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Three-hand watches - Five three-hand watches under 3,000 Swiss francs

Three-hand watches Five three-hand watches under 3,000 Swiss francs

Less is definitely more with this selection of time-only pieces that don’t skimp on quality but nevertheless remain affordable.

I have put together a small selection of some of the unsung heroes of the watch industry. You won’t find collectors effusing over them, you won’t find them adorning the pages of glossy magazines and their presence at watch exhibitions and in press kits is discreet. Nevertheless, such watches accounts for a large percentage of the industry’s production and are those that are affordable for the largest majority of customers. They are also precisely the type of watch that the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève is looking to see more of in its competition, in the new “Challenge” category this year for watches costing less than 4,000 Swiss francs.

For my selection, I have managed to restrict the price to below 3,000 but still offer some fine classic designs with reliable automatic movements. This is, of course, only a very small idea of what you can get on the market, concentrating more on models with just a simple three-hand configuration and similar features (all the watches are in stainless steel, between 39 and 42mm case diameter and with self-winding movements with a power reserve of between 38 and 42 hours). It’s the type of watch that is likely to get more airtime at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie this year in the new “Challenge” category for watches that cost less than 4,000 Swiss francs. Here they are, listed in ascending order by price.

Frédérique Constant Classics Index Automatic

Price: CHF 950

The name speaks for itself and Frédérique Constant delivers on its usual promise of unbeatable prices with this Classics Index Automatic retailing at under 1,000 Swiss francs. It’s the epitome of what a classic timepiece should be, with a round case in stainless steel, baton hour markers, slender hands, a silvered dial, date window at 3 o’clock and a black leather strap. Thanks to Frédérique Constant’s massive investments in e-commerce, which include financial investments but also a dedicated team of e-commerce experts, this watch can be with you within three days of ordering it in Switzerland, with free delivery.

Cinq montres à trois aiguilles à moins de 3'000 francs

Classics Index Automatic © Frédérique Constant

Movement: FC-3030 self-winding calibre
Power reserve: 38 hours 
Case diameter: 40mm 
Crystal: Sapphire 
Dial: Silver-coloured dial with guilloche decoration and black applied baton hour markers
Strap: Black leather strap
Water resistance: 5 ATM (50 metres)

Emile Chouriet Ice Cliff

Ref. 08.1170.G.6.6.E8.2
Price: CHF 1,200 (inclusive of Swiss VAT)

The Ice-Cliff is on its third iteration and has evolved over the past few years to take on a less aggressive styling that makes it the perfect everyday watch. The allusion to the Swiss Alps that provided the inspiration for this watch was much more pronounced in the first generation, but it is still present in a subtler form around the edge of the dial, which comes in a rich green with applied Roman numerals and has distinctive tuning-fork shaped hands. My preference is for the black textile strap, which gives the watch a more contemporary feel, but this model is also available with a stainless-steel bracelet for the same price. 

Cinq montres à trois aiguilles à moins de 3'000 francs

Ice Cliff © Emile Chouriet

Movement: EC9316 self-winding calibre
Power reserve: 38 hours
Case diameter: 40mm
Crystal: Sapphire 
Dial: Green dial, luminescent hour markers
Strap: Black textile strap or stainless-steel bracelet with folding clasp
Water resistance: 5 ATM (50 metres)

Raymond Weil Maestro Blues

Reference: 2227-STC-00508
Price: USD 1300

This is one of Raymond Weil’s most recent launches and naturally comes with a name inspired by music but also reflected in the deep blue of the dial, which incorporates an aperture at 12 o’clock to show the balance wheel in movement. The time is read off baton-shaped hands against white Roman numerals and the fluted crown bears the brand’s “RW” monogram. Unusually this model features a snap on case back with a sapphire crystal window on the movement. Nevertheless, water resistance to 5 ATM is guaranteed.

Cinq montres à trois aiguilles à moins de 3'000 francs

Maestro Blues © Raymond Weil

Movement: RW4200 self-winding movement
Power reserve: 38 hours
Case diameter: 40mm
Crystal: Sapphire
Dial: Dark blue with wave motif
Strap: Blue alligator-style calfskin strap with contrasting white stitching, folding clasp with double push-security system
Water resistance: 5 ATM

Seiko Presage

Reference: SJE 073
Price: EUR 2,200

Seiko developed an entirely new calibre, the 6L35, for its 2018 Presage models. The new movement was designed specifically for thinness and brings the case height for the new Presage under 10mm. The case has also been redesigned to take maximum advantage of the thinner movement and the lugs have been curved inwards for an even better fit on the wrist. It is polished using Seiko’s Zaratsu technique. The model I have chosen is the limited edition of 1,881 pieces known as reference SJE073, whose silvery white dial has a wonderfully frosty texture.

Cinq montres à trois aiguilles à moins de 3'000 francs

Presage © Seiko

Movement: Self-winding calibre 6L35 
Power reserve: 45 hours
Case diameter: 40.7mm
Crystal: Sapphire 
Dial: Silvered
Bracelet: Stainless steel with push-button trifold clasp
Water resistance: 10 ATM (100 metres)

Montblanc Star Legacy Automatic Date

Reference: 116511
Price: EUR 2,690

The Montblanc Star Legacy collection is inspired by the curves of the early Minerva pocket watches and was launched at the start of this year to commemorate the 160th anniversary of the high-end movement manufacturer based in Villeret, Switzerland owned by Montblanc. Since this collection aims to showcase the utmost in refined classical watchmaking and design, I have chosen the Automatic Date version that successfully reduces things to the essential but nevertheless incorporates subtle details that are immediately recognisable for the connoisseur. Note, for example, the railway minute track, the contrasting finishes on the silvered dial and the blue leaf-shaped hands. The redesigned Arabic numerals are also a nod to those on the old Minerva watches. Although I have chosen this stainless-steel version to remain under the 3,000 Swiss franc price limit of this article, the Montblanc Star Legacy Automatic Date is also available with an 18-carat rose gold case with an ivory dial and both the steel and gold cases are available in 39mm or 42mm case diameters.

Cinq montres à trois aiguilles à moins de 3'000 francs

Star Legacy Automatic © Montblanc

Movement: Self-winding calibre MB 24.01
Power reserve: 42 hours
Case diameter: 42mm 
Crystal: Sapphire 
Dial: Silvery-white with exploding star guilloché pattern
Strap: Black alligator leather strap from the Montblanc Pelletteria in Florence, Italy with stainless steel pin buckle
Water resistance: 3 ATM (30 metres)


If the prices and features of the first three watches presented above seem similar, it’s no coincidence. They all use movements based on the Sellita SW-200 calibre, which allows the brands to offer such competitive prices. Seiko, on the other hand, produces its own movements and Montblanc prefers the original ETA 2892 base calibre (of which the Sellita movement is a clone). The last two models also offer slightly higher specifications in terms of water resistance and attention to detail, which explains the price difference.

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