanism with unstinting craft and a revolutionary, yet classic, design, and the Royal Oak, for all that it suffers from overexposure these days, remains one of those rare timepieces which succeeds on so many levels.
$37,500 at Chrono24.com
A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin 37mm
The art of the simple gold dress watch is practiced by very few brands these days — a fault, perhaps, of consumers, who would rather have something that will impress on social media rather than offer the thoughtful, but discrete and unassuming high quality that has always characterized the simple watch at its best. This used to be the sort of thing for which you could count on certain blue-chip names, but there is so much cost-cutting and relative price gouging these days, that gold dress watches one can recommend with a clean conscience have become few and far between.
The Lange Saxonia Thin is one of the very few exceptions I can think of — though it is, indeed, a simple watch, every element is executed with such precision and attention to detail that it becomes very much more than the sum of its parts, and a timepiece that will give the owner a warm glow of pride for decades. That it is also about 25-30% less expensive than, frankly, lesser offerings from its competitors in the same genre, is icing on the cake.
$17,500 at Alange-Soehne.com
Anything Made by Roger Smith
On the Isle of Man, in the middle of the Irish Sea, a bespectacled soft-spoken gentleman watchmaker is making some of the most beautifully crafted and interesting watches in the world. Eschewing the vainglory of glittering Geneva stripes and rhodium plating, Smith makes watches with movements in the proud English tradition of gilt finish set off by flawlessly polished steel work, giving his movements a combination of reserve and nobility found nowhere else in the watch world.
Smith also has continued the late Dr. George Daniels’ work on the co-axial escapement, and insists on the human touch in every aspect of every one of his watches; they are the closest thing to a purely handmade watch in the world, with only the most basic steps in fabrication carried out by machine (a necessary element to achieve the interchangeability of parts and consistency in performance that clients, as well as basic good practices, demands).
His work is extremely expensive, and the waiting list if you wish to own one of his Series 2 watches, is a long-ish one. But if you have the education, maturity, and good taste to appreciate what he is doing — and, of course, if money is no object — there is arguably no better watch made by any brand in the world, or any watchmaker, at any price.
From $200,000 upon request
So there you have it. These are the best watches — one might even say award-winning watches — according to the Watch Snob. Send the Watch Snob your questions at email@example.com or ask a question on Instagram with the #watchsnob hashtag.
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This post was syndicated from askmen.com