When watchmaking grandmasters Philippe Dufour, Kari Voutilainen, Laurent Ferrier and Roger Smith were in Singapore in 2013 for a plenary session arranged by The Hour Glass, they were asked a most intriguing question:
What budget watch would you recommend to someone starting a collection, below USD 10,000?
“I would say that you could buy at this price, maybe a bit less, a very good watch in terms of value and quality. It’s not Swiss — sorry — [but] a German brand called Nomos. I found that this brand makes a very serious product. I like these watches, and for somebody who wants to start, I think this will be a good [choice]: not too expensive and good value for money.”
(Editor: Dufour’s choice is perhaps not surprising given his personal choice of timepiece; an A. Lange & Sohne Datograph in pink gold. It seems he is a fan of watches from the Glashütte region in Germany.)
“It’s a tricky question. In this case, perhaps I would buy a Parmigiani to support my village. That is perhaps the best solution, because it will bring wealth to the area where I’m living.”
(Editor: Parmigiani is hardly the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a budget watch. Still, the Tonda 1950 is a nice watch to consider if your budget stretches a little outside the USD10,000 imposed by the question.)
“If I could only buy one, I would go for a Rolex Daytona. If you really want to start a collection, it’s probably going to have to be with something simple, so the best way is to go to an auction and try to find original 50-year-old pieces that are still in good condition. That’s a very easy way to start.”
(Editor: A Rolex on the list! A fine choice, but I think the more interesting part about Ferrier’s answer is looking for vintage watches at auction. An auction catalogue is a good place to start your research into watches as it will expose you to things that you might not have known about, and give you a sense of prices for various watches. What’s more, prices can be reasonable if you bid smart.)
“I don’t know if this would surprise people, but personally, it would have to be a Rolex. They are exceptional watches and what impresses me about Rolex is that they’re not very adventurous, which is good, because they know they have a great movement. The movements that they use are tried and tested. They’ve been around forever — why change the wheel? They have a watch that you can use for dress, sports, and it’s a great all-rounder. Put one on your wrist and you’ll probably die with that watch on your wrist. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I look at the mechanics of a watch, the case and how all the components are constructed. To me, [the Rolex is] bulletproof, and I don’t think you can get much better than that. They don’t sponsor me, by the way.”
(Editor: When I visited Smith at his studio in the Isle of Man, he showed me the 39mm Rolex Explorer that he got for his 40th birthday from his wife. Smith has always admired Rolex primarily because of the brand’s philosophy when it comes to making their watches, prioritising durability and reliability above all else. These are traits that you can also find in the watches that he makes, with the Series 2 movements for example featuring a very strong and thick three-quarter plate. All the better for a lifetime of worry-free service, just like a Rolex. The Rolex Explorer he owns remains a faithful everyday watch, until the day he finds time to make a Roger Smith watch for himself.)
We can’t all afford a watch made by one of these masters, but with any of the above budget (non-astronomical) choices, we can at least tell our friends we’re wearing something with a master watchmaker’s stamp of approval.
A full article on this event can be found in the Asia Edition of REVOLUTION (Volume 35). Adapted from a post by Adi Soon, available here.