Affordable watches Value For Money: One Idea, Six Approaches. Part 2
Do you want a watch that looks good on the outside, or one that performs well on the inside? The answer is clearly both, if possible. But when budget is a consideration (a tight budget, obviously), the choice narrows considerably. WorldTempus unveils some lesser-known gems that tick all the boxes without breaking the bank.
What’s beautiful is rare, and what’s rare is expensive. That might seem to be an over-simplification; nevertheless, for the majority of watchmakers, it’s true. Beautiful finishes require meticulous handcrafting, and sophisticated movements imply significant investment in R&D. All of this inevitably has an impact on the bottom line.
Thankfully, there are some watch brands that have designed their watches to be affordable from the outset. There are two schools of thought: either you aim for the lowest possible price for a refined aesthetic, a timeless design and a tried-and-tested generic movement; or you produce an authentic manufacture movement for as close as possible to CHF 10,000.
Norqain, the little chrono with big ambitions
Norqain came from out of nowhere, and is not afraid to admit it! At a time when many brands are inventing histories that are not (entirely) theirs to claim, Norqain has taken a refreshing approach over the last two years. It’s a young, dynamic brand launched by watch industry veterans (including the former Breitling CEO), at a reasonable price, with a focus on chronographs. The brand’s positioning is built on adventure, discovery, and freedom – independence, in other words.
Freedom 60 Chrono Steel - Anthracite Dial © Norqain
The brand very quickly gained a following in Europe and the United States, where chronographs are greatly appreciated, as well as enjoying a strong presence in Japan. Its resources are considerable, and collections continue to be rolled out at a steady pace: 34 models, three men’s collections, two women’s collections, several ambassadors and a first movement designed specifically for the brand by Kenissi, a builder already associated with Chanel and Tudor. In fact, Tudor has a movement partnership with Breitling, whose former CEO is on the Norqain board. Moreover, Kenissi’s CEO is Jean-Paul Girardin, former head of development for... Breitling. Everything begins to make sense! For collectors, what this means is a guarantee of premium quality, in a price segment under 4,000 euros for a chronograph and less than EUR 2,000 for three-handers. What’s not to like?
Frédérique Constant: timeless
For 30 years, Frédérique Constant has been the small Geneva brand producing high-quality Swiss watches at a reasonable price. The maison has never once deviated from this founding principle. It has been steadfast, virtually immortal and yet in constant motion. The watchmaker born at the end of the 1990s is virtually unrecognisable as the company we now see in 2020. Movement assembly has been replaced by a 6,000 m2 manufacturing facility in Geneva. Mechanical watches now rub shoulders with smartwatches driven by a Swiss-made module (by MMT). And the family brand is now part of Japanese giant Citizen. Whether you choose a Classic, a Slimline or a HeartBeat, Frédérique Constant still remains the best gateway to the world of fine Swiss watchmaking.
Worldtimer Manufacture © Frederique Constant
Worldtimer Manufacture © Frederique Constant
Ralph Lauren, the exception to the rule
Fashion labels that have dipped a toe in the watchmaking world have racked up more failures than successes. Armani watches remain relatively unknown, the Lagerfeld label was a resounding flop, and let’s not even talk about Burberry’s spectacular implosion. The only exceptions come from the world of haute couture – Chanel and Dior – where massive investments in watchmaking knowhow, combined with a highly exclusive savoir-faire, have heralded the emergence of a watchmaking segment whose legitimacy is universally acknowledged.
Polo watch © Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren, however, is the exception that proves the rule. First, the brand has been associated with watches for a very long time. Second: following a few Haute Horlogerie episodes that failed to leave a lasting impression, Ralph Lauren quickly recalibrated and returned to what it knows best. That means RL style, vintage American elegance, a sense of proportion, a balanced aesthetic, a moderate price range and the virtue of not taking itself too seriously (the only competitor of the Polo Bear RL is the Omega Snoopy). That does not, however, preclude special projects such as the hand-engraved Western Collection, which Chronopassion was quick to snap up. This is a brand apart, which carefully cultivates its unique “Born in the USA” vibe.
Frédérique Constant has made a successful business out of offering affordable luxury, experiencing growth rates well above the industry average. The owners have a clear mission to make fine...Find out more >
Unique, customisable, free-spirited and independent, Norqain watches are designed in Nidau (Biel) and celebrate life in a journey where beautiful watchmaking meets adventure.Find out more >
Ever since the Ralph Lauren brand was founded, it has been synonymous with elegance, refinement and timelessness – and the same values are present in the brand’s timepieces.Find out more >