We get asked for advice on buying watches all year long but we can’t answer everyone. If you still aren’t sure what watches should be on your shopping list this holiday season, let’s see what the aBlogtoWatch writing team has to say. Check out the 2012 aBlogtoWatch editor’s watch buying gift guide below and see what everyone feels is worth your money.
Ariel Adams’ Choices
Casio ProTrek PAW-2000T-7
It won’t win any beauty contests but a Casio Protrek might save your life, and it is a damn reliable and handy timepiece. A perennial favorite of mine, high-function Casio ProTrek (formerly Pathfinder) watches are a must for anyone who does anything outdoors. Light, durable, and extremely reliable, these go anywhere, do anything watches are something you’ll come to love if you don’t already. I own a bunch of them and continue to lust for more. A great model is the Casio ProTrek PAW-2000T-7, which comes on a titanium bracelet. There is also the standard PAW-2000 (reviewed here) that comes in black on a polyurethane strap. As far as ProTrek models go it is very thin and also light. It has a duplex LCD screen, is atomic clock controlled with a solar powered battery, and has along list of functions that you or anyone you get this for will actually probably use. Price: $450. pathfinder.casio.com
Bell & Ross BR 126 Sport
In true Bell & Ross fashion, the “Sport” version of the newer BR 126 model is a refined looking modern watch that already feels like a classic (read the aBlogtoWatch review of this piece here). People have compared it to the Omega Speedmaster – which ironically I have listed below – but I don’t see a huge, huge similarity. Clearly, I would be happy with both. Depending on how you measure it, the BR 126 Sport is 41-43mm wide in steel, with a lovely looking case and that unique black retro looking dial compared to the rest of the BR range. On the bracelet it looks fantastic (also because the bracelet is fantastic) and inside the watch is a Swiss ETA 2894 automatic chronograph. It makes for a good daily wear with its versatile looks, and isn’t a bank balance killer with a price of $4,500. bellross.com
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Co-Axial Chronograph
The whole point of our gift guide is to suggest watches that we’d buy, which we also feel would satisfy other people’s tastes. Among many of the watches I reviewed in 2012 (click here to read the review), the newer Omega Speedmaster with the Co-Axial Chronograph in-house made Omega caliber 9301 (9300) movement was a top pick. I loved the larger size compared to the smaller original Speedmaster, and I was joyous to review not merely the standard steel version, but Omega’s higher-end 18k orange gold model with the black enamel dial. It is a lovely mixture of class, utility, and luxury. I can’t think of too many men who wouldn’t like one. Price is $25,700. omegawatches.com
James Stacey’s Choices
Citizen Promaster PMX56-2811 Diver
The Citizen Promaster PMX56-2811 is a fantastic everyman diver. Featuring a single piece titanium case, a bulletproof Eco-Drive solar movement and an excellent bracelet with a ratcheting extension, you’ll be hard pressed to find any casual or sporting situation in which this diver isn’t right at home. Those with smaller wrists will love the 41.5mm wide case and its svelte 11mm thickness. It might look like a entry-level military style watch but it is not. Priced at $400. citizenwatch.com
Bremont BC-Solo White
The BC-Solo (SOLO) is Bremont’s entry level watch but that doesn’t mean they have held back any of the signature Bremont feature set. The SOLO features a 43mm Trip-Trick hardened steel case, a hardened AR-treated sapphire crystal, and timekeeping is managed by the COSC certified BE-36AE automatic movement. Better yet, the SOLO is now available in a crisp white dial and can be yours on a bracelet. Priced at $4,550. bremont.com
Linde Werdelin SpidoSpeed Steel
If there are chronographs and there are Chronographs, the SpidoSpeed is certainly the latter. Boasting a 44mm wide 32-piece skeleton case, the SpidoSpeed is a distinctive interpretation of the modern sport watch that is unlike anything else on the market. The SpidoSpeed runs on the LW 03 automatic movement which is sourced from Concepto and then been decorated by Linde Werdelin. The SpidoSpeed Steel is certainly not cheap but it does stand out for its futuristic design, unique appeal and proven attention to detail. Price is $13,000. lindewerdelin.com
Paul Hubbard’s Choices
While inexpensive, it isn’t cheap- and you get a lot more than you might think at first glance. The case steel is proprietary to Damasko, and at 60HRC and 52PRE its tougher and more corrosion resistant than stainless steel or titanium. Modified ETA 2836 movement (day and date moved down) with anti-magnetic casing, Viton gaskets that last longer than default nitrile, negative-pressure resistant and a unique, legible design that I quite like. At 40x12mm it’s versatile and perfectly sized. The do-it-all sport watch, below the radar. Price: $1,150. damasko.de
Grand Seiko Spring Drive Diver Ref. SBGA031
It’s one hell of an expensive Seiko, but research a bit and you’ll see why Grand Seiko is one of the most respected marques in horology. Unique in-house Spring Drive automatic movement and Grand Seiko level finishing in a 200m-rated watch tough enough for sports and daily abuse. Consider it stealth luxury. Titanium keeps the weight down to 137g for a 44x14mm case. Price: $7,600. grand-seiko.com
IWC Ingenieur Vintage Ref. IW323310
A blue-dial, retro take on the classic Ingeniuer Vintage Automatic. In-house movement, versatile style, in a limited edition of 1000. Hard to find but the limited edition of 1000 pieces blue dial is a stunner. In addition to being a very nice dress watch, the Ingenieur Vintage line is also quite resistant to shock, vibration and magnetism, making it practical to boot. Price: $8,000. iwc.com
James Lamdin’s Choices
Tag Heuer Carrera Jack Heuer 80 Limited Edition
As iconic as they come, this stunningly retro piece from Tag Heuer celebrates the life and achievements of Jack Heuer, heir to the company’s namesake and father of the original Carrera. Featuring the robust Caliber 17 movement, dial detailing reminiscent of early models, the Heuer family crest and Jack’s own signature on the case back, this chronograph stands apart in the robust Carrera lineup.
Larger than the original Carrera, the Jack Heuer 80th Birthday edition is sized at a comfortable 41mm, and is available on a bracelet or a beautiful black rallye strap with red backing to evoke the brand’s motorsport heritage. My favorite detail? The classic red Heuer logo on the dial (importantly sans “Tag”) and the awesome deployment clasp detailing.
2013 will be the 50th Anniversary of the original Carrera chronograph, so snap it up now before the limited run of 3000 pieces disappears in another bout of Heuer-Mania! See a hands-on aBlogtoWatch look at this watch here. Priced from $4900. tagheuer.com
Helson Sharkmaster 1000M
A tool watch through and through, the Helson Sharkmaster combines design elements of classic Omega divers with modern materials, movement, usability, and a price point which makes it a great choice for professional and amateur divers alike. Machined from a massive block of 316L Stainless Steel and measuring a substantial 44mm by 54mm, the Sharkmaster definitely offers a wrist presence sure to attract attention both on the dive boat and at the Tiki Bar at the end of the day.
Powered by the ever-reliable ETA 2824, the Helson makes use of C3 Lume, monobloc construction, and a large, easily gripped unidirectional rotating bezel with no-decompression markings – all welcome features in a watch designed from the ground up to be used and abused. This is a piece that begs for its first battle scars from the moment you open the box (tangling with actual sharks not recommended…).
The Sharkmaster 1000 comes with a mesh bracelet and an Isofrane style rubber strap, and with super-cool stylings evoking the PloProfs of yesteryear, the Sharkmaster is a beaut of a brute and would be welcome in my stocking any day. Priced From $900. helson-watches.com
Jaeger-LeCoultre Tribute To Deep Sea
An oft-overlooked fact in horological history, Jaeger-LeCoultre was once a leading manufacturer of serious sports and diving watches. They are perhaps known better today amongst watch collectors for their elegant contributions in the realm of haute horologie, but it’s nice to know that JLC hasn’t forgotten their heritage, and last year they unveiled the Memovox Tribute to Deep Sea, an homage to their original 1959 masterwork (which has in its own right become a Holy Grail amongst dive watch collectors, with just over 100 examples known to still exist).
The Tribute to Deep Sea is available in both a US and European Edition, with different dial designs, each featuring their high-end Caliber 956 movement inside a 40.5mm case. The US edition was limited at release to 359 pieces, while the European market edition numbered 959. Roughly a year after launch, I can only speculate how many are still available – but with design details nearing perfection and a cult-like following, I’d wager not many. Just like the original, they are destined for future collectability, and it would behoove you to put one under the tree before they go all unobtanium. Yo, Santa – you hear me? Priced From $12,300. jaeger-lecoultre.com
Adi Soon’s Choices
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Grand Taile
The JLC Reverso is a watch every well-dressed man considers at some point. The classic art deco style with the familiar dimensions of the rectangular case has the kind of iconic presence that goes well with any dressy occasion. Matched with an alligator strap, this watch just oozes class, and elevates a man’s wardrobe to a totally different level.
This particular version of the Reverso, the Grand Taille, is, in my opinion the best among all the modern Reversos. Coming in at a height of 42.2mm, versus the Classique at 38.7mm, it is a good size for the modern man, while at the same time being able to sit underneath a shirt cuff where all good dress watches should reside. Also, the particular aspect ratio of the rectangle that makes up the case retains the classic Reverso shape, which is infinitely preferable from anything in the more squarish Squadra series.
Aside from looking good, and having a manufacture movement, this watch has the trademark flipping case, which is always a good conversation starter at parties. From that point, one can then begin the tale of the Reverso’s beginnings as it relates to polo and the protection of the fragile watch crystal in the 1930’s. Reverso is a high-end watch that while pricey, is still remarkably accessible. For what it can give you, an iconic design and a dress watch for life, there is no better bargain. Prices start at $7,150. jaeger-lecoultre.com
The Meistersinger No.1 is without doubt the purest expression of the single hand dress watch. Meistersinger of course, is the brand known for its classical design with a single hand on the watch dial.
There is something innately relaxing about telling time with a single hand. When used as a dress watch, the single hand moves imperceptibly, almost frozen at each instance that you want to tell the time. There is no moving second hand calling attention to itself, nor is there enough precision to tell the time to the exact second. In a dressy environment, these are perfect attributes, as one should pay attention to your company and the event you are enjoying rather than to the time.
For your money, you get a ton of value. Choose between the 38mm or 43mm case, both slim enough to slip under the cuff. The No.1 as shown here is powered by a hand wound ETA 2801-2 movement. If you’re the type who prefers an automatic movement, Meistersinger has you covered with the No.3, which features the ETA 2824-2 movement. For variations of dial colours, think classic. Only black, white and cream dials are available, matched with brown or black leather straps or a stainless steel bracelet. Price for the No.1 comes in at £950, while the No.3 comes is at £1,325. meistersinger.net
Alpina Startimer Pilot
Want a Big Pilot style watch but still want to be different from those who have the IWC version? The Alpina Startimer Pilot automatic is a viable alternative. If you’re an aficionado and fan of the B-uhr style first seen on the wrists of German World War 2 bomber crews, you would already know what the main ingredients are: a large stainless steel case, an onion style crown for hacking seconds with thick gloves in the cold interior of a plane, sweeping second hands to synchronise your bomb run, as well as white numbers on a black dial for outstanding legibility.
The Alpina Startimer Pilot automatic takes these ingredients and gives its own unique twist to the proven formula. The onion style crown is different from that of the IWC, being slightly more elongated. The font of the brand as well is more modern, giving the dial a more updated feel, and the case is 44mm, which should be more comfortable for those who cannot wear the 46mm IWC Big Pilot because of skinny wrists.
The best reason to go for the Alpina however, has to be the price. At £970, it is without doubt a much cheaper alternative to the IWC. How does being almost one fifth cheaper at most places sound to you? From what I can tell, the differences are minor and not overtly so that it would not provide you with as much satisfaction. The look is the same, the feel is the same, and it is one hell of a bargain if you love the Pilot style. Priced at $1,150. alpina-watches.com
Anish Bhatt’s Choices
Yup it’s big. Yup it’s also brash. But sometimes that’s OK. At an excellent price point of sub $1,000, the P3 offers exceptional value in my eyes. No it isn’t Swiss Made, but that aside there is not much that would distinguish this from a watch 5 or 10 times more expensive! The case and dial are fantastically well made, with alternating finishes seen throughout both. The addition of sibrings rubber coating to the case (similar to the IWC Aquatimer Galapagos) brings a nice contrast and feel to the watch, and in terms of the actual presentation box and accessories…well higher priced manufacturers could learn a thing or two from these guys.
At 47mm the size won’t suit all. I do remember the days where I wore a Panerai 127 and IWC Big Pilot with no problem on my 6.5″ wrists, both of which wear much bigger due to their thickness and large crown/crown guards. Now I generally stick to the sub 45mm category, but I have no issue with these and happily wear the brand in rotation with my higher priced pieces. Plus if that dash of red doesn’t signify the holidays are coming, I don’t know what does! Price is 897.79 Swiss Francs. sevenfriday.com
Arnold & Son HMS 1
This is a bit of a left field choice in a watch world filled with so many options, but I recently had the chance to really spend some time with this watch and I absolutely love it! A beautiful classic design is something that’s hard to find fault with. At 40mm in width it’s the perfect size for formal attire and slips effortlessly under even the most fitted shirt cuff. Powered by the svelte 2.7mm thick in-house calibre A&S1001, the watch displays only the necessary hours minutes and seconds on the dial (HMS, geddit??!) and the twin barrels mean you get a very impressive 80 hours of power reserve out of a full wind. For me though the dial is stunning, and this is close to perfection in terms of a dress watch! Price is 9,990 Swiss Francs. arnoldandson.com
MCT Sequential One
I can’t help but love this watch. Mechanically it’s fantastic and a joy to watch in action. The billboard style rotating large digits combined with the dynamic minute track are so well executed, and yet the case is a wearable and comfortable in size. Though it’s far from cheap, it’s been reasonably priced in my opinion and importantly it offers true innovation in terms of an alternative way of displaying the time!
The different finishes and colour options all offer something a little different, though my personal preference is still the ‘plain’ white gold version. Denis Giguet may have left the brand but a recent takeover means there may still be light in the horizon, and whatever the outcome I do feel these pieces may one day become very much collectors items. Price is 92,500 Swiss Francs. mctwatches.com
Adam Morin’s Choices
Seiko “New” Monster SRP307K1
You’d be hard-pressed to find a line of watches more recommended than the Seiko Monster. It is widely considered one of the absolute best bargains for a mechanical watch. This line of capable divers received an update this year including an upgraded movement with hacking and manual winding, something particularly useful if this is a gift for the uninitiated. Style tweaks and new color options round out the changes but this is definitely still the Monster we’ve come to love over the years.
I dive with my Monster and actually gave one to my best man for being in my wedding. I’m partial to the black dial and stainless variation but it was with orange that the Monster truly found its legs. These aren’t commonly sold in stores in the US but are readily available online for $200 – $300 USD depending on the style and bracelet. Expect to pay a little more for newer models but it just might be worth the increase in price. Read a full review of the updated Monster here. Price around $300. seikowatches.com
Ball – Engineer Hydrocarbon DeepQUEST
It’s no secret that watch guys tend to like tool watches and divers in particular. The vast majority of high-end dive watches never enter the water but that’s not really the point. We still like knowing that our watch is capable of continual operation at extreme depths even if we never plan to rely on it in such a fashion. If it can live up to that it can certainly handle your life, right? The Ball DeepQUEST is an extreme diver for those who shun the ubiquitous Rolex. Not only is this titanium beast rated to a depth of 3,000 meters, it also offers refined styling and will look good on your wrist for a night out. Just because a watch is capable of withstanding extreme environments doesn’t mean it has to look like it.
In typical Ball fashion, the DeepQUEST is also fitted with micro gas tubes to offer exceptional night reading that won’t diminish as the night goes on. If you, or your holiday beneficiary, desire a serious tool watch without the showy coronet or Greek letter, this Ball might be in your court (sorry). Read an early hands-on of the Hydrocarbon DeepQUEST here. Price is $4,399. ballwatches.com
Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th
If you follow anything watch-related then you’ve no doubt heard the Stratos Flyback Striking 10th mentioned ad infinitum due to its association with Felix Baumgartner and his Zenith-sponsored jump. Recognition by association aside, the Stratos Flyback Striking 10th is a seriously cool watch and worth taking a closer look at. Despite the debatable practicality of the Striking 10th complication, the long line of El Primero movements is one of the most storied in the business.
The Stratos Flyback Striking 10th houses the lauded Striking 10th movement in the well-received Stratos case while looking modern and paying homage to the original 1069 tri-color El Primero subdials. The fact that it was worn on a record breaking jump from near space is just icing on the horological cake. It may not be unique in and of itself but this watch should be sought after for years to come. Read a hands-on look at the the El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th here. Price is $12,100. zenith-watches.com